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Dr. Alice W. Roberts: First an Osteopath, then a gatekeeper for an historic house

The Osterhout house that once stood at 3254 St. Mary’s Avenue in Hannibal, was sketched in 1953 by Albert Meyer. This sketch shows the original house, built in 1842. CONTRIBUTED


When Silas O. Osterhout died in 1955, his widow was identified in the newspaper obituary as “the former Dr. Alice Roberts.”

And that’s typical of the way it was when Silas Osterhout married Dr. Alice W. Roberts in 1931: A woman expectedly gave up her career in favor of her new role as homemaker. Men were the traditional breadwinners.

Dr. Alice Roberts was an Osteopathic physician and surgeon, trained at the American School of Osteopathy in Kirksville Mo. She was divorced from a fellow osteopathic physician, Dr. Fred S. Roberts, and conducted a medical practice in Hannibal during the 1920s. She married Mr. Osterhout – a widower – in 1931, when she was about 56 years old. He was a banker and former merchant, 15 years her senior.

They made their home in the historic Bradley house on St. Mary’s Avenue, which he had purchased from the Bradley heirs in 1906, following his marriage to his second wife, Margaret Bradley, who died in 1930.


Wikipedia defines Osteopathy as a type of alternative medicine that emphasizes manual readjustments, myofascial release and other physical manipulation of muscle tissue and bones.

Andrew Taylor Still, MD, DO was the founder of Osteopathy and Osteopathic medicine. He was the founder of the American School of Osteopathy (later A.T. Still University), the world’s first osteopathic medicine school, in Kirksville, Mo.

Alice’s life

(Emma) Alice Wilson and Frederick S. Roberts were married in 1904 at Champaign, Ill. She was the 21-year-old daughter of Pleasant and Emma Coon Wilson. In 1910, Frederick Roberts was the proprietor of a barbershop in Champaign. He and Alice had a daughter, Elizabeth, who was born in 1910.

Soon thereafter the Roberts family moved to Kirksville, where Fred studied under Andrew Taylor Still. After completing the three-year course, he moved his family to King City, Mo., in Northwestern Missouri, where he established his medical practice. His home and office were located on the corner opposite of the Methodist Church.

In 1921, Alice Roberts graduated from the Kirksville School of Osteopathy and Surgery, a four-year course. The 1920 census shows Alice W. Roberts living in Kirksville with her daughter and operating a boarding house, the tenants primarily being fellow medical students. They included Claude K. Snider and L. F. Archbold, who went on to practice Osteopathic medicine.

By 1922, she had established her practice at 510-11 Hannibal Trust building, located at 226 Broadway, corner of Third, and was making her home at 1019 Bird. She continued her medical practice until her marriage in 1931.

The Bradley house

Upon her marriage to Silas Osterhout, Alice assumed, along with her new husband, the role of preserver of the historic integrity of the old Bradley house on St. Mary’s Avenue.

A booklet, compiled in the late 1950s, chronicles the history of the house. It is unclear who wrote this history, but it is based upon research conducted through interviews with Mr. and Mrs. Osterhout prior to his death in 1955, and documents located in the office of the city engineer, Hannibal, the office of the Marion County recorder in Palmyra, and the office of Wells Abstract Co., in Hannibal. An article in the Hannibal Courier-Post’s “New Home” edition in 1952 was also cited.

The “modern-times” development of the Osterhout property began in 1842 when William Hubbard and his wife Margaret Prudder (Pouder) Hubbard moved to Hannibal with their children.

Hubbard acquired an 18-acre parcel of land located about a mile and a half west of the Mississippi River, on what is now known as St. Mary’s Avenue. He set up a cooperage shop and commenced farming the land. He left Hannibal in 1849 in pursuit of gold in California, returning two years later.

After the death of his first wife, he married Mrs. Emily McDonald, daughter of William Darr of Hannibal. After her death, he married Mrs. Elizabeth Hubner of Hannibal.

His children included John Hubbard, Mary Jane Hubbard, Sylvester Hubbard, Sarah Ann Hubbard, George W. Hubbard, Francis M. Hubbard and Ann E. Hubbard.

A portion of the Hubbard land - containing the house - was purchased by James E. Bradley and his wife Amborsia on Nov. 1, 1882.

William Hubbard is believed to have died in 1884.

The Bradleys established a dairy on their land, and operated it as such until Mr. Osterhout purchased the property in 1906.

A year after Silas Osterhout bought the land, he subdivided the property into lots, naming the streets McKinley, Bradley, Garfield and Flora. It would be several years before the area would be annexed into the city, and utility services provided.

On the land he kept for himself and his family, Mr. Osterhout built a pond, located in a basin to the east of his house, and to the west of Flora Avenue. Fed by a spring, the pond served as a wildlife habitat.

The foundation for the house consisted of limestone quarried nearby, and cut to a thickness of about 15 inches. The exterior consisted of hand-made white bricks. The lathes were made of white pine, as were the first floor woodwork and six fireplace mantles. The first-floor ceilings were 12 feet in height.

The last chapter

Silas Osterhout died in 1955 at the age of 86. Dr. J.M. Canella purchased the property in 1957. The historic house was demolished, and some of the materials were used in the construction of the Canella house, located on the same property, at 3254 St. Mary’s Avenue.

Alice Osterhout moved to 522 Flora, in the Osterhout addition, and she died March 7, 1968.

Mr. and Mrs. Osterhout are buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery.

Thanks to Ed Menze of New London for sharing valuable genealogy information regarding prominent Ralls County families, that contributed not only to this story, but to stories in the future.

Mary Lou Montgomery retired as editor of the Hannibal Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes weekly narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation.

This sketch represents the Osterhout Subdivision of the Hubbard Home Tract, dated April 12, 1907. It would be several years before the area was annexed into the city of Hannibal, and utility services provided. The number 9, pictured to the north of Spring Avenue, was the site of the old cooper house that once stood on the property. CONTRIBUTED

The 1875 plat map shows the location of the Hubbard property, to the west of Hannibal. At that time the city limits ended at what is now Country Club Drive. Illustration by Mary Lou Montgomery

This newspaper clipping was contained within the Hannibal Courier-Post's New Home Edition in 1952.

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