110 years ago, two Hannibal businessmen walked to Quincy
This photo of the Fall Creek, Ill., depot was taken looking south so the line diverging to the right was the extension over to East Hannibal. The other side of the depot was the main line going down to Hull, New Canton, Rockport, and connecting with the Chicago and Alton RR at Pike Station just across the river from Louisiana. One of the men is wearing his agent’s cap, the rest are probably section hands. The depot was torn down about three years ago. PHOTO AND INFORMATION: ARCHIE HAYDEN
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
In November 1905, Otto Liepold, 25, operated a clothing store along with his brother Nathan, 28, at 114-116 North Main Street in downtown Hannibal. At the same time, Robert B. Robinson, 21, was training in the plumbing and electric field along with his twin brother, Thomas C. Robinson. They would soon open up their own business, R.B. and T.C. Robinson Plumbing and Electric in downtown Hannibal.
Six days a week the young men worked, with one day set aside for rest and recreation: Sunday. Time for worship, family and fun.
On Sunday afternoon, Nov. 12, 1905, the two local bachelors, Otto Liepold and Robert Robinson, set out on an adventure that certainly was not unheard of during the era, but which was rare enough to catch the attention of a reporter for Quincy Daily Journal.
The headline on Nov. 13 reported: “Walked here from Hannibal.”
The Liepold brothers, who immigrated to the United States from Germany, chose Hannibal as the location for their business venture in 1904. The Robinson brothers, sons of an Irish immigrant, were born and raised in Hannibal. The Liepolds were of Jewish faith, while the Robinsons worshipped in Hannibal’s Trinity Episcopal Church. Otto Liepold was of medium high and weight, with brown eyes and black hair. Robert Robinson was tall and slender, with blue eyes and black hair. In 1905, the Liepold brothers roomed together at 840 Center. The Robinson brothers lived with their parents at 503 Church, a duplex that is currently under renovation by Richard and Martha Poole of Philadelphia, Mo.
The Quincy Daily Herald reported that the young men walked more than 20 miles on that Sunday. While the exact route they followed in unclear, the young men expectedly would have begun their walk at Hannibal’s only accessible river crossing: The Wabash bridge just to the north of downtown.
The bridge with its natural stone pillars had been constructed during the 1870s, and was used by not only the railroad, but also horse-pulled wagons and later, automobiles. Pedestrians could cross on foot as long as the river span was closed to river traffic and trains were far in the distance.
The roads in Illinois during 1905 were little more than trails; in fact the state of Illinois would not even print its first highway map until 1917. This first map shows the highway system that would lead from Hannibal to Quincy, and it begins by taking the traveler east from the Hannibal railroad bridge to Kinderhook, Barry, Hadley and Baylis, Ill., before joining the northwestern White Star Trail, going through Beverly, Liberty and Burton, Ill., then reaching Quincy. (Burton, Ill., is at the approximate location of Quincy’s airport in 2015.)
In an unrelated Quincy Daily Herald article published in July 1916 – 11 years after Robinson and Liepold walked the route, there was a description of a Quincy family’s car trip from Quincy, to St. Joseph, Mo. The rock and gravel highway across Missouri was described as “perfect,” while the unpaved route through the Mississippi River lowlands between Quincy and Hannibal was considered to be “bad.”
The Quincy newspaper noted that weather wise, the mid November day of the “walk” was ideal. “Hunting and fishing parties were numerous. Those who did not go to the country either took drives to the parks or took long walks. It was an exceptional autumn day and there will not be many more like it.” The temperature during the day was in the 50s and 60s.
Hannibal railroad enthusiast Becker Spaun said that circa 1905, there was a railroad track in Illinois that connected with the Wabash bridge at Hannibal. The track went up along the river, over to Fall Creek, then on to Quincy. The tracks belonged to the Burlington, which shared access with the Wabash. In return, the Wabash granted the Burlington access to the bridge. At Fall Creek, there was a switch. One direction allowed access to Quincy, the other rails went to Hull, New Canton and other in Pike County, Ill., and south to Louisiana, Mo.
Archie Hayden, retired railroader and avid collector and expert, said that by the time he went to work for the CB&Q in 1966, the rail line from Fall Creek down to Louisiana had been abandoned.
The trip took the walkers 5 hours and 20 minutes, according to the newspaper report. It took a little longer than expected, because the duo had to take a detour around an unspecified damaged bridge.
Once in Quincy, Liepold and Robinson “checked in” at the Hotel Newcomb for a rest. Built in the late 1880s, the hotel served as a gathering spot for locals, a stopover for railroad passengers, a convention center and a respected eatery, as well as an entertainment venue.
That evening, as the sun set in the town known as Bluff City, the two Hannibal businessmen boarded a train destined for home, and back to their six-day workweek tending to business in Hannibal.
Otto Liepold’s brother, Nathan, died in March 1915 at the age of 38, after a brief illness. He left behind a young wife. Nathan is buried at Bnai Sholem Cemetery, adjacent to Riverside Cemetery, Hannibal.
Otto took over his brother’s share of work in the business, and continued the operation until November 1929, when it was announced by a Quincy newspaper that the J.J. Bowles Clothing Company had absorbed the Liepold Clothing Company of Hannibal. Otto Liepold subsequently left Hannibal. He died in December 1966 at Cincinnati, Ohio.
Robert B. Robinson and his twin, Thomas C. Robinson, operated R.B and T.C. Robinson Plumbing and Electric until Robert’s unexpected death in November 1932. Robert is buried at Barkley Cemetery at New London. T.C. Robinson continued operating the business until he died in 1959. He is buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Hannibal.
Robert B. Robinson is the grandfather of the author. The aforementioned Becker Spaun is the author’s brother.
railroader remembers …
By ARCHIE HAYDEN
By the time I hired out on the CB&Q Railroad in 1966, the rail line was mostly abandoned south of Fall Creek, but the E. Hannibal leg was still in place. I worked a job called the Q&A that went down the Illinois side from Quincy to Fall Creek then over to Hannibal where we got permission from the N&W dispatcher to enter their tracks and back across the bridge and into the tunnel. We picked up orders there and headed over to Hull, where we got off the N&W main line and started switching in the town of Hull. The old CB&Q tracks were still there for us to use. We did this about once or twice a week. When we finished, we got permission and reversed our move back to Quincy. The job was called the Q&A because of the original railroad that built the line south out of Quincy. It was the Quincy St. Louis and Alton Railroad built in the early 1870s. The Burlington gained control of this line in the late 1870s. I was over there at Fall Creek last week and the depot was no longer there. It got so shaky they tore it down about three years ago.
Robert B. Robinson is pictured as a young man at the White Bear railroad sign just west of Hannibal. MARY LOU MONTGOMERY PHOTO COLLECTION