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Robert Buchanan, and the platting of a South Side neighborhood

A street sign denoting Buchanan street on Hannibal’s South Side serves as a reminder of the man – Robert Buchanan – who subdivided the neighborhood in 1865. Note the extensive stone wall in the background, along Valley Street, which is reminiscent of post-civil war craftsmanship. MARY LOU MONTGOMERY


William Frazee, who served as publisher of the Hannibal Daily Monitor newspaper circa 1865-1867, was among the first to purchase a residential lot in the post-Civil War South Hannibal acreage platted by Robert Buchanan.

Buchanan had been lured to Hannibal in 1832 by the promise of plentiful land suitable for development, and just after the conclusion of the Civil War had subdivided some of the 300 acres he had claimed upon his arrival in Hannibal, primarily in South Hannibal, thus creating desirable lots carved from the steep hills and contrasting valleys that still identify the neighborhood.

Beginning as his starting point the east/west path of Tenth Street SS (later renamed Terrace) and proceeding south, Buchanan platted the parallel north/south streets of Union, Vine, Valley, Hill (later renamed Park) and Ely streets. A series of rectangle and square lots subsequently grew into a residential neighborhood that would serve as affordable housing for railroad, shoe factory and cement workers and their families.

Frazee home site

According to Civil War documents, Frazee, who was married and a native of New York, was working as an editor and living in Hannibal as of the first of July 1863. Two years later, while publisher of the Hannibal Daily Monitor, he chose the lot on the southwest corner of Tenth (Terrace) and Valley for his home. Today, that now-vacant lot maintains reminders where subsequent families lived during ensuing decades.

A carefully crafted stone wall divides the eastern edge of the property from the sidewalk on Valley Street, and the aged staircase leading to the now vacant lot remains in tact. A visit to this property on an April morning in 2016 reveals pruned and budding trees surrounding what once was a home site, the sounds of music and remodeling work in the vicinity, and a rooster’s crow reminiscent of this site’s location at the southern edge of town.

Robert Buchanan

Robert Buchanan was born in 1802 and was raised in St. Louis County. Volume III, History of Northeast Missouri, reports that Buchanan “was a son of Robert Buchanan, who was born and reared in Pennsylvania. The Buchanans came from the same county in the old Keystone state as did President Buchanan (President of the United States 1857-1861) and of the same family.”

Upon moving to Hannibal in his 30th year, Robert Buchanan found a sparsely populated river town of about 400 people, “the town serving as the principal landing for the counties of Marion, Ralls, Shelby, Monroe and Randolph.” An advertisement in the Sept. 26, 1836 edition of the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. ( describes Hannibal’s assets: “The country around Hannibal is high, rolling and healthy, well watered, with the finest limestone springs and brooks.”

Sometime during his early years in Hannibal, Robert Buchanan opened a tanning and brick yard on the South Side of Hannibal, which was a financial success. He invested his earnings in property located throughout Hannibal, and by the end of his life in 1875, he was known as one of Hannibal’s wealthiest residents.

He made his home on the South Side, the 1873 Hannibal city directory describing the property where he lived and subsequently died as 224 Union.

Upon his death, according to a notice published in the Hannibal Clipper, Robert Buchanan was survived by his widow, and five children, Mrs. Alexander Veile, Mrs. Charles Wickliff (Leahenia Buchanan) Curts, and Charles, Joseph and Holman Buchanan. Holman Buchanan was still a child, and his older brother, Charles Buchanan, was appointed to serve as his legal guardian.

Alexander Velie

Mrs. Buchanan Velie’s husband, Alexander, was a contractor pivotal in Hannibal construction projects both before and after the Civil War. During the war, he served for four years as an engineer in a Missouri regiment in defense of the union.

In 1866, after returning home from the battlefields, Alexander opened a shop at the corner of Eighth and Broadway. In 1888, Joseph Velie, the son of Florence and Alexander, went into partnership with his father, and the two operated Velie & Sons from 1888-1892. Beginning in 1904, Joseph G. Velie joined into a partnership with his brother, Charles Velie. The Mirror of Hannibal, published in 1905, lists important Hannibal structures to the Velies’ credit: The Holmes building, located on the northeast corner of Sixth and Broadway; and the rebuilding and remodeling of the Stillwell cold storage warehouse and ice plant. All in all, the Velie family was in the contracting business in Hannibal for more than 50 years.

In addition to his contracting work, Joseph Velie was instrumental in the establishment of the Hannibal Regiment Band, and served as its manager for more than a decade.

Joseph’s sister, Mattie Velie, married Theron B. Parks, long-time Hannibal fire chief, and the Velie brothers built a house for their sister and her husband at 1723 Broadway.

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