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Cut marble and carved granite a reminder of life after death

The Rev. Dr. Denis Kennedy is at rest at Hannibal’s Holy Family Cemetery, beneath a stone made by Alexander Chipley’s Hannibal Marble Works. The monument was valued at $1,000 at the time of Rev. Kennedy’s death in 1884. He was minister for the Immaculate Conception Church in Hannibal from 1871 until his death. Find a grave photo by Heather Cottrell.


Resting below an awning of tree branches at Hannibal’s Holy Family Cemetery are the remains of the Rev. Denis Kennedy. Irish by birth and educated in St. Louis, Rev. Kennedy served the Immaculate Conception Church in Hannibal, from 1871 until his untimely death came on Aug. 29, 1884, at the age of 56-57.

When his burial time came, the cemetery - originally known as Immaculate Conception Catholic Cemetery - was far in the countryside from Hannibal, accessible via horse and wagon.

The cemetery was platted in 1869 on land donated by Mr. and Mrs. William J. Quealy and Mr. and Mrs. Michael Murphy.

So long has it been since Rev. Kennedy’s passing, that few would know of his resting spot, if it weren’t for a handsome stone in the shape of a cross installed as a monument to his life and legacy.

That stone, installed by Alexander Chipley of Hannibal Marble Works, valued at $1,000 in 1884 dollars, represents the esteem that the Hannibal Catholic congregation had for their preacher, described in his obituary as a very unassuming and retiring man. In addition, it represents the trust they placed in Mr. Chipley, a Missouri native, who created this lasting monument.

Hannibal newcomer

Alexander Chipley, who had already practiced his trade as a marble cutter and monument dealer at Paris and Carrollton, Missouri, and Leadville, Colo., before moving to Hannibal in 1884, operated his shop in a small frame building located at 603 Broadway. Working for Mr. Chipley at the time of Rev. Kennedy’s death were:

Elsworth, Finley and Samuel Sunnard, marble workers;

Robert A. Rowland, engraver;

A.W. Menefee and J.E. Martin, salesmen;

and Robert Martin, marble worker.

Alexander Chipley’s brother, James Newton Chipley, at this same time was a Hannibal dentist working upstairs over the Egbert N. Loomis queensware and glassware shop, 302 Broadway.

Born at Shelbyville

Alexander Chipley was born Feb. 5, 1851, at Shelbyville, Mo., to William Lee and Mary Jane Chipley. His brother, Newton, was born two years later. By 1870, the family had moved to Carrollton, Mo., where the family patriarch, William Lee Chipley (a West Point graduate) worked as a druggist.

Their next move was to Colorado, circa 1879. Both Alexander, his brother Newton, and their father, William L., lived in Leadville, Colo., where Alexander worked as a marble engraver and his brother practiced dentistry. William L. Chipley died at his home, 129 W. Eighth St., at the approximate age of 76. The elder Chipley’s remains were returned to Oak Hill Cemetery, Carrollton, Carroll County, Mo., for burial.

After his father’s death, Alexander Chipley moved his family from Colorado back to Missouri, where he opened Carrollton Marble Works, a successor of Bills Brothers’ Marble Works.

It was in Carrollton that his son Roscoe Chipley was born in 1881. Three more children were born to Alexander and Frances Burnett Chipley: Newton Chipley, circa 1883 at Carrollton, Mo.; Virginia Florence Chipley, circa 1885 at Hannibal; and Helen Chipley, circa 1892.

The Shelbina Torchlight, March 20, 1891, reported that during his time in Hannibal, Chipley “turned out all of the cut stone used in the two $35,000 school buildings, and the fine city prison.”

Note: According to J. Hurley and Roberta Roland’s “Story of Hannibal,” Hannibal voters approved a $40,000 bond issue in 1884. Subsequently three school buildings were constructed, The Southside School at Fifth and Washington; West School at Pearl and Houston; and Douglass School, Barton and Willow.

Around that same time, the police station was constructed at Fourth and Church streets.

On the move

In the spring of 1891, the Chipley family left Hannibal, moving to Shelbina, where Alexander Chipley bought out the existing shop of Hollyman and Stevenson. On Feb. 25, 1891, the Shelby County Herald reported: “Mr. Chipley was here last Thursday, having brought two wagon loads of material for the monument which he is to erect over the grave of Col. John F. Benjamin, in the Odd Fellows’ Cemetery. The monument is to be of granite and will be a very fine one.”

Chipley advertised in the Shelbina Democrat, June 10, 1891: “Wanted. A good white girl to do general housework and milk cow. Good wages paid. A. Chipley.”

By July 10, 1891, Chipley had decided to re-enter the monument business in Hannibal, operating the Shelbina facility as a branch of the Hannibal institution.

In 1892, his marble shop, now known as the Hannibal Marble Works, was located at 603 Broadway, Hannibal, and Mr. Chipley lived with his family at 209 N. Sixth. Working for him in Hannibal were marble cutters John B. Whalen, Daniel Welsh and Leonard Copenhaver.

One year later, Chipley was on the move again, first to Monroe City and then to Shelbina.

In September 1894, he received two car loads of marble at his Shelbina facility.

The 1900 census found the Chipley family living on Main Street, Paris, Mo.

The final destination for the family was St. Louis, where Mr. Chipley was once again a marble dealer, the family residing at 2726 Armand, St. Louis.

Unhappily ever after

It was in St. Louis where the previously presumed marital bliss between Alexander and Frances Burnett Chipley became salacious material for the gossip mill.

In February 1906, Mrs. Chipley brought suit in the St. Louis Circuit Court, asking for a divorce.

She charged, and he denied:

“Alexander Chipley, alleging that the latter for the last two or three years would, in public press, advertise himself as desirous of a wife, and that he would sit up until 2 a.m. answering letters which he received in reply to the advertisements.”


“She alleges that he began to quarrel with her two weeks after their marriage, and that he … called her bad names.”

The Shelbina Democrat, in reporting the divorce charges in its Feb. 21, 1906 edition, sided with the husband, at least on the last count. Alexander Chipley, known to have a speech impediment, the newspaper opined: “will be inclined to doubt at least, that (the) portion of her allegations which accuses him of calling her bad names.”

And the same year as divorce proceedings advanced, Alexander Chipley was seriously injured in a freak accident. The St. Louis Globe Democrat reported:

“With his overcoat caught by the door, A. Chipley, 55 years old, of 3646 Flad Avenue, was held a prisoner on an Easton avenue car, which dragged him 50 feet. He had tried to step from the car, when his coat was caught and the car started. One of his fingers was fractured and he sustained cuts and bruises on the face and hands. He was taken to his home.”

He survived, and continued working in the marble business. He died July 10, 1936, at Central Hospital, 4518 Washington Ave., St. Louis. Burial was at Carrollton, Mo., near the graves of his parents.

His wife, Frances Louis Chipley died May 31, 1940, at Jewish Hospital.

On their respective death certificates, each was listed as the other’s spouse. She was laid to rest at Oak Grove Mausoleum, St. Louis.

Chipley monuments

Culled from newspapers throughout Missouri, listed are some of the monuments that were constructed, sold and installed by Alexander Chipley:

George N. McGee, Richmond Cemetery, in Ray County, near Kansas City, an eight-foot monument.

Rev. Dr. John Leighton, a pastor of Hannibal’s First Presbyterian Church during the early 1870s, a fine grey granite monument, Greenwood Cemetery, Palmyra.

Dr. J.A. Hampton of Hannibal, a $1,000 monument at Hydesburg Cemetery, Ralls County, Mo.

Rev. Father Denis Kennedy’s monument at Holy Family Cemetery, Hannibal.

J.H. Herriman’s $1,000 monument at Hannibal.

Col. John F. Benjamin, monument in the Odd Fellows’ Cemetery in Shelbina.

Hugh Lafayette Hickman’s $1,800 monument, Section 6, Lot 22, Mount Olivet Cemetery, Hannibal. (1828-1885)

John A. Hampton, and his wife, Susan Hampton, are memorialized in Ralls County’s Hydesburg Cemetery. Mr. Hampton, before his death in 1892, purchased this monument from Alexander Chipley, who was at the time a marble cutter and monument dealer at Hannibal, Mo. In court transcripts of the civil trial that Dorcas Hampton filed to claim a child’s share of John A. Hampton’s estate in 1894, Dorcas Hampton testified that John A. Hampton took her to see the monument that he had placed on his wife’s grave. It cost $1,000 at the time of the original purchase, which would be $34,438.49 today, according to CPI Inflation Calculator. This photo was taken in 2011, when Mary Lou Montgomery was just starting her research on a book about the Hampton family: “The Notorious Madam Shaw,” which was published in 2016. The book is available via The dog in the photo is Montgomery’s beloved Maltese, Pebbles, who died in 2012.

Alexander Chipley advertised his business in the May 22, 1885, edition of the Palmyra Spectator.

The Hannibal police station on the southwest corner of Fourth and Church streets was constructed in the mid 1880s. Alexander Chipley told the Shelbina Torchlight for its March 20, 1891 edition that he supplied all of the cut stone for the construction of this building. Photo taken in April 2022 by Mary Lou Montgomery

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,” and “Hannibal’s ‘West End,’” 47 stories of the Market Street Wedge and on west to Lindell Avenue. Montgomery can be reached at Her collective works can be found at


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