The Story of the Rolls


The Story of the Rolls


John Linden Roll signs and adds his own interlineations to a typed manuscript entitled "The Story of the Rolls" that recounts the story of the Roll family and its connection with Abraham Lincoln. John Roll is the last living member of his family to remember Abraham Lincoln. He quotes passages from Ida Tarbell's book regarding Lincoln's mention of John's father in his "House Divided Speech."


Roll, John Linden


Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum




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In the spring of 1828, William Roll, his brother, Jacob and the latter's son, Pierson Roll, arrived in Sangamon Town from New Jersey. William Roll became a farmer, his brother, Jacob, was the owner of a store, a grist mill and the Sangamon Town Postmaster, and Pierson Roll became an extensive land owner. Two years later, John Roll, followed his father, William Roll to Sangamon Town with the balance of the Roll family. It was here that the younger Roll met Abraham Lincoln for the first time early in 1831 when he helped the latter build the flat boat that later became lodged on the RutledgeDam at New Salem, Illinois. John made all the wooden pins for the boat, as in those days wodden pins were used in place of nails.

After Lincoln departed from Sangamon Town life once more became dull and John Roll, like his friend "Abe" left the village and made his home at Springfield, Illinois. It was at Springfield some years later that Mr. Lincoln made his first political promise, stating that when he became president he would give John Roll an office. This was long before Lincoln was thought of for the Presidency.

John Roll was one of the contractors on the Old State House in Springfield, while his brother-in-law, John F. Rague, was it's architect. As a contractor Roll made repairs at the Lincoln home in 1849 and in settlement for the work received "six walnut doors and cash." The doors were made into furniture and souvenirs, which presently are in the author's possession. In 1854 John Roll's son, William Vandyke Roll, was a school mate of Robert Lincoln at the Illinois State University. His two smaller children, Frank P. and John Linden Roll were playmates of Tad and Willie Lincoln. When the Lincolns departed for Washington, they presented their dog 'Fido' to the Roll boys.

When Mr. Lincoln made his House Divided Speech in the Old State House he said, [quotation on back] "There is my friend, John Roll, etc. etc...........". This friendship persisted to Lincoln's untimely death, after which John Roll until his death in 1901 lived in reveries of his beloved hero of the 'Flat Boat' building days.

The Rolls, with one exception, your author, have followed their friends the Lincoln to the Great Beyond. John Linden Roll is the last of those Rolls that were so intimately associated with the Lincolns. His fondest possessions are the hundreds of souvenirs, pictures, clippings and tokens dealing with Lincoln.

I hope this short biographical sketch gives you a small fraction of the pleasure that I derived in compiling it for you.

Sincerely, John Linden Roll JOHN LINDEN ROLL 825 Henrietta St. Springfield Ills

on page 12 VOL 2 Miss Tarbell's Life of Lincoln you will find illustrated an old sofa which my father bought of Lincoln before they left for Washington. On page 184 VOL 1 my father owned the building in Hoffmans Row where Stuart and Lincoln had their first office in Springfield. On 59 to 63 VOL 1 my father's story of the building of the flat-boat wich got lodged on the New Salem dam.

When Lincoln made his famous "House divided Speech" in the State House, he said "There is my old friend John Roll," (referring to my father.) He used to be a slave but he made himself free and I used to be a slave and now I am so free they let me practice law."



Percent Completed




Original Format

paper and ink
2 p
28 x 22 cm


Roll, John Linden, “The Story of the Rolls,” Chronicling Illinois, accessed December 13, 2019,