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Temperance candidate painfully learns alcohol abstinence unpopular with voters

This image, from the St. Louis Republic on Sept. 26, 1897 ( represents Joel C. Richmond, a recognized Marion County attorney. Richmond was in Hannibal when John Marshall Clemens served as justice of the peace.


A mass meeting was called for 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 1886, at the old courthouse in Palmyra, Mo., for the purpose of organizing a temperance party in Marion County, Mo., and nominating a full Prohibition county ticket for the November election.

The Palmyra Spectator announced the Temperance convention in its Oct. 15, 1886 edition.

“As the liquor traffic is the great source of poverty and crime of misery, degradation and taxation, and is the enemy of social happiness and prosperity, and as the suppression of this traffic has become the great moral issue of the day,” a Prohibition party was deemed necessary. “It is God’s cause and will surely triumph,” the newspaper reported.

Women, though they did not yet possess the right to vote, were invited to attend, and to listen to speakers both local and from afar.

The newspaper announcement was endorsed by a long list of county men, representing the vocations of minister, physician, businessman and attorney. Joel C. Richmond of Hannibal, an attorney by profession, was among the signees.

While true to the temperance cause during the course of his life in Hannibal, Richmond recognized that temperance wasn’t a universally popular stand for a politician.

Four years prior, Richmond had been chosen by the temperance supporters to represent the party on the ballot for city attorney.

The Quincy Daily Herald of May 4, 1882, announced the results. “The overwhelming defeat of Joel C. Richmond, the temperance candidate for city attorney, clearly demonstrated the fact that the people were not willing to repeat the experiment of prohibition, which was tried some years ago, and failed so disastrously.”

Early settler

Joel Richmond’s name appears in documents suggesting Hannibal residency as early as or prior to 1846, during the same era John Marshal Clemens served as justice of the peace.

Family tree records indicate that Ezra Richmond, Joel’s father, died in Hannibal on Nov. 9, 1846. While Joel was included in a listing of members of the St. Louis Bar Association in the Weekly Missouri Republican on April 25, 1851, he was also included in a listing of guests at the City Hotel in Hannibal on April 8, 1853.

Joel’s brother, Richard Fell Richmond, reportedly died at Hannibal on Nov. 17, 1857.

In 1859, the Hannibal city directory lists (Joel C.) Richmond and his cousin, (William P.) Carstarphen, real estate agents, with an office on the northeast corner of Main and Bird streets. Richmond was also working as an attorney, and lived on Palmyra Avenue, outside of the city.

War and family

As is true of every young man of his generation, J.C. Richmond’s life underwent a drastic change as tensions mounted leading up to the war between the states. Born in 1820 Kentucky, he enlisted as a private in Company A Missouri 6th Cavalry Regiment at the age 43. He was unmarried at the time. Later in life, he adopted the prefix of “Col.,” suggesting that was the rank he achieved during the conflict.

Back home in Hannibal, he married, and he and his wife Nellie began their family together. First born was Elvera (or Eliza) Louisa Richmond, followed by Dixie Robert Lee Richmond, born circa 1873; Richard Joel Richmond, born circa 1877; Sowlo Richmond, born circa 1879; and Minnie Richmond, born circa 1880. Their oldest daughter died at the age of 17.

Richmond, the lawyer

A humorous story was published in the St. Louis Republic on Sept. 26, 1897, some seven years after Joel C. Richmond’s death. The unsigned article described Joel Richmond and his style of practicing his profession in the early days of his legal practice in Northeast Missouri.

“One of the most noted lawyers of the old school in Missouri was Joel Richmond of Marion County. He practiced in the circuit that produced such men as Colonel James O. Broadhead, D.P. Dwyer and many others famous in the legal annals of the State. Richmond was of peculiar physical conformation. He was considerably over six feet tall, and as thin as the rails which served for fences in those days.”

The article’s description of Richmond paints a vivid and memorable picture of the noted attorney.

“Throughout the circuit where he practiced it was said that Richmond knew but one legal maneuver. That was a continuance. He was never known to be ready for trial. No matter how strong his client’s case might be, he would never go to trial until by repeated continuances he had exhausted the patience of the judge and the lawyer and witnesses for the other side. This propensity was so well known by the other lawyers who practiced in the circuit that they never expected to go to trial in any case where he was retained until at least three continuances were had.”

This, of course, proved frustrating to his fellow attorneys and the judges who conducted the rural courts.

During one noted case, a fellow attorney, Walter D. Anderson, tried to trick Richmond into believing that Anderson’s witnesses weren’t available to testify. Instead, Anderson asked his witnesses to hide in the woods outside of the makeshift courthouse. When Richmond saw that Anderson had no witnesses to testify, he seized an opportunity to outsmart his opponent. He told the judge he was prepared for the trial, and after that announcement, Anderson yelled out the door, and his witnesses swarmed into the courtroom.

“Richmond was dumbfounded. As the fact that he had been duped dawned upon him, he slowly straightened up until his tall figure extended nearly to the low ceiling. Anderson was trying to conceal a grin of triumph.

“Mr. Richmond, said the Judge.

“But I am not prepared to proceed, your Honor. Announced Richmond in his slow speech.

“Why, I understood you to say that you were ready,” said the astonished Judge.

“I did say that I was ready your Honor,” replied Richmond, drawing himself to his fullest height. “But ready for what, your Honor? Ready for a continuance, sir.”

Richmond was granted his continuance, and Anderson’s witnesses became frustrated. When the case was again set on the docket, the key witnesses didn’t show up. Subsequently, Anderson lost his case.

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

This image, from the St. Louis Republic on Sept. 26, 1897 ( represents Walter D. Anderson, who practiced law in Northeast Missouri during the same era as his colleague, Joel C. Richmond.

Joel C. Richmond, a noted Hannibal attorney during the era that Sam Clemens lived in Hannibal, is buried beneath a large shade tree in Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Photo by Donna Loy Brown

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