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Home renovator finds a shoe hidden in wall of century old Hannibal house

Crystal Stephens recently found this shoe hidden in the wall of a house she is renovating at 2713 Chestnut St., Hannibal. The possibility is that the shoe was originally placed in the wall in order to ward off evil spirits. CRYSTAL STEPHENS PHOTO


In 1910, Samuel Otis Basnett and his wife of nine years, Lyda Booker Basnett, moved with their two young sons and infant daughter into new house located on the south side of Chestnut, west of Hawkins street, now known as 2713 Chestnut.

In April 1910, Samuel Basnett, a railroad laborer, and his wife had the means to purchase property in this neighborhood – with a mortgage. The seller was Willis S. Morgan, a contractor and painter.

The location was seemingly ideal for Basnett and his family, owing in part to the fact that this portion of town was just opening up for development. The street car line passed within a block of the house, offering easy transportation to and from work. Smith Park on North Levering and Racliffe was popular for outings in the 19-teens, and attracted visitors from throughout town via the street car line. By 1916 there was neighborhood grocery store operated by Ila T. Lake at the southwest corner of Hill and St. Mary’s Avenue.

The Basnett sons, Emmett and Clarence, were 6 and 3 around the time they moved into the home, and daughter Jennie was an infant. More children would join the family during the next few years, making cramped quarters for the family, which was typical in this blue-collar neighborhood.

Hidden treasures

Crystal Stephens, who today is co-owner of the house at 2713 Chestnut St., recently posted photos on Facebook of three items she has found inside the walls of this house during renovation: A pair of children’s shoes, a chalk slate and a picture of a young person standing at the front door. While the items could have been placed by any number of people who have lived in this house during the past 11 decades, it is believed that the Basnett family was the first to occupy this house as their home, and the items could be their forgotten relics from long ago.

An era of horses

While automobiles were beginning to attract transportation attention during the first and second decades of the 20th century, horse-drawn vehicles were still the norm.

So it wasn’t at all unusual for the boys’ grandfather, Thomas Booker, to stop by this little house at the far end of Chestnut street, driving his horse-drawn wagon.

On one particular June day in 1916, that exact scenario played out. Mr. Booker picked up the boys for a summer-break visit to his farm, which was south of Antioch Church in Ralls County, Mo.

The route followed Main Street in downtown Hannibal, over Bear Creek and south toward the railroad workshops, then west on Fulton Avenue past Mt. Olivet Cemetery, following Antioch Road to the church and beyond to the farm.


A newspaper article in the June 24, 1916 edition of the Quincy Daily Journal described the outing, and its sad conclusion.

Twelve-year-old “Emmett, in company with his brother, was on his way out to the farm of his grandfather to spend a vacation. They were enjoying every bit of the journey without a thought of danger.”

As the horse and wagon proceeded along the road, the grandfather and his grandsons came upon a neighbor who had stopped his team in the road to visit with a friend. The Booker horses led the wagon around the stopped vehicle and they proceeded along the route.

But something unexpected happened which startled the neighbor’s stopped horses, and they began to run.

The neighbor “attempted to stop the horses and was dragged about 50 feet.”

Mr. Booker heard the noise behind him, but before he could lead his team out of the path of the running horses, they “came dashing down the road and frightened the animals (and) crashed into the wagon. A hoof of one of the horses struck Emmett on the right side of the head.”

Mr. Booker, young Clarence and the neighbor were badly bruised, but survived the ordeal. Emmett wasn’t as lucky. His skull was crushed.

As the family mourned, the lad was laid to rest at Providence Cemetery.

Ralls County land

The Ralls County Missouri Farmers directory, by K. Wilham Genealogical Research and Publishing, notes that Thomas E. and Minerva Green Booker owned 60 acres of land in 1913, located in Township 56 N Range 4W, Section 22.

The 1930 Ralls County atlas shows a 40-acre plat of land owned by L. Basnett. The parcel of land is located in Sections 21, 11, 28 and 28.

Hidden shoe

Wikipedia offers an interesting reasoning for hiding a shoe within a building’s walls.

“Concealed shoes hidden in the fabric of a building have been discovered in many European countries, as well as in other parts of the world, since at least the early modern period. Independent researcher Brian Hoggard has observed that the locations in which these shoes are typically found – in chimneys, under floors, above ceilings, around doors and windows, in the roof – suggest that some may have been concealed as magical charms to protect the occupants of the building against evil influences such as demons, ghosts and witches. Others may have been intended to bestow fertility on a female member of the household, or been an offering to a household deity.”

Moving on

The Basnett family lived in the house at 2713 Chestnut for close to a decade.

In 1912, Samuel Basnett worked as a conductor for the street railway.

In 1914 and 1916, Basnett was a bartender for his brother’s tavern, located at 524 S. Main on Hannibal’s South Side.

In 1918, Basnett worked at the cement plant, and the family still resided at 2713 Chestnut.

By 1920, the family had moved to 2219 Spruce, and living at 2713 Chestnut was John F. Harris, a gardener.

When Samuel Basnett died in 1945, the family was living at 2109 Gordon, and he was working at the Bluff City shoe factory.

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

Crystal Stephens found this photo within the walls of the house she is renovating at 2713 Chestnut Street, Hannibal, Mo. The identity of the person in the photo is unknown. The house dates to 1910.

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