In the early nineteenth century, Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins built his plantation on the Flint River near Roberta. This was also a trading post and the Creek Agency .
Originally in Crawford County, Knoxville was the only stop in the county, until the A&F Railroad bypassed it by about a mile to the southwest when it was built in 1888. A train station was built, and a new town sprang up. People migrated towards this new town, called "New Knoxville."
Hiram David McCrary allowed the railroad to use part of his land, and was given naming rights to the town, which he named "Roberta" for his 7-year-old daughter.  McCrary later became the owner of the first general store in Roberta, was its first elected mayor, co-owned its first motel, and served as tax collector and a railroad station agent.
In 1910, Roberta was incorporated as a city and was expanded in every direction by 1200 yards.
In 1949, the original train depot burned. It was replaced about a year later by a smaller concrete block building. A replica of the original depot was built in 2003 and currently houses the Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center.
With the construction of the A&F Railroad and U.S. Highway 341 , Roberta became a rapidly growing tourist town, with restaurants and hotels springing up. However, in the 1940s, passenger rail service ended in Roberta, ending one of the two main traffic flows. A decade later, Interstate 75 bypassed Roberta to the east, directing lots of traffic that way. After these events, Roberta relaxed into a more small-town setting.