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Arthur Hoke followed family fishing tradition

Look to the far right, and you will see a horse-drawn buggy and a sign painted on a nearby business, “FISH.” This was the site of the A. Hoke Fish and Oyster Co., 211 (later renumbered 124) S. Main. Originally the building was a one-story frame, and in 1915, Arthur Hoke had that building moved one lot to the north, and had a two-story building constructed in its place. The business was in operation until Arthur Hoke’s death in 1923. Post card contributed by Robert Spaun.


Arthur M. Hoke’s horse-drawn surrey was a familiar sight in Hannibal during the first quarter of the 20th Century, as he offered delivery service for the fresh fish he sold in his shop, located at 211 S. Main.

Hoke, following the time-honored vocation of his father and uncles, sold the catch of the day: Channel cat, perch, buffalo and sturgeon, harvested by locals who made their living angling in the waters of the Mississippi River.

His shop - at first a single story frame building - was located on the east side of South Main Street, directly across from the Star Theatre. In 1915, Harry Lower and his assistants moved that building to the north, and Hoke had a two-story brick building constructed, which would, years later, served as Lynn Ferrell’s dance studio. He rented out the second-story loft apartment.

There had been Hoke family members selling fish in Hannibal since 1873, when Arthur’s father, D. Marion Hoke, was partnered with Thomas Abel and Avery Sanders. They operated a fish market on the south side of Broadway between Main and Third.

In 1877, D. Marion Hoke, his wife, Emma, and their young son, Arthur M. Hoke (the subject of this story), lived at 204 North Street.

The Hannibal Clipper, of May 29, 1877, made an announcement:

“There will be a grand fish fry at the mouth of Clear creek, near the Bay mills, about 4 1/2 miles north of Hannibal, on Saturday next. Marion Hoke will supply the fish, and a general good time is anticipated. Everybody is invited.”

Less than a month later, on June 19, 1877, D. Marion Hoke died unexpectedly, leaving a young widow and a 5-year-old son, Arthur, to navigate alone.

June 19, 1877: “We regret to learn that Marion Hoke does not improve since the stroke of paralysis from which he fell on the street one evening last week. He has never recovered his speech and he seems to be gradually growing worse. He is now unconscious much of the time and his condition excites the greatest fears. (Since the above was written we learn that Mr. Hoke has died.)”

Joseph F. Hoke and Rufus Hoke, following their brother Marion’s death, continued tapping into the Mississippi River in order to earn a living. In 1885, Joseph operated a fish dealership at 115 and 118 S. Main. The business was in two side-by-side single-story frame buildings, facing west. In July 1885, Rufus Hoke, who was a Civil War veteran, married Mary M. Miller, and in 1888, the city directory finds her residing on a fishing boat at the foot of North Street. (The marriage was short-lived.)

In mid May, 1888, during Mississippi River flooding, a row boat was able to land at the back door of Hoke’s fish market, the Weekly Post reported on May 18: “for the first time since the erection of that building. The water at that place is four or five feet in depth.”

Widow remarries

In May 1881, D. Marion Hoke’s widow, Emma, remarried, choosing for her second husband Van Hendren, a well known and respected Hannibal wagon painter. 

On Aug. 24, 1884, the Hannibal Courier-Post reported: “Mrs. Van Hendren is lying at the point of death, and Center street, between Third and Fourth, has been closed to keep wagons from passing the house.”

She died, at age 27, at 7 a.m. Aug. 25, 1884, at her residence, 317 Center Street, and was buried at Riverside Cemetery. Her only son, Arthur M. Hoke, was about 11 when his mother passed. He was now an orphan.

Gone fishing

Fishing was what Arthur Hoke knew, so that’s generally the path he pursued. He was married to Christina Schultz in 1897, sister of Amelia (Schultz) Thomas and Odessa (Schultz) Atkins.

In 1895, Arthur Hoke partnered with Joseph Schultz, in the operation of a fish market at 211 (later renumbered 214) S. Main. 

As the years passed, Arthur Hoke tried to dispose of the fish market twice, but both times returned to his South Main Street fish business.

On April 10, 1905, the Courier-Post announced that Hoke had sold his fish market to Howard Richmond. Hoke announced his plans to move to St. Louis, where he had been appointed general superintendent for the Polar Wave Ice Company. At that time, he offered his home, at 1626 (later renumbered 2116) Broadway Extension, for rent. It consisted of four large rooms, a summer kitchen, cellar and barn.

He later returned to Hannibal, resumed ownership of the fish market, and settled his family at 2116 Broadway (previously numbered 1626 Broadway.)

But in September 1908, he once again left Hannibal. This time, he purchased a grocery store in Denver, Colo., located at 95 S. Broadway. His family settled in at 123 W. Bayaud Ave., Denver.

On March 5, 1910, he announced through the newspaper, that he was back in Hannibal.

“Wanted: Everybody to know the A. Hoke Fish Co., 211 South Main St., is now owned by and under the management of Arthur M. Hoke and will place on sale today and every day from this time on the first catches of home caught fish. Bell telephone 192, Bluff phone 192.”

Once back in Hannibal, he advertised for a “delivery boy to deliver and take care of a horse, one living on West Side, preferred. Apply to A. Hoke, 211 S. Main St.”

While it is unknown who Hoke hired for this job, in 1911, William Smithson (1850-1913) worked for Hoke as a laborer.

In 1910, Arthur Hoke’s efforts helped preserve the fish in a small, shallow pond near the Helton Ice House in Miller Township, at Bay de Charles.

S.O. Osterhout was game and fish warden at the time. The pond was partly frozen over, and Mr. Osterhout determined it was best to seine the pond rather than to have the fish die. He called upon Hoke, who was allowed to keep the marketable fish, and the smaller fish were to be put into the bay. The catch on the first day was 1,500 to 2,000 pounds of marketable fish.

(In 1898, Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company of St. Louis leased Judge A.C. Helton’s ice houses on the bay.)

In April 1916, Arthur Hoke was able to offer a rare treat for his fish customers: An 11 pound black bass, caught by Joe Henry in the Illinois River. Hoke told the newspaper that it was the largest bass he had seen in Hannibal. The bass was purchased by the Mark Twain Hotel, and became part of their dinner offering.

The following spring, a crowd gathered at the Hoke fish market in order to witness a rare variety: An eel cat fish, which was native to northern waters. The fish was long and narrow, having a peculiar shaped head.

“In Michigan,” Hoke told the Hannibal Courier-Post, “you will find many of that kind of fish but they very rarely get this far south.” The fish was caught by John Crockett, near Saverton.

Early death

Arthur Hoke’s death came quite unexpectedly 101 years ago, on June 19, 1923. He was 50. The cause of death was apoplexy. He was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery.

His wife, Christina Schultz Hoke, died April 28, 1962, in Nashville, Tenn. She is buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Hannibal. 


First son, Charles Davis Hoke, born in 1899, died in 1962. He was a corporal serving with the 23rd Infantry, United States Army, and was injured in battle on Nov. 4, 1918. When he wrote to his parents, he was recuperating in a hospital in France after a wound to his left foot. He received a Purple Heart. He had enlisted on June 4, 1917, and arrived in France on Jan. 6, 1918. He was married to Alberta Smith at New London, Mo., on Sept. 11, 1920. He died Oct. 13, 1962, and is buried at Moberly, Mo., next to his wife.

Lieut. Comdr. Wilbur J. Hoke, born in 1906, was the second-born son of Arthur and Christina Hoke. He died July 15, 1951, while serving in Korea. He was a graduate of St. Louis University School of Medicine, and practiced as a physician in St. Louis before World War II. During the war he served in the Pacific. He was called back into the military to serve in Korea. He died in a jeep accident near the field hospital to which he was assigned.

Marion Hoke was born in 1904, and spent much of his adult life in Nashville, Tenn. He died Jan. 26, 1995, and is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Hannibal.

A fourth son, Robert, died in infancy.

Advertisement from the Hannibal Courier-Post, Saturday, Dec. 25, 1915.

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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