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Historic Hannibal house atop river bluff served as site for patent medicine production

The R.H. Hunstock Chemical Co., was once located on the third floor of this house, situated in Hannibal on a bluff located between Valley and Union streets, overlooking the Mississippi River to the east. It was later owned and occupied by Arthur and Josephine Stark Laming and their family. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY JEAN MOORE

John Stark is pictured with his granddaughter, Josephine Alice Laming, circa 1890. CONTRIBUTED BY JEAN MOORE

Contradolin, a patent medicine, was manufactured at Hannibal by the R.H. Hunstock Chemical Co. This advertisement is reprinted from the New York Medical Journal, Vol. 63. The chemical company moved its offices to St. Louis circa 1903.


Valley Street, as its name implies, is nestled between two hills on Hannibal’s South Side: Park Avenue to the west and Union Street to the east. At the southern end of Valley, just before the street name changes to County Road 430 at Hannibal’s city limits, there once existed the R.H. Hunstock Chemical Co., which manufactured – among other things – Dr. Peter Fluck’s Great German Remedy: Headine; and Contradolin, the latest and greatest coal tar derivative. Contradolin was promoted as an antineurotic, analgesic, antithermic and anodyne. Headine was promoted for relief from a sick and nervous headache, and neuralgia.

The chemical plant – contained within a house - was nestled on a hilltop at the end of a long, winding lane to the east of Valley Street and to the west of Union Street. Jean Otten Moore of Pennsylvania (a Hannibal native) remembers the house, which stood at the top of the hill until it was torn down in the late 1940s. Her husband, Dow Moore, was born in this house when it belonged to subsequent owners, Arthur and Josephine Stark Laming – Dow’s maternal grandparents.

Arthur W. and Josephine Stark Laming, purchased the house atop the hill and adjoining acreage following the chemical plant’s relocation to St. Louis circa 1903.

Hunstock family

George H. Hunstock was a resident of Hannibal as early as 1866, when his advertisement in the Hannibal directory of that year denotes his trade as “Fashionable barber and hair dresser.” His shop was located on the north side of Broadway, between Main and Third streets. During the mid 1870s, he operated a boarding house and saloon at the corner of Third and Center, featuring free lunches to tavern patrons.

George Hunstock’s son, Harry, was one of five boys who became lost in what is now known as the Mark Twain Cave during the 1870s. It is believed that the tales told about this adventure served as an inspiration to Sam Clemens in writing his famed cave adventure story.

Another Hunstock son, Robert H. Hunstock, attended school in Hannibal, before entering the St. Louis College of Pharmacy, from which he graduated in 1876. His biography in the “Book of St. Louisians: A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men,” reports that Hunstock apprenticed at a Hannibal drug store for the next three years. After several business ventures, in the mid 1890s, he established the business: R.H. Hunstock Chemical Co.

It was common – during that era – for generations of families to live together. That was the case with the Hunstock family. The 1895 Hannibal city directory locates the Hunstock Chemical Company and Robert H. Hunstock’s residence at 1200 Valley Street, the site atop the hill on the east side of the aforementioned street.

In 1897, Robert H. Hunstock, a chemist by trade, was joined in this large house where the factory was located, by his widowed father, George H. Hunstock, the former barber and saloon keeper. Also living in the house were Robert Hunstock’s siblings, Frances Hunstock, Laura B. Hunstock, and William F. Hunstock. Four years later, brother Albert had joined his family living in this three-story house.

The house

The chemical company, where the patent medicine was manufactured, was located in the ballroom on the third floor of the house, Jean Moore learned through stories passed down through her husband’s family. On the first floor there was a kitchen, dining and living rooms and an office. The second floor had four bedrooms and a sewing space at the end of the hall.

“On the third floor was the ballroom,” she said, “or a play room, with two rooms on each end that were used as powder rooms, with a curtain as a door and no plumbing.

“And the house sat right on the edge of the bluff. That took advantage of the view from the widow's walk. And it was not close to the other houses at all. They had several acres, I think. All those animals, grape vines and orchards needed space. The Lamings had enough grape vines to provide juice for a few church's communion.

“There were outbuildings, a buggy shed, and several other adjoined buildings,” Jean said. The front of the house faced the river. “When you got to the top of the hill you were on one of the bluffs overlooking the river. I think the bluff was on north side of the caves,” Jean said.

There was a widow's walk on top, in the center of the roof, Jean said. “It was closed in with full length windows on all four sides. The driveway to the house was very long. If you didn't know, you would have passed it by, and wondered why the mailbox was down on (Valley) street.

“The front door was oak and very heavy. The glass in the door was full length and beveled.”

The house was torn down in about 1948, Jean said, and the lumber was used for several other houses. “All the lumber was old enough to use the real measurement. A 2x4 actually measured two inches by four inches.”

Laming family

Arthur W. Laming, born in England in 1858, immigrated to the United States, and in 1885, he was working as a laborer for the Hannibal Saw Mill Co. That same year he was living at Cave Hollow in South Hannibal. The following year, on the day after Christmas, 1886, he was united in marriage with Josephine E. Stark in Ralls County, the daughter of John George Stark, a German immigrant, and his wife, Cornelia Frances Frisbie Stark of Saverton Township.

Arthur and Josephine Stark Laming were parents to three children, Josie Laming, born in 1888; Willie Laming, born in 1890, and Charley Laming, born in 1892. Later in his life, Arthur Laming took over management of the Cruikshank Lumber Co. His daughter Josie Laming would marry I.D. Moore, and their son, Dow, married Imogene (Jean) Otten, who is the source for this story.

Living at this residence in 1912, according to the Hannibal city directory, were:

John G. Stark, retired farmer; Arthur W. and Josephine Stark Laming and their three children, Charles A. Laming, a boilermaker; Josie Laming; and William E. Laming, a cutter for the Star shoe plant.

Water source

There was no running water to the old house atop the hill, so Arthur Laming put a huge tank in the widow’s walk. Each Saturday he pumped it full. Gravity furnished running water for the week. “He had a stroke while tending the tank,” Jean said, “and the widow’s walk was removed at that time.” Arthur Laming died Aug. 2, 1927. He is buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery along with his wife, Josephine E. Laming, who died in February 1939.

Note: Addresses on Valley Street have changed throughout the years. When the Hunstocks lived there, the Hannibal city directory listed the address at 1200 Valley. Later, when the Lamings lived there, the address was 1814 Valley. The property is in Marion County and within Hannibal’s city limits.

Headine, a patent medicine for the relief of headaches and neuralgia, was manufactured at Hannibal by the R.H. Hunstock Chemical Co. This advertisement is reprinted from the Richmond, Ky Climax, accessed via

Josephine Alice Laming Moore and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Laming. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY JEAN MOORE

William Laming’s citizenship certificate, dated June 1891. CONTRIBUTED BY JEAN MOORE

Charles Laming, younger brother of Josephine Laming Moore. CONTRIBUTED BY JEAN MOORE


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