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Arnolds owned St. Mary’s Ave. stately home for some 65 years

Situated on an acre and a half lot fronting St. Mary’s Avenue is a house constructed circa 1905, for the Willis Burns Arnold family. Two generations of the family would call this house their home for some 65 years. Photo taken in September 2023, contributed by Meryle Martin Dexheimer.


Willis Burns Arnold farmed northwest of Slater, Mo., for a number of years, amassing and improving the land until 1905, when his holdings totaled 440 acres. That’s when he decided to tap out of the market, selling his farm for $100 per acre, netting the sizable sum of $44,000.

His farm, at the time, was considered to be the best improved in Saline County. This county is located in the west central portion of Missouri, along the banks of the Missouri River.

He and his wife, Eunice, relocated to Hannibal, where by 1909 they were living in one of the most stately houses still standing on St. Mary’s Avenue, now addressed 3340, on the east side of the avenue, between Fairfax and Shepherd.

The legal land description for his property is: all of lots 5-11, S.O. Osterhout Subdivision. According to Zillow, it has four bedrooms, two baths, and is 4,250 square feet.


By 1914, W.B. Arnold had partnered with others to establish the manufacturing concern, Homestead Fence Co., located along Hannibal’s riverfront, at 211 N. Front St., 1/2 block north of the Wabash and M.K.&T. Freight House. The company was a successor to Central Indiana Fence and Wire Co., of Kokomo, Ind.

Company primaries were W.E. Treat, manager; J.E. McNally, president; W.B. Arnold, vice president; W.K. Arnold (son of W.B. Arnold) secretary; and S.O. Osterhout, treasurer.

The company produced a square mesh fence made of high carbon and spring steel wire, heavily galvanized. They also sold gates and barbed wire fencing. During the early years, the company advertised heavily in rural newspapers and magazines in both Missouri and Kansas. They sold directly to farmers.

The primaries in the company changed over the years.

1916: W.B. Arnold, president; W.K. Arnold (his son) manager.

1918: Dr. E.T. Hornback, president and manager.

1920: Harry S. Scheidker, secretary and manager.

The company remained in business into 1925, Primaries at that time were W.K. Arnold, president; C.O. Mayes, treasurer, and H.A. Scheidker, secretary.

Family matters

Willis Burns Arnold (1856-1932) was born in Kentucky, the son of Lewis Burns and Nancy Cave Arnold (1819-1894). They lived in Petersburg, Boone County, Ky. As a young adult, Willis B. Arnold settled in Slater, Saline County, Mo., as did two brothers, Woodford (Wood) Arnold and Alpheus (Dode) Arnold.

Woodford Arnold, 1850-1912

Woodford Arnold suffered a stroke of paralysis circa 1882. Throughout his lifetime, he remained optimistic that he would be able to regain his former vigor and mobility.

On Sept. 21, 1889, the Slater News-Rustler reported: “Dr. (Alfred Hudson) Snoddy has been experimenting with ‘the Elixir of Life’ this week. His patient is Mr. Wood Arnold, whose right arm has been paralyzed for five years. The fluid was injected Thursday. Up to the time of going to press there has been no decided effect, with the exception of making his arm sore.”

In 1896 and 1897, Wood Arnold visited Hot Springs, Ark, where he hoped to be cured of paralysis.

For a number of years following his stroke, Wood Arnold made his home with his younger brother, the aforementioned Willis B. Arnold, at first in Slater, Mo., and later in Hannibal. In 1910, the extended family living together at 3340 St. Mary’s Ave., included:

Willis B. and Eunice Arnold, ages 54 and 51 respectively, Willis K. Arnold, (son) age 25; and Wood P. Arnold, age 59. A housekeeper was also at home at this address, Ida Halemeyer, 20.

Soon thereafter, Wood P. Arnold moved as a private-paying patient to the Marion County Infirmary, Palmyra, where he died Dec. 2, 1912.

His death notice in the Palmyra Spectator on Dec. 4, 1912, elaborated: “Strange to say, … he never gave up hopes of recovering the use of his paralyzed limbs, and a few days before his death radiantly said to a friend that he was a great deal better and soon expected to be as vigorous as when he was a young man.”

Alpheus Arnold, 1853-1915

Alpheus (Dode) Arnold, born in 1853, was living with his brother, Willis B. Arnold and family in Hannibal at the time of his death in March 1915. He was briefly married as a young man, but spent the majority of his life as a divorcee.

He penned a will in 1906, designating his brother, Willis B. Arnold, as his executor and primary beneficiary. By doing so, he made allowances for his estate to be used to pay for care of his invalid brother, Wood Arnold.

Wood Arnold, however, preceded Alpheus Arnold in death.

Alpheus (Dode) was a long-time stockman in Saline County, Mo. He suffered from palsy for two years prior to his death, necessitating his move to Hannibal to live with his brother, Willis B.


Second generation

Willis K. Arnold lived with his parents and uncles in the expansive two-story house at 3340 St. Mary’s Ave. In June, 1912, while working for Hannibal Trust Co., he and Miss Bertha Barnes drove to Palmyra on a Saturday morning, exchanging vows before County Clerk Tom B. Arnold and the Rev. J.K. Ried.

The two generations continued to live together until the death of the elder Mr. Arnold, who died in 1932, and Mrs. Arnold, who died in 1937.

Willis K. and Bertha Barnes Arnold had no children. They established Arnold Insurance Agency, where they worked together until their retirement. He died May 31, 1968; and she died April 8, 1973.

Interesting note

Boarders living in this large home in 1940 included:

Marvin (24) and Marguerite (23) Mills, manager of an auto parts store;

Eugenia Hawkins, public school teacher; and

Marion Chandler, cafeteria director at Hannibal High School.

Property owners file suit

Quincy Whig-Journal

June 25, 1922

Hannibal, June 25 - The city of Hannibal has been named as defendant in a suit filed with the clerk of the Hannibal court of common pleas by Willis B. Arnold, Henry Zimmerman, Margaret H. Shepherd, Mary S. Logan, George S. Shepherd, Frank Y Shepherd, J.L. Shepherd and Robert H. Shepherd, who are all property owners on St. Mary’s avenue. The suit is to come up at the September term of the Hannibal court of common pleas and Ben Ely Jr., a representing the plaintiffs.

The case grew out of the city lowering the grade line on St. Mary’s avenue, it is said, where they have built homes and made improvements. The plaintiffs allege in their suit that it is now impossible to enter their property with a vehicle from St. Mary’s avenue, thus greatly depreciating their property.

If you look beyond the 1950s Jeep Willy Wagon you will see the back of the property owned by the Arnold family for some 65 years, beginning circa 1905. The address of the property, which faces St. Mary’s Avenue, is 3340. At left is the Arnold’s barn, which was painted red, and in the center of the photo is the back of the two-story dwelling. If you look closely, you can see the outside stairs leading to the second story, which in later years housed two rental units. At far right is the backside of a house located at 110 Shepherd Place. In 1937, Judge Edmund L. Alford lived at that address. William B. Spaun historic photo collection.

This advertisement, published in the Kansas Farmer and Mail and Breeze Feb. 20, 1915, promotes Homestead Fence Co., which manufactured farm fencing in Hannibal, Mo.

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 include but are not limited to: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870,” “Hannibal’s ‘West End,’ and the newest book, “Oakwood: West of Hannibal.” Montgomery can be reached at Her collective works can be found at


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