The brick two-story building, pictured at left, served as a drug store/confectionery for 86 years, operated in succession by two Hannibal families. Located on the southeast corner of Jefferson and South Main streets, the building has long since been demolished. Photo, taken in 1984, is from the Steve Chou collection.
Henry Walker advertised his drug store in the 1877-78 Hannibal City Directory. Accessed via the Hannibal Free Public Library’s web site.
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
In my mind, I can still see this row of buildings on the east side of South Main Street on Hannibal’s South Side. I never knew of their contents or historic significance, but they were there, regardless, a part of Hannibal’s landscape.
My husband worked for the CB&Q Railroad beginning in 1968, and after we married the next year, we bought most of our gasoline at Norman’s filing station, to the west of this block.
While Richard or Harold Norman, or Butch or Kenny Wilson, washed the windshield or checked the oil in the Olds Cutlass purchased from my mother-in-law in 1968, a significant part of Hannibal’s history was right there in front of me.
But then, I was still a teen, and didn’t care about what might have been, or the people who used to be. I merely saw old buildings. If I had been walking along South Main Street at the time, I probably would have crossed the street to avoid this old, musty building.
Ironically, the passing of time alters perceptions. What once seemed “old,” now – a half-century later – piques my interest.
How long did this brick business building, which was located on the southeast corner of Jefferson and South Main streets on Hannibal’s South Side, serve the business needs of its neighborhood? And who were the businessmen and women, who worked on the first floor and lived – at least some of them – upstairs?
Hannibal underwent a population swell in the years following the Civil War. Henry Walker was one of those individuals who inhabited the town. Early married to Mary Stuben, he moved with his young family from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Hannibal circa 1865 in order to capitalize upon the settling of lands west of the Mississippi River. Railroads were still in their infancy. Steamboats were relied upon to bring consumer goods, news from the world, and people.
In addition to his family, Henry brought with him mechanical skills, which gave him early employment in Hannibal.
He married a second time, to Carolina Moeck on Aug. 8, 1869, and two more children were born in Hannibal.
By 1875, the 40-year-old ventured off into a new field – merchandising. He opened a drug store on Hannibal’s South Side, which was divided from Hannibal proper by Bear Creek and railroad tracks.
He opened shop in a brick two-story building on the southeast corner of Jefferson and South Main. (South Main was then known as Third Street, South Hannibal.)
With his young wife and children living upstairs, he fulfilled the drug needs of this blue-collar neighborhood for the next 23 years, until his death in 1898 at the age of 63.
Because fire was a real fear to a town such as Hannibal, which was constructed of native lumber, fire departments were a key element to a town’s sustainability.
In the second half of the 1870s, firefighting wasn’t yet a profession, but rather a civic duty.
Henry Walker stepped forward as a volunteer, putting his early mechanical training into use to become the fire department’s chief engineer in 1879.
During Henry’s tenure as a volunteer firefighter, the town of Hannibal was equipped with two horse-drawn steam engines, which were intended to replace manpower for pumping water onto the source of a fire.
But Hannibal’s engines, named “Hannibal” and “Archer,” didn’t work very well, and that created a source of anxiety to the fire-prone populace, as described in last week’s story about the Hannibal Meat Company fire in 1878.
According to a death notice for Henry Walker published in the May 10, 1898 edition of the Quincy Daily Journal, “His first act of public usefulness was, perhaps, taking charge of and putting into operation the first steam fire engine used in this city (Hannibal). He was made chief of the fire department during Judge W.B. Drescher’s administration as mayor (1879).”
Henry Walker’s oldest son, Charles, stepped forward in the operation of the family’s drug store, working as a clerk during his teens.
By 1894, the business was known as Henry Walker and Son Druggists.
After his father’s death in 1898, Charles took over management, and eventually his son, Charles Jr., joined the business.
In 1911 the shop was advertised in the city directory: “Chas. Walker & Son, Pure Drugs. Wholesale Ice Cream. 201 Third S.S. Both phones 63.”
By looking closely at the 1984 photo that accompanies this story, you can see the faded lettering: “Pure Drugs” on the side of the building.
The drug store remained in operation until Charles Sr.’s, death in 1925.
During his lifetime, Charles Sr., was able to do something that his father couldn’t: He moved from the second story of the South Main Street building to 806 Center Street.
Following Charles Sr.’s death in 1925, August Kramer and Floyd W. LaDue purchased the business, operating Pure Drugs and Sundries at 600 S. Main. They advertised in the city directory of that year: “Prescriptions Carefully Compounded.”
LaDue previously clerked for Frank Owens, who operated a drug store at 509 Union.
Kramer, who worked for the Cement plant, had family members experienced in the confectionery business.
August Kramer’s wife, Augusta Hagenbaumer, died in September 1924, at the age of 47. Nine children survived her.
A year later, on Aug. 11, 1926, August Kramer died at the age of 48. He had been a foreman of the brick layers at the Atlas Cement Company for 20 years. He was struck on the head by a steel beam, which crushed his skull and resulted in his death.
One of his children, Orville, and his wife Maude would take over operation of the pharmacy and confectionery shop.
Floyd LaDue went on to work as a registered pharmacist at other stores in town, including Crown Drug and Ed DeGaris’ Drug Store. He died in 1958.
Orville A. Kramer died on Oct. 16, 1945, at the age of 32. His only child, Cordie Kramer, was about 15 months old at the time.
Orville’s widow, who was the daughter of Cordie H. and Myrtle Beckman Parsons, continued operation of the store as South Side Confectionery until her death. She died in 1961, at the age of 48.
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 www.maryloumontgomery.com