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Rise and fall of Robert Elliott’s financial world

This photo shows Mark Twain Produce at the northeast corner of Third and Church. The building originally housed the Elliott wholesale grocery company. In 2016 it serves as Karlocks Kars and Pop Culture museum and art gallery. STEVE CHOU PHOTO COLLECTION


Robert Elliott moved his young family to Hannibal, Missouri, during the early part of the 1870s, settling into a town that would ultimately allow him to flourish financially.

By 1881, he and Frank W. Wyman were operating a wholesale grocery warehouse at 102-106 North Fourth.

In 1884, The Board of Trade of Hannibal elected Robert Elliott as its president.

By 1888, he had secured for himself the role of president of the Merchants and Mechanics Loan and Building Association, located at 208 Center.

During 1890, a new grocery warehouse, operated by Dulany and Robert Elliott, was completed and was in operation, built of concrete and steel with a brick exterior. The warehouse sprawled across a quarter of a block on the northeast corner of South Third and Church.

In 1892, Elliott was serving as president of Hannibal’s board of education.

In 1894, there was a petition circulated by his Republican peers seeking Robert Elliott’s nomination for governor.

In 1895, Elliott was president of the Hannibal Free Public Library. He purchased the lot on the southeast corner of Fifth and Church, with the intent of building a new library building on the site.

In January 1897, Elliott’s wife, Alice, represented the Hannibal Women’s Club at the first annual convention of the Missouri State Federation of Women’s Clubs, held in Kansas City.

And tragically, on April 2, 1897, Elliott’s financial world came crumbling down. The Quincy Daily Journal reported that John B. Shepherd had been named receiver for the Elliott-Dulany Grocery Company. Personally devastated by his financial losses, Robert Elliott was reportedly a patient in a sanatorium in Chicago undergoing treatment at the time of the announcement.

Early years

Robert Elliott was born in England in 1846, youngest child of James and Catharine Elliott. The family came to the United States in 1855, settling in Fall River, Bristol, Mass. He had three older siblings, Joseph Elliott, born in England in 1838; Mary A. Elliott, born in England in 1840; and James Elliott, born in England in 1844.

Sgt. Joseph Elliott, Robert’s brother, died as the result of injuries received during the Civil War in May 1864 at East Taunton, Mass. He was 26 years of age.

On Nov. 3, 1869, Robert Elliott, at the age of 24, married Alice Maria Reed (born in 1848) in Taunton, Mass. Alice was the daughter of Edgar H. and Ellen A. Reed. Robert and Alice Elliott had three daughters, Katharine Reed Elliott, born in 1870, Alice M. Elliott, born in 1872, and Ruth Elliott, born in 1888.

When Robert Elliott first arrived in Hannibal, he went to work for C.O. Godfry and Associates.

During his prosperous years in Hannibal, he and his family made their home at 822 Bird, and they were members of Hannibal’s trendy Congregational Church.

Brown Jewelers

Thomas Brown, (born 1874) son of John J. Brown, married Robert Elliott’s daughter, Alice M. Elliott.

J. Van and John J. Brown associated as Brown Bros’ jewelers in Hannibal by 1871. In 1912, the store was located at 307 Broadway, under the name of Browns Jewelry, operated by John J. Brown, Junior and Senior.

After the fall

Following the collapse of his finances in Hannibal, Robert and Alice Elliott moved back to the Boston area, circa 1898. Robert Elliott went to work as an insurance agent.

In 1905, Thomas Brown and his wife moved to Quincy, Ill., where he opened a jewelry store at Fifth and Maine.

Robert Elliott’s youngest daughter, Ruth, was a high school teacher in Plainfield, Union County, New Jersey, in 1920. Living with her at the time was her mother, Alice, age 71. The 1930 and 1940 census reports show Ruth as an executive secretary for a religious organization in Manhattan, N.Y. In 1940 she was living at the Madison Square Hotel on Madison Avenue in New York. She was a college graduate.

Robert Elliott’s oldest daughter, Katherine Reed Elliott, was featured in the 1914 edition of Woman’s Who’s Who of America. She was a graduate of Wellesley College, AB in 1892, and studied at Oxford University in England in 1905. In 1914, she was head teacher at Putnam Hall, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Robert Elliott, who showed so much financial promise in Hannibal, died Aug. 4, 1908, in Hanson, Mass., at the age of 62. He suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage.

Sometime between 1920 and 1930, Thomas Brown closed his jewelry store in Quincy and moved his family to Chicago, where he went to work as a clerk for the Marshal Field Department Store. In 1930, Robert Elliott’s widow, Alice, was making her home with her daughter’s family in Chicago.

By 1901, William J. Roth was operating a wholesale grocery business in the large building that still stands today, on the northeast corner of South Third and Church streets.

Building boom

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper made note of Hannibal’s building boom that took place the same year Robert Elliott’s wholesale grocery warehouse was constructed on the northeast corner of South Third and Church streets: During the past year more buildings were erected, more money appropriated for public improvements ($40,000) and more property changed hands than during the previous five years.

This segment of the 1890 Sanborn map shows the building at the northeast corner of Third and Church while under construction. It was to become the Elliott wholesale grocery warehouse. Robert Elliott was the president of the company.

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