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Prominent Hannibal woman’s death - Mary Ann Helm -overshadowed by gruesome murder

Mary Ann Helm and her family lived at 513 Broadway, Hannibal, until her death in 1889. This photo was taken during a later era. STEVE CHOU COLLECTION


Mary Ann Helm, 40, of Kentucky, came to Hannibal in 1852 as the wife of the new judge of the Hannibal Court of Common Pleas, the mother of three young girls and stepmother to a handful of her husband’s children from his first marriage. She left Hannibal 37 years later - when called home by her maker - on the first day of January 1889.

A woman of independent means, among the assets she left at the time of her death were the house, barn and 10 acres of land on Palmyra Rock Road that she had purchased after her husband’s death in 1872; property foreclosed on after the death of Michael Murphy.

“The west half of Lot 5 in Subdivision of the SE quarter of Section 18, Township 57, Range 4 West, containing 10 acres.”

It is unclear as to who occupied the house during this time period.

Mrs. Helm’s death


While her contributions to the town were many, her death garnered little notice from the local press on Jan. 1, 1889, which was pre-occupied with a gruesome murder just two days prior – that of her neighbor, Amos Stillwell.

The two-story frame dwelling (repainted a light drab color in May 1875, a newspaper noted) that Mrs. Helm called home for two decades was to the west of the alley on Broadway, between Fifth and Sixth streets, on the south side of the roadway. The Catholic church property on Church Street adjoined her back yard, and the Stillwell mansion where the murder took place was but a stone’s throw away, on South Fifth Street.

At some times during those 20 years that she lived at 513 Broadway, her house was filled with children, while at other times boarders and servants called the house home.


Mrs. Mary A. Helm, residence 513 Broadway


Mrs. Mary A. Helm, residence 513 Broadway

Mrs. Ella Rogers lived at 513 Broadway

George A. Bowman, student, boarded at 513 Broadway


Mrs. Mary A. Helm, residence 513 Broadway

Miss Alice Helm, 513 Broadway

Benjamin Helm, student, 513 Broadway

Mrs. Kate P. (wid) Helm, 513 Broadway

Miss May Helm, 513 Broadway

Sarah Elsden worked as a domestic at 513 Broadway


J. Frank Davidson, farmer, resided at 513 Broadway

Mrs. Mary Helm lived at 513 Broadway

Edward J. Kaltenbach, laborer, boarded at 513 Broadway

Miss Lucretia Norris, domestic, resided at 513 Broadway


James F. Davidson jewelry, residence 513 Broadway

Matilda Johnson (widow of Joseph) boards 513 Broadway

The Crumps

At the time of her marriage in 1840, Mary Ann Crump Helm had two brothers who served as tobacco agents in Glasgow, Kentucky: B.N. Crump and B. Beverly Crump.

While traveling on business in the fall of 1854, Col. B.B. Crump, age 53, became ill, and interrupted his trip to stop in Hannibal for a visit with his sister. The bachelor’s health continued to deteriorate, and on the morning of Oct. 24, 1854, Col. Crump died at the Helm home. At the time of his death, he was a primary in the firm of Crump Carouth & Co., Louisville, Kentucky.

By 1856, B.N. (Benjamin) Crump had relocated with his family from Kentucky to Hannibal. In 1859, he was operating a hardware and cutlery store at 10 Main Street, (the east side of the 100 block of Main Street) the block known at the time as Union Row. Judge Helm and his family were living on the northwest corner of Sixth and North streets; B.N. Crump and his wife Elizabeth were living on the west side of Sixth Street, between Hill and North. Sharing the home were the Crumps’ daughter, Lizzie F. Groat, and her husband Peter B. Groat, a railroad ticket agent. B.N. Crump died in 1864. Both of Mary Ann Crump Helm’s brothers are buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Hannibal.

Helm property

John. B. Helm practiced law and was circuit judge for a time while a resident of Hannibal. In addition he was a director in the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad, dealt extensively in real estate and commissioned the construction of a number of buildings in Hannibal.

In 1853, Judge Helm constructed a building on Main street, on the northeast corner of Center Street, opposite of the Monroe House, which was located on the northwest corner of Main and Center streets. Soon thereafter fellow attorneys, A.W. Lamb and R.F. Lakenan, moved their offices into Judge Helm’s new building.

He also built the building on the northeast corner of Broadway and Main streets, which was occupied in the firm of Settles and Helm – the Helm being Mr. Helm’s oldest son, Cyrus Thomas Helm, who partnered in business for a time with A.J. Settles. Cyrus Helm died in 1868.

Mr. Helm died in June 1872, leaving an estate valued at $100,000. His funeral cortage was reported by the Daily Missouri Democrat to be the largest ever witnessed in Hannibal.

Both the John Helm estate and Mary Ann Helm were included among the top Hannibal tax payers in 1873.

In December 1874, Dr. A.R. Ayres moved his stock of drugs and medicines to one of Mr. Helm’s buildings, located at Broadway and Sixth. The Robinson Brothers used the rear room as a paint shop.

At the time of his death, Mr. Helm bequeathed the following real estate to his wife:

On lot 3 in block 13; the store house at the corner of Broadway and Main Street on lot 5 in block 4, the store house on lot 8 in Block 5, the ground lease on lot No. 7 in Block 5 on which are built two store rooms this is an annual ground rent, the dwelling house occupied by me as a family residence on Lots 5 and 6 in block 28.

Palmyra Road


Mary Ann Helm’s daughters sold the property Palmyra Rock Road property in order to settle the estate.

The children of John B. Helm and his first wife included:

* Cyrus Thomas Helm (1827-1868) He married Catharine “Kate” Park of Hardin County, Ky. They moved to Hannibal with their five children, John Clinton, May, Jeanette Helen, Alice P. and Henry Benjamin Helm. Cyrus Helm, who had relocated to Kansas City, died of typhoid fever.

* Maria Louisa Helm Clayton (1828-1873) Married Dr. Henry H. Clayton and died in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

* J. Clinton Helm (1830-1863). He was a Hannibal merchant.

* Matilda J. Helm Johnson (1837-1901) Married Joseph J. Johnson and they lived in Ralls County, Mo.

* Benjamin M. Helm (1839-1864) Private in Confederate Army Regulars, Hannibal, MO. Killed in action. Originally in Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston.

The daughters of John B. Helm and his second wife, were:

* Sarah (Sallie) Crump Helm Robards (1842-1918) Married John Lewis RoBards in 1862. They had seven children, three living to adulthood.

* Eliza Beverly Helm Platt (1846-1911) Married Mortimer R. Platt, and they lived in Kansas City. They had five children.

* Mary Nicholas Helm Davidson (1849-1937) Married James Franklin Davidson. They made their home in Hannibal. They had two children, John Helm Davidson and Mary Aileen Davidson.

Biography source for the Helm children: Find A Grave

1840’s style

Elements of Mary Ann Helm’s wearing apparel – including a silk walking dress, jacket, muff and shawl, worn in 1842 when she married Mr. Helm, were preserved by Mary Davidson Faurot, Mrs. Helm’s great-granddaughter. Upon the death of Mrs. Faurot, her daughters donated the antique clothing to the University of Missouri. The garments are now part of the Department of Textile and Apparel Management in the College of Human Environmental Sciences. “She was an itty-bitty gal,” said Aileen Edwards of her great-great-grandmother at the time of the donation. “Of course, people were a lot smaller back then.”

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