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Thinking of Rolland Woodington

October 26, 2012


On this day in 1930, Rolland Woodington died of a heart attack while he was driving in Chicago. Rolland “Raleigh” Woodington was the second child of Furman and Barbara “Dolly” (Sturmer) Woodington. He was born September 13, 1892 when his older sister, Ethel (my grandmother), was two years old. He was born in Cassville, WI and it was there he grew up with his sister and four younger brothers.

In 1910, according to the U.S. Census, Rolland had been in school in the previous year while still age 17. Sometime before he was 24 years old, Rolland “Raleigh” moved to Chicago and worked as a steward in the Briggs House Hotel on the corner of Randolph and Wells Streets. The Briggs House was one of the early hotels built in Chicago when it was still a small town. The hotel burned in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and was soon rebuilt. As a steward at the Briggs House, Raleigh’s work was likely that of what is also known as a maitre d’. Stewards were responsible for the dining experience of the hotel guests, overseeing all of the details and hospitality except for the actual cooking in the kitchen.

On June 5, 1917 Raleigh fulfilled his legal responsibility to register with the 17 Ward 6 Draft Board in Chicago, IL. He served in World War I (as did his younger brother, Walter, according to He had an interesting incident about six months after he had registered for the draft. There was a recommendation by the Bureau of Investigation (now called the FBI) that he be investigated for his loyalty to the United States and it be determined whether he had registered for the draft:


Letter from the Bureau of Investigation concerning Rolland Woodington.


Rolland Woodington as a young man.


After returning from the war, Raleigh moved back to Chicago and worked as a soap salesman. He married Claudine Ceryle on March 24, 1920 but they later divorced, a detail found in his death certificate.

World War I veterans often suffered from what was then called “shell shock”–now called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Whether it was from shell shock or some other reason, the family suspected Raleigh, like many veterans, had resorted to drug abuse after returning from the war. Rolland died October 26, 1930 at the age of 38 from a heart attack while he was driving. The cause of death, according to family stories, was either a drug overdose or a weakened heart from when he got the flu during the Influenza Epidemic of 1918 while in the military. He was buried in Cassville, WI on Oct 29, 1930.

Note that both his name and age are incorrect in the newspaper obituary, but the date of death and address are correct according to his death certificate. My thanks to cousin Lori Hahn for finding his obituary.



  1. Kurt Schlanker permalink

    My mother also heard a story (probably from her father Robert) that Rolland was murdered for his paycheck. Can you share the stories about his suspected drug abuse?

    • Hi Kurt,
      According to his sister Ethel’s family lore, it is thought Rolland came back from WWI with what we now call PTSD. They believed he used drugs as a way to self-medicate. I do not have evidence of his use, though. Neither emotional duress nor drug use were topics for public conversation, just family whispers.

      • Kurt Schlanker permalink

        Yes, such things weren’t spoken of then. I’m beginning to research Rolland’s time in WW1, as I’m a history teacher. I’ll share anything I may find.

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