Ira Westfall and his colleagues kept Hannibalians on the move
One element in Steve Chou’s vast historic photo collection is this early photo of one of Hannibal’s electric street cars, a conductor and a motorman. Ira Westfall, presumably on the right, is identified as the motorman. Speculation offers the notion that this photo might be looking north on St. Mary’s Avenue, near the intersection with Hill or Hubbard. The house at the far right resembles a house that is on that corner. Also, the tracks appear to end just before the intersection, as they did circa 1913. Note the street car has a sign denoting its destination: Union Depot. There are people seated on the street car, and a man looking from the back end.
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
In his position as motorman for the Hannibal Street Railway in 1903, Ira Westfall had connections throughout the Northeast Missouri community.
From the commuter railway’s route commencing at the north end of Mt. Olivet Cemetery located on Fulton Avenue, all the way across town to Smith Park, near St. Mary’s Avenue, and west past Minnow Creek to connect Oakwood, Westfall undoubtedly knew – and was known by – the commuting residents of Hannibal.
Picnics were popular at the two far-reaching terminuses of the Street Railway tracks, and whole families gathered at the cemetery or the park for outings. Westfall and his colleagues helped make those gatherings possible, in addition to getting rail workers and shoe plant employees to their jobs each day.
It was men such as Ira Westfall – whose own father had been killed at the Civil War Battle of Vicksburg in 1864 – who facilitated Hannibal’s primary in-town transportation mode from the time the first horse-drawn street car was operated in 1878, until the phasing out of electric street car service circa 1920.
A young man
Ira Westfall was born on Feb. 15, 1859, the son of Louisa and Thomas D. Westfall. He grew up across the river from Hannibal in Brown County, Ill.
Ira married Sarah Ann Baker in 1877 and they had at least two children. In 1880 he was still married, but living on Market Street in Hannibal, working as a laborer and boarding with his aunt, Orpha Ann Reed Ellis. Mrs. Ellis left Hannibal soon thereafter, marrying James M. Grady and returning to the family’s familiar neighborhood in Elkhorn, Ill.
In 1895, Ira was working as a farm hand for Ed Tilbe in the Sni district across the river from Hannibal. Westfall was the first person on the scene following a shooting, and served as a witness. The death was ultimately ruled to be in self defense: Henry Scott was shot and killed by Ed Tilbe.
Westfall’s first marriage didn’t last, and twice more he would wed. The third marriage – to Amanda Lutz - got off to a rocky start, but ultimately prevailed.
Just two months after the marriage in 1903, the Quincy Daily Journal reported that Mr. Westfall drew his money from the street car company, “went home that evening and bundled up his clothes and without bidding his bride of six weeks adieu, left for parts unknown.” To add insult to injury, he left her no means of support – not even a dollar.
She called upon the mercy of the prosecuting attorney, Nelson, who issued a warrant for her husband’s arrest.
On March 16, 1903, Constable (George W.) Munson arrested Westfall, on the charge of wife abandonment. Westfall entered a plea of not guilty, and his trial was set for the following morning. His bond was fixed at $50, which was furnished with John Mainland, manager of the street car line, as surety.
“Turning to go out of the door Westfall met his wife, face to face, and walking up to her he threw his arms around her and asked her why she had him arrested. Mrs. Westfall said nothing.”
But the following day, she did speak out. She asked the prosecuting attorney to drop the charges, which sparked a sharp reaction from the man assigned to bring charges against the county’s wrongdoers.
The March 18, 1903 edition of the Quincy Daily Journal quoted the prosecutor’s frustration.
The newspaper reported that Mrs. Ira Westfall did not wish to prosecute her husband for abandonment, and asked to have the case dismissed, but “Prosecuting Attorney (Eugene) Nelson informed her that he would not dismiss the case. He said that he was becoming disgusted with women coming to him and making affidavits against their husbands, putting the officers to expense and trouble, and then when the cases come up for trial, want them dismissed.
“I told you when you made the affidavit that you were not to make any compromise with your husband, and I have your written agreement to that effect. But now you come here and want us to dismiss the case – I will not do it. We will continue the case until Thursday morning at 9 o’clock and I expect you to be present.”
Ira and Amanda Westfall mended their damaged fences and lived together as man and wife at 2211 Market St., until Westfall’s death in June 1916 at the age of 57. He was buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery.
The following Hannibal Street Railway employees were collected from the 1912 Hannibal city director, accessed via the Hannibal Free Public Library.
J.E. Brown, motorman
Samuel O. Basnett, conductor
Frank E. Bates, conductor
Jas H. Boleach, conductor
J.E. Brown, motorman
Carrol H. Bunch, conductor
Harrold Bunch, conductor
Roy Bunch, conductor
John F. Bush
Marcus Cashman, conductor
Roy L. Cashman, conductor
John Champman, conductor
John F. Clement, superintendent
James H. Dunbar, watchman
John S. Fisher, conductor
John C. Gingry, motorman
Harry Gorton, conductor
Henry J. Graber, motorman
Henry M. Griffith
Edward M. Jacobsmeyer, motorman
J. Elmer Jacobsmeyer, motorman
John C. Lowry, conductor
John S. Mainland, manager
A.M. Pendleton, operator
Albert J. Pennewell, conductor
A.W. Powell, motorman
Fred T. See
Uriah T. Seniff, motorman
Stanley Smoot, laborer
Frank Summerfield, barn man
Peter Swartz, electric foreman
Curtis W. Waddell, motorman
Ira Westfall, motorman
George E. White, conductor
E.C. Whitworth, laborer
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