This building served as Hannibal's courthouse in 1888, when Lincoln Cook was sentenced to serve a 25-year term in the Missouri penitentiary. PHOTO/STEVE CHOU COLLECTION
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
For the Courier-Post
How strange it must have seemed to Jacob J. Kirkland, chief of police, and his patrolmen, when Lincoln Cook - just a slip of a man and believed to have been suffering from consumption - came sauntering through the station door during the evening hours of June 8, 1887, admitting his role in a murder. At the time, officers weren’t even aware that a crime had been committed.
But they soon found that Lincoln Cook’s words were true. When police arrived at the crime scene, they found Carter Jackson, brother to Cook’s wife, Mary, motionless at his home at 119 Munger Street in Hannibal, with a mortal gunshot wound to his head. And Cook’s estranged wife, who fled from the scene carrying the couple’s baby, received a bullet to the shoulder, which lodged in her breast. Following surgery to remove the ball, performed by Drs. Yancey, Allen and Chamberlain, she was expected to survive.
Officers learned that soon as the shooting stopped – even before an alarm could ring out - Cook jumped from a first story window and fled the scene on foot.
The Quincy Daily Whig of June 10, 1887, in reprinting a story from the Hannibal Journal, reported: “After the shooting Cook very deliberately walked out up Maple avenue with his revolver in hand.” Watchman John Connery saw the suspect pass Treat’s foundry, and when told of the crime, set out to arrest him. Following Cook west on Lyon street, Connery learned that Cook had come to the police station and given himself up.”
For the next 11 months, Cook contemplated his fate while staring at the iron bars in Hannibal’s calaboose, located on the Lane Street, at the northeast corner of Water Street.
Lincoln Cook married Mary “Babe” Jackson in June 1884. A son was born a year later, but the couple ultimately separated.
“Babe” and her son moved in with her brother, and Lincoln took a job with the Chicago, Minneapolis & St. Paul Railroad.
Lincoln arrived back in town just a day before the shooting. His intent was to get the baby and take him to his relatives.
Lincoln Cook had purchased a revolver on the afternoon of the murder at the Albert Russ furniture and hardware store located at 157 Market Street, across the street from Eli T. Albertson’s dry goods store.
There were no permits needed to buy a gun 129 years ago, and no mandatory waiting period. Lincoln Cook entered the store in the Market Street Wedge area, where James H. Samuels operated a gunsmith business. Lincoln Cook purchased the weapon of choice, offering no explanation regarding his intent.
That evening, he went to his brother-in-law’s house in order to take custody of his child. While Mary Cook fled with the baby, Carter Jackson struggled with Cook in order to get the gun, but fell with the fatal wound.
Carter Jackson was accustomed to serving as his sister’s provider and protector.
As a 12-year-old in 1870, he was already working as a laborer at whatever job he could find. His younger siblings included Bell Jackson, born in 1860; Mary, born in 1865, Richard, 1868, Charles, 1869, and Lena, 1868. Jacob Fuget, a laborer, was also living with the family as of the 1870 census.
Lincoln Cook’s mother, Mary, was well known about Hannibal and Monroe City. A former slave owned by and brought to Missouri from Richmond, Ky., by Judge Alfred Warner circa 1854, at the time of the shooting, she was living at 1216 Broadway in Hannibal, in a duplex just to the north of the Market Street wedge. She worked at any job she could find in order to earn a reputable living. Previously, she had operated a butcher shop and restaurant in Monroe City.
She visited her son at the calaboose, but his actions were so embarrassing to her, she vowed not to enter the courthouse on the day of his trial. As it turned out, she didn’t need to.
As the scheduled trial date neared, the court sent summons to 100 people in order to comprise a jury pool. The attorneys for the defense and prosecution culled that list to 12 jurors. All crowded into the courthouse on North Fourth Street in anticipation of the trial testimony.
But at the 11th hour, Lincoln Cook accepted a plea deal offered by the prosecution. He would plead guilty to second degree murder in exchange for a 25-year sentence with the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Some believed that the sentence was too light, but it was settled. Lincoln left Hannibal for his new abode at the penitentiary.
Four years after the murder – while her son was serving a sentence in the Missouri penitentiary, Mary Cook operated a restaurant at 137 Market. In 1894, she conducted a respectable boarding house on Front Street, between Mart Hempstraugh’s and O’Brien’s. In order to make sure the house remained legitimate, she paid the police to patrol the area nightly.
Ten years into his sentence, Lincoln Cook caught a break. It was tradition for the Missouri governor to select two prisoners, with good conduct at the prison and a lengthy sentence already served, to pardon on the Fourth of July. Recognized as a model prisoner, Lincoln was chosen by Gov. Stephens for release. The St. Louis Republic of July 6, 1898, reported on the pardon.
The LaPlata Home Press, July 14, 1898, carried a description of the announcement.
“The holiday pardons at the penitentiary went to two white men and one negro. The white men were John E. Bryant and Stanley Wright and the negro is Lincoln Cook. The pardons were presented in person by Gov. Stephens, who with Mrs. Stephens and a number of ladies, assembled in the warden’s office to await the liberation of the men. The Governor gave the three men some words of advice as to their future conduct.”