HISTORY OF SANTA CLARA COUNTY 542

W. K. ROBERTS
Newspaper Man, Editor, and Justice of the Peace
Sunnyvale, Santa Clara County


SURNAMES:  SIMS, HUNTER

A highly-esteemed, and therefore, very influential, progressive and public-spirited gentleman, who is inspired with broad humanitarian sentiments and, although not wealthy, is able to accomplish much for others as well as for himself, is W. K. Roberts, newspaper man, editor and justice of the peace at Sunnyvale. He was born at Mexico, Mo., on January 22, 1856, and when eighteen migrated westward to the Rocky Mountain States, trying his fortune first in Colorado, and afterward in Texas. From there he came to San Francisco, where he spent five years in the drug trade; and next he crossed the Pacific to Hawaii. He was there while King Kalakaua was on the throne, and he met him, attended several of his feasts, and later met Queen "Lil," as she was popularly called.


William T. Roberts, the father of our subject, was a native of Kentucky, who married Miss Fannie Sims, a native of Virginia, thus blending English, Irish and Welsh blood.

Growing up under poor schooling conditions, Mr. Roberts led a kind of cowboy life for some time, after leaving home, owing to disagreement with his father, who was a Mexican War veteran. He first came to California in 1881, and in the Bay City obtained work as a clerk in W. Mayhew's drug store, 144 Fourth Street, and attended evening schools to pursue general studies. He studied surgery under Dr. L. C. Lane, and took a commercial course at Heald's Business College. In 1886, he went to Hawaii, and the follwing year pushed on to China, entering the Imperial Maritime Customs Service, and for fifteen years was in the employ of the Chinese Government. He had the honor of serving under Sir Robert Hart, who was then Inspector General of Customs for the Chinese Government; and while not becoming a Chinese subject, he attained to mandarin civil rank of the fourth class. He was thus employed for fifteen years at Canton, Swatow, Shanghai, Nanking, Kiu Kiang, Han Kow, Shasi, and Chungking, the latter city being fifteen hundred miles up the Ynag-tse-Kiang River. He learned to speak and write the North China language. During the Boxer War he was in charge of the Port of Shasi and held it for the Manchu Government during the period of hostilities.

Having obtained two years' leave of absence, Mr. Roberts returned to California; and at Sonoma City, in 1903, he was married to Miss Ethel Hunter, a Sonoma County girl. He also bought a ranch near Sonoma, and in 1905 returned to China; and soon after he resigned his position at Shanghai and came back to Sonoma County, Mrs. Roberts had remained in California, where her first child was born.

From Sonoma County Mr. Roberts moved down to Sunnyvale and bought the Sunnyvale Standard, which had been founded by J. H. McCarthy, who had sold it to G. B. Tuley, who in turn disposed of it to our subject; and this newspaper he ran as a six-column, four-page weekly, from 1907 to 1921--except for three years, when it was managed by R.S. Crowl. On August 21, 1921 Mr. Roberts relinquished control as both publisher and editor, handing over the reins to the new proprietor, A. T. Fetter. During this period of jounalistic activity, Mr. Roberts served as Sunnyvale's first justice of the peace, first taking office through appointment by the county supervisors. In 1914, he was regularly elected justice by his fellow-citizens; and four years later he was reelected. He is also the town recorder, and is the first and only occupant of that office, having commenced when Sunnyvale was incorporated in 1914. Mr. Roberts not only invested in the "Standard" and its office building, but he bought residence and other property, including a number of vacant lots, and had worked hard, through his newspaper, in favor of incorporation. He has been equally assiduous in forwarding the commercial and general development of the town, and for years he has been, as he still is, the efficient secretary of the Sunnyvale Chamber of Commerce.

During Mr. Roberts' first leave of absence from his post in China, in 1895, he joined the International Colonization Society, whose offices were at Birming-
ham, Ala., and made a voyage to Liberia, on the West Coast of Africa, as assistant medical officer on the ship "Laurada," which carried over 360 AfroAmericans to that colony; and he wrote, as the result, "An African Canaan for the American Negro." Since then he has written several other works. As a confirmed apostle of the theory and practice of right living, he wrote "Health From Natural Foods." and he is also author of a treatise on "The Mongolian Problem," and a book entiteld "Divinity and Man." In matters of religion he prefers the Unitarian form of faith; and in national political affairs, he works as an Independent Republican. His pen has also done good service in helping to organize the South Shore Port Company, for the development of a south bay port near Sunnyvale, which is to be available for deep-water ships.

Mr. and Mrs. Roberts have two children. Wilma M. is a junior in the Santa Clara high school; and Alexander H. is a pupil in the eighth grade of the grammar school. Mr. Roberts has been an active member of the Pomona Grange, and is now serving his third year as its chaplain.

Transcribed by Marie Clayton, from Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California,  published by Historic Record Co. , 1922. page 542

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