Ellen Hemings Roberts

Dates Alive: 1856-1940

Family: Hemings-Madison

Ellen Wayles Hemings, the youngest child of Madison and Mary Hemings, married her next-door neighbor Andrew Jackson Roberts in 1878.  In 1887 they left southern Ohio for Los Angeles, a city in the midst of a land boom.  Less than three percent of its population was African American.  A. J. Roberts first engaged in the hauling business and later established the first black-owned mortuary in Los Angeles.  Both Robertses were active members of the Baptist church.

Ellen and A. J. Roberts’s sons, Frederick Madison Roberts, a member of the California assembly, and William Giles Roberts, joined the family undertaking firm, as did Ivan Saunders, husband of their daughter Myrtle Estelle Roberts.  Her grandchildren revered Ellen Hemings Roberts, who they remember as tall, fair-skinned, and blue-eyed, “very aristocratic” and quiet, but with a sharp wit.  They never heard her talk about her life in Ohio or her connection to Thomas Jefferson.


Related People