Her father was Confederate judge-advocate; Dora Hunter operated Hannibal bawdy house
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
Annie Adele McMillan, born into a family of status and means, came to Hannibal with her parents prior to the start of the Civil War, living in the town dominated by Southern influence and a populace excited about the prospect of secession from the Union.
John P. McMillan, a lawyer and slave owner, settled his family in the town’s 2nd Ward, in a home situated between Bird Street and Broadway.
Annie, a young teen during the early days of the Civil War, remained in Hannibal while her father set off for duty on behalf of the Confederate Army. By early spring of 1862, Col. John P. McMillan had arrived in New Orleans in order to recruit soldiers for the Confederacy. During the autumn of the same year, Col. McMillan was named judge-advocate, soon to be serving on the military court of Lieut. Gen. J.C. Pemberton. In a pivotal strategic move in the Civil War timeline, Lieut. Gen. Pemberton surrendered Vicksburg to Grant on July 4, 1863, a shift that would give momentum to the Union Army’s ultimate victory.
Col. McMillan purportedly died not long after the war’s end, and Annie remained in Hannibal. Changing her name to Dora Hunter, in 1875 – a decade after the end of the war – the Hannibal Clipper newspaper of July 30, 1875, made mention that the foundation of her business house on Bird Street – just east of the alley on the south side of the street – was nearly complete.
“The foundation for Mrs. Dora Hunter's business house on Bird street, between Main and Third streets, is nearly completed and ready for the brick work. The building will have a frontage of twenty-two feet and eight inches, and a depth of thirty-three feet. The house will be two stories high, and will cost about $2,000.
The building, still standing, in 2014 serves as post home to the VFW.
On Aug. 12, 1875, Dora (Annie) made an appearance in the court of common pleas, fined $75 for operating a “bawdy house” in Hannibal, and paying a $75 fine.
Perhaps seeing the error of her ways, Dora Hunter left Hannibal during the early 1880s, heading east to begin a new life. There she met and married Joseph F. St. Clair of New York, but not sharing with him the details of her sorted past in Hannibal.
Two years later, their daughter Clara was born in New York. When the child was still a toddler, Dora (now Annie St. Clair) left her husband, taking with her the child and failing to inform her husband of their whereabouts. They were gone for four years before he received news of their whereabouts via a newspaper report.
It seems that Dora (Annie) had been arrested in Hannibal for luring a young girl into a disreputable career. For this, Judge T.H. Bacon of Hannibal sentenced to serve two years in the Missouri penitentiary.
The Chicago Tribune on Oct. 8, 1892, described the scenario that followed:
“One day in 1890 in glancing over a paper he saw an account of where Dora Hunter was sentenced to the penitentiary for two years and that the woman had left a little girl, and that the little one had been taken in by the wife of Liman P. Munger, Secretary of the Hannibal Lime company, and placed in the Home of the Friendless. The age of the child corresponded to that of his lost daughter. When the father of the child opened correspondence with Mr. Munger the girl had been removed to St. Louis and the father wrote the sisters. Meantime the mother had been released under the three-fourths rule. She came to St. Louis and entered the Convent of the Good Shepherd and became a Magdalene. Her real object, however, it is claimed, was to find her daughter. About three weeks after she was in the institution the mother and child met one day and the little one recognized her notwithstanding the separation of nearly two years. The mother then wanted to leave with the child, but the sisters wired to Mr. St. Clair to come on and claim it.”
On Oct. 7, 1892, St. Clair and his wife met in the convent, and after what was described in the Oct. 8, 1892 edition of the New York Times as “a stormy scene,” Dora (Annie) “walked away and left the city.”
Joseph F. St. Clair ultimately reclaimed his daughter and raised her in New York.
Mary Lou Montgomery, retired editor of the Courier-Post, now serves as a correspondent to the newspaper.