Roper & Co.

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Roper & Co., Wholesale Grocers, were located here at 27-39 South Union St., Petersburg, Va., from approximately 1915 until some time in the 1960s (or possibly even later).

Another sign on this wall, next to South Union St., shows OFFICE / Roper & Co. Inc. / Wholesale Grocers.

This information from the website http://genealogytrails.com/vir/dinwiddie/biosDEF.html gives the following on the earliest predecessor to Roper & Co., "Davis, F. Eugene. At Petersburg, September 7, 1858, he married Emily Roper, of Petersburg, and they have nine children: Roper, H. C., Jr., Emily A., F. Eugene, Jr., Thomas M., Marie L., Robert W., Lena B. and Franklin. Mrs. Davis is the daughter of Leroy Roper, who died in 1885, aged seventy-six years. Her mother was Emily Bartlett, died in 1883, aged sixty-seven years.  Mr. Davis went to school in Surry County, finishing with an academic course. In 1853 he removed to Petersburg and clerked for a jobbing house four years. In 1857 he began business for himself, under the firm style of Davis, Derring & Co., wholesale grocers. The following year the firm changed to Davis, Roper & Co., and since 1884 the firm has been, as now is, Davis & Co. "

The firm Davis, Roper & Co. was listed in Petersburg city directories in 1872-73 and 1882-83. The Roper in this company was Bartlett Roper. He was the son of Leroy Roper.

Leroy Roper (1808-1884) was the pater familias of an extensive Roper family that extended through at least four generations of Ropers in the business. Leroy Roper was described as a tobacconist in the U. S. Census of 1850, 1860 and 1880. But in the Petersburg city directory of 1872 his business was wholesale grocer and commission merchant, Leroy Roper & Sons. His sons in this business were Emmet Roper (1841-1887) and Henry C. Roper (1844-1910). Leroy Roper & Co. was "wholesale grocers and feed" in the 1882 Petersburg city directory, which included yet another son, Preston Leroy Roper (1850-1932). Leroy Roper & Sons were "leaf tobacco dealers" in directories from 1886 to 1911.

Henry C. Roper was head of Roper & Co. in its first listing in city directories in 1888. Another son to Leroy Roper was Bartlett Roper (1837-1913), who was a partner with F. Eugene Davis and H. C. Davis in Davis, Roper & Co. in 1882. Bartlett Roper then became head of Roper & Co. in 1897. On his death in 1913 the business passed to several sons, comprising the third generation. These included Paul Roper (1870-1947), Bartlett Roper Jr. (1872-1919), D'Arcy Wentworth Roper (1875-1955), John Nathaniel Roper (1877-1948), and Philip Rainey Roper (1884-1955).

The Roper family also operated a second business, the Roper Bros. Lumber Co. From approximately 1918 into the 1960s this business was located at the foot of Haxall St., Pocahontas. Pocahontas is the north eastern section of Petersburg, and once was an island in the middle of the Appomattox River. Haxall St. is no longer found on Petersburg maps.

In the 1960 Petersburg city directory (the last available on ancestry.com) the following were officers in these companies: Roper Bros. Lumber Co. Philip R Roper Jr., President, T. P. Trigg Roper, First Vice-President-Secretary, Le Roy B. Roper, Second Vice-President, Lloyd L. Goulder, Treasurer; Roper & Co. Inc., Paul Roper Jr., pres., D'Arcy W. Roper II, v-pres., John S. Tynes, sec-treas.

The Ropers here represent the fourth generation members of the businesses. They include 3 sons of Philip R. Roper Sr.: Philip Rainey Roper Jr. (1912-1992), Thomas Preston Trigg Roper (1916-2008), and Leroy Bartlett Roper (1920-1997). Also of this generation were Paul Roper Jr. (1912-1998), son of Paul Roper Sr., and D'Arcy Wentworth Roper II (1915-1980), son of John Nathaniel Roper.

Most of the multitudinous family of Ropers were born in Petersburg and lived their entire lives there. An exception was D'Arcy Wentworth Roper I. He attended Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and became an engineer. He then spent 35 years in Buffalo, N. Y., as a consulting engineer, and only after he retired did he return to Petersburg where he was part of Roper & Co. from the mid-1940s until his death in 1955. His obituary in the Petersburg Progress-Index, 14 July 1955, pg. 13, reads "D'Arcy Wentworth Roper, 80, well-known resident and member of an old and prominent Petersburg family, died unexpectedly of a heart attack yesterday afternoon at his home, 1840 S. Sycamore St. Mr. Roper was a native of Petersburg, the son of Bartlett and Bettie Paul Roper. He was a graduate of Lehigh University and was connected with the steel industry in the United States and abroad as a consulting engineer. He spent 35 years in Buffalo, N. Y. and upon his retirement from the steel industry about 15 years ago, returned to Petersburg. He was chairman of the board of Roper & Co., wholesale grocers, of this city. Mr. Roper was a member of Second Presbyterian Church. Surviving are his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Powell Roper, of this city; two sisters, Mrs. Emily R. Burgwyn, of Petersburg, and Mrs. A. M. Kennedy, of Sewickley, Pa. Funeral services will be conducted tomorrow at 4 p. m. at the grave in Blandford Cemetery. Dr. William B. McIlwaine, Jr., pastor of Second Presbyterian Church will officiate."

Copyright © 2019 Walter Grutchfield