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1893: Startled horses take flight, leading grand charge down Broadway

300 Seventh Street, Hannibal, Mo., was where John Russell – a switchman for the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad - lived. On Nov. 20, 1893, Arch Leonard delivered groceries to Russell’s house. As Leonard was leading the horse team back toward Broadway, the horses were startled and began running full speed, knocking Leonard out of the spring wagon. MARY LOU MONTGOMERY


Arch Leonard was a 21-year-old delivery driver for Murphy and Lampton’s grocery store on the fateful night of Monday, Nov. 20, 1893. Sometime around 6 p.m., he picked up the merchandise to be delivered (the store was located on the southwest corner of South Third [later renamed South Main] and Washington streets on Hannibal’s South Side.) The customer – and Leonard’s destination - was John J. Russell, who lived at the southeast corner of Seventh and Lyon streets.

After delivering the merchandise, Leonard decided to stand in the back of the light spring delivery wagon, which was pulled by two gentle horses, rather than sit down on the seat, where he could reach the brake with his foot.

That decision set into motion an unexpected action which could have resulted in his own death, and the death of an innocent bystander.

But it didn’t.

Experienced with horses, he started the horses off at a trot toward the corner of Seventh and Lyon.

All went well for a time. Then, Leonard said:

“It was dark. I was standing up in the spring delivery wagon, middle way between the seat and the end gate, four feet back of the seat and four feet from the rear gate, with the lines in my hands, when I saw a small boy close to the off horse on the crossing of Seventh and Lyon streets.

“The horses were turning on the Seventh street crossing. I don’t think he (the boy) said anything, but he threw up his hand and like to run into the off horse, causing him to lunge west; that jerked the wagon forward and me back one step, then the near horse jumped and that threw me over the end gate of the wagon.”

Rather than let go of the wagon, Leonard hung on, and was dragged for a bit.

“I caught on the end gate with my legs locked on it, with the lines taut in my hands. I held my head off the ground and was carried that way but not pulling on the lines, and the horses going in a fast trot about fifty feet when the wheel struck a rock and I fell to the ground on my head and shoulders and the lines came loose from my hands after the wagon bounced over the rock, and that started the horses faster. They turned down Broadway and next I saw them near the southeast corner of Main street and Broadway.”

Leonard’s account was contained in his testimony in connection with a lawsuit filed over the incident.

At the intersection of Main and Broadway, the horses made the turn south on Main, but the speed of the horses resulted in the catapulsion of the empty spring wagon into a plate glass window of a two-story brick building owned by the family of John L. Robards, a Hannibal attorney.

Falling glass severely injured 20-year-old John Hubb, the son of a shoemaker – Jacob Hubb – whose family lived on Valley street near the city limits. Cornelius Murphy and Clarence Lampton, owners of Murphy & Lampton’s, arranged to transport John Hubb to his home, where he was treated by Dr. Lewis H. Tutt.

A year prior to the accident, in 1892, the building that was struck with the flying wagon was occupied by Lee Middleton, who sold seeds, stoves and tinware, and farm implements. Two years after the accident, in 1895, Cyrus Albertson had a dry goods store in the same location. But at the time of the accident, a business known as the Dime Museum was occupying that particular store front.

The lawsuit in question didn’t involve Hubb’s injuries, or damage to the store’s contents. Rather, the suit was the result of the broken plate glass window, with a projected value of $36.

Three court


The first court hearing was a suit brought before a justice of the peace in Hannibal, with Mr. Robards charging negligence on the part of the driver for standing in the wagon, rather than sitting on the seat. Unhappy with the justice’s verdict in favor of the grocery store owners, the case was appealed by Robards to the Hannibal Court of Common Pleas. Reuben F. Roy was the judge. There, a judgment was also rendered in favor of Murphy & Lampton.

Still unhappy with the instructions Judge Roy gave to the jury, Robards appealed the case to the St. Louis Court of Appeals, where after review, the court upheld the lower court’s ruling. The final decision came five and one-half years after the accident.

Colorful character

When Arch Leonard died in 1940, the Quincy Herald Whig described him as one of Marion County’s “best known men and one of its most colorful characters.”

For years, he had worked as a detective, and his caseload was well represented by the number of inmates he sent to the penitentiary.

But he wasn’t always a police officer.

His death notice in the Herald Whig noted that in his youth, he spent two seasons as a jockey in New Orleans, and worked one season in that same capacity in Wichita, Kansas.

“Later at Colorado Springs he was a pinch hitter for the driver of a coach belonging to the family of President Chester A. Arthur. Leonard often laughed at the spectacle he made in high silk hat and spick and span coachman’s uniform.”

During his early years in Hannibal, he worked as a house painter, like his father. During part of the 20th Century, he worked for the Hannibal Fire Department, first for the South Side department, and later as a driver for station No. 1. The 1909 Hannibal city directory confirms that he was a fireman, and lived with his wife Lettie at 125 Ebert St.

Following his career with the Hannibal Police Department, he was chosen to fill an unexpired term as Marion County Sheriff, and was elected to a single term in his own right. After he failed to win the Democratic primary for a second full term, he opened his own detective agency, where he worked until his health began to deteriorate.

He died on Jan. 4, 1940, at the age of 66.

John Hubb

Mr. Hubb survived the wounds to his head. He worked at the cement plant, rising to the rank of foreman. He was married to Ruby Bowles Patrick on the last day of June 1925, in Keokuk, Iowa. It was his first marriage, and her third. They were each 49 years of age.

Cornelius Murphy

At the time of the accident, Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Murphy and their five children lived at 500 Walnut St., on Hannibal’s South Side. A year after the accident – Mrs. Murphy died in a tragic fire at their home.

James Clarence Lampton

Mr. Lampton was born in Kentucky, 1858. In 1923, he and his wife Catherine were operating a grocery store at 619 Broadway. He died on Nov. 1, 1935, and is buried at Holy Family Cemetery.

John Russell

Mr. Russell, who ordered groceries from Murphy and Lampton’s grocery store, was a switchman for the H&St. Jo Railroad. The store was located near the H&St. Jo depot. The house where he lived is now numbered 300 South Seventh.

Arch Leonard was a teamster during his early manhood, and in 1909 he worked as a Hannibal firefighter. First he was assigned to Station 3 on Hannibal’s South Side, and then he went to Station 1, where he served as driver. This undated photo illustrates the era of horse-drawn fire engines. STEVE CHOU COLLECTION

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