John James Alexander Roach

1835 - 1886

Cumberland Presbyterian Minister



Saluda Ann Wilson Roach (wife of Rev. J. J. A. Roach)           Family of Rev. Roach




In obedience to the dying request of the dear brother whose name head this article, as well as the promptings of my own heart, as his former yoke-fellow in the gospel, I write these words in memory of his heroic life as a Christian and a minister of Jesus Christ. For many years we labored side by side as colleagues in the gospel ministry. No man ever had a truer co-laborer. His name was the synonym of all those virtues which so highly adorn the Christian life. Meekness and patience were crowning traits of his character. He was true and manly in all of his bearing, and a more steadfast friend never stood by any man. He could be relied on in any emergency, and to betray a friend was, in his estimation, a crime of the greatest turpitude.

Brother Roach was born on Sunday, March 29, 1835. He professed religion Wednesday night, August 12, 1846, and joined Pisgah Church, of which the Rev. A. J. Haynes was pastor, August 16, of the same year. He joined Hopewell Presbytery on Saturday, October 9, 1852, as a candidate for the ministry; was licensed to preach at McLemoresville, Tenn., on Monday, October 15, 1855, by the same Presbytery, the Rev. C. J. Bradley officiating. On Sunday, September 26, 1858, he was ordained to the whole work of the gospel ministry by Hopewell Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, at Huntingdon, Tenn. Dr. Felix Johnson preached the ordination sermon, and and Dr. Reuben Burrow presided and gave the charge. After joining the Presbytery the subject of our sketch entered Bethel College, at McLemoresville, Tenn. Here he remained for one year, laboring under many hardships. From this date until October, 1856, he spent the time teaching school and preaching. He then entered Bethel College the second time, but at the end of the term his health failed, and he was obliged to abandon the cherished hope of graduating. From that time forward his life was given to the ministry. The Presbytery placed him on a circuit, which embraced parts of three counties, and extended over a distance of one hundred miles. The circuit had about thirty appointments, and in order to make the round in a month, he was obliged to preach every day except Monday, and sometimes twice a day. At the end of the year he reported seventy-five conversions and thirty-nine accessions to the Church, and the receipt of $132.05 for his services. This was one of the happiest years of his ministerial life, and afforded the best training he ever received in theology and homiletics. He was married in November, 1858, and soon after received a call to South Alabama, which he accepted, and entered upon the work in February, 1859. He remained with his wife in that State about two years, and then came to Texas in January, 1861. They located at Huntsville in this State, and Brother Roach took charge of the Church at that place, and the congregations at Waverly and Prairie Plains. He preached to these Churches nearly four years, when his health gave way, and bronchitis attacked him until he was obliged to discontinue preaching for the time. He was advised by his physician to go to western Texas, which he did in 1864, and stopped first at Round Rock. While here he was so feeble that he despaired of recovery. But just at that point he began improving, and continued to do so until he was able to preach again. In the providence of God he finally located near Mountain City, in Hays county, where he made his home until his death.

I met Brother Roach soon after his arrival at Round Rock, my own residence being near Austin, and from that time until I left that part of the State--in 1872--we were intimately associated in the work of the Master. And now, as I look back upon those days, it affords me infinite satisfaction to bear testimony, in this article, to his fidelity and uncompromising devotion to the great cause to which he had consecrated his life. The health-giving climate of western Texas so far resuscitated his failing powers that for more than fifteen years after his removal to that section he was able to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to invite the erring to the blessings of salvation through the gospel of the Son of God. His life was a continuous scene of patient and laborious effort to advance the interests of Christianity. He loved his Church ardently, and was always found working for the advancement of its enterprises. He was painstaking and laborious in his preparations, and studied to "show himself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed." He was a constant and devoted student of the Bible, a sound theologian, and understood thoroughly the doctrines of his Church. As a compliment to his scholarship and knowledge of the Bible, the Board of Trustees of Trinity University conferred upon him the honorary degree of D.D., and that institution has never conferred this honor upon a more worthy subject.

Brother Roach had quite a literary turn, and was a valuable correspondent of the Church papers. During the six years and nine months that I published the Texas Observer he was one of the corresponding editors, and for two years of the time furnished the comments on the Sunday-school lessons for its columns. For the last few years of his life he had a hard battle with the destroyer. But he bore his afflictions with great patience and cheerfulness, and looked forward to his decease with unabated confidence in the promises of God. He had made every necessary preparation, so that when the hour of his departure came he bade his wife and children adieu, and "gathering the drapery of his couch about him," fell asleep in Jesus.


Asleep in Jesus, blessed sleep,
From which none ever wake to weep.


He died October 28, 1886, at ten minutes past five o'clock A.M.; was buried at the Barton Cemetery, Dr. J. W. Poindexter officiating. A light has been extinguished in that household, and in his death the Church in Texas has sustained a great loss. Many friends mourn his departure, but we shall meet on the other shore.

[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, December 16, 1886, page 2]

Committee on Deceased Ministers

J. J. A. Roach, D.D.
Guadalupe Presbytery

[Source: Minutes of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1887, page 15]



Family Recollections
Effie Roach Johnson


John James Alexander Roach was born March 29, 1835 at Atwood, Tennessee. He was married to Saluda Ann Wilson November 16, 1858. He was a minister in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Soon after they were married they moved to Selma, Alabama where they were treated royally and were very happy. William Eli was born while they lived there, August 27, 1859.
Father was not very strong but a great student so he moved to Texas & first to Huntsville, later near Austin. I don't know where they lived when Arthur was born on June 8, 1861. Eleanor (November 7, 1863) and Finis Ewing (March 18, 1866) were born while living in Huntsville, Texas. I think they did not live long near Austin, moved on south 22 miles to Mountain City and lived near the Church School with Masonic Lodge Hall above. Houses were not very plentiful so they lived in half of the house with the Rev. Finis Foster. While living here Hermine was born, March 1, 1868. Then on November 9, 1869 Saluda Margaret was born.
Then they bought a small farm 2 ½ miles north on Onion Creek, built one large room and moved in. Mother just had time to straighten up a little before I (Effie) came on April 5, 1871. And on August 25, 1873 James Alexander came and on October 19, 1875 Mattie Irene came.
With the last four old Dr. Manlove was with mother and a dear good man he was, as was his wife who always came with him and helped. One of the first things I remember was going in to see James and Dr. Manlove and Aunt Maggie (his wife) were there and I crowded in behind the bed to see the baby and they teased me about not being the baby anymore which did not hurt me; as far back as I can remember, I never wanted to be petted or sit in their laps. I don't remember just when, but other rooms were added to the house from time to time, and when father died, October 20, 1886, we moved to Kyle. We added five rooms to the old house and with nine children I am sure it was crowded. The Roaches were all lovers of music and when I was still small they bought an organ and my oldest sister played and the rest of us sang.
Father had throat trouble and as preaching was hard on his voice he taught school several years. We moved to Pecan Springs near Austin when I was nine years old. Father and mother both taught and all of us went to school. The house we lived in was right near the school and mother could put her dinner on to boil and go back and forth to see about it. It was while living here that we knew the Matthews family. Mr. Steele Matthews was a trustee of the school and a better man never lived. His wife, Mrs. Julia Matthews, was one of the best friends I ever had. Their home was the only place I ever visited as a girl and many happy hours I spent there.
I don't remember how many years we lived here at Pecan. We rented our home to Mr. Perry Breedlov and they moved in before we children got out. Mother and father had gone but Mrs. Harry Barber let us have a farewell party at her house with her eight children and our nine and the three Breedlov's there was a crowd. While we were playing the Breedlov boy, about 17, was going around giving us names and he stooped over to give me one and he vomited all over me-the sourest water spout I ever saw. Well, it broke up the party. My oldest sister took me home and tried to wash it off but it would not come off and I went to sleep with a bar of soap right at my nose.
After we moved back to our home father and mother taught school at Mountain City and we all went to school except brother Willie. He worked for Mr. Dee Young who had a General Merchandise store. And this reminds me, when Margaret and I were little girls we wanted some wax dolls like other girls had but our parents could not afford to buy for us as they cost $5.00. We knew father would pray for the things he wanted so we went out to some big trees near the house and knelt down and prayed for our dolls. Father heard us so he told Dee Young about it and Mr. Young said we must have our dolls so he made them to father so cheap he bought them for us. When Xmas came we received the dolls and we were the happiest little girls you ever saw-for an old china doll and a congregation of rag dolls that we played with.
One year father taught down near Mayor Nance's home and Nell went with him. The rest of us went to Elm Grove where we could walk. Father and Nell had to ride for it was 8 or 10 miles and Elm Grove was 3. While we were going to Elm Grove mother had typhoid fever and I was the only one that could go to school. For awhile I went alone that 3 miles and walked. As soon as Mrs. Harrison found out I was going alone she had me come to her house and stay until some one could go with me. I was only eight years old. Miss Mattie Dawson was my teacher. Mother was sick a long time and we were afraid she would not live. Dr. Manlove was gone then and Dr. Reagan took care of her but he drank and Mother did not like him much but I remember father saying he would rather have Dr. Reagan drunk than the other doctor sober. I can't remember his name.
Margaret had typhoid fever later and they had no doctor with her. Father nursed her and she got along lots better than Mother. At that time the doctors would not let patients have even a drop of water to drink and I knew father would say when he would go where someone was dying and begging for water that none of his would do that. When Jim (James) was a baby he had membranous croup and the doctors sat and worked and watched all night. Dr. Manlove was one and the other some young doctor I don't remember his name. When I was 12 Finis had a very sick spell and Mother, Father and all the others were worn out with sitting up and the doctor wanted him to have his medicine regularly so I agreed to sit up and give it and I did. I thought nothing of it but the neighbors thought it wonderful that a child could do such a thing. It was about this time that Mother's health failed. She had such a terrible hemorrhage and lost so much blood we thought she could not live and Father's health was no better. He became too ill to teach or preach. The boys, Arthur and Finis made crop and Nellie taught school. We had cows, hogs, chickens and garden but not much money. People were always good and kind to us-gave us clothing and food. When Mother had a hemorrage it would scare me most to death and I would run and get Mrs. Barton, our dear neighbor, who was a mother to my mother. The doctor gave mother up and said he could do nothing more for her. So our dear little Auntie Bunton, a French woman and Roman Catholic said, "Well doctor, can I see what I can do for her?" He said, "Yes, you can't hurt". She got very busy with hot and cold water and ice and soon she had mother on the road to recovery. But oh, she was so weak and nervous-had chills that scared me to death many times, for everytime I thought she was going to die. When father died on October 20, 1886 she was not able to go to the funeral. Father was laid to rest in the Barton Cemetery.
The two older boys were gone for themselves. Willie was married and Finis wanted to go. Nell was supporting the family so Mother decided to move to town so we moved to Kyle in August 1887 and ran the hotel and fed the trains. All was well when we had a cook but when the cook failed to show up such a time we had running between the kitchen and Mother's room. The first night we fed the train and we had the dishes to wash, I thought I never saw so many dishes in my life-a trough across one side of the kitchen and its full. Well, we washed there for hours. I had on a pretty new light blue gingham, trimmed in white rick rack. We wore corsets, bustles and lots of petticoats. Well, when I finished with the dishes everything I had on was as wet as if I had been dipped in the creek. After that when dish washing time came I dressed for it by leaving off a few things.
Well, I took Mother to some magnetic doctors at Jewett and they did her lots of good. She was not so nervous. Brother Arthur married while we were in Kyle and I stood up with them. Brother Ed Cullen and he thought because they married we must be I could not see it that way and soon made him see it as I did. At this time Will Crews came courting me. He was 26 and I 16. Well, because everybody thought he was such a fine catch I thought I must marry him but after I told him I would I was very miserable until I told him I could not marry him. After I let him go I had T. J. Sledge, then Woods Moore. Mother sent me to Trinity University to school Margaret said to keep me from marrying T. J. Well, I did not have any more business there than an ape.



Eldest daughter's name was Mary Eleanor, called Nell or Nellie.
Second daughter, Hermine, called Minnie.
Third daughter, Saluda Margaret, called Lula until she was almost middle aged.

The story was written by Effie Roach Johnson, 4/5/1871 - 11/3/1953. Before her marriage, she worked at the School for the Deaf in Austin, Texas in the dietary department. She moved to Kirksville, Missouri to attend school and became an osteopathic doctor under the supervision of Dr. Still. Her practice led her to Altus, Oklahoma, where she met and married Robert Clarence Johnson, a widower with a large family. After her husband died, she lived with her sister then her niece, Lucille Barron, near Austin, Texas, where Effie died.

Effie painted heads for china dolls and had talent in needlework and oil painting.

Finis Roach became a dentist, inventor and professor in Chicago, Illinois.

Mary Eleanor married Baskin Bell. They had one child, Lucille.

John James Alexander's parents were James P. Roach and Eleanor "Nellie" H. McNeeley.

[submitted by Jane Johnson, the great step-granddaughter of Effie Roach Johnson, Rev. Roach's daughter]

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Updated July 2, 2012