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Prohibition derailed Rollinger’s career path

This parade photo was taken in 1952 by Otis Howell of the Hannibal Courier-Post. It is part of Steve Chou’s vast photo collection. At left is the Mark Twain Hotel, featured a week ago in this column. At right, in the row of visible buildings, was the building at 301 S. Main, where William F. Rollinger once tended bar. A close look at this photo shows the marquee for the Star Theater to the south of the bus depot. You can also see the top portion of the Marion Hotel sign. That hotel was south of 301 S. Main. At far left is the Union Depot Hotel. Demolition of this hotel began within a few months after this photo was taken. There is a bowling alley in the distance on the right, along with the small buildings that were built on the incline of the Bear Creek bridge.


Tending bar was William F. Rollinger’s profession, ever since he moved to Hannibal from Lee County, Iowa in the early years of the 20th century.  It was his means of supporting his wife, Etta Pratt Lock, and the three sons she brought with her into their 1906 marriage: Hilary Willis, born 1891; Fred K., born 1896; and Edward N. Lock(e) born 1900. (Her first-born son, Elmer, died in 1904 at the age of 16.)

Not long after they wed, the Rollingers assumed proprietorship of the long-standing Morton House hotel, bar and cafe, located at that time at 218-220 S. Main, nearby the Star Theater.

While that venture was short-lived, by 1909 the Rollingers were in business again, operating another saloon, this one located at 300 S. Main.

It was in that same building that, some 13 years later, William Rollinger would serve as a clerk for Charles Driscoll, in a venture that would prove costly to Rollinger, in terms of dollars, reputation and even his freedom.

Nary a trace remains today of the brick, two-story, 19th Century building on the southwest corner of South Main and Lyon in Hannibal, Mo., where German-born William F. Rollinger tended bar during the years leading up to and encompassing the war intended to end all wars.

By the war’s end, the social climate of the country had swayed. Society was now being blamed for the rapid increase in domestic violence and child abandonment.

The 18th Amendment, ratified on Jan. 16, 1919, laid the groundwork for the prohibition of the sale and manufacture of alcohol in the United States. Prohibition would remain in force for the next 13 years.

Rather than halting alcohol consumption, Prohibition in effect pushed the alcohol industry into hiding.

During the next few years, Hannibal city directories represent the change in employment status for William Rollinger. In 1922, the former bartender was identified as a clerk for Charles Driscoll’s soft drinks establishment, located at 313 S. Main.

The following year, Rollinger sold soft drinks for W.H. and Margaret Murry at 524 S. Main.

But these directory mentions didn’t tell the whole story.

That story came to light following his wife’s filing for divorce in August 1924.

The Quincy Daily Herald published details of that divorce case in its Sept. 11, 1924, edition.

Represented by Roy Hamlin, a noted Hannibal attorney, Mrs. Rollinger accused her husband of “moonshining and bootlegging.” As cause for the divorce, she cited “persistent and continued violation of the prohibition laws, with the humiliation and disgrace of living with a husband who had twice been imprisoned for the same, as well as for non support.”

During one of his incarcerations, she said, she borrowed money and bought a half interest in a restaurant in order to support herself. “She further stated that while she was in the restaurant business, her husband would insist on bringing unlawful companions into the restaurant and conducting his illegal business there.”

(The restaurant was located at 524 S. Main, and her business partner was Charles Sinclair.)

She was granted a final decree of divorce in September 1924.

But William F. Rollinger’s troubles didn’t end there.

He had been indicted by a grand jury in 1922 for bootlegging whiskey.

In March 1923, Rollinger had been tried by a New London jury on a change of venue from Hannibal. He was charged with violation of the state prohibition law. The jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to nine months in the jail at New London, and fined $1,000.

"Rollinger’s penalty is the heaviest ever placed on an alleged violator of the dry law in this section, both as to jail sentence and fine,” the Shelby County Herald reported on March 14, 1923.

Represented by attorneys Lewis O’Connor of Hannibal and James O. Allison of New London, he appealed the sentence.

On Nov. 28, 1924, the Ralls County Report reported: “He appealed the case to the supreme court and that tribunal sent it to the St. Louis Court of Appeals for hearing. The verdict of the lower court was sustained and Rollinger was arrested Saturday and brought (to New London). ‘Red’ Hughes, who was tried with Rollinger for the same offense, left the country, forfeiting a bond of $500.”

Following his incarceration, Rollinger went to work for Joseph Laratta, selling cigars at 503 S. Main.

When the census was compiled in the spring of 1930, Rollinger, then 54, was making his home with his step-son and family, Edward and Marie Locke, at 511 Birch. 

In 1937 Mr. Rollinger lived at 503 S. Main

William F. Rolinger was found dead in his apartment at 224 A. North Main St., on Oct. 29, 1953. He was buried at Oakland Cemetery, Keokuk, Iowa. The informant on his death certificate was his step son, Edward Locke.

Etta Pratt Lock Rollinger died Jan. 14, 1954, at Long’s Rest Home, 3301 Market. She was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery.

Etta’s first husband, Lewis Henry Lock, and father of her sons, died in 1947 at Kirksville, Adair County, Mo.

Elmer, the first-born son of Etta and Lewis Lock, died in August 1904, at the age of 16. The family was living in Hannibal at the time.

Fred K. Lock died in 1957. At the time of his death, he was street commissioner for the city of Hannibal.

Hilary Willis Lock died at Hannibal in 1930.

Edward N. Locke died in 1971, and is buried at Oakland Cemetery, Lee County, Iowa.

Note: there are discrepancies on the way various families spell the last name “Lock” or “Locke”.

Note: Sometime around 1912 and 1913, the city reversed the numbering on South Main and other streets south of Broadway, making the even numbers on the east side of the streets, and the odd numbers on the west side of the streets. This accounts for the discrepancies you see in the street numbering in this, and other stories by this author. For example, the Hannibal Free Public Library was initially numbered 201 S. Fourth. Today the address is 200 S. Fourth.

The 1913 Sanborn Map shows the buildings that once stood in the 300 block of South Main, Hannibal. Driscoll & Uppinghouse saloon, 301; Ellis Farah, 303; Stein Bros, 305; Knopp and Yost, 307; Aldo Grumm 307A; Sam S. Glavis, 309; Patrick O’Grady 311; Roth and McMahon, 313; Union Depot Hotel, 316A-318A; Kettering Hotel, 323. Source: Hannibal Free Public Library’s website.

Mary Lou Montgomery retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on by this author include but are not limited to: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870,” “Hannibal’s ‘West End,’ and the newest book, “Oakwood: West of Hannibal.” Montgomery can be reached at Her collective works can be found at


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