Rich history exists along Hannibal's Harrison Hill


I worked along side Hurley and Roberta Hagood during my long-running career with the Hannibal Courier-Post. This story, published in 1998, offers much information about the tree-shaded Harrison Hill corridor with roots back to Hannibal's infancy. Along this street is the house now listed for sale by Scott and Jean Meyer, a unique double house built for two notable Hannibal families, Percy and Mary Haydon and Jack and Elsie Sauer. Percy Haydon operated the Haydon Hardware Company. It's much more than a house; it's a part of Hannibal's heritage.

The Hagoods' story, published in 1998 by the Hannibal Courier-Post, follows.

Harrison Hill is one of the best known streets in Hannibal. It provides access to Riverview Park; is a shortcut to Hannibal Middle School, Hannibal High School and Hannibal-LaGrange College; and is the most direct route to Palmyra from downtown. It has been the setting for many fine established residential homes. Electric road signs, in both directions on U.S. 36, advise drivers that Harrison Hill is closed. It is scheduled to remain closed until late in 1999. The lower part of Harrison Hill is being reconstructed as part of an approach to the new Mississippi River Bridge. It will be a diamond shaped interchange, and will be the nearest entrance to the new bridge from downtown Hannibal. The Missouri Department of Transportation has already made changes in the city traffic pattern and has removed all obstacles in the path of the new construction. Thus, Harrison Hill, a street rich in history, has been changed. All buildings have been removed along Harrison Hill from the location where cars enter it from Mark Twain Avenue on U.S. 36 through a portion of the 1700 block. Driftway Drive no longer exists. More than 50 residences have been removed. William Preston Harrison Harrison Hill was named for an early resident, William Preston Harrison, who built a large three-story brick house at the brow of that hill. He was born in Lynchburg, Va., in 1818. He migrated to St. Louis in 1837. He married a St. Louis girl, Margaret Morton, and they came to Hannibal to live in 1840. He was soon established in a thriving law practice and became a prominent citizen. He served in many public offices: city mayor; state senator; registrar of the Northeast Missouri Land Office; judge of the Circuit Court, and held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Union army in the Civil War. His wife died in 1852 and a year later he married Nannie Bullock of Kentucky. Harrison had 23 children but many of them died at an early age. The Harrisons were ardent Catholics. They felt the lack of opportunity to worship or observe the rites of their church. They appealed to the Archbishop at St. Louis to assign a priest to Hannibal. Thus, in 1848, Father John O'Hanlon came as a missionary to Catholics in Hannibal, Palmyra, the St. Paul community in Ralls County and Pike and Lincoln counties. The Harrisons gave him a room in their home as his residence. John Dowling, a local pork packer who lived in South Hannibal, supplied a horse for his travels. Our most meaningful description of the Harrison home and family came from a well written journal by Father O'Hanlon. He describes the hospitality and comfortable living in their "elegant" home. He called Mr. Harrison "highly educated, well informed and fluent in conversation." He described Mrs. Harrison as "amiable, agreeable, an intelligent listener and concerned about public affairs." The children "had acquired that respectful demeanor at the dinner table which is derived from the familiarity of the usages of good society by being in the presence of and example of well-bred parents." A small frame building near the house was built to be used as a chapel. In it Father O'Hanlon held services and performed religious rites for Catholics of the area. The Harrison home stood many years until it was finally demolished. In the 1930s the large white southern Colonial type home of the Overstreets was built on that same site. It was recently razed to make way for diamond-shaped interchange on the highway approach to the new river bridge. The Hoard Tract One of the very earliest records of the area of old Palmyra Road was the founding of the Hoard Tract. About 1830, Dr. Henry Hoard, his wife, and his brother, Daniel, came to Hannibal from Kentucky to join a cousin, James Daulton, whose family had settled in South Hannibal in 1829. The Hoards secured a tract of land along the Palmyra Road and included the eastern part of the later "Harrison hill." Abstracts and records indicate "the Hoard Tract" as part of the legal description. Not much is known about the Hoards. It is a matter of record that they were living here in 1836, for when Bishop Jackson Kemper of St. Louis came to Hannibal to organize an Episcopal church, he was met by a few people and entertained in the home of Dr. and Mrs. Hoard. During this visit the Trinity Episcopal Church was organized. This account of Harrison Hill will tell of only a few of its many interesting people, events, and landmarks. Driftway Drive One of the most radical changes brought about by the work necessary to build the bridge approach is the disappearance of the Driftway Drive homes from their hilltop location. About 20 of its homes were demolished or moved to new sites. The developers of this popular subdivision were John Groves and his wife Hazel (Couch) Groves. They purchased the hilltop plot from Mary Long who had become the owner of the land when she bought the big white house at the entrance to Driftway Drive for use as a rest home. Hazel prepared the plat for their new subdivision and filed it on June 15, 1958. They built four houses, completing them on the following dates -- July 1958, February 1959, August 1959 and December 1960. They sold three of these homes, and lived in the other one until their deaths in 1990. They sold four lots to Cecil Scott who built two or three houses. The rest of the lots were sold to individuals for home building. Soon 19 homes were ready and occupied. John and Judy Kennison were the last purchasers and they built a home and a building for their industry at the entrance to the street. These buildings have also been removed. By the close of 1997, all Driftway Drive houses were gone and the families were all re-located in other areas of town. Harrison Hill becomes a shortcut to Palmyra Before William Preston Harrison cleared out a narrow road from where Route "N," or Harrison Hill starts off of current U.S. 36, the valley in which Mark Twain Avenue is located was a treacherous and very difficult route to follow. Every rain changed the rocky trail up the valley. It was so difficult that the main route to Palmyra was up Sixth street, down Paris Avenue to near Grand Avenue where the road followed the crest of the hill to present Pleasant Street. It continued up the hill to the present Country Club Drive, then north to the present Palmyra Avenue. The so-called "Old Beth-Haven" The best account of the first residents of the property where this old building was located is found in a story written years ago by J. W. Ayres about his grandparents, Ezra and Elizabeth Richmond, who came to Hannibal from Kentucky in 1840. They settled near the future site of the old Beth-Haven Rest Home. In Kentucky they had raised hemp, and had a rope yard. They moved their entire household and rope-making equipment with them. Their household consisted of their own family and their slaves. They established a rope yard between their house and what is now U.S. 36. Ezra Richmond died in 1846. His widow and children carried on the work of the small farm and rope yard. Ayres described Mrs. Richmond as "a small woman but very energetic and able to boss the whole outfit of twelve workers." The abstracts of the big old white house (Old Beth-Haven) show that the site was owned by members of the Richmond family until they sold it in 1870. It is doubtful that they built the present dwelling, although it is known that the old white house was at first only a small building, and many additions were made during the next 100 years. Legendary accounts are told indicating that this house and the slave cabins on the site were part of Hannibal's Underground Railroad which helped runaway slaves escape. While such may have happened it did not involve the Richmonds who were Southerners and by no means antislavery or abolitionists. During the Civil War, Union soldiers were stationed in Hannibal. A diary of Private Stephen Werley of LaGrange, Missouri, states that their company camped in "wooden huts" near the junction of present Mark Twain Avenue and Harrison Hill. This was the Richmond home site. Today, many citizens remember that the Caruso family lived in the old white house from 1927 to 1935. The Caruso's ran a fruit stand on Broadway. They were natives of Sicily. They lived here many years and are buried at St. Mary's Cemetery. In 1960, the big white house became a nursing home, owned and operated by Mary Long who purchased the house and a large area of surrounding property. In 1969 the nursing home, called Beth-Haven, was administered by the Mennonites who purchased the building and operated it until 1985. It was closed when an addition to the new Beth-Haven on Pleasant Street was completed. Early Farms on Harrison Hill After Harrison Hill became a thoroughfare, it became difficult to realize that some of its early houses had acreages behind them which extended east and provided land to be tilled. One such farm was behind the double house at 1802 Harrison Hill which was built in the 1920s for two couples who were close friends, Percy and Mary Haydon and Jack and Elsie Sauer . Percy Haydon operated the Haydon Hardware Company. During the 1870s and 1880s, to the east and at the rear of current 1802 Harrison Hill, was the home and dairy farm of William Berger Watson and his wife, Mary Jane. Watson had grown up on a farm west of town and she was one of the daughters of the Frederick Blatchfords, who lived in the octagonal house on U.S. 36 near the junction of Route 24, which has now been razed. The Watsons married in the fall of 1865 and started the dairy on the Harrison hill site and delivered milk to their customers in a horse-drawn cart. A more recent produce garden was that of David L. Stewart at 1620 Harrison Hill. About 1930 he purchased 7 1/2 acres on the hilltop bordering the southeast portion of the area, east of the Overstreet home. Before he built his home in 1957, he maintained large gardens there. Crops included unusual vegetables like squash that grew on a bush, ice box watermelons, everbearing red raspberries and everbearing blackberries, and one year he even planted cotton. He enjoyed growing roses and peonies. He also raised cows and pheasants on the farm. David L. Stewart was born in Warrensburg, Mo., August 14, 1886. He married Elisabeth Robinson of Hannibal. They had five children. David and his wife Elisabeth inherited the cast iron dog made at the Quealy Foundry for William Preston Harrison. This dog, a Hannibal landmark, occupied a prominent spot on Harrison hill for many years, first in the yard of the Harrisons and then the Stewarts. When David Stewart's son, Tom, moved away from the Harrison Hill home, the dog was transferred to his new location on Country Club Drive. The house that was given away in a raffle The home of John Roemer at 1730 Harrison Hill, demolished for the highway approach, had a unique origin. In the fall of 1931, Hannibal merchants had this house built to be given away in a raffle. This was during the Great Depression and was part of a promotional scheme to entice citizens to make purchases. With each one dollar purchase, a Hannibal customer was given a ticket or chance to become a home owner. The drawing was to he held on a September afternoon . The writers of this article had become acquainted at Hannibal-LaGrange College that afternoon. They took a stroll together down Palmyra Road to attend the drawing. Hurley had three tickets and Roberta had one. Neither proved to have the winning ticket. The Givan House Another historic Harrison Hill landmark is usually referred to as the Givan House. It is at the entrance of the present Riverview Park. Originally the location of this house was part of a suburban farm of Theophilus Stone, an early citizen. He owned the first Mississippi River ferry boat in Hannibal. Stone was born in Bedford County, Virginia in 1804. He came to Hannibal in 1830. His ferry boat was a scow, propelled by oars. He also farmed on a small acreage at the corner of Fifth and Center streets. In 1857, he moved to the location now known as Riverview Park. He engaged in farming and gardening there until he died in February 1883. He was twice married, in 1838 to Elizabeth Nash and in 1845 to Elizabeth Dickey. It is said he built the present house about 1870. Samuel Polk Givan and Mary Susan Givan probably moved into the house about 1883. Blanche Givan, who died in 1947, stated that she was born in that house in December 1884. Samuel Givan was in the grocery business first. Then he became a partner in a lumber business on South Third Street. Samuel and Mary Susan (Gordon) Givan had a large family. In early days, the street now called Country Club Drive was called "East" Street. The first address for the Givan House was "Harrison Hill near East Street." This beautiful old home will not be altered by the new highway project. The Fette Orchard The Fette home and orchard with its barns and storehouses have been a landmark for many years. We like to take our guests from afar to visit the pleasantly unique sales room pervaded by the scent of fruit. When we buy apples, cherries, berries, and vegetables there in season, we feel we are buying a piece of Hannibal history. The passerby slows his pace of travel, and admires the grove of evergreens, and in the spring, the redbud, daffodils and apple blossoms. In the 1850s this was known as Quealy's grove. William Quealy, born in 1818, came from his native Ireland to America in 1840. He worked in Massachusetts and Wisconsin in foundry work and building railroads before coming to Hannibal in the mid-1850s. Upon arriving in Hannibal he bought the Cleaver and Mitchell foundry. He built the red brick house where Fette's live today. Quealy is also remembered for two other reasons. He gave the land for St. Mary's Cemetery (now known as Hannibal Catholic Cemetery) and cast Hannibal's well known iron dog which stands today as a memorial to him at the Tom Stewart residence on Country Club Drive. Quealy died in 1875. The farm was sold to William Pitts who lived there until 1897. Carolus Mollenkott Fette, known as C. M. Fette, came to Hannibal in 1890 from the St. Louis area to manage the local Western Union Telegraph office. In 1896 he married Jeanie May Dubach, daughter of Hannibal's noted architect, David Dubach. The next year, he purchased the Pitts farm and the big red brick house which has since been the home of the Fette family. Fette enlarged the Pitts' family-size orchard and began planting many varieties of apples. Thus began the Fette Orchard. Later it was taken over by his son, John C. Fette and his wife Dorothy (Albright). After John C. died in 1966, his son, the present owner, John R. Fette, and his partner, Jim Wingfield, took over the operation of the orchard. At present, John Fette his wife Shirley (Bower) and his daughter, Ann, manage the sales room for the orchard in the old barn built by the Quealys. The Country Club At the time Harrison Hill was officially named and extended to the city limits, the limits of the city were at Country Club Drive. Beyond this point, but still on the same street, the old name of Palmyra Avenue has been retained. It is an extension of Harrison Hill. The Country Club was organized in 1901 and formally opened on June 22 of that same year. The early club house was limited in size. In 1909, the Sausser property, adjoining the golf course, was purchased, adding 14 acres and a brick house which was converted into a club house. In 1946, the club house was destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt in 1948. The well kept golf course adds to the beauty of this extension of Harrison Hill. Holy Family Cemetery - formerly St. Marys Cemetery This Catholic Cemetery was founded in 1861 on land given by William Quealy. Previous to 1861, the nearest Catholic Cemetery was south of Hannibal on the hilltop above Cameron Cave. It was reached by an old ridge road, which skirted the old Methodist Cemetery ­ now a part of Mount Olivet Cemetery. This ancient Catholic cemetery is in a state of ruin with no stones standing. It was a custom in the 1800s for the funeral procession to go on foot from the Catholic church on Lyon Street to St. Mary's Cemetery for burial rites. St. Mary's Avenue received its name from its being a part of the funeral route used in going to St. Mary's Cemetery. In 1905, iron gates were shipped to Hannibal from Cincinnati iron works for St. Mary's Cemetery. The gates were installed on locally built pillars. Many notable Catholic citizens are buried in this cemetery. Emmett Shields, World War I veteran for which the American Legion Post No. 55 is named, is buried here, There are graves of many veterans, and prominent citizens including Catholic clergymen, located here. Harrison Hill Drive will be restored. When the new highway interchange is completed, the Harrison Hill road will go beneath the new four-lane highway through an underpass. While some of the beauty of this old traffic artery cannot be replaced, progress for Hannibal will result. The rich history of the past of Harrison Hill will long be remembered. The old Beth-Haven Nursing Home was originally built by the Richmond family prior to the Civil War. Many additions were later made to the building. (Hagood photo)This is a sketch of William Preston Harrison.The Givan House at the entrance of Riverview Park was built by Theophilus Stone in 1870. (C-P photo/Julie Walley)The Overstreets¹ home was located on the site of William P. Harrison¹s original home built in about 1840. (Hagood photo)Percy Haydon and Jack Sauer built this home in the 1920s. An early dairy farm of William Watson operated behind this house from 1870-1880. (C-P photo/Julie Walley)This cast iron dog, a Hannibal landmark, stood for many years on Harrison Hill. (Hagood photo)The Fette home was originally built by William Quealy during the 1850s. (C-P photo/Julie Walley)

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