One House’s Story: The Roby Family

Image of a slate roof on a house located on Fair Avenue NW in New Philadelphia, Ohio, 2019. (Source:

If you are like me and live in an older house with a slate roof, you may have wondered where that slate came from and who was responsible for installing it. I thought I’d take a look at one family from Uhrichsville that was responsible for slating buildings in the county. This story is less about a house, than about those who helped build them.

A note about addresses: House numbers and street names often change over time.

The Roby family has been in Tuscarawas County since the arrival of Hanson W. Roby (1800-1896) from Maryland before 1824. The family settled mostly in Union Township around the community of Rockford. One of Hanson’s sons was named after his father, Hanson T. Roby (1831-1896), and that son married Barbara Stoody (1836-1913) in 1856. The couple had eight children and among them was a son they named Ira Grant Roby (1866-1947). Ira learned the house carpentry trade as a young man and likely worked in that trade around the county during his early adulthood.

After the death of Ira’s father in 1896, three of the Roby children including Ira, were living with their mother in a home in Midvale. Ira was working as a carpenter and one of his brothers was working in the local coal mine. Perhaps as a result of inheritance received from the deaths of his father and grandfather, Ira went into the retail hardware and general contracting business in Uhrichsville. There, and initially with a partner, he rented a store at the corner of East Third Street and North Dawson Street. From that store location, Ira offered hardware, carpentry, and slate roofing materials for clients.

  • The area of Union Township, Tuscarawas County shown in the 1875 Atlas of Tuscarawas County where the Roby family settled in the early 1800s. (Source:
  • Notice in the New Philadelphia newspaper listing Ira G. Roby the administrator of his late father's estate, April 1896. (Source:
  • The Roby family listed on the 1900 Census when they were living in Midvale. (Source:
  • The Roby Hardware Store's location in Uhrichsville as seen on the 1915 Sanborne Fire Insurance Map. (Source:

A few years after his move to Uhrichsville, Ira married Ida S. Wallar (1861-1953) in August 1906. Ida was recently divorced and had returned to the area after living for several years in Lancaster, Ohio with her first husband and their two children. The slate that Ira sold, and that his workmen installed for him, came most likely from the numerous slate mines of Pennsylvania. While there were slate mines in Ohio at the time, the railroad lines into Tuscarawas County made it just as easy for Pennsylvania slate to be used. Its use as a building material peaked in the early 1900s with the development of industrial-scale slate mining and builders throughout the region had ample access to slate roofing material.

Slate is a natural, metamorphic rock that was commonly used as a roofing material due to its durability, longevity, and aesthetic appeal. It is formed from the compression and heating of clay or volcanic ash over time, resulting in a dense and fine-grained rock with a characteristic layered structure. Slate roofing tiles are typically quarried in large, flat pieces, which are then split or sawn into thinner, more manageable tiles of various sizes and shapes. Slate roofing is known for its resistance to water, fire, and extreme temperatures, as well as its low maintenance requirements and ability to enhance the architectural beauty of a building.

  • A view of a slate quarry in Bangor, Pennsylvania, c. 1905. (Source:
  • Newspaper account of the injuries of two of Ira Roby's slate roofers who fell from scaffolding around the roof of William Baker's home, July 1916. (Source:
  • The house where blacksmith William Baker lived in Uhrichsville, Ohio and that was originally slated by Roby and his workmen, 2012. (Source:

While Ira and Ida initially lived in the rented hardware store itself, they eventually purchased a home on North Dawson Street. It is not known exactly how many buildings that Roby and his workmen may have been responsible for slating, but there certainly was no shortage of that work in the county at the time. During one such installation of a slate roof on the home of blacksmith William Baker (1867-1940) of Uhrichsville, two of Roby’s workmen fell off the roof when their scaffolding collapsed underneath them. Their injuries were minor, but they sued Roby later for not providing adequate scaffolding for the job.

There’s no evidence that Ira and Ida had any children, but at least one of Ida’s children from her previous marriage lived with the couple for a time. Ira eventually retired from his hardware business before 1930 and set up a tin-making shop on his own property. Ira worked in his tin shop until he passed away in the spring of 1947 with Ida dying in late February 1953. The couple are buried at East Avenue Cemetery in New Philadelphia, but there are likely many slate roofs in the community that also stand as a monument to their lives. Maybe one of them is yours.

  • Report of Ira Roby's death in the Canton newspaper, April 1947. (Source:
  • Ida Roby's obituary in the New Philadelphia newspaper, February 1953. (Source:
  • Ira and Ida Roby's headstone in East Avenue Cemetery, New Philadelphia, Ohio, 2011. (Source:
  • Current view of the location of Ira Roby's hardware store in Uhrichsville, Ohio, 2012. (Source:

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© Noel B. Poirier, 2023.


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