Caption: This photo shows the Third Street side of the building now occupied by the Hannibal Courier-Post, 200 N. Third Street. The overhead doors served the mechanic bays at the Ford dealership, pictured. When the building was constructed circa 1925, it was home base for the Hannibal Transportation Company, which operated a fleet of buses within Hannibal's boundaries. FILE PHOTO
The building located at 200 North Third Street has been associated with the dissemination of information for more than six decades, as the home to the Hannibal Courier-Post.
But the building situated on this historic site has an even richer past. It was constructed just prior to 1925, to serve as home base for Fletcher Motor Co., and perhaps more interestingly, Hannibal Transportation Company.
The transportation company offered a fleet of buses, which carried Hannibal residents to and from every corner of the community.
A digitally archived article from the Moberly Monitor Index, dated Oct. 23, 1971, tells the story of P.W. Fletcher and his venture into transportation.
"In the early years of the 1920s the bus transportation industry was in its pioneer stages. P.W. Fletcher, then a resident of Hannibal, Missouri, had the foresight to become actively interested in this new type of business." The building that stands today was constructed at 206 N. Third, where the newsroom and pressroom now exist. Large overhead doors lined the Third Street side of the building, making room for the buses that would move Hannibal residents between locations within the community.
Hannibal Transportation Co., was incorporated with the following officers: P.W. Fletcher, president; C.D. Sultzman, vice president; D.H. Hafner Jr., secretary; S.O. Osterhoust, treasurer; and Fred W. Hogg, manager.
Employees of Fletcher Motor Co., listed in the 1925 city directory included:
· Arnold B. Fletcher, salesman for Fletcher Motor Co. in 1925; home east side of South Hawkins Ave., brother of P.W. Fletcher. Arnold B. Fletcher was the youngest of Henry W. Fletcher and Sarah M.Brown Fletcher's 8 children. Sarah died of "milk leg" soon after Arnold was born.
· Carey Freeman was mechanic for Fletcher Motor Co., residing at 615 Bird.
· William H. Horstmeyer, (Pearl V) mechanic Fletcher Motor Co., residence 1607 Booker.
· Ray L. Koontz, department manager, Fletcher Motor Co., residence 222 S. Sixth
· Steven Milcik, mechanic, Fletcher Motor Co., residence Illana, Mo.
· Chalmers Steffey, helper, Fletcher Motor Co.
· Harold Strange, mechanic, Fletcher Motor Co., residence Hotel Marion
P.W. Fletcher was born of modest means, moving to Hannibal from Pike County, Ill., with his parents prior to 1900. The 1910 census listed him as a married man and as a laborer, who did odd jobs.
By 1920, however, his entrepreneur skills had surfaced.
The city directory listed him as manager of a retail coffee store located at 309 Broadway. Five years later, he was listed as operator of Fletcher Motor Co., and PW Fletcher Tea Co., and president of Hannibal Transportation Co.
The Moberly newspaper article explains how Fletcher expanded the concept of local busing to one of region service.
"Missouri Transit Company Inc., was organized in June of 1925 with ten stockholders of whom seven were Ira Cook, Ullrich Cook, Den Wilderson, J.P. Hamel, Vick Fox and his mother and P.W. Fletcher.
Ira Cook was elected president and general manager of this newly founded corporation." The first bus purchased by Missouri Transit at a cost of about $5, 000 was a 21-passenger Reo with street car type seats which were quite short and erect.
About 1928 P.W. Fletcher acquired the majority of the stock of Missouri Transit and was elected President and General Manager and he remained active in this capacity until 1961 when ill health made it necessary for him to dispose of his interests.
During the middle 1930s, the Monitor-Index reported, the reclining seat was put into use. "The first service offered to the public by Missouri Transit was between Columbia and Jefferson City with three round trips operated daily. The fare was $1.50 and $2.50 for the round trip. Service was gradually extended to Boonville, Fulton and Moberly. At Moberly connections were made with Asbell Bus Line which operated between Moberly and Kirksville. It was necessary for a passenger traveling from Jefferson City to Kirksville to change buses at both Columbia and Moberly.
"Under Mr. Fletcher's management Missouri Transit relinquished the east and west franchises held and acquired more north and south, which established service from Springfield and Fort Leonard Wood to Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, Iowa, and completed the system.
Chartered bus service was made available to the public and the shipment of packages was started. Mr. Fletcher's dream of what the bus industry could become was now a reality." The operating rights and franchises of Missouri Transit Company Inc., were acquired in January 1961 by Nels J. Koch of Des Moines, Iowa, and the name was changed to Missouri Transit Lines Inc.
Perry William Fletcher stands at the rear of his automobile, probably an REO that he assembled. This photo and the photo of P.W. Fletcher were contributed by his daughter, Sarah Fletcher Chaney. She was born when P.W. Fletcher was 53 years old. P.W.'s only son was Sarah's brother, Perry Wm. Fletcher Jr.