The True History of Rollin B. Lane, His Family and His Castle

Chapter 2: Rollin Benjamin Lane (1854-1940)

Introduction:
Rollin B. Lane was a very successful lawyer, banker, newspaper editor and real estate investor who helped build Hollywood through property development and participation on the historic Hollywood Board of Trade. He also invested heavily in the early development of the nearby San Fernando Valley and in California’s San Joaquin Valley, helping to make it one of the most agriculturally productive areas in the United States.

Rollin’s Childhood in Oshkosh:
Rollin was born on May 26, 1854, at a private residence on Algoma St., in downtown Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

The first mention of Rollin’s existence comes from the 1860 Census report for Oshkosh, showing him to be 6 years old. It also refers to him as “Roland.” This was probably an error on the part of the census taker, misinterpreting the spoken word “Rollin.” In any case , ”Rollin” was the name he used throughout his life.

The census report also lists a younger brother, Eddy Lane, just two years old in the summer of 1860. Eddy is never again mentioned in family literature and although an Edward Lane of roughly the correct age appears in Racine, Wisconsin some years later, it is likely that Eddy Lane died in childhood.

RBLane

Rollin B. Lane

Photo courtesy of the A. K. Smiley Public Library - All Rights Reserved.

 

Rollin’s father: Obadiah Leonard Lane
Rollin’s father was Oshkosh, Wisconsin attorney Obadiah Leonard Lane. Obadiah had been the senior partner in the firm of Lane and Weisbrod as early as 1851.

1851 - Lane and Weisbrod
Classified advertisement in The Oshkosh Democrat -September 19, 1851

By the time Rollin was born, Obadiah had left the partnership and had become Justice of the Peace. By 1860, he was an Oshkosh City Supervisor.

At some point in the 1860’s, Obadiah appears to have abandoned the family. He later showed up in San Francisco, single and still practicing law.

Rollin’s mother: Olive Pickett Lane
Rollin’s mother was Olive Pickett Lane. Olive was the daughter of Armine and Annie Pickett, two of the areas more prominent pioneers.

Olive Lane and Baby Rollin - Web

 

 

After his father’s departure, young Rollin and his mother moved to nearby Utica, Wisconsin to live on the Pickett’s farm.

 

After attending the ward schools in Oshkosh, Rollin enrolled at Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin. He was a member of class of 1872 but did not graduate, choosing instead to transfer to an unnamed school “in the East” to study law.

Ripon College 1873
Ripon College 1873 (Rollin was in the class of 1872)
Wisconsin Historical Society (pending approval)

 

By 1876, Rollin was back in Ripon and practicing law as the junior partner of the firm of Runnals and Lane.

1876 - Lane in Ripon
From the 1876 Fond du Lac County (Wisconsin) Directory.

 

1884 - Rollin Moves to Milwaukee:
In 1884, Rollin moved to Milwaukee where he became an associate editor of the Evening Wisconsin newspaper.

Then, in July of 1885, he married seamstress Edna Loomis. The marriage took place at the bride’s parents’ house in Ripon. The couple lived in Milwaukee, with Rollin’s mother, Olive.

(At some point, Olive moved to Lake Mills, Wisconsin where, on August 6, 1893, she married widower Harmon Wood. They remained together until his death in December of 1906, although Olive made frequent and extended visits to California.)

 

1887 - Rollin Moves West:
In late 1886 or early 1887, Rollin moved to California. He left his wife in the care of friends in Ripon, promising to send for her after he was settled. Instead, he sued for divorce. He also sued his former employer, Mr. Edmun L. Runnals, for “an accounting, which was decided adversely to Lane.” Ripon historian Samuel M. Pedrick reports that Rollin received local criticism as a result of his conduct. (Note: Mr. Runnals later became Judge Runnals.)

Pedrick also reports that while Rollin retained a life long affection for Ripon College and visited it on several occasions, he was reluctant to talk of his early days as a lawyer in Ripon.

In California, Rollin moved to an area that would become the town of Redlands. With Curtis Wells and others, he established the Union Bank of Redlands during a 3-month period from May to July of 1887. Rollin became the bank’s first cashier, a position he would hold for nearly five years.

It should be noted that a bank’s cashier was not necessarily a teller. It was a management position involving responsibility for all cash-related activity.

CASHIER. 1. An officer of a moneyed institution, who is entitled by virtue of his office to take care of the cash or money of such institution. 2. The cashier of a bank is usually entrusted with all the funds of the bank, its notes, bills, and other choses in action, to be used from time to time for the ordinary and extraordinary exigencies of the bank. - Bouvier’s Law Dictionary - 1856

 

Union Bank of Redlands
Appendix to the Journals of the Senate and Assembly of the Twenty-Ninth Session of the Legislature of the State of California, Volume III, Bank Commissioners’ Report

One might wonder how Rollin, despite a background in law, could have become the bank’s cashier with only five shares of stock and no experience in banking whatsoever. The answer is not to be found in commissioners’ reports. It come instead from a small article in Rollin’s hometown newspaper. According to a report in an April, 1887 edition of the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, “Mrs. Olive Lane, mother of R. B. Lane, has gone into the banking business in a new town in southern California. She owns 170 shares in the bank.” If the number is correct, she was the single biggest shareholder in the enterprise.

1892 - North to Oregon:
About 1892, Rollin moved to Oregon and opened yet another bank, of which he was president. He sold out a few years later and traveled around the world.

 

Multnomah Bank 1

Multnomah Bank 2
Biennial Report of Secretary of State of the State of Oregon to the Legislative Assembly, Seventeenth Regular Session, presenting Articles of Incorporation from January 1, 1891 to January 1, 1893 - published 1893

Although Rollin is said to have maintained an interest in the Union Bank of Redlands for many years, he sold his interest in Oregon rather quickly

1896 - Back to Redlands:
In 1896, after a year or more of travel, Rollin returned to Redlands and purchased about 18 acres of farm land.

 

 (Rollin’s story continues on the “Rollin and Katherine” page.)

 

Copyright 2010 George W. Siegel, unless otherwise noted