From the 1948 Illinois State Blue Book.
U.S. Representative from Illinois Rolla Coral McMillen is another in a long line of obscure congressmen whom I've known about for years but unfortunately never had a face to place with his name. That fact changed earlier today when I finally located one courtesy of a 1948 Illinois Blue Book. To be totally honest, I was beginning to think I'd never see a portrait of ol' Rolla, and seeing that one has just been found, I believe a write-up on him is in order!
With that tidbit out of the way, we'll begin with the birth of Congressman McMillen, which occurred in Piatt County, Illinois on October 5, 1880. A son of George E. (1849-1929) and Christina Leatherman McMillen (1850-1922), Rolla attended schools local to the Monticello, Illinois area and later studied at the University of Illinois for a time. He concluded his studies in 1906 when he graduated from the University of Michigan Law School, and a short while later opened a law practice in Decatur, Illinois. McMillen later married fellow Decatur native Ruth Roberts (died 1978), with whom he had three children: Thomas Roberts (1916-2002), Anne Herron McMillen Beall (1918-2012) and Martha Hathaway McMillen Dolan (1922-2003).
The majority of Rolla McMillen's life was spent in the practice of law, and it is interesting to note that he didn't actively pursue political office until he was nearly sixty years old! In the year that he turned sixty, McMillen was named as a delegate to the 1940 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. In that same year he was also elected to the Illinois State Housing Board, serving a term of four years.
In early 1944 Illinois Representative William Howard Wheat died in Washington at age 64. His seat in Congress remained empty until June of that year when a special election was held to fill the vacancy. As you may have guessed, one Rolla McMillen won the special election to fill the vacant seat and took his seat in congress on June 13, 1944. He was subsequently elected to the house in his own right for three more terms, serving until January of 1951.
After leaving congress Rolla McMillen returned to his native city of Evanston, Illinois, where he died on May 6, 1961 at age 80. In a funny side note, I've always gotten a laugh out of McMillen's first name, as it is quite similar to the caramel chocolate candy called "Rolo's", which, in case you have forgotten, look like this.
In May 2012 another politician was discovered who also has the unusual first name "Rolla". Rolla Covel Griffen originally didn't have a picture to be found online, until today! Earlier this week I purchased the 1905 edition of Vermont, A Souvenir of its Government off of Amazon and was rewarded with numerous new additions to the TSNIAPH list. Many of these oddly named men have pictures accompanying their articles, of which Mr. Griffin is one!
From Vermont, A Souvenir of Its Government, 1904-05.
Possessing one of the most impressive mustaches this author has ever seen, Mr. Rolla Covel Griffin was born in the town of Sudbury, Vermont on October 27, 1855, one of nine children born to Benoni and Sarah Griffin. He attended schools local to the Sudbury area and is listed as engaging in farming for the majority of his life.
Griffin married in the town of Brandon, Vermont on October 11, 1896 to Agnes Gertrude Felton. The couple were married for 14 years until her death in August 1910, and they are listed as having a total of five children. Rolla C. Giffin is mentioned as holding the office of "lister" in Rutland County for a few years prior to his election to the Vermont State House of Representatives. He was elected to this body in November 1903 from the county of Rutland, and served one term here, 1904-1906.
Little could be found on Griffin's life following his service in the legislature. He died in Sudbury on October 5, 1939 at age 83 and was subsequently buried next to his wife in the Willow Brook Cemetery in Sudbury.
And in a third update to this article (September 26, 2012), a third political "Rolla" has been located......Rolla Clayton Van Kirk of Brunswick, Nebraska!
Born in the above mentioned town on February 13, 1894, Rolla Van Kirk was the son of Clay (1859-1941) and Mabel Staples Van Kirk (1870-1961). He received his education in the Brunswick local schools and went on to study at the Yankton College and the University of Nebraska. Van Kirk also found distinction as a private in the U.S. Marines during the First World War and was later named as a lieutenant in the Nebraska National Guard.
Van Kirk received a bachelor of laws degree from the University of Nebraska in the early 1920s and was admitted to the Nebraska bar in 1923. Shortly thereafter he began a law practice, eventually becoming a partner in the firm of Burkett, Wilson, Brown, Wilson and Van Kirk. He married in 1924 to Ms. Lenora C. Burkett (1893-1966), with whom he would have one son, Clayton B. Van Kirk (born 1929.)
Rolla C. Van Kirk's political career began when he was in his early thirties, winning election to the Nebraska State House of Representatives in 1927. Here he represented the county of Lincoln for four years until 1931, when he won a seat in the Nebraska State Senate.
After leaving the senate in 1933, Van Kirk continued with his earlier law practice and was also active in a number of fraternal organizations, holding memberships in the Nebraska State Bar Association, the American Legion, the Reserve Officers Association, and the Masons. Van Kirk died at age 63 on May 25, 1957 and was survived by his wife Lenora and son Clayton. Both Rolla and his wife (who died in 1966 at age 73) were subsequently interred in the Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln, Nebraska.
In this fourth update (December 2, 2012) to the "Rolla" profile, the life of Missouri State Representative Rolla David Calkins is examined. Little could be found on Mr. Calkins, who was born on May 13, 1859 in Livingston County, Illinois. He attended school in Livingston County and as an adolescent was employed as a traveling salesman for a time while pursuing the study of law.
Calkins married in January 1885 to Mary Weyand in Bloomington and later migrated to Missouri, being admitted to the bar in that state in 1889. He spent the next few years engaged in the practice of law while also being a lecturer with the Lyceum Bureau of Kansas City. He was elected to the Missouri State House of Representatives in 1908 from Crawford County, and during his one term of service chaired the committee on Agriculture.
Calkins was unsuccessful in his attempt for a second term in 1910. Nothing else is known of his life, and his date of death is also unknown at this time.
Rolla W. Coleman, from the Topeka State Journal, Jan. 29, 1918
Next up is Rolla Wood Coleman of Merriam, Kansas. Even more obscure than the preceding man, Mr. Coleman served multiple terms in the Kansas State Senate from 1917 until the mid 1940s. Coleman was born in Nemaha County, Kansas on August 23, 1877, a son of Albert Loring and Marietta Coleman. He went on to marry Lina Burgner (1882-1970) in 1905 and later became a lawyer of some repute in Kansas, being licensed to practice law in Kansas, California, Missouri as well as the U.S. Federal Courts.
Elected to the Kansas Senate from Johnson County in 1917, Coleman served uninterrupted terms until 1923. He was returned to the senate in the election of 1936 and served six more terms from 1937-1949. He died in Kansas City, Kansas on April 17, 1954 at age 76 and was later interred at the Olathe Memorial Cemetery in Olathe, Kansas. He was survived by his Lina, who died in 1970 at age 88.
In yet another new "Rolla" discovery, its Mr. Rolla Miner Chase of the county of Windham, Vermont. A lifelong resident of that county, Mr. Chase is the only politician profiled thus far who was a dentist by occupation, and in his chosen profession he experienced much success. While being a dentist with an odd name is interesting enough, Chase was chosen to represent his home town of Bethel, Vermont in the State House of Representatives in 1900.
Born in the town of South Royalton, Vermont on September 4, 1854, Rolla M. Chase was one of four children born to Moses and Rosina Hill Chase. The Chase family removed to Bethel in 1857 and Rolla and his fellow siblings received their education in the common schools of this town. Rolla began studying dentistry in Bethel at age 18 and in 1874 enrolled in the Dental College at Boston.
Chase graduated from the Boston Dental College in 1876 and soon thereafter returned to Bethel to open a dental office. He married here in 1879 to Susan Elizabeth Newell, with whom he had two children, George Berry Chase (born 1881) and Susan Newell Chase (1882-1900).
Throughout the 1870s and 80s Chase practiced in Bethel, and in 1890 entered the Baltimore Medical College to study medicine. He graduated from this institution the following year as a Doctor of Medicine. The History of Windsor County, Vermont notes that in addition to his practice of dentistry, Chase was a "patentee of a number of useful inventions in dentistry, prominent among which are Chase's Wedge Forcep, Chase's Combination Plate, and a Rubber Heater, patents of recognized utility and generally by the profession throughout the country."
While still engaged in his practice Chase also became a founder of the Vermont State Dental Society in 1876, later serving as its president for one year. In 1882 Chase was appointed by then Governor John Barstow to the Vermont State Dental Examining Board, serving here for eighteen years.
As a popular figure in the town of Bethel, Rolla Chase was also sought out to serve in many non-medical areas of public life. He was a member of the local school board for a number of years and in 1894-1895 served as a vice president of the National Republican League Convention. In November of 1900 he was elected to a term the Vermont State House of Representatives from Bethel, and is noted by the Genealogical and Family History of Vermont, Vol. II as an "active and earnest legislator and was made secretary of the general committee."
After leaving the legislature in January 1902 Chase continued in the practice of dentistry while also maintaining involvement in a number of local civic and fraternal organizations, including the Knights Templar and the White River Lodge, No. 90 of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. In 1907 he was named as a delegate to the Imperial Council of Masons in Los Angeles. Rolla Miner Chase died in Bethel on June 10, 1919 at age 65. The portrait of him shown above appeared in the History of Windsor County, Vermont, published in 1891.
From the Moberly Weekly Monitor, April 2, 1931.
For many decades a prominent newspaper man in Moberly, Missouri, Rolla Renfro Rothwell also served as the Mayor of that city for six terms, the longest tenure of any Moberly mayor up to that time. The son of former U.S. Representative Gideon Rothwell and the former Bettie Ragland, Rolla R. Rothwell was born in Moberly on October 13, 1874. He attended both the Fleets Military Academy and the University of Missouri, and married in February 1899 to Fannie Fern Sims (1878-1968), with whom he would have one son, Rolla R. Rothwell Jr. (1907-1949).
Before his career in publishing and politics Rolla Rothwell was employed in the clothing store of William Little, and entered into newspaper publishing in the 1890s, working in the printing plant for the Armstrong, Missouri Herald. The 1931 Moberly Monitor obituary for Rothwell notes that during his time on the Herald he "had his first experience in operating a linotype machine, then a new invention", and his experience here led him to join the staff of the Moberly Daily and Weekly Monitor in 1903, being a partner of J.W. Sydenstricker and later, Hardin Sims (Rothwell's father in law.) Rothwell would become managing editor of the Monitor, which would later undergo a consolidation into the Monitor Index in 1919. Rothwell's obituary in the Monitor notes that even after he attained the office of Mayor he maintained an active interest in the paper's management, noting that:
"While he maintained no financial interest and had no voice in directing the editorial policies of the Monitor Index, he was the most valuable member of the staff."
Mayor Rolla R. Rothwell, from the Ogden Standard, December 6, 1913.
Rolla Rothwell first emerged on the Moberly political scene in 1907, when in that year he was elected Mayor for the first of six terms, spread out over a period of twenty-four years. He was returned to the mayor's office in 1909 and during his second term received glowing press in Volume 37 of the Typographical Journal, which noted that:
"Mayor Rothwell has made the city of Moberly one of the best Mayors the town has ever had. Sewers have been extended, streets paved, and the city has become the owner of the water system since Mr. Rothwell became the head of our city government. He is a young man and he is at the head of what we call our "young man's rule."In 1910 Rothwell (while still the incumbent mayor) launched an unsuccessful candidacy for Randolph County clerk, losing to Republican Green Terrill. Rothwell was defeated for reelection as Mayor in 1911 by Democratic candidate W.P. Cave, but was not out of the political spotlight for long. He was returned to the mayor's office in the 1913 election and in the year following his victory again became a candidate for county clerk, this time being successful. He served as clerk until January 1919, having been defeated in the November 1918 election.
Five years after his defeat as county clerk Rothwell sought a fifth term as mayor, and made a successful run, serving a term that extended from 1923-25. He wasn't a candidate in 1924 and the new Moberly Mayor, S.P. Towles, suffered the misfortune of dying shortly after being sworn in as mayor. Rothwell lost out again in the special election in 1925 to fill this vacancy. Rothwell was elected to his fifth term as mayor in 1927, his sixth term in 1929, and in 1931 ran unopposed for a seventh term. Sadly, Rothwell did not live to serve out this term, as he died a week before the election on April 1, 1931 at age 56. The mayor had been attending a "paving conference" at the Recreation Cafe in Moberly when he suffered a "cerebral hemorrhage" while having dinner, and was later "carried to a room above the cafe" where he died about thirty minutes later.
The loss of the popular mayor was felt throughout Moberly, and the April 2, 1931 edition of the Moberly Monitor featured a large portrait of Rothwell (shown above) along with glowing tributes to his stewardship of the city. Chester Bradley (a Monitor columnist) gave a stirring memorial to the late mayor, writing that:
"Mayor Rothwell lived and died for his friends and his home town. He was thinking and planning for both until the end....The Mayor was sincere as always when thinking and dealing with his home people. He took great pride in his great number of good friends. ''And they are from every strata'', he would always say,''I think as much of a friend if he is a true friend whether he is a a banker or common laborer."Following his death Rolla Renfro Rothwell was interred at the Oakland Cemetery in Moberly and was survived by his wife and son. Rothwell later received the posthumous honor of having the 447 acre Rothwell Park in Moberly named after him. The park still exists today, being called "the jewel of Moberly Parks and Recreation."
A portion of Rothwell's obituary from the April 2, 1931 Moberly Monitor.