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Stolen jewelry recovered from nearby cistern: 1898


The home of the Rev. J.H. Jackson, 511 N. Fifth, Hannibal, Mo., was burglarized the evening of Thursday, Aug. 18, 1898, and a collection of jewelry was stolen, including an opera chain and some rings. Few clues were left behind as to who might have committed this evil deed.

Rev. Jackson came to Hannibal about 1895, assuming the pastorate of the Park Methodist

church, located on the northwest corner of North Fifth and Center streets. He brought with him his West Virginia-born wife, Ella, and two young children, Ella Susan and Frank Wells Jackson. Rev. Jackson’s firstborn, Johnnie, died in June 1895 at the age of 12.

Upon their arrival in Hannibal, the Jackson family settled into the North Fifth Street house where the burglary occurred, which is historically known as the Queen Anne-style, W.T. Combs House in the Central Park Historic District.

Mr. Combs operated a business in the 100 block of Hill Street, dressing and shipping poultry. He vacated the house just prior to the Jackson family’s arrival in town, circa 1895.

Meanwhile …

In late August 1898, an old Hannibal man, Albert Allen, was hired to clean out the cistern at the “old Hatch place” on North Sixth Street, opposite of North school. He brought along as an assistant, a man by the name of Hawkins.

The Quincy Daily Journal reprinted a story from the Hannibal Journal on Aug. 29, 1898.

“When (Albert Allen) raised the platform over the cistern he found an amount of jewelry, consisting of rings, etc., and when the mud was taken out of the bottom of the cistern more jewelry was found; a part of which was the $75 opera chain.”

Rev. Jackson and his family left Hannibal just a month or so after the burglary, with their recovered jewelry. They relocated to St. Joseph, Mo., where Rev. Jackson assumed pastorate of the Hundley Methodist Church.

The “old Hatch place” was the home of George F. Hatch, Hannibal attorney and brother to noted Missouri lawmaker, W.H. Hatch. George Hatch died in 1888, at the age of 52.

In Missouri

During the ensuing years, Rev. Jackson served Methodist churches in Mexico, and Fulton, before relocating to Chillicothe. In August 1905, at the time of the annual Missouri (Methodist) Conference at Palmyra, the Board of Stewards at the Elm Street Church in Chillicothe reached out to the conference, asking that Rev. Jackson remain with the congregation.

The Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune reported: “The board of stewards of the Southern Methodist church is a unit in desiring the return of Rev. Jackson for another year. It voiced the expression of the entire congregation when it made known the request, addressed to the conference.”

Instead, Rev. Jackson was transferred back to Hannibal, where he would once again assume charge of the Park Methodist Church.

Church expansion

During the next two years, Rev. Jackson would lead the congregation in a $12,000 expansion of the church building, including doubling the auditorium, adding quarters for Sunday School, and the installation a steam heating system. In addition, memorial windows were installed. That work complete, in July 1907, he was transferred to the Virginia Conference.

Early members

The Park Methodist Church at Fifth and Center, Hannibal, was constructed in 1881, but the church history in Hannibal goes back much further. The Park Methodist descended from Hannibal’s first Methodist Church.

Joanna H. Saul League was among the congregation’s early members. The Park Methodist Church Directory, 1914 (Chou collection) contains information that Mrs. League joined the congregation in 1849. She was an active member of the church during both of Rev. Jackson’s terms at Hannibal. Her husband, W.T. League, was a greenhouse operator and florist, and a childhood friend of Sam Clemens.The Leagues married in 1854. Upon her death in 1920, she had occupied her home at 321 S. Fifth for more than a half century.

Col. John L. Robards was another congregant during Rev. Jackson’s time in Hannibal. He joined the church in 1869.

Admiral Robert E. Coontz, who was Chief of Naval Operations during the first World War, was born in Hannibal, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Benton E. Coontz. His funeral services were held at the Park Methodist Church in Hannibal on Friday, Feb. 1, 1935. Burial followed in Mt. Olivet Cemetery. He attended the church as a child alongside his parents, and at the time of his death had been a member for 60 years, since about 1875.

West Virginia

Settled in Mrs. Jackson’s home state of West Virginia in 1907, Rev. Jackson continued to preach and serve as an influential speaker for many years to come.

His personal life, however, wasn’t as rewarding.

His youngest son Frank Wells Jackson, died in October 1909, at the age of 15. He had been an invalid for eight years, according to a newspaper account.

Rev. Jackson’s wife, Ella, died April 11, 1911, at the age of 52.

His daughter Susan Jackson Irby, who was married and had two sons, also preceded her father in death.

At the time of Rev. Jackson’s death in 1937, his only survivors were two grandsons, John Jackson Irby and Carlyle Armstead Irby.

In all, Rev. Jackson served as a Methodist minister for some 60 years, in Georgia, West Virginia and Missouri.

He is buried alongside his wife and sons in Williams Cemetery, New Martinsville, West Virginia.

Find A Grave shows that Rev. Jackson had erected on his family’s gravesite a stone that resembled a tree with limbs sawed off.

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. Books available on by this author: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," and "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870." She can be reached at Her collective works can be found at

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