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Young shoe factory worker suffered traumatic injury

This is Dr. J.N. Baskett's ledger entries for his treatment of Alice Michaels in May and June 1908. Michael's hair was caught in machinery at the Bluff City Shoe factory in Hannibal. Dr. Baskett was her physician, and performed skin grafts on his 17-year-old patient. Notice the $10 charge for skin grafting. The ledger is the property of Bob and Hong Kilmer of Hannibal. Bob is a descendant of Dr. Baskett. Photo, Mary Lou Montgomery


Two Hannibal residents, each traumatically injured in work-related accidents during their young adulthood, fell in love and married, following a courtship which consisted of months-long hospital bedside visits.

In 1908, Alice J. Michaels was 17 and a shoe factory employee when a dangling curl caught in the mechanism of a machine she was operating. Subsequently her scalp was literally pulled from her head, from the brow in front to nearly her neck in the back.

Henry Estis Settle was a brakeman for the Burlington Railroad early in 1909, and was very attentive to Alice during her hospital recovery. But his fate was in peril as well; he was injured in a rail accident, which left him reliant upon a cork leg for walking.

Despite their individual infirmities, they pledged their vows to each other on the last day of June 1909. They made their home at 210 Union Ave., west side, near his parents, George T. and Leona Settle.

All went well for a while, and Henry Settle supported his new bride by operating a tavern on North Main Street. But the marriage wasn’t to last. By 1920, they were divorced, and Alice, at the age of 28, was living in Hannibal with her sister, Gladys Bird, along with Gladys’ two sons, Kenneth and Melvin; a sister, Mabel Webster and her daughter, Goldie; and Annie Michael, mother of Alice, Gladys and Mabel. Alice was once again working at the shoe factory.

Alice Michaels

Immediately after her accident, Alice was taken to Levering Hospital in Hannibal, and was treated by Dr. J.N. Baskett. In July 1908, the Quincy Daily Journal – quoting the Hannibal Post - carried a story, which described her treatment.

Her scalp was replaced, but some of the tissue died before it could be reapplied, and subsequently would not attach itself to the head.

“Dr. J.N. Baskett has had charge of the case and in the past few weeks has grafted on the wound over a hundred pieces of healthy tissue from the bodies of friends and relatives of the patient,” the newspaper reported.

“Friends and relatives have made the sacrifice of skin. The patches are about the size of the end of a lead pencil and are taken in most cases from the integument covering the arm. After the pieces have been scalped from the body they are freshly applied to the lesion, in places about once inch apart. The living tissue thus applied is supposed to propagate over the wound and make a complete covering. Most of the applications so far have been successful, some have not thrived but the greater portion of them have taken. As high as sixteen patches have been applied in one day. At one time four boys gave each four pieces of tissue apiece to the healing of the healing on the injury on the unfortunate girl’s head.”

Settle family

Henry Estis Settle, born in 1886, was one of George T. and Leora Settles’ 12 children, a family which included two sets of twin girls.

The family moved from Shelby County to Marion County in the later part of the 19th Century. In 1898, 12-year-old Estis Settle was a student at the Hendren Stone School in the Mount Zion area of Marion County.

George T. Settle was a lumberman, and around the turn of the 20th century, he operated a mill at the foot of Broadway in Hannibal. Two years later, he recruited Joseph H. Miller of near Burksville, Mo., to move to Hannibal and serve as head sawman for the Settle Bros. mill in Hannibal.

In June 1903, as the river was rising, Mr. Settle sent a crew of men to Bay Island to raft and tie up a large number of saw logs before the overflowing river washed them away.

Just five years later, Mr. Settle was dead at the age of 56. The Quincy Daily Herald reported: “He had been suffering with rheumatism for many years and some two weeks ago a little sore broke out on one of his feet which developed in blood poison which resulted in his death.”

The next year, his son Henry Estis Settle, then 23 years of age, married Miss Alice J. Michaels, age 19.

After the elder Mr. Settles’ death, the family started to scatter. There were marriages among the now adult children, and grandchildren arrived even before the youngest Settle children were grown and on their own.

Research conducted using newspaper notices, death certificates, period newspapers and resources provides the following information on the children of George T. and Leora Settle.

Willie Settle 1874-1874

Wordon Settle, San Diego (1876-1963)

Marietta E. Settle Crystal (1879-1944)

* Anna Laura Settle Jones, of Emden, Mo., (1881-1947)

* Mrs. Fannie Settle West of Schell City, Mo. (1881-1962)

Adam Porter Settle, Quincy, Ill. (1884-1954)

Henry Estis Settle (1886-1931)

* Ada C. Settle (Minor) (Mrs. Joe) Pleasant of Hannibal (1889-1976)

* Addie Settle 1889-1889

Georgia L. Settles (Mrs. Clyde) Vandament of Clayton, Ill. (1891-1981)

Richard Giles Settle, St. Louis (1894-1968)

Estis Settle

Henry Estis Settle moved around considerably after his divorce from Alice. Most notably, in 1918 he was working as a showman for the Great United Shows and Billboard Publishing Co., Cincinnati, Ohio. He was tall and slender, had brown hair and brown eyes. At the time he registered with the military prior to World War I, he was living in Maury, Tenn. His papers indicated that he had a cork leg.

The 1930 census recorded Henry Estis as an inmate at the Springfield City Prison, Springfield, Ill.

Just a year later he died at the age of 45. Married to Catherine Sobell Settle and living at 640 Jersey in Quincy, Ill., he was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Quincy.

Alice’s fate

Alice Settle married Ivan Wilson, but that marriage failed as well as her first. Fate just wasn’t on her side. She developed carcinoma of the brain, her death certificate noting that the disease began in an old scalp wound. She died Aug. 30, 1935, at the age of 44. At the time of her death she was living at 412 S. Section. Also living there in 1930 were her parents, James Michaels, 72, and Fannie Michaels, 68; Alice Wilson, 39; Frances Jackson 33; Durward Jackson 12; and James Michaels, 25, who operated a pool hall.

Alice was survived by both of her parents, and was buried at Grand View Cemetery.

Note: Union Avenue was later renamed Lally Street, and today is known as Vermont Street, one block to the east of Lindell Avenue.

Pictured are workers in the fitting department of the Bluff City Shoe Co., circa 1917. The building was located at the corner of Maple and Collier. The photo was originally contributed by Mrs. John Logan of Louisiana and is now a part of the Hannibal Arts Council's Hannibal As History collection. The photo is representative of the environment where Alice J. Michaels worked throughout her life.

Many of the houses that lined Vermont Street in the early years of the 20th Century have been removed due to repeated flooding of Bear Creek. This concrete coping, flanked by parallel trees, represents the bustling blue-collar neighborhood where Henry Estis Settle lived with his family during the first decade of the century. When the Settle family lived here, the street was called Union Avenue. It was later renamed Lally, and eventually Vermont. The street is located one block east of Lindell Avenue. MARY LOU MONTGOMERY

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