Combining ‘Courier’ and ‘Post’ into long-standing newspaper
Photo of the Evening Post staff, 1885. The photo identifies the employees of the printing shop of J.H. West, on South Main Street in Hannibal, where the Hannibal Evening Post was born. Identified are, left to right, Edward F. Wright (13 years old at the time), pressman; the man next to him is unknown; J.H. West, job printer; T.B. Morris, business manager; B. Frank Brown, editor; Walter Morris, printing foreman; and Roswell Benedict, a printer. The building would house the B.F. Goodrich store in 1952. Photo published in the Hannibal Courier-Post’s “New Home” edition, 1952.
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
The name “Courier-Post” should be synonymous with Thomas B. Morris, for it was Mr. Morris, whose newspaper acquisition in 1891 combined his startup newspaper, “The Daily Post,” with the already existing “The Daily Courier” created the “Courier-Post” which continues to serve Hannibal, Mo. today.
While many owners have claimed the Hannibal newspapers as their own since 1838, Thomas B. Morris had a long run of leadership in the town’s political and economic realms.
Morris, born in 1843 in West Virginia, was a Civil War veteran, having served with the F 19 Iowa Infantry and the M 8 Iowa Calverie.
When he was a child, his parents, Charles F. and Martha J. Wright Morris, moved from West Virginia to Wapello, Iowa, and there raised their son to adulthood.
He came to Missouri from Port Louisa, Iowa, where his father, Charles F. Morris, was a tailor. In 1880, Thomas B. Morris. 37, was living in Bowling Green, Pike County, Mo., with his wife, Lucy, and their three children, Walton Morris, 6, Nelly Morris, 4, and Fenton Morris, 1.
In 1891, three Hannibal newspapermen formed a partnership and purchased the Hannibal Daily Courier, doing business at 411-413 Broadway. Previous owners were Samuel G. McDowell, George Fisher and Ernest Roderick.
The new owners were Thomas B. Morris, Benjamin Frank Brown and Sample A. Birch. By 1892 they would move the newspaper plant to 313 Broadway.
• Benjamin Frank Brown, born in 1862 in Centralia, Ill., had been a newspaper printer for the Hannibal Courier as early as 1881, and before that as a typographer for the Clipper-Herald in 1879.
• Sample Austin Birch, born in 1856 in Iowa, was a respected journalist throughout his lifetime. Married to Ida E. Birch, they had three children, Frank H. Birch, Ethel R. Birch and Hellen D. Birch.
In 1881, S.A. Birch had been a partner with S.G. McDowell as proprietors and publishers of the Hannibal daily and weekly Courier, at 206 S. Main.
In 1885, prior to his affiliation with Thomas B. Morris, S.A. Birch was local mail agent and city editor of the Daily Courier. He owned the newspaper in conjunction with Samuel W. Birch, editor, and S.G. McDowell.
It wasn’t long after Morris, Brown and Birch purchased the newspaper circa 1890, that Benjamin Frank Brown sold out his interest in the newspaper to Morris and Birch. Brown continued working for the newspaper. In 1914, Brown established the Hannibal Labor Press. He was a member of Hannibal typographical Union No. 88 from 1885 until the time of his death, at age 75, in January 1938. He was the son of William Henry Brown and Elizabeth McGee, and husband of Irene V. Fowler and Lela Belle Noel. Lela Noel Brown continued the operation of the Labor Press after her husband’s death.
In January 1907, Thomas B. Morris sold the Courier-Post’s entire property, including daily and weekly subscriptions and advertising contracts, job plant, machinery and equipment to the Lee Newspaper Syndicate of Davenport, Iowa.
The Courier-Post moved to 300 Broadway circa 1907. It would continue in that location until June 1952, when the newspaper moved to 200 N. Third.
In 1907, Thomas B. Morris was named postmaster for Hannibal, to succeed Charles M. Alger.
Morris subsequently named his son, Fenton Morris, as assistant postmaster.
Fenton Morris previously worked as a pressman at his father’s newspaper.
Thomas B. Morris died June 1, 1920. He was a widow, his wife passing two years prior. He was 76 at the time of his death, and his home was at 308 N. Fourth. He and his wife, Lucy Walton Blain, are buried together at Mount Olivet Cemetery. A male quartette, composed of Howard J. and Thad Smith, and Roger Smoot and Harold Heinze, sang several selections at his funeral at the Park Methodist Church.
Mr. and Mrs. Morris were survived by a daughter, Mrs. William H. (Nellie) Scott of Palmyra, and Fenton Blaine Morris. Mr. Scott was brother to Mrs. A.B. Drescher of Hannibal.
Thomas B. Morris. Photo by Tomlinson, as published in the “Mirror of Hannibal,” Revised edition, 1990.
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 Amazon.com 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 Montgomery.firstname.lastname@example.org Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com