The Mysterious “W”

                                        College founder Alonzo W. Rollins (1832-1887) 

While researching a reference question recently, I came across a surprising article.  In 1956 The Sandspur reported that, despite its best efforts, the College had been unable to discover Alonzo W. Rollins’ middle name.  Local history records yielded no information, so researchers in Maine (where Mr. Rollins was born) looked into the question, with the same results:  Every source found identified him only as “Alonzo W. Rollins.”

                                        From The Sandspur, 11/05/1956

Family members contacted by the College were unable to help.  The most promising lead, received in 1955, came from a researcher who wrote Pres. Hugh McKean that “the Rollins and Wentworth families inter-married. . . Many had the name of Wentworth as a middle name and perhaps the W. stood for that. . .”

Thinking that it was time to consult our digital resources, I reviewed census records, marriage records, and military registration records using the library’s Ancestry.com database, but found no additional information.  An Internet resource, Find A Grave, provided a listing for Alonzo William Rollins that looked promising, but the person who added the listing told me that he had not taken the name from the actual grave site and could no longer find his source for it.  And Chicago’s Mount Hope Cemetery, where Mr. Rollins is buried, told us that all their records listed only his middle initial.

The Archives does have a great deal deal of information about Mr. Rollins and his family, but the “mysterious question” is still unanswered.   If anyone can help us with this piece of history, please let us hear from you!

Portrait of Richard and Betsey Rollins, with their children and in-laws, circa 1865-1872. Their son, Alonzo, is sitting on the floor with his wife, Susan, behind him (she is wearing a striped ribbon around her collar).

~ by D. Moore, Archival Specialist

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