The story of financial largess and loss exists within the walls of historic house


This house, located at 1120 Broadway, north side just east of Maple, served as home to William and Annie Hunt during the first half of the 1870s. This photo was originally contributed by the Mark Twain Museum, and is now a part of the Hannibal Arts Council's Hannibal as History collection.

MARY LOU MONTGOMERY

Positioned high on a terraced hill fronting Broadway’s northern boundary exists a post-Civil War house whose history – while not famed – is certainly noteworthy as a significant reminder of Hannibal’s prosperous lumber years.

The exterior of the existing two-story frame tri-apartment house – damaged by fire a year or so ago – still fairly represents the grand structure at Broadway’s proud junction with Maple and Market that existed some 145 years previous.

A young newlywed couple from the Rhode Island – William and Annie Hunt – settled into this home as early as 1870, anticipatory of a lifestyle among the most elite of Hannibal’s society.

William Hunt purchased the property from James M. Fry and Samuel M. Fry of Marion County, for $1,350. The deed was recorded on March 30, 1869. The plat was a partition of the estate of George W. Bewley, for whom the subdivision is named.

William Hunt, younger half-brother of Hannibal entrepreneur and civil contributor Josiah Hunt, moved easily into the social and business circles of the booming river town, where his brother would soon be elected to two terms as mayor.

Finance and real estate speculation fueled the post-war economy, and the younger of the Hunt brothers stepped into a leadership role in his adopted community, named cashier of the Savings Bank of Hannibal, located as 207 Center St.

William Hunt was recognized as a progressive investor in real estate development, platting neighborhoods - some of which still carry his name - sometimes financially partnering with his brother, and other times with local investors.

But as with the ebb and flow of economics, prosperity can unexpectedly boomerang into despair. And such was the case with William Hunt.

A one-sentence dispatch published in the Lowell Daily Citizen and News (Lowell, Mass.) on Jan. 21, 1874 (Newsbank) aptly describes a predicament:

“William A. Hunt, of the Hannibal (Missouri) Savings Bank, who has met with mishaps in his stock speculations, is missing, as also some twenty thousand dollars, belonging to said bank.”

William Hunt’s departure resulted in a wide-spread manhunt, and triggered a large-scale, multi-year disbursement of his property.

It is unclear whatever became of William Hunt. His brother, Josiah, died unexpectedly on Oct. 3, 1874, after serving for multiple terms as Hannibal’s mayor, and as a member of the Hannibal school board. William Hunt’s wife eventually moved home to Providence, R.I.

An action against William Hunt was filed in Missouri’s 16th Judicial Circuit by Louis Keebaugh on Jan. 29, 1874, attaching the Broadway house and property for non-payment of debt.

A bankruptcy case involving William Hunt was ongoing in the District Court of the United States, for the Eastern District of Missouri, during January 1878, where William C. Foreman of Hannibal was named assignee of the estate in order to disperse with William Hunt’s associated property.

The house at right, address 1120 Broadway, was constructed post Civil War. In 1869, the property was purchased by William Hunt, who moved to Hannibal from Rhode Island. The house is now owned by Northcutt Properties, and is for sale via Dale DeLaPorte Auction Service. MARY LOU MONTGOMERY

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