Hannibal Masonic Home, through the eyes of Joshua Burton, Hannibal undertaker, who was a decade-long
Photo courtesy of J. Allen Ballard
Joshua Burton is at rest in Hannibal’s Robinson Cemetery. Ninety-five at the time of his death in 1932, Burton witnessed much during his lifetime: The suffering associated with slavery, the tumultuous war between the states, the celebrated end of slavery and a devastating world war.
A proud man, and like many of his generation, a possessor of strong Masonic ties, the dozen years or more of Mr. Burton’s life were spent at the Masonic Home, located at what is now the northwest corner of the intersection of U.S. 61 and Paris Gravel Road. During his lifetime, he was a member of Golden star Chapter No. 7, Masons, serving in the capacity of King in 1881.
The home, established circa 1908, was one of two homes in Hannibal that cared for the aged members of their respective (colored) Masonic orders for the State of Missouri - The Masonic order and the U.B.F. organization. Together, in 1929 dollars, these organizations represented over thirty thousand dollars in sites and buildings.
Best remembered of the two is probably the Masonic Home where Joshua Burton lived the last years of his life. The stately two-story structure contained 14 rooms, and was situated upon a farmstead where caretakers optimized the opportunity to raise food for the residents of the home.
In 1914, the Kansas City Sun newspaper reported that the Masonic Home was located upon Marion County’s Paris Gravel Road, the main road leading to Hannibal, which was well kept by the county court. The house itself was at the top of a long, sloping lawn leading to the roadway.
“It is a real pleasure every evening to view the numerous automobiles, carriages and buggies passing the home,” the newspaper reported.
A 1919 article in the Kansas City Sun noted that the managers of the facility, Mr. and Mrs. W.H. Dixon, kept the surrounding acreage stocked with hogs, cows and poultry of all kinds. By 1919, when the Dixons announced their plans for retirement, the house had been remodeled with the addition of an electric lighting system.
Later, W.M. and Alva McDaniel served as superintendent and matron of the home for more than 20 years. Mr. McDaniel raised chickens and a garden. Mrs. McDaniel cared for the members of the household, took care of the home, and in the summer months canned large quantities of fruits and vegetables.
While the collective work of the superintendents and matrons was impressive, the operation of Masonic Home was not selfsustaining.
Donations to the Masonic Home, reported by the Kansas City Sun in December 1914, were as such: Four cans of corn, four cans of pears, four cans of tomatoes, one jar of pears, one can of sweet potatoes and one can of pork and beans. Mrs. Anna Johnson, matron. From Sister Kate Kash of St. Louis, Mo., for the following: Two pounds black eye peas, two pounds navy beans, one glass jelly, four cans of tomatoes, four cans of corn, two cans of peas, three pounds ground coffee, one sheet, one roller towel, and one counterpane. From Sister Dolly Stevens: One can corn; Brother George Lewis, a bundle of clothing.
The Kansas City Sun newspaper listed visitors to the Masonic Home in April 1915, who included: N.T. Thornton, Oklahoma; J.T. Brown, E.G. Payne, A.E. Henley, A. Johnson, L. McElroy, Jennie Cotton, Addie Sharp, Virginia Tyler, Roberta Boon and Dollie Stevens of Hannibal; Mrs. Mollie J. Anderson, Montgomery; Mrs. Dorothy Hawkins, Galesburg, Ill.; Janie L. Combs, Kansas City, Mo.; Messrs. L.W. Henderson, W.H. Clay, Prof. A.C. Maclin, Prof. J.T. Brown, Rev. A.E. Miller, A.R. Bohon, Hannibal; W.H. Juston, Poplar Bluff; P.L. Pratt, Cameron; Mesdames Rilla William, K.A. Smiley, Gussie Heale and Susan Scott, Palmyra, Mo.; and Mrs. Charlotte Milton, Boon, Iowa.
Joshua Burton was born in Missouri in 1837, born to parents who were native to Kentucky.
In 1871, Joshua Burton lived on Bird Street Extension.
The 1880 census reveals that Burton and his wife Winny were married in 1859. They had two children living at home, Maggie and Samuel, and also had within their household a niece and nephew, Sasonia and John Bradshaw.
The 1900 census lists Joshua Burton as an undertaker, and for the next decade similar listings can be found for him in Hannibal City Directories. The family, during this time, lived at 107 Washington St., Hannibal.
The 1903 city directory lists Burton’s undertaking establishment at 411 ½ Broadway. The Burtons’ son, Samuel, at that time was working as a porter for J.O. Green. In 1900 the two families lived together at 107 Washington St., with Samuel’s children, Angela, Raymond, Louise, Dauthuly and Marietta.
By 1920, Joshua Burton was living at the Masonic Home. At the time of his death, he was listed as a widower.