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Quick-thinking young Hannibal boy saved Kunkle from frightening fate

Edgar Bennett Kunkle. submitted by peg38dcg

Mary Lou Montgomery

It is well known in local history circles that J.B. Brown operated one of Hannibal’s earliest drug stores, and that he is believed to have purchased his first store with $1,000 that he brought back from his participation in the California Gold Rush.

A lesser-known fact is that J.B. Brown purchased the drug store from N.P. Kunkle, one of Hannibal’s earlier businessmen.

Mr. Kunkle, born in Pennsylvania, was already living in Marion County, Mo., in 1845, when he served as town marshal. On Jan. 29, 1847, he took for his bride Martha Collins, born in Maryland.

Two years into this marriage (March 20, 1849) was born a son, Edgar Barrett Kunkle, the subject of this story.

Curious accident

In 1891, Ed Kunkle (some 21 years after his father’s death) found himself in a precarious position, and if it hadn’t been for a quick thinking lad who was nearby, Ed may well have lost his life in the accident.

Ed, a driver for Nelson and Co., livery services, was at the helm of a horse-drawn bandwagon. Anyone who has seen pictures of bandwagons of this era knows that these carriages – intended to pull performing musicians in such events as circus parades – were very ornate and stood taller than most wagons.

The Nelson livery kept carriages in the “old tobacco factory” building on the southeast corner of Fourth and Church streets.

In order to park the vehicle in the brick carriage stable, Kunkle bent down in the driver’s seat – his back parallel to the building’s ceiling. He miscalculated the height of the entryway just a little, and instead of safe passage, his back wedged beneath the door frame.

A boy named Chas. Mahanney took quick action, releasing the horses from the wagon, and allowing the wagon to be backed out, thus freeing Kunkle from his entrapment.

Bruised and badly shaken, Ed was taken to the home of his sister, Lida Kunkle (Mrs. F.C.) Cake at 207 N. Sixth, for examination and bed rest. He survived the accident, to the astonishment of the townsfolk.

Off the bandwagon

A few years later – in July 1896 – a bandwagon associated with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West sideshow was involved in a similar accident, but one that didn’t have such a favorable outcome.

David Keene – one of Buffalo Bill’s most experienced teamsters - was driving a bandwagon pulled by six black horses along Erie Street, Massillon, Ohio, following a parade route. As the team approached the Fort Wayne Railway bridge, it became apparent that the bandwagon couldn’t clear under the bridge. Keene tried to control the horses, but they were already excited by a train crossing the bridge and couldn’t be slowed.

The newspaper accounts of the incident were gruesome: The occupants of the wagon were “scraped” from the wagon’s surface, while a sizable throng of parade goers watched in horror.

The Xenia Daily Gazette, Xenia, Ohio, reported in its July 16, 1896 edition: “Six men were injured. Their agonizing cries caused women to faint and men to shudder. The wagon was dyed with blood from their wounds.”

The men were Italian musicians living in Philadelphia. Two were expected to die, and the others were less seriously injured. The men were taken to the Hotel Massillon for treatment.

Kunkle’s trials

Ed Kunkle was well known in Hannibal during his five-decade residency here. Often associated with livery stables, his name cropped up from time to time in newspapers of the day.

In February 1875, when he was around 25 years old, he got into an altercation with John Maddox at James Murphy’s livery stable, 212 Center St. Maddox was intoxicated, according to a published report, and Kunkle was armed with a three-foot cudgel, which he applied with force to Maddox’s head. There was no mention of an arrest in the Hannibal Clipper, dated Feb. 8, 1875.

Another incident involving Kunkle took place on the night of Sept. 27, 1875. During the night, someone apparently poisioned eight or more dogs, which were found dead on the city streets at daybreak. Ed Kunkle lost his bull dog; G.A. Kettering’s white poodle was a victim; Charley Brookings’ Newfoundland dog was also dead. Injured dogs that were saved by antidote belonged to Lackner and Mayfield. Worthington’s pointer succumbed to the poison. All the dog owners had paid fees for appropriate city licenses, and felt that they had thrown their dog license money away.

Kunkle’s mother

Mrs. Martha Kunkle outlived her husband, N.P. Kunkle, by nearly 30 years. She remained in the family home – 203 Sixth Street – for many of those years. Her daughter, Lida, was just 9 when Mr. Kunkle died. Two daughters, Lida and Martha, each married in 1886.

In the late 1890s, Mrs. Kunkle moved to Quincy, where she made a home with her daughter, Mrs. S.W. Phillips, for about three years. Just prior to her death, in March 1899, Ed Kunkle was summoned to Quincy to be at his mother’s bedside. She died the following day.

Ed left Hannibal after that; in 1900 he made his home at Chillicothe, Mo., with a sister and brother in law. He died Dec. 16, 1922 in Chicago, where another sister made her home. He was buried at Mount Auburn Memorial Park, Cook County, Ill.


J.B. Brown was a brother to Dr. Marion Brown, a Civil War-era physician, who was mentioned in this column on Aug. 4, 2018.

The 1891 newspaper clipping containing the Hannibal accident story was found within Peter Stone’s Scrapbook, Steve Chou collection.

Before her marriage in 1886, Lida Kunkle was a teacher at Central School in Hannibal. At the time of the bandwagon accident, Frank Collins Cake, her husband, was auditor for the St. Louis and Hannibal Railway.

N.P. Kunkel served with the 4th Regiment, Missouri Infantry, Company K, Confederate; mustered in as a private; out as Sergeant Major.

After selling his drug store and serving in the Civil War, N.P. Kunkel returned to Hannibal and worked as a tobacconist. He later operated a livery stable on the south side of Bird Street, between Second (later renamed Main) and Third streets. He also served as city constable. He died in 1870 and is buried with his wife at Riverside Cemetery.

The Moffett and Harris’ (tobacco) factory was located on the southeast corner of Fourth and Church streets. The 1859 city directory reports: “The building is three stories high, built of brick with a stone basement, and is 111 feet long by 45 feet wide; employs about 50 hands.”

The name Kunkle can also be found as Kunkel in old documents.

A bandwagon in the 2009 Great Circus Parade, Milwaukee, Wis., Public Domain/Wikipedia

Advertisement for the Jas. A. Nelson and Co., livery stable and feed store, where Edgar Bennett Kunkle worked in 1890. Source: Hannibal City Directory, 1885, accessed via the Hannibal Free Public Library’s website.

An advertisement in the May 20, 1852 edition of the Missouri Courier, announcing J.B. Brown’s purchase of a drug store previously owned by N.P. Kunkel (Kunkle) and Co. Accessed via

This view of the 1890 Sanborn Maps of Hannibal, Mo., shows South Fourth Street. Ed Kunkle worked for the James A. Nelson and Co., livery, feed and sale business at the time of the “bandwagon” accident. A closer look at the story describing the accident hints that the accident actually occurred across the street and to the south of the Nelson business, in the building listed as skating rink on this map. “He had returned from a trip with a band wagon and attempted to drive into the old tobacco factory building on his return. Nelson and Co., keep many of their wagons and carriages in this building.” In 1859, this building was home to the Moffett and Harris’ tobacco factory.

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