THE ROLOFF FAMILY
William Ludwic “Uncle Billy” Roloff and his wife lived in
1931 on the Dawson street that dead ended into the school
yard. Children, on their way to school, would often
receive his greeting as they passed while he tended the well
kept yard. Uncle Billy was seventy, but, … he seemed much
large and well maintained “Hupmobile” sat in the detached
garage and was used in good weather to carry Uncle Billy to
The Blackland….to his farms carved from the 14,000 acre
Williams Eldorado Ranch when the land was subdivided. His
children… .now with families of their own…tended to the rich
black soil that he had claimed from the raw prairie.
NOTE: The Hupmobile was a
key player in the Detroit automobile scene from 1909 until
1940. The Hupmobile was built for dependability more than
speed and owners were extremely loyal. The Hupmobile
that sat in Uncle Billy Roloff’s garage was, probably, a
1925-1928 Model E four door.
Uncle Billy died in 1932. His wife continued to live at
the home until her death in 1961. After Uncle Billy
died, Miss Lulu Hucklebee, who taught English at Dawson High
School for decades….became a long term boarder.
may be found at
William L Roloff 1861-1932
L Roloff 1863-1961
William Ludwig Roloff….”Uncle Billy Roloff” had come to the
United States from German Prussia in 1878 at a time when
political, social, and religious unrest existed in German
Prussia. The area was over populated, young men were
conscripted into foreign armies….high taxes were being
imposed. Floods and crop failures had added to the woes
of the general population.
All young men were…conscripted…to serve in the military for
a prescribed time. More than one family, ready to sail to
America, witnessed a young man from their family removed
from the ship by military officials and forced to serve the
required time in the German army.
Ludwig and Johanna Roloff, an uncle and aunt, paid for
passage to Wisconsin, but William’s father could not or
would not provide funds for William. Undaunted, William
slipped aboard the ship….secreted himself until the ship was
far at sea. He was a stowaway. He was seventeen.
Frederich and Christina Friedel were aboard that same ship,
possibly close friends of Ludwig and Johanna Roloff.
Their daughter, Louise Monita. whose name was “Americanized”
as “Mary Louise,” …..was fifteen.
Romance may have blossomed between William Roloff and Louise
Friedel as they whiled away the time sailing from Germany to
the United States…or ….since both families settled in
Jefferson Co Wisconsin….it could have happened there.
Regardless….the two were married at Whitewater, Jefferson
Co. Wisconsin….December 26 1885.
It is not known when William Ludwic Roloff first arrived at
Navarro Co. Texas, but he may have been an early employee of
The Williams Eldorado Ranch…. 14,000 acres purchased during
1881 and 1882 by B J Williams of Whitewater, WI and John
Patterson of Geneva NY.
F Williams, also from Whitewater WI, and, probably a
relative of B J William, came to Texas in 1882 to be Ranch
Forman. He may have known William Roloff in Whitewater
WI….as a hard working young man….and…recruited him in 1882
to work with him at the new ranch in Texas.
Three years elapsed between 1882 and December 1885 when
William Roloff, perhaps, returned to Whitewater WI for the
first time. William Rudolph is twenty-four…he has a
job….he has saved money for three years…he comes home for a
long visit in the late fall. Louise Friedell is now
twenty-two and, in the eyes of William Roloff….absolutely
beautiful. The two attend the many parties and festivals
of the late fall….attend the Lutheran Church together…the
families celebrate Christmas.
The time is approaching when William Roloff must return to
his responsibilities in Texas. He cannot bear the thought
of leaving Mary Louise Friedel…she cannot bear the thought
of his leaving. They announce on Christmas Eve that they
will be married the day following Christmas.
They will go to Texas to begin a life together. They will
live in one of the little houses clustered together on The
Williams Eldorado Ranch, a community… called
“Patterson”….after John Patterson, one of the owners of the
Thousands of sheep were moved to the ranch from California,
but the ranch had a $50,000. loss in 1884. B J Williams
and some investors from Vermont purchased another large
property west of San Angelo TX…hoping that the sheep would
fare better there than on The Blackland. When the sheep
were moved to the new ranch….the owners replaced them with
draft horses that could be sold to area farmers to plow the
rich black soil. When that venture failed, the owners
decided to break the ranch into farms and dispose of the
William and Mary Louise Roloff were, probably, among the
first to become owners of one or more of those farms. It
was here that their children were born….
Rudolph John Roloff b. 1887 d. 1958
Harry Augustus Roloff b. 1889 d. 1967
William J Roloff b. 1892 d. 1910
Allie Monita Roloff b. 1896
Edwin Roloff b. 1909
d.1966 Dawson Cemetery
RUDOLPH JOHN ROLOFF….1887-1958…
m. Winnifred Sawyer [obituary]
daughter of Ed & Molly Ward Sawyer
“Rudy” was born two years after William and Mary Louise
married and established residence on The Blackland. “Rudy”
married Winnifred Sawyer who died Apr 15, 1964. Both are buried at
the Dawson Cemetery. Their infant child was buried at The
Board Tree Cemetery located on the Tehaucanna road.
Surviving children were:
Irvin Roloff b. 1909 d.
m. Rosie Slater
L. Roloff b.
Mar 16, 1911
m. Callie Belle Jordan d.
dau Beverly Roloff
m. Kenneth Thompson
Mary Roloff b. 1913 d.
m. J F McLain d.
Margie Rolof b. 1915 d.
Opal Roloff b. 1917
Hugh Lynn Hillis
Son Hugh Lynn Hillis Jr.
Vernon Roloff b. 1920
m. Valarie Lewis d. 1947
dau Brenda Roloff
McCulloch d. 2000
married Sarah Isabella McKinzie
daughter of W J and M A McKenzie.
Her brother, James McKinzie 1887-1907, was buried at
Boardtree Cemetery. “ Sadie” died in 1962. She and Harry
are buried at The Dawson Cemetery. Their infant child was
buried at The Boardtree Cemetery. Surviving children were:
Melvin Roloff b.
Edell Roloff b.
Lester Leo Roloff b. 1914 d.
m. 1936 Marie Brady
Thelma Roloff b. 1917
1927 Dawson Cemetery
.married William Sammons Walker 1893-????
son of Edward & Mary Roby Walker.
The name “Sammons” may have
come from Professor John Hansel Sammons b.1858 SC who
attended Trininty College at Tehuacana and, later, taught
school at Bowman Grove, a community west of The Blackland.
Margarette Sammons 1858-1881 is buried at the Dover Cemetery.
His son, Howard Payne Sammons MD, practiced in Hubbard
for many years.
Their children were:
Charles Walker b.1917
Odessa TX 2005
Virgil Walker b. 1919
Felix Ray Walker b.
1924 d. 1953
Lester Leo Roloff, son of Harry Augustus & Sarah Isabella
McKinzie Roloff, became a Baptist minister, a pioneer in
multiple social endeavors, and created a radio ministry that
continues to be heard across the nation. He died in a
private plane crash at Normangee Texas in 1982.
He was viewed by more than a few to be a controversial
figure on the American religious scene, but there was never
any doubt as to his sincerity or enthusiasm.
He picked cotton and baled hay during the early 1930s to
earn tuition for courses at Baylor University in Waco,
Texas. His board and room at an off campus boarding
house was in exchange for “sweet milk” coaxed from his cow…Mame…which
he had taken from the family farm.
Lester gradated from Baylor University, and, later,
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft Worth,
Saturday afternoons in Dawson drew great crowds to the
center of Main Street for the weekly drawing. Merchants
distributed dual tickets for each one dollar purchased in
their stores. One ticket was place in a large metal
drum…one kept by the purchaser. Billy Lawrence would
climb upon a wooden stand located in the middle of Main
Street…shake the metal drum…and have some pretty little girl
draw a ticket for….$2.50….$5.00….$10.00.” BIG MONEY” during
the days of The Great Depression.
When the drawing was completed and Billy Lawrence climbed
down…..Lester Leo Roloff would climb up and begin singing
and preaching. Many people would leave, but there would
always be some who remained. Lester never knew “he
couldn’t sing,” but he made a “Joyful Noise” wherever he
went. Often…in the middle of a sermon…he would break out
in song. Congregations….loved it.
graduate student at William & Mary University in Virginia is
presently compiling information on the life of Lester Leo
Roloff for a thesis for a Doctor of Philosophy
Degree…and…perhaps…a published book.
Uncle Billy Roloff, who, more than once, embarrassed his
children by standing regularly in church services to give
his “Testimony”…..would have been proud of Lester.