Cecelia Schoknecht was pictured in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on March 28, 1896. The Hannibal native was recognized for her expertise in her chosen field: as a stenographer and typewriter.
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
Cecelia Schoknecht, at the age of 21, was known as one of the “most expert stenographers and typewriters” in the city of St. Louis. In recognition of this distinction, she was featured in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on March 28, 1896.
She was working at the time in a railway office on Broadway in St. Louis.
“She is quite a brilliant musician. She is of the brunette type, with soft brown eyes, clear olive complexion and a wealth of rich brown hair,” the newspaper noted.
The Post Dispatch also reported that Cecelia grew up in Hannibal, where prior to moving to St. Louis, she worked for a time as official stenographer for the United States District and Circuit courts at Hannibal.
Cecelia was one of seven children of Joseph and Catherine Schoknecht. Joseph was a Hannibal businessman, operating various saloons and grocery establishments in Hannibal. For a time, the Schoknect family lived at 401 Broadway, with Joseph’s saloon on the first floor. Later they moved and he operated a saloon at 801 Broadway.
Cecelia’s oldest brother, Henry, left Hannibal and moved to St. Louis circa 1887. He married Nellie Pine of Marion County, and became an architect and builder in the city.
Cecelia, with her eighth-grade education completed by 1889, started training in the field of stenography and typewriting.
By 1895, Cecelia was living in St. Louis, working as a stenographer for the Burlington Route, and living at 2731 Olive.
Pre-1900, she worked as a stenographer for Superintendent W.E. Gray of the Alton Railroad.
Later, she accepted a job working as a private secretary for St. Louis attorney Victor Miller. When he was elected mayor of St. Louis in 1924, she followed him to city hall, where she would work for the next 28 years for St. Louis mayors until her retirement in 1953 at the age of 77.
In addition to Victor Miller, she worked for Bernard F. Dickmann, William Dee Becker, Aloys P. Kaufmann, Joseph M. Darst and Raymond R. Tucker.
When she died on the last day of August 1954, she had two surviving sisters, Augusta M. Adams, and Anna S. McCollum. McCollum and Cecelia lived together at the Fairgrounds Hotel in St. Louis.
A St. Louis Post Dispatch reporter caught up with Cecelia in August 1953, not long after her retirement.
She professed to the reporter how much she was enjoying her retirement.
“I went to the Opera last night and didn’t get up until 9 o’clock,” she said with a laugh. “I am really enjoying life but my years in the City Hall were a wonderful experience too and I enjoyed every bit of it.”
As to who was her favorite mayor, Miss Schoknecht said that all of them were exceedingly kind to her and tried to serve the public to the best of their ability. “But I’ll have to confess there is a very warm spot in my heart for Mayor Dickmann,” she said.
She died next year, at the age of 78.
Joseph Schoknecht was just one of many United States immigrants who contributed to the foundation of Hannibal which still stands today.
Born in Mecklenburg, Northern Germany, in 1835, he came to the United States in time to serve with Company B, Second Missouri Infantry during the Civil War. He married Catharine Dehmer at St. Louis in 1866, and soon thereafter settled in Kansas City, where he and his wife conducted a boarding house, and he operated a saloon on the west side of Main between Seventh and Eighth streets (in Kansas City).
They moved west in the 1870s, settling at West Ely, Mo., mid decade where their daughter, Cecelia was born in 1875. By 1882 they were well entrenched in Hannibal’s business climate. Their son Fred was born in Hannibal in 1882, the same year that Joseph was a saloon keeper at 401 Broadway. The family made their home at the same location.
In all, Joseph and Catherine had seven children. Joseph supported the family by operating grocery stores and taverns at various times in Hannibal.
In 1888, Joseph had moved his saloon to 801 Broadway, and the family was living on St. Mary’s Avenue, at the “NE corner of Broadway,” according to the city directory.
In 1892, Joseph was operating a drug store and saloon at 159 Market Street, on the south side of what was known as the first block of the wedge.
Cecelia Schoknecht was pictured in the St. Louis Star and Times Oct. 9, 1941.
Cecelia Schoknecht was pictured in the St. Louis Post Dispatch shortly after her retirement in 1953.
In 1888, Cecelia’s family was living at 801 Broadway in Hannibal, where her father operated a saloon on the first floor. Charles Doty photo; Steve Chou collection.
Mary Lou Montgomery retired as editor of the Hannibal Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com