Throwback Thursday: Rolly Muhn, Auburn’s Santa Claus

Willennar Genealogy Center’s collection is full of Throwback Thursday potential, so let’s get our #TBT on!

Christmas is just around the corner, so today let’s take a look at Auburn’s own Santa Claus, Rolly Muhn.

Young Rolly

Roland Muhn’s first real job came after he dropped out of seventh grade and learned carpentry. He was building a house for a widow near Huntertown who had a boy (Mack) from the St. Vincent Villa Orphans Home staying with her. She didn’t have a lot of money, and that Christmas, Mack cried because he didn’t get any new presents, a sight that broke Rolly’s heart.

He wanted to change things, so together the two boys promised God that when they were older they would “get the orphans at St. Vincent Villa a new Christmas toy, or whatever they wanted.”


After the house was completed, they lost track of each other, but every Christmas, Rolly would think of their promise. In 1926, he decided to follow through.

He began delivering presents to the St. Vincent Villa Orphanage at Christmas time, as himself at first, and then as Santa Claus. Every year, the orphanage would throw a Christmas party and he would bring them presents, apples, oranges, and candy. The children loved him.

His wife, Ann, worked hard helping him with the parties. It was her idea for children to write letters to Santa each year, and she picked out all the presents.

Rolly + Ann

Ann and Rolly also thought it would be nice for Santa to write back, so every year each child received a letter from Santa in addition to presents and sweets. For some of them, this was the first time they had ever received any mail, and some of them continued to keep in touch with the Muhns well after leaving the orphanage. According to Rolly, they kept every card and letter they received and preserved them in a scrapbook.

Rolly died in September of 1985, but his story lives on in the lives of the many people he touched over the years. To him, giving was more than enough of a gift.

Want to see more local history? Click here to browse our online photo database, or head on over to the Genealogy Center’s official Facebook page.



About Chelsea

I've been working at Willennar Genealogy Center for over two years now, and I've loved every minute of getting to learn more about the stories of DeKalb County and the surrounding area. I'm interested in all kinds of history, but I'm especially fond of the early film industry, old letters and journals, the DeKalb County Fair, and the Interurban line.
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