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Earliest Missouri settlers had deep Kentucky roots Judge Alfred Warner

The flat stone in the foreground honors Alfred Warner and his wife, Harriet. The pointed stone, behind the flat stone, is engraved with information on two Warner daughters, Martha, who died in 1857, and Ella, who died in 1849 at the age of 1. Alfred B. Warner was the only child of Alfred and Harriet who lived to adulthood. He died in 1917. He never married. His death notice indicates that he was buried at St. Jude’s cemetery in Monroe City as well. MARY LOU MONTGOMERY


Alfred Warner was among the many industrious Americans of the mid 19th Century whose relocation from Kentucky to Missouri shaped today’s landscape and population.

A Kentucky manufacturer living in Lexington, Fayette County, Ky., in 1840, Alfred Warner owned 33 slaves, who ranged in age from under 10 to 54. The “Directory of the City of Lexington and County of Fayette for 1838 and 1839” lists his address as being on the right side of South Upper, between High Street and Maxwell.

In 1848 – when he was 50 years old - he sold his business interests and relocated his new wife and about a dozen slaves – including young Mary (Cook) - from Lexington, Ky., to Marion County, Mo. Typical of others during the era, they traveled overland from Lexington to Frankfort, Ky., and at Frankfort they got on a steamboat, which took them west to the Mississippi River, then upriver to Northeast Missouri.

Mr. and Mrs. Warner and the slaves settled at West Ely, where Mr. Warner purchased a 600-acre farm. Young Mary worked as a house slave to the family.

Around 1856 or 1857, Mr. Warner purchased a second 600-acre farm at Indian Creek in Monroe County. The 1860 slave schedule lists the Warners as owning nine slaves ranging in age from 8 to 50, residing in two slave houses at Indian Creek.

The man himself

Mr. Warner stood six feet tall, at a time in history when the average man was 5-foot-7. By all accounts he wasn’t one to seek the spotlight, preferring the companionship of his own family to social gatherings. A biography, written after his death in 1867, noted that he wasn’t as well known as others in his social standing, because he shied away from the spotlight. He was well respected for setting a high standard for cattle breeding.

Mr. Warner’s children

The 1850 census includes 1-year-old Martha in the Warner family. She is believed to have died at the age of 8, on March 14, 1857. On the same tombstone is the name of Ella Warner, born in 1848 and who died in 1849. They are buried at St. Jude’s Cemetery, Monroe City.

Son Alfred B. Warner was born in 1852. He conducted the family’s farming operations following his father’s death in 1867, until his own death in 1917. He never married. Alfred Berkley Warner attended Racine College, a prestigious college operated by the Episcopal Church, led by Dr. DeKoven. He was a life-long member of St. Jude’s Church in Monroe City. At the time of his death, the Palmyra newspaper reported that his only living relation was a cousin in Ohio.

Other family

In court documents from 1894, Mary Cook testified under oath that the elder Alfred Warner was her biological father. Mary said that she never met her own mother, and that once able, she was rented out as a house girl to the David Sayer family in Lexington, Ky., in order to reduce the opportunity for community gossip. “Like all the others, (Mr. Warner) run me off to keep down scandal in the family.”

She reunited with the Warner family when they moved to Missouri, and remained a house slave for the Warners until Missouri slaves were freed.

She later operated a butcher shop in Monroe City, and a restaurant, before moving to Hannibal circa 1869.

In the 1890s, she operated a restaurant for a time on Front Street in Hannibal.

She had at least two children: A son named Lincoln, and a daughter.

Her husband is believed to have been Horace Cook. Both Mary and Horace were slaves owned by Alfred Warner, and both were classified as mulattos in the 1880 census. They lived at that time in Monroe County.

Other children of Mary Cook and her husband, Horace Cook, listed in the 1880 census were: Horace Cook Jr., born in 1863; Celia Cook, born circa 1859; John Cook, born circa 1865; Samuel Cook, born circa 1868; William Cook, born circa 1870; Emily Cook, born circa 1873; and Frank Cook, born circa 1877.

In the 1900 census, Horace Cook Sr., was listed as a widower living at 1313 Baker Street in Hannibal. Also living at that residence were Celia Cook, Emma Cook, a school teacher, and Horace Cook Jr.

Note: One hundred years ago the average American man was 5 feet 7 inches tall according to CivilWarTalk, a forum for questions and discussions about the American Civil War.

Thanks to Loretta Redmon for her help in locating the Warner family graves at St. Jude’s Cemetery in Monroe City, Mo.

Note: Jim's Journey, The Huck Finn Freedom Center, offers resources to those who are interested in building cross-cultural understanding by documenting, preserving and presenting the history of the 19th and 20th-century African American community in Hannibal and northeast Missouri. G. Faye Dant is a fifth-generation African American Hannibalian and descendant of Missouri slave, James Walker.

Mary Lou Montgomery retired as editor of the Hannibal Courier-Post in 2014. In retirement, she researches and writes narratives of the people who contributed to this region’s development. Her collective work can be found on her website,

This photo represents the northeast quarter of Section 18, Township 56N, Monroe County, Mo., in 1875. Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Warner moved to this property circa 1857, and after her husband died in 1867, Mrs. Warner continued to live here until her death in 1892. Note the location of Monroe City to the west, and to the Hannibal and St. Joe Railroad tracks, as well as the Missouri Kansas and Texas Railroad tracks. ILLUSTRATION BY MARY LOU MONTGOMERY

Tombstone of Ella and Martha Warner, St. Jude’s cemetery, Monroe City. MARY LOU MONTGOMERY

Tombstone of Alfred Warner Sr. MARY LOU MONTGOMERY

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