Granitoid: Paving the walks of Hannibal, a step at a time
John H. Huss, reprinted from the Shelbina Democrat on Feb. 20, 1901.
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
“There is no mistake in saying that Hannibal has some of the worst-kept sidewalks of any city of its size in the country.”
That commentary on the condition of the walkways in Hannibal, Mo., was offered by the Quincy Daily Journal on Nov. 16, 1899.
It was true. Hannibal’s walks consisted of crumbling brick, rotting board planks or crushed stone and cinders. But all that would soon change, as a unique type of paving material was introduced into the area as the new century dawned.
The new material, called granitoid, consisted of crushed granite and cement. The cost, when first introduced in Kansas City, Mo., in 1890, was 30 cents a square foot, poured four inches deep. It was undisputedly more expensive than brick or wood, but it promised a much longer lifespan, which made the product more affordable in the long run.
It could easily be said that one contractor, John H. Huss, in addition to his contemporaries, laid the foundation on which we now stand. Glimpsing at newspapers of the period from Quincy, Palmyra and Shelbina, one would learn that granitoid was a big deal at the beginning of the 20th century. The installation of granitoid sidewalks literally made the news.
By 1893, the eastward progression of granitoid availability had reached Shelbina, where John H. Huss lived, and he was one of the early pavement promoters.
The Quincy Daily Journal took note of the progress in its Aug. 9. 1893 edition. “Shelbina - John Huss and his force of men are still busily engaged making granitoid walks. They are on Walnut street now and will complete as many as possible before the fair.”
With the walks in Shelbina improving steadily, Mr. Huss turned his sights eastward.
In 1898 – while still living in Shelbina – Huss was working in Palmyra and installed a granitoid walk for W.T. Tuley, and for Sheriff Pratt at his house on South Main Street. In 1901 Mr. Huss had made contracts to put in granitoid walks at the following Palmyra locations: In front of Retti’s barber shop, Koch’s jewelry store, the post office, G. Keller’s grocery store and the residences of J.W. Mackey, F.W. Smith and Fred Berghoefer.
Move to Hannibal
In 1901, tired of working in Marion County while maintaining residence in Shelbina, John H. Huss moved his family to Hannibal.
While not the only granitoid contractor in Hannibal, he managed to secure his share of the ever-growing business.
* John Huss was a victim of rheumatism. After struggling with his affliction for some 15 years, in 1901 he sought the magnetism and osteopathy treatment offered by Prof. Cantlon. Mr. Huss provided a testimonial for the treatment, which was published in the Shelbina Democrat on Feb. 20, 1901.
“Now here on the street is John Huss the Granitoid contractor, without his crutches, using only a small hickory cane, and yet he has been using two crutches for several weeks and hauling them around in his buggy wherever he went. He has had the rheumatism in his knees; he says one of them for seven years and has given him more or less trouble. Then he has been stiff necked for some time and could not lift his head back nor turn it but little, now his neck is supple he says, and so are his knees, not entirely well, ‘undoubtedly much relieved, he says.’ His explanation is that Prof. Cantlon has given him four treatments, and the relief has come so far.”
* In November 1903 – two years after moving from Shelbina to Hannibal - Mrs. Charles P. Jurgensen (the 22-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John H. Huss) died of consumption. She left a bereaved husband and a young son, Blythe Jurgensen, who Mr. and Mrs. Huss would subsequently raise. C.P. Jurgensen died at the home of his parents in March 1910. “He never fully recovered from the shock of his wife’s death,” the Shelbina Torchlight noted on March 18, 1910.
* Some six months later, another daughter, Maude Huss, married Charles Schiekel in a private ceremony in Quincy, Ill. They returned to Hannibal to live, but their union was brief. Within two years she had returned to her parents’ home.
At midnight in April 1906, Schiekel shot himself in the heart on the front steps of the Huss home, after being denied the opportunity to see his wife. His wound was fatal.
The Hannibal Mirror, published in 1905, contains a profile of John H. Huss, and his biography listed some of his important contract work up to that time:
Rebuilding the concrete work for Hannibal’s reservoir; the construction of the foundation for the Calvary Baptist Church; and the coping, sidewalk and the concrete work surrounding the Palmyra Court House.
In May 1906, J.H. Huss had a 5-man crew working on the foundation for a new (colored) Christian church in Palmyra.
Also in 1906, Mr. Huss had established a short-lived artificial stone manufacturing plant in Hannibal, which was located at 114 East Hill Street, just to the east of the McCooey property (featured in this column on Nov. 18, 2017.) Note: A mattress factory was located on the second floor of Mr. Huss’s manufacturing building at the time.
Still in use
Many of the granitoid sidewalks installed in the early part of the 20th century are still in use today. The Quincy Daily Herald on June 14, 1902, reported that C.P. Malley, a Wabash conductor, had contracted with the Hannibal Granitoid company for a granitoid walk to be “laid about his property” in the 500 block of Church Street. His neighbors to the east, the Robinson Brothers, had just completed work on a duplex facing both Church and South Fifth Streets, and his granitoid walk would be constructed in conjunction with their walk. The Robinson walk is still in place, on the southeast corner of Fifth and Church Street. Malley’s walk, at 509 Church Street, has recently been replaced. At both locations, the copings and stairs made of granitoid remain. (Note: The Robinson brothers were Mary Lou Montgomery’s great-grandfather and his twin brother, Thomas and Robert Robinson.)
Granitoid sidewalks predominate on St. Mary’s Avenue, Broadway, Chestnut street and many other areas, where walks have not been replaced in 100 years or more.
Advertisments placed by Mr. Huss in various newspapers also promoted granitoid coping to surround family cemetery plots; granitoid cemetery vaults; and formed granitoid blocks to be used in building construction.
Josh Clark, in studying a 1907 picture of the building under construction which now serves Scott’s Chapel Church. 1815 Hope, identified a piece of equipment with the Huss and Son name it. It thereby is concluded that John H. Huss and his son, Claude, won the contract for constructing that church, made of artificial stone manufactured either at his plant at the foot of Hill Street, or on site.
FIFTH AND CHURCH
In 1902, The Hannibal Granitoid Company was contracted to install granitoid sidewalks and casings in front of the Robinson Bros., duplex, located on the southwest corner of South Fifth and Church streets, and for C.P. Malley, a Wabash conductor, who lived next door at 509 Church Street. The sidewalk at Fifth and Church is still intact. The walk in front of 509 was recently replaced. MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
Hannibal Granitoid Walk Co., is represented on this slab of granitoid on Chestnut Street in Hannibal. The company was operated by Charles F. Garner, who lived with his wife Minnie at 307 Chestnut in 1905. MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
J.W. Fielder was born in Clarksville, Mo., in 1868, and moved to Hannibal 10 years later, where his father operated a brick manufacturing business. At the age of 21, he went into business for himself, and was a successful granitoid contractor in Hannibal and surrounding counties. His signature is found on a piece of granitoid pavement on Chestnut street. MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
John H. Huss is believed to be the granitoid contractor who did the stonework for Scott’s Chapel United Methodist Church, (The former Hope Street UM Church) in 1907. Josh Clark, a local contractor, notes that the grout work on the church is unusual in that the mortar bows out, instead of the more typical inward. Clark said that a special tool and skill are needed in order to form such joints between bricks. MARY LOU MONTGOMERY