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Navigation impediment - 1860: Early settler built short-lived hotel on pilings across Bear Creek

This photo represents the unpredictible currents of Hannibal's Bear Creek in 1910. Steve Chou collection

Hannibal Courier-Post (MO) - Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Author: Mary Lou Montgomery

The name Angus W. McDonald isn't among the most memorable in Hannibal's history, but he did play a significant role in the establishment of Hannibal as a community situated along the banks of the Mississippi River. Noted Hannibal historian, Judge Thomas Bacon, told of Mr. McDonald's enterprises in Hannibal in "Mirror of Hannibal," published in 1905. Edward C. McDonald and Mrs. Richard T. Holliday, siblings of Angus W. McDonald, were among the earliest settlers of Hannibal. Angus , who spent most of his life in Virginia, lived in Hannibal intermittently, but invested heavily in local real estate. He was also a member of the advisory board in the new town company of 1836. Angus McDonald was in Hannibal visiting his brother and sister, when he was introduced to Miss Cornelia Peake, the sister of his brother's wife. They married on May 27, 1847. The story of Angus McDonald's life ties in with Hannibal's lumber industry. Mr. Bacon wrote: "As far back as can be remembered log and lumber rafts descended the river, generally on their way to St. Louis, Mo. These rafts were oblong parallelograms, provided at each end with large oars, which were used to keep the raft in the channel. By day and night as they glided by, the creaking of their oars could be heard. There always was a little lumber yard here for local supply. When the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad began to run its trains, Hannibal became a lumber mart for the entire west. When the creek was full of backwater the lumber merchants detached their cribs of lumber and toward them up the creek, where the lumber was taken apart, washed and piled up in the adjacent yards." Among the property that Angus McDonald acquired in fledgling Hannibal was Out lot 41, which included a segment of Bear Creek crossing between north and south Hannibal. In a political ploy, the Charter of Hannibal was amended so as to authorize the City of Hannibal to condemn Bear Creek for a navigable stream. "As it did not suit Mr. McDonald to have his property appropriated for lumber crib towage, he, in 1860, drove piles into the bed of Bear Creek and on said piles he erected a large three-story hotel called the Massasoit House. When the war came on Lieut.-Col. Morse threw up some fortifications on the east end of the hill abutting on Bear Creek and on Fifth Street in South Hannibal, within which works the soldiers camped. One night a terrible rain storm drove out the soldiers and they took refuge in the Massasoit House, where at the resistless creek undermined and tore out the piling so as to cause a collapse of the building, which was never rebuilt." A tax sale was advertised in the Hannibal Journal and Western Union on Jan. 29, 1852. It listed the property owned by Angus McDonald on which tax payment was overdue. Blocks 41 and 42 included portions of Bear Creek. Five blocks lying between Fourth and Fifth streets, from one block south of what is now Broadway, north to North Street, including what is now Central Park. Edward C. McDonald died in 1862 while visiting his brother in Richmond, Va. Mr. Bacon reported that Angus W. McDonald died in 1864 at Richmond.

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