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Black-owned newspaper editor dies after explosion

The building at left, at 210 Center, was the office for the Home Protective Record, a black-owned newspaper that served Hannibal from pre-1912 to about 1920. According to Esley Hamilton, in 1983, “This two-story commercial building is constructed of rock-faced concrete block, with a pyramid-like stack of blocks ornamenting the center of the cornice. The three windows in front and six facing the alley to the west have been boarded, as has the transom of the traditional storefront. This structure replaced a frame livery stable.” The Hannibal Courier-Post, on April 3, 1913, announced that this building at 210 Center St., was to be constructed. “The Home Protective Association has purchased the lot on Center street immediately east of the Center Street Stables - east of the alley and adjoining the Bluff City Printery, of David R. Scyoc (building at right, 208 Center), and the Journal is informed that the association intends to erect a three-story brick building on the lot.” (Apparently, only a two-story building was constructed.)


Just before noon on Saturday, Aug. 15, 1914, Edward T. McDowell, 27, editor of Hannibal’s Home Protective Record newspaper, was filling a lamp with wood alcohol, and preparing to melt some glue. He struck a match to light the lamp, and the gallon can of alcohol exploded. His clothing erupted into a mass of flames.

Employees Lee Ashford and Walter Goodman, at the front of the building when the explosion took place, ran to the back, and proceeded to pull the burning clothing from the editor’s body. They were credited, by the Courier-Post in the next day’s edition, for saving McDowell’s life.

But what ensued was two week’s worth of agonizing suffering for McDowell, who was first treated at the scene by Drs. J.C. Chilton and E.H. Bounds, and then taken to Levering Hospital. On Aug. 31, 1914, he died at his home, in the parsonage of the Eighth and Center Baptist Church, 722 Center Street.

He was survived by his father, the Rev. Cyrus R. McDowell D.D., his mother, his wife, Lydia, and one sister, Cyrene. Tragically, another sister, Jennie Feronia McDowell, died on Aug. 20, 1902 at the age 16. Her remains, as well as those of Eddie McDowell,  were buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, in Independence, Mo.

Bright future

A promising career as a pharmacist awaited Edward T. McDowell, when he earned his doctorate degree in June 1911 from Howard University, District of Columbia.

Soon thereafter, he put his pharmacy career on hold, returning to Hannibal, where by 1914 he was working as editor of the newspaper founded by his father, the Rev. Cyrus R. McDowell.

Named the Home Protective Record, the newspaper was at first distributed monthly, and in early 1912 converted to a weekly. 

The Thursday, May 14, 1914 edition touted: "Read the Home Protective Record and get all the Race News.” Subscription was $1 per year.

In that same edition were advertisements for “up town merchants who welcome colored patronage.” Included were J.C. Raible, 1240-42 Market; Wilhelm and Strode, 1300 Market; and Will E. Griswold, 1206 Broadway.

The newspaper office and printing plant were located at 210 Center, on the north side of the street, adjacent to the alley, Hannibal, Mo. (Five 1914 editions of this newspaper are available through the subscription search engine, May 14, Aug. 16, Aug. 20, Sept. 1 and Dec. 1.)

Young editor

A Hannibal resident since high school, and a proud graduate of Hannibal’s Douglass School, Eddie McDowell, as he was known, continued on with his education after leaving his parents’ home.

In 1908, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Lincoln Institute in Jefferson City. 

The Jefferson City Tribune noted, in its Feb. 13, 1908 edition: “As a member of the Lincoln Day program presented by the Class of 1908, Lincoln Institute, Edward McDowell presented a Recitation, Declamation, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.”

At graduation, he gave an oration, “Education and Civic Prosperity,” indicating the close relationship which exists between education in all of its phases and the prosperity of the state. “No nation can rise above its educational ideals,” he said.

He next studied at Roger Williams University, Nashville, Tenn. Upon graduation, he enrolled at Howard University, Washington, D.C., where he earned a doctorate in pharmacy in June 1911.

A mention in the Sept. 1, 1914 edition of the Hannibal Courier-Post described Eddie McDowell as one of the best educated men in Hannibal.

Move to Hannibal

The Rev. Cyrus R. McDowell was born in 1852 at Bowling Green, Ky. He was married to Mary C. in 1883, and together, they had three children: Cyrene C. McDowell, born about 1885; Jennie F. McDowell, born about 1886; and their only son, Eddie T. McDowell, in 1887.

In August 1891, Rev. C.R. McDowell was the preacher for the African Baptist Church at Independence.

As early as October 1901, Cyrus R. McDowell was ministering in Hannibal. That month he presided at a ceremony at the Eighth and Center Baptist Church, uniting in marriage Mr. William Ross and Miss Lucie Edwards.

In 1903, the McDowell family was living in the parsonage of the Eighth and Center Street Baptist Church, 722 Center, behind the church. Daughter Cyrene was a teacher at Douglass School.

In February 1912, W.H. Dixon was managing editor of the newspaper, and George F. Neil was associate editor. The motto was: “Truth and Righteousness, Good Government and Equality of Citizenship.”

Political in nature, in May 1914, the Rev. C.R. McDowell , as well as Dr. O.C. Queen, and Messrs. C. Powers, M. Robinson, Ben Moss and E.T. McDowell of Hannibal, attended the Republican Convention in Kansas City. Dr. Queen and Rev. McDowell were elected as delegates to the state convention, which was to meet in St. Louis.

Cyrene marries

On June 29, 1905, Rev. McDowell’s surviving daughter, Cyrene, was united in marriage with John F. Trent of Burlington, Iowa. The ceremony took place at the Eighth and Center Street Baptist Church.

The church “was crowded to its capacity,” according to a write up the next day in the Hannibal Weekly Journal. “Everything was on an elaborate style, it being the most notable marriage of colored people that has taken place in Hannibal for a number of years.”

Newspaper background

Cyrus R. McDowell’s foray into the newspaper business wasn’t his first venture. He founded the Bowling Green (Ky.) watchman newspaper (also known as Warren Watchman) in 1887, and served as the editor beginning in 1889. The newspaper was published 1887-1892. Source: “Bowling Green watchman (newspaper),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 2, 2024,

Note: Rhonda Brown Hall of Hannibal, Mo., contributed to the research for this story.

Next week: Rev. McDowell’s religious affiliations in Hannibal.

While a poor reproduction, this photo of E.T. McDowell is deemed appropriate to re-publish. It was found in the May 14, 1914 edition of the Home Protective Record, a black-owned newspaper in Hannibal, Mo. Accessed via

This is the flag from the May 14, 1914 edition of the Home Protective Record, a black-owned newspaper in Hannibal, Mo. Accessed via

McElroy & Brown Transfer advertised in the May 14, 1914, edition of the Home Protective Record of Hannibal, Mo. In 2024. the Brown family is still in the transfer business, J.T. Brown and Rhonda Brown Hall doing business as Brown and Son Moving and Storage. (This company moved the author of this story to Tulsa, Okla., in 2019. At midnight, in Tulsa, while the crew was unloading, a tornado touched down a mile and a half away.)

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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