Rolla E. Duncan


Rolla E. Duncan, 15th & 19th U.S. Marshal for the District of Montana


Rolla E. Duncan was born at Cowper County, Missouri on December 25th, 1881.  In 1889 Duncan’s family moved to Helena.  He graduated from the Helena schools and apprenticed as a candy maker for the National Biscuit Company.

Duncan began his lengthy law enforcement career in the early 1900’s as a deputy sheriff for Lewis and Clark County. He was elected sheriff of the county in 1913, serving in that position until 1916. After his second sheriff’s term, he was elected a county commissioner.

Following his local public service in Helena, Duncan was appointed U.S. Postmaster of Billings.  Duncan was twice appointed U.S. Marshal for Montana, the first time he was appointed by President Warren G. Harding on June 14, 1923 and served until February 26, 1926, after lobbying successfully for his successor, John C. Orrick. During a six-year hiatus from law enforcement, Duncan went into the motion picture theatre and hotel businesses. On April 28, 1932; he was appointed by President Herbert Hoover for a second term as US Marshal. Duncan served this appointment until June 27, 1934. Cascade County Democrat Sid A. Willis succeeded Duncan in office.

Duncan then returned to the motion picture theatre business in 1934. He ran as the Republican candidate for the Railroad and Public Service Commission that same year.

Duncan returned to Helena and was appointed Undersheriff for Lewis and Clark County in 1938. April 28th, 1940, Duncan was sworn in as the Chief of Police of Helena, succeeding the retiring Roger G. Smith.  Duncan then returned to the sheriff’s office and in 1942, he was credited with the capture notorious murderer, John Mosney, whom Duncan had pursued as a young posse member in 1907. In 1944, Duncan ran unsuccessfully for sheriff and then secured the post as the Montana State Supervisor of Store licenses, Slot Machines and Punchboard taxes; working there until 1951, when he returned to private business.

 Marshal Duncan died April 19, 1960 at Tillamook, Oregon. Funeral rites were held at Forestvale cemetery, Helena, he was 78.



1) Great Falls Tribune: 1/14/26:6, 11/11/27:8, 4/2/32:1, 4/9/32:9 4/13/32:10, 5/5/26:6, 5/10/32:4, 1/27/34:7, 1/4/38:2, 2/20/40:6, 4/29/40:5, 2/25/42:5, 9/26/51:6, 4/22/60:24.

2) Billings Gazette: 4/9/32:1.

3) Helena Independent: 2/20/40, 4/29/40:1.

4) Helena Independent Record: 4/20/60.