Kenneth Roberts’ Genealogy

Characters bearing the surname of Towne or Nason serve as either the main protagonist or play a central role in most of Kenneth Roberts’ novels.  For instance, Langdon Towne was the central character in Oliver Wiswell and Steven Nason was the central character in Arundel. Roberts use of these surnames exhibit not only his attention to historical detail, but his desire to link his works to his New England ancestors.

Some time ago, a Kenneth Roberts fan mailed me some information he received when he attended a presentation by Jack Bales at the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine. Among the material sent was a short genealogy of Roberts’ family.

Kenneth Lewis Roberts (1885-1957)

Parents: Frank Lewis Roberts (b. 1840) and Grace Mary Tibbetts (1840)

Grandparents: Jane Amanda Nason (b. 1800) and Ebenezer Armstrong Tibbitts (b. 1800)

Great Grandparents: Daniel Nason (b. 1785) and Lydia Towne (b. 1785)

Great-Great Grandparents: Edward Nason (1756-1847) and Sarah Merrill (b. 1758)

Great-Great-Great Grandparents: Joshua Nason (b. 1725) and Sarah Butler (b. 1728)

Interestingly, Roberts follows his family history from his mother’s side; none of the characters in Roberts’ books are based on ancestors from his father’s side. Various reasons are plausible for such an exclusion. Jack Bales in Kenneth Roberts states that little is known of Roberts’ father (and even of Roberts’ immediate family [Bales, 1]) and that he “was not at all close to his father and never mentioned him in any of his articles or books” (Bales, 2). It’s unknown why Roberts was distant from his father, but one can speculate that his father’s job as a traveling salesman played a significant role (Bales, 2).

Roberts’ relationship with his mother, on the other hand, was one that Roberts spoke of in his I Wanted to Write and in various essays (Bales, 2). The time spent with his mother’s family eventually served as the backdrop for his writings on Maine and his novels.

Though Roberts’ characters surnamed Towne or Nason are fictional, they are based upon real people in Roberts’ past and illustrate his deep appreciation for his family’s history and for his beloved state of Maine.


Labrador by Wilfred Grenfell

Labrador, by Wilfred Grenfell, 1909

Labrador, by Wilfred Grenfell, 1909

In my previous post on the Parker Pen ad featuring Kenneth Roberts (1938), I pointed out a feature of the ad that stood out to me. In small print, the Parker Pen Company noted that Kenneth Roberts was not paid for the use of his likeness on the ad; instead, per Roberts’ request, Parker was going to send an aid worker to the Grenfell Mission located in Labrador in the summer of 1938. This was the first time that I saw any mention of the Grenfell Mission in relation to Kenneth Roberts (and the first time I had even heard of the mission).

The ad has piqued my curiosity about the Grenfell Mission, and how Roberts became involved with the work in Labrador (at least to the point of directing funds to the mission). Of all the reading that I’ve done on Roberts, I’ve never seen any mention by him of this mission. Nevertheless, I want to learn more about the Grenfell Mission and its link to Roberts. Learning about such aspects of a person’s life can really help one to gain a fuller picture of the subject; that is, while Roberts’  novels give us a glimpse of Roberts the author and the man, looking into his interests can help to really see what drove Roberts – what made him who he was.

Well, today I found a neat surprise as I was looking through the “nostalgia” section at Half Price Books (their “antique” book section), and behold, I found a 1909 copy of “Labrador” by Wilfred Grenfell (among other contributors). While this book will not give me any information on how Roberts was connected to Grenfell Mission, it will definitely provide the background information needed to know who Grenfell was and the work he did in Labrador.


Get to Know the History of Maine

Kenneth Roberts was unashamedly loyal to the state of Maine, particularly to the areas in which his family originated.  Roberts even exerted his energies in writing books on the virtues of Maine in Trending Into Maine and Good Maine Food.  If Maine was of great importance to Kenneth Roberts, then I felt it would behoove me – a Louisiana native now living in Kentucky – to get to know Maine.  But besides my own selfish reasons, I feel that any Kenneth Roberts fan that does not reside in Maine would get to know Roberts better by knowing the great state in which he lived and worked.

Two great places to visit are:

  1. Kennebunkport Historical Society. You can read their newletter The Log here and follow them on Facebook here.
  2. Maine Historical Society.  You can join the society and have great access to resources to study up on Maine history.  You can also follow their blog Maine Historical Society Blog and follow them on Facebook here.

Take a moment to visit these sites!  I will be adding these links to my blogroll for easier access in the future.  For those of us who do not live in Maine, this is one way in which we can feel a part of the great state of Maine that Kenneth Roberts loved.

***Postscript: I had visited Maine back in 2009 for only two days (I had to help a friend move things out of storage in Maine to bring to Louisville, KY).  We didn’t get to see much, but what I did see made me fall in love with Maine.  I long to go back one day and spend more time visiting and getting to know this beautiful state!***

More Stuff Forthcoming….

I must confess that the lack of posts have been due to my Ph. D. studies.  I am, by necessity, reading more about the history of philosophy and the history of doctrinal anthropology than I am about Kenneth Roberts.  Fortunately, a friend of this blog – Russ Grimm from MyMilitaryHistory – has been keeping his eye out for K.R. stuff, and boy, he came through recently.  So, I’ll be posting things periodically that Russ has found.  In the meantime, I’ll do my best to stay current on this blog!

Kenneth Roberts’ Estate: Rocky Pastures AND a Cottage!

Interested in knowing more about Kenneth Roberts?  While there is little on the internet on him (hopefully this website remedies that to some extent), people in Maine still seek to keep Roberts’ legacy alive.  According to A Guide to Maine Museums, some (or all?) of Roberts’ estate is kept at a Kennebunk, Maine museum called the Brick Store Museum.  Oh, to be able to visit Maine for more than two days (as I did in August 2009)!  If you have a chance to visit beautiful Maine, stop by Kennebunk to visit the Brick Store Museum.

Courtesy Kennebunk Beach Realty

Speaking of Roberts’ estate, I got to wondering if his house in Kennebunk had sold.  So, I Googled his info and stumbled across a real estate site that listed “Kenneth Roberts Cottage House at Kennebunk Beach.”  It’s only listed for $840,000!  You can view some pics of this cottage here.  So, not only did Roberts live at 39 Rocky Pastures Rd in Kennebunkport, ME, he had himself a nice little cottage as well.

Speaking of Roberts’ Rocky Pastures estate, it’s still for sale for a mere $2.7 million.

Kenneth Roberts’ Ol’ Stompin’ Grounds & “Travel

Back in August I had the opportunity to visit Maine (albeit very briefly) to help a friend move the remainder of his belongings to the not-so-blue grass of Kentucky.  I couldn’t have been more excited; after years of longing to visit New England – even though I’ve never been there and I grew up in Louisiana – I finally had my chance to see the beloved state of Kenneth Roberts.  Let me tell you, I was not disappointed. 

Granted, I only saw a small part of the state (a very small part); in addition, it was the part of the state most frequented by tourists.  Nevertheless, I fell in love with it and hope to go back often.  I even passed through town mentioned in Hillary’s Travels with Hillary blog on places to visit in Maine (I see now why she has such a love for Maine!)!

Though, I did not get an opportunity to visit Roberts’ estate, I did pass through the county it’s located in! 

Enough of the gushing … below are some snapshots I took in Camden and Liberty (and one other town I forgot the name of).  They’re not much; it was my dad’s HP camera that was only 2 mega-pixels; further, I’m not a good photographer.

Did You Know: K.R. the Playright

Did you know that Kenneth Roberts co-authored a play titled “The Brotherhood of Man: A One Act Drama?”    According to Jack Bales, biographer of Kenneth Roberts, the play first appeared “in the Saturday Evening Post for August 30, 1919.”  He co-authored the play with Robert Garland, a fellow army comrade.  The play was republished by Samuel French, Inc. in 1934 (information provided by Jack Bales).

Kenneth Roberts in the News: “The wreck of the Wandby near Walker’s Point”

I’m quickly becoming a fan of Sharon Cummins‘ work – her brief glimpses into neglected or forgotten events of America’s past (particularly Maine, if I’m not mistaken).  The most recent article I’ve found – “The wreck of the Wandby near Walker’s Point”  ( – discusses the shipwreck of the Wandby in 1921 in which she briefly mentions Kenneth Roberts, which affords us a glimpse at Kenneth Roberts interacting with the events of his time.

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