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Principal suspends boys for school-day pranks

A brand-new Hannibal High School building was first populated in 1905. The building, located at Eleventh and Broadway in Hannibal, consisted of four stories, including an indoor gymnasium on the top floor. The graduates in 1906 included: Misses Sadie Conlon, Pearl Cramer, Alleen Degarris, Leonie Dukes, Margaret Drescher, Katherine Eichenberger, Mary Logan, Edna Lavoo, Sarah Marshall, Frances Parks, Mabel Reynolds, Minnie Stein, Effie Seibel, Emma Delltheis, Bessie Tilbe, Carlotta Lovedow, Birdie Wilson, and Messrs. Byron Kauh, Charles Linstron, Sinclair Mainland, Harry Millard, Joe Nelson, Donald Nelson, Francis Riordan and Jay J. Smith. Principal was Miss Gertrude Ashmore. (Steve Chou Collection)


Veteran Hannibal High School principal, Miss Gertrude Ashmore, confronted a group of boys in the spring of 1907, ultimately coaxing admissions from them that they had participated in a series of pranks at the school, which in turn disrupted education, and created a panic among students, parents and the community at large.

As a consequence, seven boys were temporarily suspended from school.

In addition to a summary of the situation published in the Quincy Daily Journal on Jan. 19, 1907, Scott Meyer, (1892-1979) a student at the school at the time and also a cub reporter for a Hannibal newspaper, wrote of his memories regarding the incidents in his book, “You’d Scarcely Believe It,” published in November 1965.

Temporarily suspended from school were Meyer’s classmates: Will Logan, Walter Wiesenberger, Kyle Wilcox, Charles Bower, David Scott, Walter Merriman and Harold Little.

One of the pranks consisted of smearing limburger cheese on the seats and radiators at the new school building on Broadway, causing students to be dismissed for an afternoon.

More on these pranks and the young pranksters to follow.

The principal

Miss Gertrude Ashmore, who was about 50 and an educator of 30 years duration at the time of the reported incidents, would not have been one to be easily fooled by boyish pranks.

Moving to Hannibal as a toddler with her parents, John and Sarah Ashmore, before 1859, she was not only a Hannibal educator with significant tenure by 1907, she was also herself a product of the Hannibal public school system.

Graduating valedictorian of her high school class of four in 1875, she began her education career in the fall of 1877, hired to teach in Room 3 of Hannibal’s North School. This school was located on the corner of Sixth and Rock.

From the earliest days of her childhood, until she began her teaching career, she lived with her parents and younger brother, Daniel Ashmore, at 203 N. Fifth, on the west side of the street.

By 1877, Gertrude’s father and brother had taken up stock breeding, and the family – including Gertrude – had moved to the “east side of Palmyra Road, west of Pleasant.”

Class of 1875

The subject of Miss Ashmore’s high school graduation speech in 1875 was, “E pur si Muove.”*

The graduation ceremony took place in the newly constructed and cavernous Congregational Church in Hannibal, located (still standing today) on the southeast corner of Sixth and Lyon streets.

A reporter for the Hannibal Clipper newspaper was on hand to review the speeches of the four female graduates in May 1875.

Of Miss Ashmore’s address, the reporter wrote:

“The essay and valedictory, ‘Epur si mouve,’ by Miss Gertrude Ashmore, was listened to with spellbound attention by the audience. For half an hour the low tones of the accomplished young reader’s voice could be heard clear and distinct in every part of the large hall. The essay was splendidly written, the sentiment beautiful, and at the conclusion there was prolonged applause from the audience and boquets (sic) fairly raised upon the stage.”

The other three graduates were Miss Mary Jane Kidd, Miss Carrie Bell Holman and Miss Mary Brison Stone.

Second prank

During the first week of January 1907, Will Logan performed a stunt, “thus disturbing the good order that up to that time had been uniformly observed” in the school’s library.

A tasteful bust of Shakespeare was on display in the library, which was located on the first floor of the newly constructed four-story building at 11th and Broadway.

Logan (a fullback on the school’s football team) admitted to Miss Ashmore that he was the one responsible for dressing the bust in the equipment of a football player.

Earlier in the school year, the Quincy Daily Herald had described Logan as “a big powerful fellow,” who, when playing against Chaddock, “carried the ball for big gains in nearly al of the plays, and scored all of the touchdowns.”

Regardless of his prowess on the football field, his actions in the library were not acceptable to Miss Ashmore.

“Being accused, he admitted his act, expressed regret for the disorder he had caused and gave solemn assurance that he would not only not disturb it again, but would set an example of good order,” The Quincy Daily Herald reported.

Logan graduated with the HHS Class of 1908.

HHS principal

It is unclear how long Miss Ashmore served Hannibal schools as a teacher, but by the beginning of the school year in 1888, she held the responsible position of principal of Hannibal’s Central School. By the fall of 1894, she was principal of Hannibal High School. She would continue to serve in this capacity until her retirement in 1910.

In 1889, HHS was located at Walnut, on the southwest corner of Hueston, on the property which now houses Eugene Field School.

1903, the high school was located at 828 Center. Central elementary and junior high school were located at 822-824 Center.

The high school opened in its newly constructed building at Eleventh and Broadway in 1905.

Previous incident

Miss Ashmore and members of the football team had a past history of discord. In November 1904, the principal had suspended all the members of the school’s football team, due to the rowdiness the students exhibited while leaving the school at noon en route to Shelbina, for a scheduled Friday night football game.

The Quincy Daily Journal of Sept. 27, 1904, identified the members of the squad.

Harry Millard, manager

Harry Foster, captain

Albert Eichenberger, treasurer

Right guard, Kamp

Left guard, Eichenberger

Right tackle, Logan

Left tackle, H. Smith

Right end, Waelder

Left end, Gilloughly

Quarter, Foster

Right half, Harry Millard

Left half, Fisher

Full back, Theis

Subs: Riordan, Funston, Smith

Travel abroad

Miss Ashmore’s parents died in 1902 and 1903, and her brother moved to Colorado with his wife and young daughter at the start of the new century.

During the summer of 1907, (just months before the aforementioned high school pranks) Miss Ashmore participated in a tour of Europe, lead by H.K. Warren, president of Yankton College, Yankton, S.D. Along with other educators, Miss Ashmore visited Oxford, London, the Hague, Amsterdam, the Rhine, Heidelberg, Lucern, Venice, Geneva, Brussels and Liverpool, and more. They sailed on the steamship Southward of the Dominion lines.

After her retirement, Miss Ashmore moved to Chicago. She died in 1946, at the age of 89, and is buried at Riverside Cemetery in Hannibal, adjacent to her parents.

Next week: The third prank, as described by Scott Meyer, (1892-1979) and a description of the later-successful men who pulled the boyish pranks.

Wikepedia: "And yet it moves" or "Albeit it does move" (Italian: E pur si muove or Eppur si muove [epˈpur si ˈmwɔːve]) is a phrase attributed to the Italian mathematician, physicist and philosopher Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) in 1633 after being forced to recant his claims that the Earth moves around the Sun, rather than the converse. In this context, the implication of the phrase is: despite his recantation, the Church's proclamations to the contrary, or any other conviction or doctrine of men, the Earth does, in fact, move (around the Sun, and not vice versa).

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 sketch represents Hannibal High School in 1889. It was located at Walnut, on the southwest corner of Hueston, on the property which now houses Eugene Field School. The building also served as West School, for the lower grades. This sketch was included on the 1889 HHS diploma. Miss Gertrude Ashmore was principal of the school in 1889. (Steve Chou Collection)

Before moving to Chicago, Miss Ashmore made her home at 1120 Broadway, which is the house to the left. A widowed man and his 17-year-old son, H.T. and Edward T. Adams, were boarders, as was fellow Hannibal educator Adelade Brown, Miss Ashmore’s life-long friend. FILE PHOTO/MARY LOU MONTGOMERY

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