A.A. Masterson: A long career behind the bar
This photo shows finishing touches put into place on the Hannibal Trust Co., building, on the northeast corner of Third and Broadway, 1909-1910. At far left is the saloon located at 106 N. Third St., operated by A.A. Masterson from 1905 until his death in 1919. HANNIBAL ARTS COUNCIL PHOTO/STEVE CHOU COLLECTION
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
A.A. Masterson was a newcomer to Hannibal when, in the mid 1880s, he assumed proprietorship of the Masterson saloon and hotel at 310 South Main Street in downtown Hannibal. Already a widower at the age of 35, with two young children in his charge, A.A. – sometimes referred to as Andy, and other times Ambrose – made a living leaning against a bar counter, selling his liquid wares, and listening to the stories told to him by his saloon patrons.
His tavern, located across the street from the grand new Union Depot (completed in 1882) was pivotal spot for lodging and drinking establishments in Hannibal, with trains the primary means of cross-country transportation and passengers with layovers making key connections from all parts of the United States.
Located adjacent and to the north of the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad tracks in 1885, he was assured of his fair share of business in this key location, plus the building’s second floor provided living accommodations for himself and his two children.
His saloon was one of 32 advertised in the Hannibal City Directory of 1885, including George A. Kettering’s Hotel and saloon, just to the south of Masterson’s Hotel, and E.J. Ohmer’s Hotel and restaurant, inside of the Union Depot, across South Main Street from Masterson’s Hotel. Dennis Mahoney was Masterson’s bartender.
An item of interest published in the Quincy Whig on Aug. 20, 1885, gives a little insight into the curiosities in the life of A. A. Masterson. Mr. Masterson was the registered owner of a trotting horse, scheduled for participation in an event at Mt. Sterling, Ill., on the upcoming weekend. The horse, in the care of a horseman named Frank Smith, was ready to go, when at attachment warrant was served by John Helmbold for non-payment of a feed bill. Masterson left Hannibal, and upon arrival in Quincy, retrieved his trotter.
While South Main Street gave the presence of an ideal saloon location, it wasn’t long before Masterson and his children were on the move.
He set up shop in a building on the west side of South Main Street, near the Broadway intersection. That building and its contents were consumed in one of Hannibal’s most costly fires, at the end of November 1893. This fire started in the Williams –Voorhis Dry Goods Store at the intersection of Church and South Main, and before the fire was extinguished, it had consumed all the buildings on both sides of the street.
Move to Broadway,
then to Quincy, Ill.
After the fire, Masterson formed a partnership with William J. Dolan and together they operated the Dolan and Masterson saloon on the southeast corner of Broadway and South Third street in Hannibal. (The building was demolished in 2016.) The partnership didn’t last long however. In July 1895 Dolan purchased Masterson’s share of the business, and Masterson announced plans to move to Quincy, Ill.
Masterson, in turn, purchased the City Hall Saloon, in the rear of the city hall, on North Third Street in Quincy. On Aug. 3, 1895, the Quincy Daily Herald reported that Hannibal bartender Marsh Hemstraw was moving to Quincy to work with Masterson.
Shortly after purchasing the City Hall Saloon, Masterson sold the business and bought Henry G. Wustrow’s saloon at 519 Maine in Quincy.
Back to Hannibal
By 1905, Masterson returned to Hannibal, this time putting up his shingle at 106 N. Third street in Hannibal. There, for better or worse, he would continue to serve customers and live upstairs over his establishment for the next 14 years.
In addition to his downtown establishment, in 1907 Masterson approached the Marion County commission about obtaining a liquor license for a planned establishment in Oakwood. He was informed that licenses could only be granted in towns large enough to have voter approval. Since Oakwood was not yet a part of Hannibal, and didn’t have significant population to authorize the sale of liquor on its own, Masterson’s request was denied. As it was in 1907, liquor could only be sold in Hannibal and Palmyra within the county.
106-110 North Third
In 2017, the building where Masterson worked and lived is owned by Sally Poole, and houses Poole Advertising. Three separate business storefronts melded into one over the course of history, believed to have begun with construction prior to 1885.
When Masterson opened his saloon at 106 North Third, O’Donnell Tailor Co., was conducting business next door at 108; and A.E. McPherson had an electrical supply and construction business at 110. Miss Irene Keller resided upstairs at 110 ½ North Third. Mr. Masterson lived upstairs over 106 N. Third.
Soon after he opened the saloon, The Hannibal Courier-Post moved into its new quarters at 300 Broadway, on the northwest corner of Third and Broadway. After the newspaper office was destroyed by the same fire in 1893 that destroyed Masterson’s tavern, the newspaper business had relocated to 113 South Main. The move to Broadway at Third would serve as home base for the newspaper until 1951, when it moved to 200 North Third St.
And when Masterson moved into the quarters at 106 N. Main, the three-story building next door served as home base for the Hannibal Trust Company. By 1913, the Trust Company building has been demolished, and replaced by the steel frame multi-story brick building that stands today on the northeast corner of Third and Broadway.
A.A. Masterson’s son worked as bartender for his father until a freak accident took the young man’s life on July 10, 1913. The younger Masterson was hunting with friends when a gunshot startled a horse, in the interim, the young man was pinned beneath the buggy. At the age of 31, he received a fatal concussion. He was laid to rest at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Hannibal.
The next year, Mr. Masterson’s daughter, Katie, became ill while living in Houston, Texas. Mr. Masterson was able to be by her bedside until shortly before her death. It is believed that she was working as a nurse at the time of her death in 1914 at the age of 37. Her body was returned to Hannibal for services and burial.
In July 1919, Mr. Masterson had been in poor health for several months, and he made the journey to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for treatment. His condition worsened, and he died there at the age of 65. His body was returned to Hannibal for services and burial.
A long career behind the bar counter thus ended.
South Main Street, facing north. The Kettering Hotel is shown at left. Across the Hannibal and St. Joseph railroad tracks and to the north, the saloon operated by A.A. Masterson during the last part of the 19th Century is visible. HANNIBAL ARTS COUNCIL PHOTO/STEVE CHOU COLLECTION