William Kolley

William A. Kolley, born about 1859, was a professional baseball player in 1885. Kolley lived in Little Rock, AR circa 1880-1885.


William Kolley was the son of German immigrant John Kolley and probably his wife Anna1. His birthplace is unknown, though Pennsylvania1 or Missouri23 seem most likely. He grew up in St. Louis and took on the trade of cigar maker as a young man.

By 1880, Kolley was living and working in Little Rock, AR4. On June 28th, 1884, he married Susan Holbrook in Little Rock5. That same year, he joined the Little Rock Browns, one of the area's most popular baseball teams. Kolley had been playing baseball in Little Rock since at least 18816 and had become a well-known catcher. To promote the Browns, Kolley made a batch of "Little Rock Brown's" cigars7.

In July, 1884, Kolley and the Browns traveled to Memphis, TN to play a local team known as the Eckfords8. Kolley seemingly impressed the Memphis baseball figures, as did his teammate Russell Steinhoff9. When the Memphis Reds joined the Southern League in the spring of 1885, both Kolley and Steinhoff were sought out and signed to play with the team10. Kolley joined arrived in Memphis in April and remained with the team until mid-May when he was released11.

Kolley moved to Paducah, KY by 189012 and became a well known local baseball player nicknamed "Home Run Bill."13 His younger brother Andrew also played for Paducah, as well as with teams in Terre Haute, Vincennes, and Little Rock13. In 1897, Andrew played for Paducah's first minor league team in the Central League. At 38, William was now too old to play and instead helped organize Paducah's team by scouting for players in St. Louis14. He also umpired a few season games15.

Kolley continued to work as a cigar maker the rest of his life. Around 1900, it appears he and his wife separated, though the nature of the separation is unclear16. Susan and the couple's several children17 moved to Memphis, and William moved to Beaumont, TX to engage in business there. He lived in Beaumont/Port Arthur area seemingly the rest of his life, dying in Beaumont on September 10th, 192218. He was buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Beaumont.


"In fact, Boles and Kolley, two of the best players [for Little Rock] are also from St. Louis, but have lived here a year or two . . ."7

"Kolley, the champion catcher and boss cigarmaker, has just manufactured a lot of "Little Rock Brown's" cigars. The label and brand are unique, the former representing the diamond field, with the heavy striker at the bat and the catcher reaching for the coming ball. The cigar itself is a good one and will be very popular."7

"W. A. Kolley and R. A. Steinhoff, two of Little Rock's best ball tossers, will play with the Memphis club this season."10

"W.A. Kolley, left field and catch, of last year's Little Rock Browns, a player well known in Memphis and liked by all who know him. It was the general impression after he played here last year season that he was one of the best ball players who had visited the Bluff City in years."9

"Wm. Kolley arrived here yesterday morning from Little Rock."19

"Caruthers, Kolley, Hemp and Mullally, of the Memphis Club, have been released."11

"Will Kolley, shortstop, better known as “Home Run Bill” is still with us and in business, corner Second and Broadway, wholesale manufacturer of cigars, and says he will have his good eye on the ball the coming season, and proposed to lead them all [Paducah] in home runs as in days of yore and will in all probability guard third base. He is only 38 and gray as a bat."13

"Mr. W. A. Kolley left last night for St. Louis to make arrangements for players to join the Paducah baseball club. Mr. Kolley is one the best baseball men in Kentucky, and can hold his own with anyone, and selecting him to secure the players was a wise move. That he will get the best material possible goes without saying. Mr. Kolley will probably be in the club himself. The players are to report for duty about April 1, but play will not begin until May."14

"Mr. W. A. Kolley umpired both games, and did it well. There are always knockers, however, who abuse the umpire for having the decide against their team."15

"A few days ago Mr. W. A. Kolley gave his eldest son, Joe, a professional baseball, use by the Elks last year at their game at the fair grounds. For some reason Joe wouldn’t permit his younger brother, Will, to play with it, and the latter went to his father for advance and condolence. It was then that a happy idea seemed to strike the boy and he said: “I’ll tell you what I’ll do, dad! Tonight when you come home we’ll both be in bed in our night shirts. You wake us up and we’ll get out on the floor and fight it out with bare knuckles, the winner to take the ball.” Mr. Kolley agreed. Both boys are athletic, and have been given a thorough course in the “manly art” by their father. Will, the younger one, is the quicker of the two, however, and it appears that his elder brother is afraid of him. When awakened he declined to fight, but said he would so the next morning. The next morning he was still afraid, and the father acted as refree [sic] and gave the ball to the younger boy, because he won the fight by default."20


Statistics at Baseball-Reference.com.

1. 1860 U.S. Census, listed as "William Coli"
2. 1880 U.S. Census, listed as "William Coli"
3. 1920 U.S. Census, listed on "Colley" in Beaumont, TX
4. 1880 Little Rock Directory
5. William Kolley - Susan Holbrook Marriage Certificate on Ancestry.com
6. Arkansas Gazette, 8/21/1881
7. Arkansas Gazette, 6/12/1884
8. Memphis Daily Appeal, 6/13/1884
9. Memphis Daily Appeal, 3/31/1885
10. Arkansas Gazette, 3/31/1885
11. Sporting Life, 5/20/1885
12. 1890 Paducah City Directory
13. The Paducah Daily Sun, 1/30/1897
14. The Paducah Daily Sun, 2/26/1897
15. The Paducah Daily Sun, 6/26/1897
16. The 1900 census, as well as several Memphis City Directories, suggest Susan was widowed by 1900, when in fact William remained alive until 1922. William himself listed his marital status as "Single" in 1900 and "Widowed" in 1910 and 1920
17. This includes William and Susan's son William Anthony Kolley, who also became a cigar maker and should not be confused with his father.
18. Texas Death Index
19. Memphis Daily Appeal, 4/2/1885
20. The Paducah Daily Sun, 6/23/1897