Born July 10,1867 in DeWitt, Missouri, Samuel Arthur Robertson grew up under the harsh circumstances of Reconstruction days. His parents were Franklyn Selden Robertson and Kate Ann Merry Lewis. He began railroading at 15 and at age 22 he was in charge of a large crew building railroad yards in Butte, Montana. He also built railroad yards at Anaconda, Montana and a pipeline and dam at Elk Mountain, Wyoming, to carry water to mines and railroads. During the panic years of 1892-93, he was interested in any job with prospects of a meal ticket. Carrying his level on his back, he walked 120 miles across the California desert in 10 days to complete an irrigation survey.

He surveyed wet mines that more experienced engineers refused to enter. After a successful trip locating a proposed railroad across the Continental Divide and down a canyon in Utah, he returned to find his employers had gone broke. He had to feed the crew at his own expense until they dispersed. Only one white man and a few Indians were still with him when he ended a survey across the Divide from Durango, Colorado to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Other members of the full party at the outset had either quit or died. Robertson, also ill from drinking alkali water, weighed only 115 pounds instead of his usual 170.

After that ordeal, travel on foot was less attractive. Robertson's proficiency in bumming train rides carried him from Denver to jobs in California and New Mexico, north to Canada, south to Oklahoma, and finally to Greenville, Mississippi. Once he paid 65 cents for railroad fare because he "didn't want to argue just then." He began contracting for levee building and road grading in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas and went flat broke twice.

Through her brother, Fred Wedegartner, with whom he had been associated in construction work, he met Miss Adele Wedegartner, a lovely blonde with fair hair and dazzling skin. They were married March 17, 1901. She was a native of Germany and he often teased her by saying she was wearing wooden shoes when he found her.