at Bluffton
1908 - 1938

Buster Keaton
and the
Muskegon Connection

Rawls and Van Kaufman

William "Mush" Rawls
  December 18, 1877
Washington, NC
Died: July 17, 1957
Muskegon, MI
Ella Van Kaufman
Born:  March 31, 1877
Boonville, MO
Died: April 13, 1945
Muskegon, MI
    At the age of 17, Rawls joined a medicine show.  A jack-of-all-trades, he performed as a contortionist, ventriloquist, fire-eater, and legitimate actor during his years on the stage.  He also developed a number of comedy routines, playing under the banner Rawls and Braton Comedy Company.  As a blackface comedian, he is credited as being the man who aided Eddie Cantor develop his blackface makeup during Cantor's early days in show business.
Mush and Ella Rawls    
On February 11, 1904 in Camilla, Georgia he married the former Ella Von Kaufman of Deadwood, S.D., a soprano singer with his vaudeville act.  In 1905, they made their first trip to Muskegon, and  purchased a home in the Actor's Colony in 1912. Returning to town each summer, "Mush" served as secretary and treasurer of the Muskegon Actors' Colony Club. Upon retiring from the road, the couple settled in Muskegon.
     Mush made his last public appearance on the April 3, 1957 episode of "This is Your Life" honoring Buster Keaton.  As a guest of the show, Rawls recalled  Keaton's days on the vaudeville stage.
A few months later, Rawls passed away.  He was survived by a sister-in-law, nine nieces and a nephew living in West Virginia, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland.
Mush appears with Buster in April 1957 on Ralph Edwards' "This is Your Life." Mush with Buster Keaton on "This is Your Life" - April 3, 1957
Special thanks to Mary Jo Moblo for the image
of the Mush and Ella from 1916.