Roberts, Berry Lee (1873-1933)

Berry Lee Roberts was born September 12, 1873, at San Bernardino, California, the sixth child of Bearry and Frances (Thomas) Roberts. Berry Lee had few chances for an education, but made the most of his opportunities in the little country school at El Caseo, in San Timoteo Canyon. At about the age of 17 years, he went to work for the Southern Pacific Railway Company, and for several years was engaged in maintenance work;


After a number of years he left the Southern Pacific and invested his earnings in a farm. He returned to railway work in building, grading, laying track and construction of the Tonepaugh & Tidewater Railroad. About the same time he built a six-mile branch from Lyle Junction to the Lyle C. Mine (the Borax C. Smith Mine), owned by the so-called borax king.


Returning to San Bernardino, Berry Lee was employed in construction work by the San Bernardino Valley Traction Company, building, grading and laying track on new lines from San Bernardino to Redlands and from San Bernardino to Highland, as well as the Arrowhead Hotel branch line.  Later he served as the roadmaster of this line for a number of years, until the road was taken over by the Pacific Electric Railroad Company. Roberts was also the builder of the road from Squirrel Inn to Little Bear Valley and Lake, under Engineer Lathrope. He was incharge of the digging of all the tranches for the city water and gas mains in San Bernardino, as well as the line to Highland, and laid the 24-inch water main from San Bernardino to Lytle Creek. Another contract, done for the Edison Electric Company, was connected with the necessary work to carry adequate water from point to point, and the building of the tramway up the mountainside for the construction of this work.


He then became the superintendent for the Fontana Land and Water Company, in which he farmed 600-700 acres. He was engaged in ranching on a large scale for six years, and during harvest times would have as many as 300 farm hands in his employ. In 1899 he purchased three acres of ranges on Orange Avenue in Highland and built a home.


Berry was a veteran of the Spanish-American war. In 1898 he enlisted in Company G, Seventh Cavalry, and trained at the Presidio in San Francisco, and was honorably discharged when peace was declared in 1899. He then married Mary York, a daughter of James and Sarah (Ingle) York, a former native of Tennessee and the later of Illinois. Mrs. Roberts was born at Leroy, Illinois and brought to California by her parents in 1898.


[Source: Taken from the History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties by: John Brown, Jr., Editor for San Bernardino County and James Boyd, Editor for Riverside County with selected biography of actors and witnesses of the period of growth and achievement. Volume III, the Western Historical Association, 1922, The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, ILL. Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011, and biographical sketch by Tom Atchley.]