Roloff Family
of Navarro County, Texas


Biography Index



Dawson,  Texas


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 older.


A 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.


Two gravestones

may be found at



William L Roloff                 1861-1932

M 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.


J 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 ranch.


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 property.


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        Dawson Cemetery

   Harry Augustus Roloff    b. 1889        d. 1967        Dawson Cemetery

   William J Roloff            b. 1892        d. 1910        Boardtree Cemetery

   Allie Monita Roloff          b.  1896

   Edwin Roloff                  b. 1909        d.1966         Dawson Cemetery






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. 1966

m.      Rosie Slater                   

          Clyde 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       

    m.               Hugh Lynn Hillis

        Son    Hugh Lynn Hillis Jr.

          Vernon Roloff       b. 1920       

m.      Valarie Lewis                  d. 1947

          dau    Brenda Roloff      

                   m. Hollan

                                      m.      Lucy 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. 1982

m. 1936       Marie Brady

          Thelma Roloff                 b. 1917       

                                                 d.  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        


                                                Lived           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, Texas.


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.


A 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.


Navarro County TXGenWeb
© Copyright March, 2009
Edward L. Williams & Barbara Knox