Huegel name synonymous with promotion of Hannibal


MARY LOU MONTGOMERY

Hannibal police raided the ever-popular gathering spot on South Main Street in downtown Hannibal – the Mark Twain Hotel – on Saturday evening, Dec. 7, 1935, and confiscated two slot machines.

The hotel’s proprietor, Louis J. Huegel, received a citation, and was fined $10 and costs, for a total of $12.85. Police Judge M.J. Reagon ordered the chief of police to destroy the machines.

But the matter wasn’t completely settled until early February 1936. The lingering question revolved over whom was the rightful owner of the coins taken from the slot machines.

Prosecuting attorney, Walter G. Stillwell, asked the Missouri Attorney General’s office to render an opinion. The final verdict: The money should be returned to Mr. Huegel. The amount in question: $106.40.

Hannibal newcomer

Louis Huegel arrived in Hannibal in April 1919 to manage the Mark Twain Hotel. His zeal for civic promotion and his tireless quest for community betterment left a legacy upon his adopted community of Hannibal, which he called home until his death in 1964.

The Quincy Daily Whig announced that Louis Huegel purchased the lease to the Mark Twain Hotel the last week of March 1919. Prior to his move to Hannibal, Huegel was in charge of the Hotel Dixon in Kansas City.

“I am more pleased than I can tell,” said Huegel, in April 1919, “that … I will now realize an ambition to conduct a hotel in a thriving little city that offers opportunity of development.”

As the first Christmas approached under Mr. Huegel’s management, he announced that the 30 or more Mark Twain Hotel employees would each receive a Christmas present, in the form of a savings deposit book. The Quincy Whig reported that the savings account would be equal to 3 percent of the salary of each employee, as earned during the previous six months. Huegel promised that the next year, that amount would grow to 4 percent.

That same month, Louis Heugel was among the founding members of the Hannibal Rotary Club. Predictably, the first meeting was held at the Mark Twain Hotel. Five directors were elected at the first luncheon, including Louis J. Heugel, John M. Walshe, E.A. Parks, W.A. Jackson and Thomas O’Donnell.

Charter members were E.L. Sparks, John M. Walshe, J. Warren Moore, Thomas O’Donnell, Louis Huegel, E.A. Parks, W.A. Jackson, Russell P. Hall, A.E. Gibson, Dr. J.W. Hardesty, Charles E. Breeding, Charles F. Bassen, Dr. E.W. Searfoss, Riley Hahn, Judge B.E. Bigger, Raymond G. Rendlen, William S. Hall, Carl E. Scheidker and E.E. Gibson.

The following January, Heugel announced his desire to build an addition to the existing hotel on South Main Street.

The Quincy Daily Whig of Jan. 8, 1920, provided the following information: “The hotel is usually crowded every night and two or three times a week people are turned away. Manager Louis Huegel is desirous than an addition be built and it is understood that several members of the present hotel company are in the same frame of mind. It is understood that present plans call for an addition that will give the hotel eighteen additional rooms.”

Ground was broken for the addition, which fronted South Main Street, the following March. It was hoped at the time that work would be completed by Oct. 1, 1920.

Over the course of the next four decades, hardly a civic or tourism event took place without the name of Huegel attached in a leadership role.

In 1925, the names of three businessmen were linked to interest in the return of organized baseball to Hannibal. The men were Louis Huegel, manager of the Mark Twain Hotel, Henry Riedel and Ivan C. Yates, who was head of the Hannibal club of the Illmo league. “This trio negotiated the deal which gave Hannibal a downtown baseball park,” the Quincy Daily Herald reported.

Work on the new “Central community athletic field” began in April 1925 on the former Cruikshank Lumber Company property. Riedel, Yates and Huegel were the primary backers. (In 2016, the playing field and park are used by the Hannibal Cavemen baseball team.)

In 1926, Huegel became a shareholder in a $400,000 corporation, the Hannibal Contracting company. The company was organized as a general contracting business, focusing on railway construction, public highways, levees, buildings and other structures, real estate investment, and the buying, owning and selling of mills, rock crushers and other factories. Huegel held 1 of the 400 shares of the company.

Louis J. Huegel and his wife attended the National convention of Hotel Greeters of America in June 1930, in Denver, Colo.

In January 1931, Heugel was named national president of the Highway 36 boosters. The Macon Chronicle Herald of Jan. 23, 1931 reported: Highway 36 is confronted with a real problem in Colorado at the present time and a delegation of the boosters in Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas will more than likely meet with the state highway commission of Colorado in the near future and endeavor to iron out the difficulties that have arisen there.

Louis Huegel of Hannibal was elected temporary chairman of a committee for the northern division of the proposed Mississippi River Scenic Tourway, at an organization and discussion meeting held at the Mark Twain Hotel in Hannibal in February 1938.

In 1943, Louis Huegel served as member of a committee charged with selecting a site for an airport for Marion County. Also serving on that committee were J.C. Raible Jr., chairman, George D. Clayton Jr., Huegel, W.A. Cable, Elmer Long and Dr. F.E. Sultzman of Hannibal; E.D. Lovegreen, Frank G. Bier and A.W. Akerson, Palmyra; and L. E. Yarbrough of the western part of the county. Of the top contenders for site selection was north of U.S. highway 61 and west of Mt. Zion church, halfway between Hannibal and Palmyra.

In 1950, Louis Huegel, owner of the Mark Twain Hotel, Hannibal, was elected president of the Missouri Hotel Association at the association’s convention in Springfield, Mo.

Embarrassing incident

In February 1929, Prohibition was in full force, yet enforcement was considered lax. A raid on Feb. 6, 1929, conducted by fifteen United States enforcement officers out of St. Louis, resulted in the arrest of 19-25 people in Hannibal, including Louis J. Huegel and a porter at the Mark Twain Hotel, Van Johnson.

Mr. Huegel was not allowed to post bond or speak to an attorney until all the suspects had been arrested, out of fear that he would tip off others whose arrests were still pending.

Less than a month later, in a hearing at Hannibal, Mr. Huegel was acquitted of all charges, while the others, including Van Johnson, were still awaiting court proceedings. On announcing Huegel’s acquittal, the Macon Republican on March 1, 1929, noted: “Huegel is well known in these parts, and is a most popular hotel man.”

According to The Story of Hannibal, Huegel was the first Hannibal merchant to obtain a liquor license following the repeal of Prohibition.

Missouri roots

Louis Huegel was the son of Col. Joseph A. Huegel, (1847-1926) long-time owner of the Central Hotel in Jefferson City, Mo., and Regina Braun Huegel. (1846-1914) He was married to Margaret Celestine McGee Huegel (1907-1996.) Louis Huegel had three children, Marilyn Josephine Huegel Vuch, Louis Joseph Huegel and Marjorie L. Huegel Wilson. Mrs. Wilson’s husband, Jim, eventually took over management of the hotel. The hotel closed in February 1978 after suffering severe water damage from a broken sprinkler system on the fourth floor.

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