A gala gathering of 19th Century contemporaries
Benjamin Stevens, pictured 1890, was among the guests attending a birthday party for John B. Lewis in 1891. Stevens died in 1896. Photo courtesy of Chase Hickman.
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
Oh, to be a mouse in the corner of the one-story brick and frame house, situated at 109 North Seventh Street, during the late afternoon and early evening of May 23, 1891.
Within that house occurred a celebration marking the 85th anniversary of John B. Lewis’ birth.
In attendance were primarily his contemporaries, others who were age 70 and older, with whom he had associated during his adulthood in the same Hannibal neighborhood where he still lived - midtown Broadway and its environment.
What were the topics of conversation during this party, hosted by John Lewis’ daughter and son in law, Samuel J. and Carrie Lewis Miller?
From this gathering, all in attendance were eye-witnesses to this country’s first - and only - war between the states. During this era, the average life expectancy was some 44 years, but here they were, some nearly double that age. The guests were both men and women, widows and widowers, and two married couples. A special guest was 73-year-old “Aunt Rachel,” described in a newspaper article about the gathering, as “an old colored woman, an attache of the family.”
This generation heralded the ground breaking for the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad. They in turn read the newspaper article with awe announcing that Col. Joshua Gentry, president of the railroad, was a passenger as the “iron horse” crossed the distance between Missouri’s two great rivers in just nine hours.
They waited and watched with anticipation as the first bridge at Hannibal was constructed across the Mississippi River, a bridge that served both horse-drawn vehicles and trains, and today still stands.
They saw federal troops stationed in Central Park during the Civil War, and they associated with the doctors who treated war victims in a makeshift hospital on Center Street. Their sons were registered for service in that war.
In years recent to the birthday party, participants suffered mutual shock over the ghastly murder of Hannibal businessman, Amos Stillwell, in 1888.
Those present were
• Squire John Blocksom Lewis, 85, was born in Delaware in 1806. Prior to 1850, his family was at home in Hannibal, he serving in local public administration, and later working as an attorney and justice of the peace. His son, George K. Lewis, (1829-1863) started a grocery business, first on the levee, and later on North Main. Squire Lewis was married to Charlotte Parker Lewis, and she died March 12, 1885, at the home of her daughter and son in law, Samuel J. (an undertaker) and Carrie Lewis Miller. Mrs. Miller died in 1897, at the age of 59. Squire Lewis died 1891 and is buried in the Old Limit section of Mount Olivet Cemetery, lot 82.
• Mrs. Lucinda Cooley Howes, 78, mother-in-law of Lyman Paige Munger, 216 N. Sixth. Mrs. Howes was the widow of William Howes (1809-1876) of Prescott, Wis. Born in 1811, she died in 1902. The Howes were married in 1835, and were parents to Lyman Munger’s wife, Lucy Almira Howes Munger.
• Mrs. Jeanette Barrack, 75, of 203 S. Seventh. She was aunt of Catharine Gould, widow of George G. Gould of Hannibal. Mrs. Barrack was the widow of James Barrack, who died Jan. 22, 1868. Mrs. Barrack died Dec. 16, 1902, at the age of 92. She is buried with her husband in Section A49 at Riverside Cemetery. In 1866, Mr. Barrack was proprietor of the Hannibal City lumber yard.
• Mr. John Jones, 82, was born in 1806 in Maryland. He died in 1893, at the age of 86-87, and is buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery. He was a plasterer by trade, as was his son, Evan Jones. After John Jones’ wife died in 1870, he lived with his son, Evan and family. Laura Jones, John Jones’ granddaughter, was married to W.B. Pettibone in 1883. Mrs. Pettibone died in 1923, and Mr. Pettibone donated the funds to build Pettibone school atop North Street hill, named in his wife’s honor.
• Mr. Robert Brewington, 82, and Mrs. Robert (Elizabeth) Brewington, 75. Robert Brewington operated a saddle and harness shop during his merchant years in Hannibal. Mr. and Mrs. Brewington were grandparents to Robert E. Coontz, an admiral in the U.S. Navy, who sailed with the great White Fleet and served as the second Chief of Naval Operations. Mr. Brewington died in 1900, and Mrs. Brewington died in 1892. They are buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery. Mr. Brewington compiled three journals containing local news and business records, that are now part of the Hannibal Free Public Library’s collection: https://rc.hannibal.lib.mo.us/jsp/RcWebBrowse.jsp
• Mr. Geo. Parker, 76, and Mrs. Geo. (Matilda) Parker, 75 of 808 Bird. Mr. Parker operated a fruit and nut shop at 713 Broadway, and the couple lived at 808 Bird. Mrs. Parker died in 1902.
• Benjamin Stevens, 89, was born in 1801 in England, coming to the United States in 1831. He was ordained a minister in 1837, and was among the pioneer preachers who farmed on weekdays, and preached on Sunday. He followed the Gold Rush to California in 1848, returning to Hannibal in 1851. He gave up preaching, and later pursued the manufacture of lime, farming and real estate. Mr. Stevens died in 1896.
• Mrs. Theophilus (Eliza) Stone, 90. Mr. Stone was among Hannibal’s earliest settlers, cultivating corn where the opera house and Park Methodist Church were later constructed. He was married to Eliza Dickey in 1845. Mr. Stone died in February 1883. Mrs. Stone made her home at 613 Center St., during her widowhood. She died in 1894. Mr. and Mrs. Stone are buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery.
• Mrs. Elizabeth Dudding, 66, of 320 N. Seventh. Elizabeth Moore and Joseph Dudding were married in Marion County, Mo., in 1842. In 1870 Joseph was working at a livery stable in Hannibal, and he died in 1879. At the time of the aforementioned party, Elizabeth Dudding was living with her daughter and son in law, Mary C. and Wallace W. Armor, at 320 N. Seventh. Mrs. Dudding moved to Springfield, Ill., to be near her daughter, Emma Dudding McConnell, and died in Springfield in 1905.
• Mr. Fred Waller, 79. Fred Waller and his wife, Elizabeth, were born in Germany, and had relocated to Hannibal by 1850. He was a boot and shoe maker, and later was associated with Waller Lime Co. In 1879 they made their home at 903 Broadway. Mrs. Waller died in November 1886, and Mr. Waller died in May 1893. They are buried at Riverside Cemetery.
• Mrs. Richard (Amanda) Pindell, 75, of 819 Church. She was born in 1813 in New York, and married Richard Pindell Feb. 17, 1833, in Hamilton, Ohio. Her husband was part owner of the Eagle Lumber Mill in Hannibal. Two of Mrs. Pindell’s sons, Oscar and William, were later proprietors of the Magnolia Mills, 301 S. Fourth. Mrs. Pindell died in November 1892.
• Mrs. Mary B. Bradley, 67, resided on St. Mary’s Avenue, near Paris dirt road. Mary Ann Johnson married Milton Bradley in 1838 at Randolph County. Her husband was a cabinet maker and a farmer. He died in 1888. One son lived to adulthood, J. Harvey Bradley. Mrs. Bradley died in December 1890 at the home of her niece, Mrs. Snarr, at Withers Mill.
• Mrs. Wm. (Jane Stevens) McDaniel, 73. Mrs. McDaniel was the wife of William McDaniel, and they were residents of Hannibal in the 1850s. They were married in 1844 at Ralls County, Mo. William was a confectioner in Hannibal, with his business and early residency on North Main Street. In 1880 they lived at 608 N. Seventh. Mr. McDaniel died Aug. 18, 1884. Mrs. McDaniel moved to Kansas City to live with her son, Charles. She died May 14, 1910, at Kansas City. Her body was brought back to Mount Olivet Cemetery for burial.
Mr. George Clark, of Keokuk, 88
Aunt Rachel, 73
Note: Research for this article took many directions. The first research conducted was to determine when this party took place. The story was in the form of an undated newspaper clipping found the Peter Stone’s scrapbook, digitized by Steve Chou. The date calculated for the party was found by establishing Mr. Lewis’ birthdate. It is a guesstimate.
The date calculated for this party is May 23, 1891.
In order to find the identities of those attending the parties, I utilized resource books from the era, including “The Journal of Rev. Benjamin Franklin Stevens,” the History of Marion County Missouri, published in 1884, and resources available online from the Hannibal Free Public Library and Ancestry.com.
This advertisement was included in the 1871 Hannibal city directory, accessed through the Hannibal Free Public Library’s website. John B. Lewis had his attorney and justice of the peace office upstairs over the Cheever Bros., store, 203 Broadway, in 1866-1871.
Geo. K. Lewis, son of John B. Lewis, operated a grocery business on the levee, and later on North Main Street. George K. Lewis died in 1866. The party described in this edition was in honor of John B. Lewis’ 85th birthday. Try Weekly Messenger, Feb. 13, 1855, newspapers.com
James Barrack operated the Hannibal Lumber Yard in Hannibal in 1866, and advertised as such in the Hannibal City Directory of that year. Accessed via the Hannibal Free Hannibal Public Library’s website.
Theophilus Stone died prior to the party hosted for Geo. K. Lewis in 1891 (estimated) but Mrs. Stone did attend. Most party goers were aged 70 or over. Photo from History of Marion County, published in 1888.