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1939: H.C. Koch buys Bird Street property for business site; razes historic house

Cutline: An old frame residence that stood at 306 Bird Street for more than 100 years was torn down in 1939

to make room for a modern two-story brick building. The property was recently purchased by Henry C. Koch, local business man, from Miss Mary Gallagher, of Kansas City. Records from the family Bible of the Jonathan Pierce family, former occupants of the house, show that the old structure was at least 101 years old. Photo: C.R. Martin. Steve Chou collection


One of the land marks along Bird Street was torn down this week, preparatory to the erecting of a modern two-story brick business building at this site, 306 Bird street.

The present owner of the property which has a 65-foot frontage on Bird street is Henry C. Koch, proprietor of Cookie’s Tire Shop. Koch plans to build a two-story brick building for his business at this site sometime within the next year. Koch also owns a two-story brick structure just north of this lot and will also raze this building before starting the work of erecting the new structure.

The property was purchased by Koch from Miss Mary E. Gallagher, who has owned it for a number of years.

Over 100 years old

The exact age of the old frame residence torn down this week, is not known, but there is proof that it was at least 101 years old.

H.E. Dakin, 805 Paris Avenue, states that this house was at one time the home of his mother’s family, the Jonathan Pierces. He states that the Pierce family records in the family Bible, show that they moved here from Kentucky in 1837 and that in 1838 the first child, Edward H. Pierce, later a playmate and friend of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) was born. Mr. and Mrs. Pierce were living in this house at the time of their son’s birth.

Pierce came here to take a position as head of the saddle department of the T.R. Selmes Co., a general merchandise store, which was located at the northeast corner of the intersection of Hill and Main streets. The elder Pierce died on January 4, 1900, at the age of 87 years, his son Edward spending his entire life in Hannibal, passing away on May 18, 1911.

The John M. Clemens family moved to Hannibal in 1839, locating on Hill street just a block from the Pierce home. Samuel Clemens, who later was to be known throughout the world as Mark Twain, was four years of age at the time the family moved here. Although three years older than Pierce, the two were friends and playmates during their youth.

The old house was a one-story frame structure of five rooms. A hallway had also been remodeled into a bathroom.

The house was well constructed and much good lumber was available when it was torn down. The rafters and sills were of walnut roughly hewed with an ax. The shingles and lathes were hand made. At the time the house was torn down there were three layers of shingle roofing, the bottom and original layer being of the hand made shingles. The two lower layers were somewhat seared and burned, having been fires at the residence at two different times. When a new roof was added after a fire, it was merely built over the former roof.

Much of the weatherboarding of this old house was of thick walnut slabs, while the floor in the front room was of one-inch oak flooring.

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