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Fall from third-story window claims young contractor’s life

This photo, taken in March 2016, shows the upper story of the DeGaris building, 407-409 Broadway. Lewis V. Ross, a Hannibal carpenter, fell to his death from a third-story window in 1893. For a number of years, William and Edward DeGaris operated a drug store on the first floor of this building. MARY LOU MONTGOMERY


Lewis V. Ross grew up on Hannibal’s Fourth Street, south side, (later renamed Sycamore) the son of a Hannibal carpenter named William Ross, and wife Caroline. Among the younger of the couple’s half-dozen or so children, his birth into Hannibal’s population came around 1853, positioning him for an eye-witness view of the travesties of the war between the states, which would occur a decade later.

His schooling was most likely sporadic, because public education didn’t really come into being in the region until after the war’s end, when northern concepts of education for all classes of people came into play.

So Lewis likely followed in his father’s footsteps, learning the carpentry trade with hammer and nails in hand, during the recovery years following the war.

In 1876, when he was in his early 20s, he took for his bride Martha (Mattie) A. Butcher in Ralls County, Mo. The 1880 census found the young family living at 304 Third Street, a block to the north of the present Courier-Post building. There were two children at the time, Arle Ross, 3, and Charles Martin Ross, 5 months.

The family had moved to 1400 Walnut St., South Side, by 1892, and Lewis Ross was worked as a tinner for L. Middleton. A son, Lewis Van Fleet Ross Jr., - named after his father – was born May 21, 1893, in Hannibal.

Less than a week after their son’s birth, tragedy struck.

Lewis Ross Sr., while taking down an iron shutter from the DeGaris drug store building at 407 Broadway, Hannibal, fell from a third-story window.

The Quincy Daily Herald of May 27, 1893, offered graphic details of the injuries.

“Blood oozed from nose and mouth and there were a half a dozen gashes on his face and wrist. He was unconscious at last reports and probably the injuries will be fatal.”

The May 30th edition of the same newspaper confirmed the worst: Mr. Ross “died at 9:45 a.m. yesterday from the effects of the injuries received.”

DeGaris building

The three-story building from which Lewis Ross Sr., fell, still stands today. Across from Central Park, the building long housed a drug store operated by the DeGaris brothers – William and Edward. The drug store was at 407 Broadway; at one time a stationery store operated by Edward’s brother-in-law, Frank W. Lane occupied the adjoining storefront at 409 Broadway. On the third floor of the building was Mozart Hall, a long-time downtown Hannibal gathering hall.

William and Edward began their careers working at the Heywood Drug Store, corner of Main and Broadway, and later went into partnership with their own store at 407 Broadway. They later dissolved their partnership. Edward continued to run the drug store at 407 Broadway, while William opened a drug business at 325 Broadway.

Edward DeGaris married Miss Emma L. Lane of Palmyra in 1886. William DeGaris married Della Russell in 1884. Their father, John, was one of Hannibal’s early pioneers, and their mother, Amanda, lived to be 90 years old, passing in 1913.

Edward DeGaris died in February 1934 at Hannibal, and his wife died Dec. 16, 1951.

William DeGaris’ first wife died in 1925. He retired in 1926, and moved to Webster Groves, where he lived with his second wife, Mary Elizabeth DeGaris. He died Feb. 12, 1938.

Lewis Ross Jr.

Lewis V. Ross Jr., whose father fell to his death from the third story of the DeGaris building, grew to manhood in Hannibal, and lived a productive life; remaining in his hometown until at sometime after 1937. His mother, Martha (Mattie) A. Butcher Ross, died May 20, 1933 in Hannibal and is buried beside her husband at Mt. Olivet Cemetery.

Lewis Ross Jr., had several occupations during his lifetime. One in particular, that of a postal worker, gained him some local fame for bravery and horsemanship.

The Quincy Daily Whig of April 3, 1920, reported that at 4:30 p.m. Ross was driving a horse-drawn parcel post wagon down Union Street on Hannibal’s south side.

“While a horse” hitched to the post office wagon, “galloped wildly down Union street at 4:30 o’clock Friday afternoon, Lewis Ross, the driver, pluckily stuck to his post and finally brought the enraged animal to a stop after the wild ride of more than 10 blocks.”

The flight began at the corner of Walnut and Russell (later renamed Buchanan) streets, the newspaper reported.

“While Ross tugged and pulled a the reins in an effort to stop the animal on his mad rush down Union street, many people on the sidewalks and street expected any moment to see the covered wagon turn over. Fortunately for Ross the animal kept to the middle of the street and made the turn on Birch street without any mishap. The driver brought the frightened horse to a standstill on Walnut Street.”

Mary Lou Montgomery retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) 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

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