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Frances V. Shaw planted roots for future generations to follow

Barb Shaw O’Brien of Hannibal is a great-great granddaughter of John and Frances V. Shaw. She supplied this photo of four generations of her family, all mentioned in today’s story. From left, her grandfather, William F. Shaw Sr.; her great-grandmother, Kate Rendlen; her father, William F. Shaw Jr., and her great-grandfather, James Burton (Burt) Shaw.


Frances V. Shaw was a woman ahead of her times. Born in 1854 in upper New York state, she was a family matriarch, an adventurer, a nurturer, a strong woman of faith and a dedicated Sunday school teacher. She followed the trails introduced into her life with courage and perseverance.

She might never have lived in Hannibal proper, but she none-the-less left behind a rippling legacy in the town on the banks of the Mississippi River which once served as the rail gateway to the West.

It was those rails that initially summoned Frances V. Shaw (she referred to herself as Mrs. F.V. Shaw) to Missouri. Her husband, John, was a steam locomotive engineer, who moved with his family from Eldridge, Onondaga County, New York, to Macon County, Missouri by 1900.

They settled in the tiny burb of Lingo, a few miles to the west of the more populated New Cambria, in Macon County. These two towns, slightly to the north of United States National Highway No. 36, were indisputably railroad towns, located on the Burlington tracks which historically carried passengers and freight back and forth from Hannibal to St. Joseph.

There was a stretch of rail near the Chariton River, between Bevier and New Cambria, where the grade was pitched so that heavy trains needed a “push” to climb the incline. Circa 1900, John Shaw took the job of “pusher” at New Cambria, operating the steam locomotive which gave those trains a ‘push’ they needed.

(A decade later, his brother, James C. Shaw, featured in this column on March 18, 2023, would work that same train route.)

South Dakota

After leaving Missouri during the early years of the 20th Century, John and Frances V. Shaw moved to South Dakota, settling in an unincorporated community called Lyman. The population of Lyman County grew from 2,632 in 1900 to 10,848 in 1910. (Note: The South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation suggests this population swell - not only in Lyman County but across the state - was driven by agriculture and gold mining.) The Shaws remained in South Dakota, where John farmed, at least through the years leading up to World War I.

By 1920, John and Frances V. Shaw had relocated to their home state of New York. They settled at Jordan, located on the banks of the old Erie Canal. Living with them was their grandson, John L. Stinson, age 23.

Visiting Hannibal

In late August, 1927, Frances V. Shaw, by now a widow, made the trip from upstate New York back to New Cambria, Mo., where she had lived for more than a decade, to visit with friends and family.

The family she visited there included her niece, Isabella Shaw Cook, daughter of James and Myra Shaw, (formerly of Hannibal) who were featured in this column on March 18, 2023. Isabella, married to Roy Cook, remained in Macon County after the deaths of her parents, and their children included Harold, born circa 1921; and Madge, born circa 1925.

After her visit to Macon County, Frances V. Shaw, then in her mid 70s, traveled east to Hannibal, presumably by train, where she visited with her son, James (Burt) Shaw and his family, who were living at 2927 St. Mary’s Ave.

The grandchildren she visited in Hannibal included: Barbara, Albertina, Katherine and William Shaw, at that time in their late teens or early 20s.

Hannibal in 1927:

When Frances V. Shaw visited Hannibal in 1927: Hannibal High School was still located on Broadway; and Mark Twain School was a small rectangular building located between Hill and Bird, two blocks west of St. Mary’s Avenue. In the year prior to the stock market crash of 1928, Hannibal’s economic structure was thriving.

In the neighborhood of James B. Shaw’s home at 2927 St. Mary’s Ave., he operated an automobile repair and service station at 2900 St. Mary’s. Clarence Sparrow had a grocery store directly to the south of the Shaw home, at 2923 St. Mary’s. Kroger’s, at 2905 St. Mary’s, was next door to the original St. Mary’s Pharmacy, operated by J. Forrest Palmer, at 2907 St. Mary’s. Ralph Young lived in the house previously owned by James B. Shaw’s uncle, James C. Shaw, located at 2918 St. Mary’s. The Home Oil Co., service station was at 2903 St. Mary’s, at the intersection of the avenue and James Road, along with Alphonso B. Montgomery’s car and sign painting business.

Frances V. Shaw’s children

The adult children who moved to Missouri with their parents pre-1900 included:

  • Maude Shaw, first married to George L. Stinson. They made their home at Parsons, Kansas. They had one son, Verne Stinson, who died tragically in a car accident at Jordan, N.Y., in 1920. Maude remarried in 1920, to Forest T. Gibbs, and they made their home at Hannibal, Oswego, New York. Maude died in 1953 at Brutus, New York, and is buried at Maple Grove Cemetery, Jordan, New York, near her parents.

  • Nathan Laverne Shaw, born in 1876, was working as a fireman for a locomotive in Brookfield, Linn County, Mo., in 1900. When he registered for the draft circa 1918, he was a locomotive engineer for the Walsh Construction Company in Davenport, Iowa. He died at Brutus, New York, in 1948, at the age of 70. He is buried near his parents.

  • James B. (Burt) Shaw, born Nov. 18, 1878, was working as a machinist in the Burlington shops at Hannibal by 1900. He was married the following year to Katherine Rendlen at Hannibal (1880-1946) and they lived much of their married life in a two-story, brick house at 2927 St. Mary’s Avenue. Burt died in 1960. They have many descendants in the Hannibal area.

The patriarch and matriarch of the family, John and Frances V. Shaw, are buried together at Maple Grove Cemetery, Jordan, New York. Mr. Shaw died in 1923 and Mrs. Shaw died in 1934, around the age of 80.

Barb Shaw O’Brien shares a page from Tina Shaw Hendren’s family Bible. John Shaw and Frances V. Cory Shaw are listed as Tina’s paternal grandparents.

Burt and Kate Rendlen Shaw. Photo contributed by Barb Shaw O’Brien of Hannibal, their great-granddaughter. For many years Burt and Kate lived at 2927 St. Mary’s Avenue in Hannibal. In 1897, before he was married to Kate Rendlen, Burt boarded at 303 Draper Street, with his aunt, Susan M. Shaw Lewis, widow of Calvin Lewis. Susan was sister to Burt Shaw’s father, John Shaw.

Otis Howell of the Hannibal Courier-Post took this photo of the Shaw house at 2927 St. Mary's Avenue in 1949. The house, next door to Adams Supermarket, was later torn down to make way for grocery store parking. Steve Chou collection.

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,’ the newest book, Oakwood: West of Hannibal.” Montgomery can be reached at Her collective works can be found at


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