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Historic house on roadway’s curve contained generational memories

Dr. F.W. Bush, at right, is seated near the house where he grew up as a boy, and raised his children as an adult. The house was located on a curve of the Palmyra to Hannibal road, half way between the two towns. The house burned in 1953. Posted on Findagrave by David L. Bush.


Dr. F.W. Bush devoted his life to taking care of his patients living in and around Hannibal, particularly in the Mt. Zion neighborhood, Marion County, Mo. Born at the turn of the 19th Century on the same farm where he would later raise his family, he remained true to his rural Missouri roots throughout his lifetime.

But things can happen along the best thought-out path, which can leave even the most trained and dedicated health care provider questioning life’s most complex issues. In 1918, the situation was little changed from the health crisis of today.

Worth Bush, a 33-year-old surveyor for the city of Hannibal, and the son of Dr. Bush, died Oct. 19, 1918, at Levering Hospital in Hannibal. Cause of death: Influenza followed by acute bronchial pneumonia.

October 1918 set the record for deaths in Hannibal. There were 108 deaths during the month, pneumonia and influenza being responsible for most of the deaths. (Source, Quincy Daily Whig, March 4, 1920)

Historic house

Dr. Franklin Worthington Bush was born on this same property Oct. 24, 1850, to John Shearer and Mahala J. Bush. The elder Mr. Bush, born in Kentucky circa 1799, settled in Miller Township, Marion County, Mo., in 1819. He raised two families during his residency in Marion County, six children born to his first wife Margaret, who died in 1847, and three children born to his second wife, Mahala Jane Worthington Nichols Bush, who he married pre-1850.

Mahala was a widow at the time of her marriage to Mr. Bush, and brought to the marriage a daughter, Willie Ann Nichols, born in 1840. (Willie Ann married William H. Whaley in 1859.)

Dr. Bush was John Bush’s youngest son.

The Bush homestead, fronting what would become U.S. 61 highway, was originally built of logs, and the house featured a giant stone fireplace.

A short notice in the Jan. 21, 1953, edition of the Palmyra Spectator mentions that the house was picturesque, situated, as it was along the curve in the road, and was sometimes used as a subject for artist sketches.

The house burned in January 1953, while occupied by tenants. The Palmyra newspaper mentioned that at the time of the fire, 50 mile an hour winds prevailed.

The newspaper described the house as among “Marion County’s most admired landmarks.”

Next door, 1884

The Bush home was located on the farm adjacent to the west of the Hendren homestead.

In 1884, both Drs. Bush and Baskett (Hendren’s son-in-law) were each practicing medicine from their nearby homes.

Mrs. Hendren, 70, fell off her back porch, breaking a collar bone. Both Dr. Bush and Dr. Baskett attended to her injuries.

Buggy wreck

In August 1895, Hannibal physician, Dr. J.C. Hearne, and his wife, Fannie, were indicted for murder in the first degree by a grand jury at Hannibal, Mo.

The murder victim was Amos Stillwell of Hannibal, who had been bludgeoned in his bed in 1888. Mrs. Hearne was the widow of Mr. Stillwell, and later married Dr. Hearne, who was the Stillwells’ family physician.

The Marion County Herald of Aug. 22, 1895, reported that Dr. and Mrs. Hearne were taken into custody in Hannibal by Sheriff Thomas E. Pratt, who loaded the two into a surrey to quietly take them to the jail in Palmyra, before gossip could reach the street in Hannibal that the arrests had taken place.

Following the old Hannibal to Palmyra gravel road, the trip went without incident until the buggy reached the vicinity of Dr. Franklin Worthington Bush’s residence, where the horse-drawn vehicle collided with another vehicle on a curve in the road; the accident disabling the surrey.

No one injured, the Sheriff and his deputy, Wachendorfer, and Dr. and Mrs. Hearne walked to the Bush home. After some trouble, the Marion County Herald reported, the sheriff secured a spring wagon from Robert Sarson, which allowed the four to get to the Palmyra jail without any further trouble. (Note, Dr. and Mrs. Hearn were later acquitted by a jury.)

Burn victim

Dr. Bush was summoned to the scene of a fire-related injury on Nov. 22, 1904. Ethel Young, a little girl living with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Young, at Bushman’s Camp, above Turtle Island, was seriously burned when her clothing caught fire. The Quincy Daily Journal reported on Nov. 23 that she was standing too close to a cooking stove, and her dress ignited. The clothing completely burned from her body. She was severely burned, but was expected to live.

Kicked by a horse

When he was 66, Dr. Bush was hospitalized for two months in Hannibal following a kick to the left side of his face by a horse. The accident occurred on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 1916.

The Palmyra Spectator reported that the accident took place while he was working in his barn lot. He retained consciousness throughout the ordeal, but his injuries were described as quite serious.

Unusual caravan

Dr. F.W. Bush told Marion County Sheriff A.E. Turner that five automobiles pulled up in front of house at midday Saturday, April 5, 1930.

The doctor, then aged 80, later said he stepped forward to see what business these passenger-laden automobiles - loaded with somewhat unusual people - brought to his farm home, which was located on the “slab road” half way between Hannibal and Palmyra.

As the individuals got out of the vehicles – two Buicks, one Cadillac, one Paige and one Dodge – a woman stepped forward, he said, offering to tell his fortune. Meanwhile, he said, someone with a slight of hand removed his “pocket book” and a $10 bill contained within.

Seemingly as quickly as they arrived, they departed, heading northwest toward Palmyra. Shaken, Dr. Bush put in a call to the Marion County sheriff, and reported the incident.

Quickly in pursuit, the sheriff caught up with the “caravan” north of Palmyra near the old Rock Cut landmark along the road.

Sheriff Turner took the “Gypsies” back to Palmyra, and placed a few key members in jail. After negotiations, they agreed to pay a county fine and to reimburse Dr. Bush and a Shelbyville citizen who said he was similarly robbed. The members of the caravan paid $162.50 in cash, which they handed over in $50 bills and smaller change.

The Palmyra Spectator of April 9, 1930, reported: “They left the city chattering like a lot of magpies and will doubtless communicate the news by cryptic messages to the other wandering tribes that Marion County is unhealthy place for the Romany clans.”

Bush family

Dr. and Mrs. Bush were parents of four children, Marie, Worth, Mable and Hubert. The first two preceded their parents in death.

Dr. Bush died at the home of his son in Hannibal in May 1937. He was 87 years old. His wife, Harriet, also died at their son’s home, on May 31, 1938. She was 78. They were buried at Greenwood Cemetery, Palmyra.

Dr. F.W. Bush is pictured as a young man. The photo is contained within the Hendren family collection, courtesy of Bob and Jong Kilmer.

This undated photo shows Dr. F.W. Bush in his later years. Posted on Findagrave by David L. Bush.

Dr. F.W. Bush (1850-1938) lived on a curve of the Hannibal to Palmyra Road in Miller Township, Marion County, Mo. From Hannibal, the road followed the path that Route O follows today, past what is now Veterans School, past a series of new subdivisions and Mt Zion Cemetery, west until it connects with what is now U.S. 61. At that intersection, on the north side of what is now U.S. 61, was Dr. Bush’s house. It was to the west of the noted Hendren farm, where Dr. Baskett lived. For a time the two doctors each practiced medicine from their nearby homes. The Bush farm was first settled by Dr. Bush’s father, John Bush (circa 1799-1877). This illustration is created from the 1875 Marion County Atlas, courtesy of Robert Spaun.

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

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