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Thankfully, injuries from thrust rock weren’t fatal

William D. Milton took for his bride Anna T. Shafer on Aug. 13, 1876. A hand-written inscription on the back of this photo reads: Mr. William Milton, Hannibal, Mo. To Annie Shafer. His birth and death dates were added later: Wm. Milton, Born Sept. 22, 1850; died March 14, 1930. This photo was taken by Streeter photography in Hannibal during the mid 1870s.STEVE CHOU COLLECTION


When 36-year-old William D. Milton was hit in the forehead with rock thrown at him during an altercation, the prognosis was that he was sure to die from the injury.

But he didn’t. He went on to work a long and productive life as an engineer and manager for the Standard Oil Company facility in Oakwood, and raised his family in that same comfortable middle-class neighborhood.

The rock-throwing incident took place in June 1887, on Broadway, just a few blocks from the Magnolia Mills at Fourth and Lyon, where he was working at the time.

His injury consisted of a “great hole cut in his forehead,” above his left eye, according to the Quincy Daily Whig of June 21, 1887, and his skull was fractured. Arrested in conjunction with the alleged assault were Dick Rubison and Thomas Bridwell, with charges pending upon the outcome of Milton’s recovery. (No prosecution outcome was found in subsequent editions of the newspaper.)

Early days

William Milton came to Hannibal as toddler in 1854, with his parents, James Taliaferro Theodore and Mary Elizabeth Carter Milton.

The elder Milton, a native of Virginia, was a cabinetmaker by trade, which included burial caskets. For most of his life, James Milton worked for Hannibal furniture makers, and also served as a contributor to Hannibal’s early development.

At the end of the Civil War, in 1866, his employer was Whiting Bros. and Co., dealers in furniture and undertakers, south side of Broadway, between Third and Fourth. Business owners were H.C. Whiting and Charles Whiting. Others working for that company were A.L. Proescher, cabinet maker; H.T. Phoenix, engineer; J.H. Morrison, undertaker; J.L. Hyde, cabinet maker; A. Jackson, cabinet maker; Gotleib Fambost, turner; James Fisk, painter; and J.M. Fitzpatrick, engineer.

Commanding voice

James Taliaferro Theodore Milton must have had a powerful voice. That is, if mentions in the local newspapers of this cabinet-maker-by-trade are any indication.

In 1871, Mr. Milton tried a new vocation: Auctioneering.

Owing to the fact that there were no electronic devices with which to amplify his voice, he must have been able to naturally project his words to the understanding of those around him.

Another hint of the ability of his voice to project came four years after his stint as an auctioneer – in September 1875.

The pork house of W.J. Stillwell, located near the ferry landing at the foot of North Street, caught fire. The town was alerted to the fire by the ringing of the old rusty bell in the town square, and, according to the Hannibal Clipper newspaper, “the ominous voice of James Milton summoning the citizens to the rescue.”

Living at the time on the west side of North Third Street, between Bird and Hill, Milton lived close enough to the fire to see the flames, and promptly alerted the town to imminent danger.

A reporter from the Hannibal Clipper offered an eyewitness visual of that fire: “Following the crowd we soon arrived at the scene of trouble and found the pork house of W.J. Stillwell, near the ferry landing, wrapped in flames, beyond redemption of fire engines or any other mortal power. The building was a four story brick and was erected and used for a slaughter house, but at the time of the fire contained nothing of value save the building and fixtures, engine, &c.”

(Note: This would be the same pork packing building referred to in the Russell Moss story of Nov. 10, 2018.)

One of seven children

James’s son, William D. Milton, was the oldest in a family of six children, and the only son. His sisters were Rose, Mary, Minnie, Annie, Augusta and Bettie. In 1875, the Hannibal Clipper newspaper reported that Rose Milton earned a 94 percent scholarship average at Hannibal’s high school. All of the sisters left Hannibal; Augusta and Annie are buried side by side in the Bellevue section, in the historic Graceland Cemetery, Chicago.

By the time of the Stillwell fire in 1875, the town’s post-Civil War population had grown to around 10,000 residents. Main Street businesses were of a unique mixture representing varied cultures and ethnic values.

The 1877 city directory lists William D. Milton as a laborer, who was living over 620 Broadway. Two years later (after his father’s death), William was working as an engineer for Empire Mills, located at 105 Broadway.

His mother, Mrs. J.T.T. Milton, operated a boarding house for a time at 208 N. Sixth, before moving to Chicago.

In 1888, William D. Milton was working as an engineer for Consolidated Tank Line Co., and two years later, he had begun his career with the Standard Oil Company in Hannibal, from which he eventually retired as manager.

The family lived at 3305 St. Charles St.

(The Magnolia Mills were located at the corner of Fourth and Lyon in 1885.)

W.D. Milton and Annie T. Milton had three children, Stella E. Milton and James Wicks Milton, and a son Charles William Milton, who died in infancy.

Historic photographer

Within Steve Chou’s vast collection of historic photos related to the Hannibal area, is a portrait of W.D. Milton, taken by Streeter in the mid 1870s.

Prior to the start of the Civil War, Joseph E. Streeter worked as a machinist for the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad. After the war, he partnered with Quealey and Treat to form Quealey, Treat and Streeter foundry.

During the 1870s, Streeter switched professions, opening a photography studio on the third floor over 105 N. Main St., which was located on the west side of the street.

He would maintain this type of work for the rest of his life.

His wife died in 1879, and in 1880, at the age of 52, he was living in Boulder, Colo., with his daughter and son-in-law, Isaac and Emma Milton Berlin. Joseph died on Christmas Day, 1884, and is buried alongside his wife in Columbia Cemetery, Boulder.


An early image from Steve Chou’s photo collection bears the signature of Crosby. The photo is believed to have been taken just after the end of the Civil War, circa 1866. A close look at the photograph reveals hints as to its age. Taken from the southeast corner of Main and Broadway, facing northwest, the shops along the west side of Main Street are decorated with signs. With significant magnification, some are readable. First and foremost, the Oak Hall Clothing Store of Settles and Helm is on the northwest corner of the intersection. Roughly next door to the Settles store, to the north, is barely visible a rectangular sign promoting the Millinery store of Mr. and Mrs. H.W. Crosby. This shop was located in this block of North Main for a number of years, and later was numbered 105. Up above the millinery store was the photography studio of Joseph E. Streeter from circa 1871 to 1877, according to Hannibal city directories. This is where Joseph Streeter would have taken William D. Milton’s photo in mid 1875. STEVE CHOU COLLECTION

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