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Remembering The Home for the Friendless

Mrs. Laura Hawkins Frazier is pictured in 1914 by Tomlinson of Hannibal, Mo. Laura Hawkins lived across the street from Sam Clemens during their childhood in Hannibal, and was recognized as the model for Mark Twain’s character, Becky Thatcher. Mrs. Frazier was matron of the Home for the Friendless when this photo was taken. TOMLINSON PHOTO/STEVE CHOU COLLECTION


For the Courier-Post

Jessie Kingsley’s story is a touching one. Partially paralyzed, with a mind not fully developed, Jessie arrived at the Home for the Friendless in Hannibal circa 1892 at the age of 10, and remained, becoming one of the most cherished of residents, until her death on Aug. 4, 1911.

During her time at The Home, which was then located at Sixth and North streets, Jessie gave much back to her environment, becoming a favorite with the children who filtered in and out of the home during their young lives.

A tribute to Jessie was published in the newspaper at the time of her death, and this newspaper clipping remains a permanent part of The Home’s official record, preserved on microfilm and maintained as part of the Hannibal Free Public Library’s historic collection.

“(Jessie Kingsley) was useful in keeping watch over the little ones and while all were attached to her, it is the wee ones who will miss her most, for she has been taken from them.”

Suffering from Bright’s disease, Jessie was hospitalized in the hopes that expert nursing care could aid in her recovery.

“But the conditions of Bright’s disease had advanced so far that it was soon known that she was beyond relief and she died on Friday afternoon,” at Levering Hospital, the newspaper reported.

While she was a charity patient with no personal assets, her funeral was brought forth with dignity, conducted at the O’Donnell undertaking parlors on South Fifth Street.

“Mr. (Thos.) O’Donnell, insisting that since she had of little during her life, he proposed she should have a proper burial, even though he had to bear the expense himself. His thoughtfulness in every detail, even to the sending to the home for some of the little ones, was greatly appreciated by the Board and the older inmates who were present at the services.”

Jessie Kingsley was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery.

In 1910, Laura

Frazier was matron

The matron of The Home in 1910, a year before Jessie Kingsley’s death, was Laura H. Frazier, age 60, who gained fame as the model for Mark Twain’s beloved character, Becky Thatcher. Sally Scott, age 50, was cook at the institution, and Clara Rogers, 30, worked at the home as a domestic.

Occupants of the home, as of the 1910 census, were: Jessie Kingsley, 28; Ione Roberson, 15; Mabel Roberson, 11; Victor Babb, 6; Gerald Babb, 4; Florence Hays, 12; Edwin Hays, 8; Floyd Hooper, 12; Esther Deaver, 11; and Horrald Miller, 2.

Several names

“The Home,” was known by several names over the years. Early on, and up until the time of Jessie Kingsley’s death, it was known as the Home for the Friendless. In 1918, after George A. and Ida Mahan donated funds for construction of a new building on the former site of Smith’s Park on North Levering, the institution was named in honor of Mrs. Mahan’s parents, and called the Dulaney Home. But most commonly, “The Home” was the endearing name used throughout the community.

The Home was originally organized in 1876, and was first located in a house known as the Haley home near Fifth and Rock streets. The first officers were Lev Baler, president; Godfrey, vice president; A.R. Levering, secretary; and John Pierson, treasurer.

In 1878, it was moved to a residence on Third and Bird streets. From 1885 through 1917, the facility was located at 501 N. Sixth. In 1918, it was moved to the North Levering Street location.

Local charity

“The Home” was 100 percent privately funded, with no tax dollars going toward its operation. Among The Homes’ records preserved on microfilm was a list of some individuals who had contributed to the facility’s endowment fund. The names on that list are readily recognized as staunch community supporters from the past: Ida D. Mahan, George A. Mahan, Amanda Goodin, Alice Logan, Joseph Bassen, Mary Moodie, S. Joseph, Anna Nipper, W.B. Pettibone, E.P. Schultz, Katherine Tegler and W.C. Logan. By 1956, the endowment fund totaled nearly $80,000.

But major donors weren’t the only ones who contributed to the ongoing operation of The Home. Each month, a list of donors was published in the local newspaper.

During one month during the mid 1950s, the following were recognized in the Hannibal Courier-Post for their gifts to The Home: Harry Baldwin, one bushel of grapes; Mrs. Shaffer, four pair pillow cases; Mrs. Rothweiler, bacon drippings; Standard Printing company, three boxes of pencils; Dr. W.J. Smith, six frying chickens; Park Way Café, large box of neck bones; Sultzman Bakery, eight loaves of bread; Mr. and Mrs. W.N. Pettibone, Thanksgiving turkey dinner; Park View Café, one electric train, mounted; Buds Ice Cream, one gallon ice cream; Mrs. D.F. Cooley, one girl’s coat, two dresses; Frank Van Houten, repaired light switches; Lucke Maytag store, repair on washing machine.

KHMO strong

‘Home’ supporter

Jack Kretzer of Yuma, Ariz., grew up in Hannibal and remembers The Home. One memory that stands out is the annual drive conducted by KHMO Radio to raise operational funds for the facility.

In 1953, Hannibal Mayor Jack Schroder issued a proclamation recognizing Sunday, Dec. 19, as “Help The Home Sunday.” The radio station hosted a special 11-hour broadcast, raising more than $2,000 in cash donations.

In addition to this annual fund drive, nearly every social and religious organization in town stepped forward to help The Home.

In 1954, the Kiwanis Club presented an electric Singer sewing machine to the Home. The same year members of the Fidelis Class of the Fifth Street Baptist Church hosted their annual Easter breakfast for the residents of the home. On the menu were fresh eggs, fruit, bacon and rolls. Members decorated the tables in an Easter theme.

Board members

In 1955, Board of Control members were: Mrs. James Fischer, corresponding secretary; Mrs. H.A. Scheidker, chairman; Mrs. Donald King, financial secretary; Mrs. V.E. Cunningham, Mrs. Martha Fletcher, Mrs. W.C. Logan, Mrs. Tom Lane, Mrs. W.T. Myers, Mrs. Frank Owens, Mrs. W.N. Pettibone, Mrs. E.L. Sparks, Mrs. Virdon Taylor and Mrs. John Winkler.

Baby on the porch

On Aug. 8, 1898, Mr. and Mrs. James Harvey, 510 Center, awoke at 3 a.m. to the sound of a baby crying. Mr. Harvey, a railway postal clerk, went to the door and was astonished to find on his porch a 10-pound male infant lying on a bed of straw in a fruit basket, wrapped in a piece of a flannel shirt, and covered with a rag.

Mr. Harvey alerted authorities, who arrived at the home, took custody of the child, and delivered him to the home of city physician Dr. Parks L. Kabler, 209 N. Sixth, for medical attention.

“In its mouth was found a piece of raw fat bacon about half the size of a soda cracker,” a newspaper report of the day recorded.

“The officers turned the infant over to the matron of the Home for the Friendless, where it was received with open arms and is now being taken care of. A number of kind ladies took clothes, bed clothing, a cradle, etc., there for the little waif last evening. The best of care, will, of course, be taken of the newcomer.”

Police were in search of the child’s mother.

Need for The

Home diminishes

By 1956, the need for the home and its services had diminished thanks in part to old age assistance and the state’s public welfare program.

Board of Control minutes from August 1956: “Due to the few children living at the home, the board deems it advisable to make future plans for the closing of the home.”

At the time of the decision to close The Home, there were four children living at the facility, two brothers, and a brother and a sister. They were taken to the Baptist Home in Pattonville, Mo.

The following board members were present when the decision was made: Mesdames Scheidker, Cunningham, Winkler, Pettibone, King, Meyers and Fisher.

The building and grounds reverted in ownership to the heirs of the original donors, George and Ida Mahan. An auction was conducted to dispose of the furnishings. And the endowment fund was primarily divided between two local organizations dedicated to the welfare of the community’s children: The YMCA and Camp Oko-Tipi.

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