Popular H&St.Jo conductor had friends across the state


This house at 800 Broadway, photographed by Charles Doty, shows the residence of Thomas and Fannie Gee, beginning around 1900 and continuing until their respective deaths, in 1915 and 1930. The lot now provides parking for Golden Ruler. STEVE CHOU PHOTO COLLECTION

MARY LOU MONTGOMERY

Thomas Gee knew a thing or two about the railroads and their rules of operation. In 1877, as a 23-year-old, he began working for the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad, and during the next two decades he worked his way up to the coveted position of conductor on the passenger line between St. Joe and Quincy. In that capacity, he cultivated friendships across the state.

Forced to abandon his railroad job in August 1900 due to deteriorating eyesight, for the next two years he served as yardmaster at Palmyra Junction. Then nearing his mid 40s, he sought out other means of making a living.

Law enforcement was a natural fit. During February 1902, the now retired railroad conductor put his hat into the ring, seeking the Democratic nomination for Marion County sheriff on the April ballot. He was defeated in the primary by S.D. Bowen.

On Jan. 6, 1908, in his role of Hannibal police officer, Thomas Gee issued a citation to William Kearney, a Wabash freight conductor. Kearney, Gee contended, allowed the train in his charge to block a crossing on east Broadway in Hannibal for more than the allotted five minutes.

Kearney was fined $5, and entered a guilty plea in Hannibal police court.

The Moberly Weekly Monitor of Jan. 7, 1908 (newspapers.com) offered details of the arrest.

“This is the second trainman that has been arrested for this in the past few months and the local officers are determined to enforce the ordinance regarding such offenses. Bulletins have been posted at both the Katy and Burlington round houses (in Hannibal) and the men alone are held responsible, not the company.”

The following October, Thomas Gee arrested H.P. Long, a Hannibal druggist keeping a business on Broadway, for selling liquor without a license. A trial was scheduled after Long entered a not guilty plea.

In 1911, Thomas Gee was nominated on the Democratic ticket for the post of city marshal in Hannibal. In a special called election in July, he was defeated by Charles G. Dreyer, a Republican.

In 1915, when Democrats took control of the city government, they named Gee deputy marshal.

Role of conductor

and law enforcer

Even while working for the railroad Gee was known to work hand-in-hand with law enforcement.

In mid October 1894, the combined efforts of Thomas Pratt, Marion County’s “plucky young” sheriff, and Thomas Gee, in the role of freight conductor, stopped two escapees from the Jefferson City prison.

One escapee, sentenced to life behind bars on a murder conviction, fled the prison with another inmate. Prison officials were hot on the men’s trail, and sent a telegram to Sheriff Pratt at Palmyra that the escapees were expected to pass through Palmyra via rail.

Thomas Gee was the conductor of the Hannibal and St. Joe freight train bound from Brookfield to Quincy, according to a story in the Oct. 18, 1894 Quincy Whig.

“Borrowing Conductor Gee’s cap and badge Sheriff Pratt put them on, and in that guise walked down the track after his men.” One drew a weapon, but Pratt’s draw was quicker. One man died; the other surrendered.

Shifting of

responsibilities

When Gee stepped down from his long-held post of passenger conductor on the Burlington Route in 1900, the Brookfield Argus published the shifting of jobs that took place as a consequence. The Quincy Daily Herald, Aug. 27, 1900, republished the job changes:

“A big change in the conductors’ runs was made on the H&St. J. this week. On account of his eyesight, Thomas Gee, one of the most popular conductors on the through run, was taken off, much to the regret of his many friends. Conductor Irwin succeeds Mr. Gee on the through run, Charles McVay relieving him on the west end “dude.” W.F. Theihoff has been given Mr. McVay’s run of 5 and 6 on the east end. This will necessitate Mr. Theihoff removing from Cameron to Brookfield. Conductor Ford will take the Cameron-Atchison run and will move with his family to the former place. Mr. Ford’s run on the east end chain gang has been given to conductor J.E. Lane. The Burlington will provide Mr. Gee with a confortable berth in one of the various departments. Tom Gee is looked upon by the head officials as one of their most competent men. He has been in the employ of the Burlington for about twenty years.”

Native of Macon

Thomas A. Gee was well known in Northeast Missouri, a native of Macon County. Born on Oct. 19, 1858, he was the son of Howell P. and Jane Moss Gee, who lived near Anabel. In November 1885 he married Fannie Wissinger at Hannibal. She was the daughter of John W., a Hannibal carpenter, and Margaret Wissinger, both long-time Hannibal residents.

Moved frequently

The Hannibal city directory of 1888 shows that Thomas and Fannie Gee were living at 614 Broadway, and four years later, they were settled at 625 Broadway.

It was at the turn of the century when Thomas and Fannie settled into a two-story brick house at 800 Broadway, where they would live until their respective deaths.

Thomas Gee died Oct. 2, 1915, and Fannie died July 27, 1930. They are buried together at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Hannibal.

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