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William Lundy Roche Collection

Manuscript Collection no. 173
Microfilm rolls MS 1221–MS 1223


The William Lundy Roche Collection contains family papers for Roche and his ancestors: Dr. Charles Williamson, Samuel Clarke, and their families. Consisting of four boxes, the bulk of the collection is correspondence dating from 1873 to 1959. Miscellaneous family items comprise the rest of the collection. Billie Barnard, daughter of William Roche, donated the materials to the Kansas State Historical Society in 1985. There are no restrictions on the use of the papers.  The microfilm is available through interlibrary loan.


William Lundy Roche was born in 1909 and worked for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway for fifty years, primarily in Texas. Although the collection is named for him, the majority of the material deals with his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents who settled in Washington County, Kansas.

William’s great-grandfather, Dr. Charles Williamson, was a prominent early settler of Washington County. Born in London, England, in 1824, he came to the United States and married Sarah Ann Dougan in 1856. Dr. Williamson served as a surgeon in the Twelfth Kansas State Militia during the Civil War. After the war, he settled in Washington County. Reportedly, he was the first physician in the county. A prominent public figure, he served on the State Board of Horticulture (1880-1890), was a Silk Culture Commissioner (1887-1889), served as a representative to the State Legislature (1887-1889), and was a member of the Board of Directors of the Kansas State Historical Society (1887-1890).

The oldest of Charles and Sarah’s children, Mary Ann, was born in 1857. She compiled much of the material that now comprises the collection. Mary Ann married Sam Clarke in 1879 at Washington, the county seat of Washington County. Samuel Clarke was a publisher of several newspapers in Washington County. He and Charles Williamson began the Washington Register in 1880, but sold it in 1883. In 1896, he began publishing the Washington Palladium. One of his sons, Oscar L. Clarke, became a partner in the paper in 1903, as the printer.

One of Sam and Mary Anne’s children, Kittie Clover, married Joseph Alexander Roche in 1907. Joseph A. Roche was the first director of the Kansas Commission for the Blind. William Lundy was one of their sons.

Scope and Content

The William Lundy Roche collection consists of four boxes of materials. The collection is divided into two series—general correspondence and miscellaneous family items. The general correspondence series dates from 1873 to 1959 and concerns the Williamson and Clarke families almost exclusively. Mary Ann (Williamson) Clarke saved the majority of the correspondence, hence much of it is letters addressed to her. Her daughter, Kit C. Roche, also received much of the correspondence. The miscellaneous files contain other items pertaining to the family, such as newspaper clippings, grade cards, wedding announcements, etc.

The first box contains correspondence from 1873 to 1918. To aid the researcher, the first folder contains genealogical information on family members compiled by Billie Barnard. The majority of the items in the correspondence folders are family letters, but they also contain business and other correspondence. Several groups of letters relate to one topic. An example of this is a series of letters that Lieutenant Charles W. Clarke sent home while serving in the military during World War I. The son of Sam and Mary, he enlisted in the army in 1917 and served until 1919. He traveled to France in1918 and married a French girl in 1919. His letters home are quite extensive and are located in parts of three folders.

There are several other items of particular interest. Dr. Charles Williamson sent a letter to the secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, George Martin, in July of 1900, concerning Charles’ biography. There is also a 1925 letter Mary Ann Clarke sent William Connelley, secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, asking for information about a childhood memory of Tecumseh, Kansas. Some of the correspondence around the turn of the century pertains to the newspaper business of Sam Clarke, who was also active in the Democratic party of Washington County.

The second box contains more correspondence from 1919 to 1959. Much of this is again family correspondence, primarily consisting of letters to and from Mary Clarke and her friends and relatives. One folder contains undated correspondence and another contains fragments of letters.

The third box begins the series of miscellaneous family material. Charles and Sarah Williamson each have folders containing financial, legal, and personal documents, while the rest of the collection is arranged chronologically or in subject files. The first folder contains material pertaining to Charles Williamson, the bulk of which are deeds and tax receipts. The folder also holds several certificates including those certifying him to practice medicine. In addition, Dr. Williamson received a patent from the U.S. government in 1885 for electric conductors for wire fencing.

There are two folders devoted to Sarah Williamson’s papers. Most of the items in the first folder are deeds to various tracts of land in Kansas and Missouri. The second folder contains a photocopy of a daily diary she kept from October 21, 1915, to February 12, 1916, just before Charles died.

The next section of family material is arranged chronologically and contains a wide variety of items from 1879 to 1976 including wedding announcements, grade cards, a few business items (Sam Clarke), Sam Clarke’s Democratic platform, and newspaper articles. Among the items in the second folder is information on Dr. James A. Williamson, one of Charles and Sarah’s sons who was committed to Osawatomie State Hospital in 1909. He was discharged in 1919 but is not represented in the rest of the collection.

The third folder in this series contains similar items and has two articles written in 1944 concerning Sam Clarke and his newspaper days. It also contains World War II items relating to Private Jonathan B. Roche, William’s brother. There is also a folder containing undated miscellaneous family material. This includes a variety of items such as editorials written by Sam Clarke and one unflattering commentary about him. Finally, this folder contains material on Charles W. Clarke, who served as a special agent for the Treasury Department on the Al Capone case.

The remaining material is arranged in folders according to subject matter. The first folder in this series contains poetry written by various members of the family including William L. Roche, Kit Roche, Charles W. Clarke, Sam Clarke, and others. The final folder in the third box contains miscellaneous newspaper clippings.

The first folder in box four consists of a scrapbook of newspaper items pertaining to the blind and Joseph A. Roche’s post as the first director of the Kansas Commission for the Blind. This is largely the only material that relates to him in the entire collection. One folder contains a home correspondence course from the International Typographic Union taken by Joseph C. Roche, William's brother, in 1930. The final folder contains several bound notebooks owned by family numbers, such as the Physician’s Visiting List belonging to Dr. James Williamson.

More information can be found on the family elsewhere in the holdings of the Historical Society. For example, entries on Sam Clarke and Charles Williamson can be found in the 1890 Portrait and Biographical Album and under Washington County in the History of Kansas by A. T. Andreas. A number of photographs of the family are housed in the photograph collection.

Contents List

Microfilm Reel Number Box Number Folder number and title
MS 1221 Box 1 1 - Genealogical information
MS 1221   2 - General Correspondence, 1873-1879
MS 1221   3 - General Correspondence, 1880-1891
MS 1221   4 - General Correspondence, 1892-1901
MS 1221   5 - General Correspondence, 1902-1909
MS 1221   6 - General Correspondence, 1910-1917
MS 1221-MS 1222   7 - General Correspondence, 1918
MS 1222 Box 2 1 - General Correspondence, 1919
MS 1222   2 - General Correspondence, 1920-1929
MS 1222   3 - General Correspondence, 1930-1933
MS 1222   4 - General Correspondence, 1934-1939
MS 1222   5 - General Correspondence, 1940-1959
MS 1222   6 - Undated Correspondence
MS 1222   7 - Fragments of Letters
MS 1222 Box 3 1 - Dr. Charles Williamson: Financial, Legal, and Personal Documents
MS 1223   2 - Sarah Williamson: Financial, Legal and Personal Documents
MS 1223   3 - Sarah Williamson: Diary, October 21, 1915 - February 12, 1916
MS 1223   4 - Miscellaneous Family Items, 1879-1909
MS 1223   5 - Miscellaneous Family Items, 1910-1929
MS 1223   6 - Miscellaneous Family Items, 1930-1976
MS 1223   7 - Undated Miscellaneous Family Items
MS 1223   8 - Poetry
MS 1223   9 - Newspaper Clippings
MS 1223 Box 4 1 - Newspaper clippings in Scrapbook pertaining to blind and Joseph A. Roche
MS 1223   2 - International Typographic Union home correspondence course, Joseph C. Roche
MS 1223   3 - Miscellaneous booklets