The first settlers to arrive on the north part of the Pouce Coupe Prairie, with women and children, were Mr. and Mrs. Lea H. Miller and their five boys and three girls. They came over the Edson Trail arriving on their homesteads on May 5, 1912. A comfortable tent camp housed the family of ten for the summer. For the first months, the cooking and bread baking was done in an outdoor oven consisting of stones and clay. The first garden was ploughed and planted, also a field was seeded to oats for the cow and horses. Logs were hauled for a house and barn, so a busy summer followed. The log house was finished by fall. The logs were hand hewn inside and the floors were made of split logs. The roof consisted of poles with thick layers of grass sod laid over them. The Lea Miller family settled happily down for the winter in a more primitive surrounding than the home they had left behind in Rolla, Missouri. Thus the beginning and naming of the Rolla community.
During the summer of 1912 many homesteaders came to look over the land, file a claim and then go back home to get their families. The first Christmas the Millers entertained all the neighbors — Mr. Gobin and Forrest, Neil Vincent, and Hec Beaten. Mr. Miller and Bell Forbes made a trip back to Edson and Edmonton in December for a year’s supply of food and clothing, taking 40 days to make the trip.
On August 10, 1913 a son, Lester, was born to Mr. and Mrs. Lea Miller, the first child to be born in the Rolla District. Lester died in 1965 and was laid to rest in the family plot in the Rolla Cemetery on the corner of the homestead where he was born.
In 1914 the Millers applied for a post office and Rolla was officially named, using the name of the Miller family’s hometown in Missouri. The first crop in the district to be cut by a binder was cut in 1915 on the Everett Miller homestead.
Lloyd and Everett Miller both joined the army in the First World War. Lloyd died in France in 1918. Everett married and farmed through the years. He has retired now and his son, John, has taken over his large farm. The original Miller Homestead is owned and farmed by Emmett Miller and family.
In 1912 Mr. Gobin and Forrest settled on their homesteads west of Rolla. They spent the summer and winter making a comfortable home. Then in 1913, Mr. Gobin went back for his wife and they came in to the Peace River over the Edson Trail. In 1915 Mrs. Gobin became ill and died. This new district had no cemetery, so the present cemetery was laid out on the N.E. corner of the original Miller Homestead. Mrs. Gobin was the first to be buried there. Shortly afterwards the Gobins sold their farm and went back to the U.S.A.
Mr. W. Vincent and son Neil filed on their homesteads in 1912. Mr. Vincent went back for the family, while Neil stayed to finish the new house and barns with the help of Hec Beaten. The boys spent a hard winter, but by early spring the family arrived. The original log home of the Vincent’s still stands, but none of the family is left in Rolla. The farm is now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Bob Gruenke and family.
In July 1912 Howard Atkinson, Mr. W. Coutts and sister, Mrs. Kate Edwards, arrived. They came over the Edson Trail and traveled part time with the Millers as far as Grande Prairie. After a time Howard married Babs Shepherd, and later started a store on the farm. When Rolla began to grow and settle into a centre, Howard moved his store to the site of Rolla today. He ran the first large store in Rolla. Mrs. Edwards, a nurse through the years, rode by horseback to care for the sick. She was well known as Aunt Kate. The Coutts homestead is now farmed by Bobby Coutts, a grandson.
In the spring of 1913 Mr. and Mrs. Tom Clay and family arrived by way of the Edson Trail. Mr. Clay and son Bill filed on land east of Rolla. The Clay homestead was known far and wide by the large pine tree which stood by the door. With the coming of the Clay family, the first school was started. A small log cabin was built on the corner of Everett Miller’s land and for a few months Everett taught.
In 1913 Rev. A.J. Law arrived to organize a Methodist Mission. A log parsonage was built large enough for church services, Sunday school and other community activities. Rev. Law also taught school four days a week for several months.
An organ was purchased in 1915. It is still in excellent condition and is used regularly in the Rolla United Church built in 1928. In 1915 a government paid teacher, Mr. Cameron, arrived in the community. There were eleven pupils on the roll call. Later a larger log school was constructed by volunteer work. Miss Claire Braden was the first teacher in this new school and she taught there for several years. Eventually the school was made into a three-room school where they taught all grades up to grade 12. In 1966 a new modern four-room school with library and gym was opened. The old school and grounds were given to the district as a Community Centre and park by the late Mr. W. Coons.
The Coons family arrived on their homestead in 1913. The family settled south of Rolla. The oldest son, Arnold and family are the only remaining ones of this one time large family, left in the Rolla district. Arnold and sons farm on the original Coons’ land.
Early in the summer of 1913, Mrs. A. Riddle and son Walter arrived. They had come over the Edson Trail driving a team of oxen. They settled near Rolla. Walter’s big blue-black team of oxen worked steadily and ploughed many an acre of land for them. These oxen were a beautiful sight to behold. Later when Walter joined the army, they sold their farm.
Mr. and Mrs. Zimmerman and the boys came in 1913 filing on land south of Rolla and soon several fields were ploughed and a home built. In 1914 a son Harry and wife arrived and settled near. The boys soon organized a ball team, consisting of Gerald Green, Harry, Roy, and Lloyd Zimmerman, Frank Coons, Lloyd and Everett Miller, Bill Clay and others. The Zimmermans farmed the land for several years, then sold. The farms now belong to Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Querin and sons.
Mr. G.K. Tower and son Claude came by way of the Peace River — their camping outfit on their backs on the hike from the River. Their log cabin and barn was finished by fall and they returned for Mrs. Tower. In the spring they again came in by the Hudson Bay boat to the Rolla Landing. They farmed several years and in 1918 Claude and Eunice Miller were married. A few years later Claude left the farm to run the ferry at Taylor, and still later the Clayhurst ferry.
Mr. and Mrs. I. D. Vandewater, Guy and Marguerite came in 1914. They farmed for a few years and then moved to Guy’s homestead west of Rolla and took over the Post Office. Later they moved the Post Office to Rolla. Mr. I. D. Vandewater was the first Justice of the Peace in the district. When they retired they moved to Edmonton to be near their daughter, Mrs. Ogilvie.
Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Anderson arrive in 1913 and their homestead was north of Rolla. Dorothy Anderson was the first girl baby. A son Arvard still farms this land.
The J. Grimes’ family arrived in 1913 and Mr. Grimes was the first blacksmith.
Mr. John Kerr and son, Jack arrived in 1914. Mr. Kerr died very suddenly and was buried in a plot on Saskatoon Creek. Later Jack returned back to Ontario for his Mother. They farmed for several years and then Jack became a foreman for the Public Works.
Dave and Bob Scobie, Ernie Parsons, Arlie Plaster, H. Abel, the Taylors, Norman Little, the A. Nelsons, the Axel Johnsons and the Emil Johnsons were among others who arrived and farmed in the early days of Rolla.
NOW FOR THE BACHELORS!
Bachelors that came and filed in 1912 and 1913 were as follows: Pete McLellan….1912, Howard Atkinson….1912,
Rastras Vorack…1912, W. Coutts…………….1912, J. Hull……………..1912, G. Peirce……………..1912,
Ben Bryan………..1912, Lute Hull……………..1913, Hec Beaten………1912, Zene Hull…………….1913,
J. Sinclair………..1912, Freddy Ker………….1914, Nels Hanson 1912, Charle Douglas 1914,
Jack Essex 1912, Denne Cornock 1914, E. Landrud 1913, George Hiffernon 1914,
Al Haydon 1913, Jimmy McLennon 1914, Otto Hostrum 1913, George Spangler 1914,
W. Johns 1913, Gerald Green 1914, H. Johns 1913, Jonas Hagerg 1914, John Thorsby 1913,
Jack Fynn 1914, Jack Hardie 1913, Jack Buchanon 1914, M. Gardiner 1913, R. Jones 1914,
Jimmy McLendon, 1913 Tom Brown 1914, Albert Olin 1913, Jim Brown 1914, G. Scholl 1913,
A. Maglein 1914, A. Scholl 1913, Laurie Waterman 1914, R. Handshaw 1913, Walter Lee 1914,
A. Handshaw 1913, Charle Norman 1914, Fred Clark 1913, Arlie Plaster 1914,
Tom Cole 1913, Scott Plaster 1914, N. Bostock 1913, H. Taylor 1914, Henry Laskin 1913,
Will Osborne 1914, Wes Pollard 1913