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Stone wall along banks of Mississippi River a testament to craftsmanship

Cutline: Archie Hayden of Hannibal shared this photo of the stone wall constructed along the bank of the Mississippi River between the Wabash bridge and Scipio. CONTRIBUTED/ARCHIE HAYDEN

Massive wall serves as reminder of stonemason’s skill

Archie Hayden of Hannibal shares the tragic story of the death of the man who supervised the construction of the rock wall along the Mississippi River shoreline, between Hannibal and Scipio, in the early 1870s.

Built by stonemasons, this wall was built without mortar, and served as a stabilizing force for the river bluff for more than 100 years.

Archie writes:

“I have read about some of the stone masons. One man in particular was the fellow in charge of building that huge long stone wall that runs along the river from the Wabash bridge north towards Scipio. The Burlington tracks literally hung on the side of the river bluff at this location. The amazing thing about this wall was the lack of any mortar to hold the stones together. They were layed up dry and remained that way until the 1980s or so when reinforcement was added via cement being pumped into the wall. That was over 100 years of service. If we hadn't started running those heavy coal trains from Wyoming it would have probably remained as it was constructed.”

John Seewright was the man in charge of this massive project.

Archie Hayden said that the wall was constructed prior to the opening of the railroad line in 1874. Hayden supplied the following newspaper clipping from the Hannibal Morning Journal, dated Oct. 26, 1901:

“John Seewright who was injured in a wreck on the CB&KC RY near Axline, Iowa yesterday morning, died in the afternoon same day. He was a former resident (of Hannibal) and boarded on South Fifth St. He held the position of foreman of the rock construction gang on the K Line. He supervised the building of the dry stone wall that stretched from the Wabash bridge to up near Scipio. He was the third man to meet with a tragic death while holding this job. One drowned in the Missouri River when a car was backed into the river by an engine. The other was killed at Alton, Illinois. Body to be taken to Kansas City, his former home.”

READ MORE about the role of the stonemason during the mid to late 1800s by clicking here.

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