Future looked bright for Reichmann family until …
Dr. Philip J. Reichmann and Mary Katherine Hefel were married on April 20, 1904. Mrs. Reichmann died in December 1915, at the age of 35. She had a tubal pregnancy, and died from a pulmonary embolism. She left behind two young sons. Photo courtesy of Dottisue Gansemer.
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
Nearly a dozen boys in their mid teens gathered together on Sunday morning, July 1, 1924, at what was then known as the Scyoc farm, located on the Paris Gravel Road, a mile west of Oakwood.
Among the boys was 15-year-old Joseph Francis O’Hern, whose father, Joseph O’Hern Sr., operated a retail drug store at 113 S. Main in downtown Hannibal.
The boys, most of whom were fellow Boy Scouts, were unsupervised, according to a newspaper report, and their antics superseded caution.
One of the boys, toying with a 12-gauge shotgun, pulled the hammer back, intending to put it in the lock position. Instead, his thumb slipped, according to a report in the Ralls County Record a few days later. This action sent a cartridge, at close range, directly into the leg of Joseph F. O’Hern.
Panicked, the boys summoned medical assistance. Called to the scene was Dr. Phillip James Reichmann, whose home and medical practice were located at 3207 Market, across from and a little to the west of Washington School.
Upon examination, Dr. Reichmann discovered that the shot left a four-inch furrow in O’Hern’s right leg.
He notified two surgeons, Drs. T.M. Monroe and J.C. Chilton, and then proceeded to rush the lad to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, where Monroe and Chilton were waiting.
Fear prevailed that the leg would require amputation, but later that was deemed unnecessary.
“Luckily,” the Ralls County Herald reported, “the shot was fired at very close range because when physicians examined the wound they found that the charge of shot had missed the large artery in his leg by a margin of about half an inch. If that artery had been struck, according to Dr. Monroe, death would have occurred within 30 minutes.”
Philip J. Reichmann conducted a medical practice out of his home on Market Street from 1917 until 1938, when he retired. He treated Oakwood neighbors, who may have found that a trip into Hannibal several miles away was cumbersome. Dr. Reichmann, a general practitioner, treated common illnesses and delivered babies.
Born in Dubuque, Iowa in 1877, Reichmann was married to Katherine Hefel in 1904. Their first son, John J. Reichmann, was born in 1905 at North Buena Vista, Iowa; their second son, Charles Philip, was born in September 1912, at Dubuque, Iowa.
Dr. Reichmann first practiced medicine at Westphalia, Mo., a German community near Jefferson City. They later moved to Rensellear, Ralls County, Mo.
That is where his family was living in December 1915, when Dr. Reichmann’s wife, Kate, died at the age of 35. She had a tubal pregnancy, and died from a pulmonary embolism.
After his mother’s death, Charles went to live with his aunt and uncle, Minnie and Ed Viertel in Dubuque, where he stayed until November 1917, when his father married Anna Dunlea.
The newly blended family, including Anna’s daughters Mildred and Margaret, moved to the two-story brick dwelling at 3207 Market, which served as both home and office for Dr. Reichman for the next 22 years.
The stage was set for a happily ever after ending, but ultimately, that wasn’t going to be the case.
Dr. P.J. Reichmann closed his practice in 1938, due to a lingering illness.
His wife, Anna Reichmann, died Sept. 22, 1938, at the age of 62, of a cerebral hemorrhage, following surgery.
Dr. Reichmann died in early January 1939 of chronic nephritis and diabetes mellitus. He was just 62 at the time of his death.
Then, in July 1939 came the ultimate family blow. But first …
John J. Reichmann, the first born son, grew up to follow in his father’s professional footsteps. J.J. Reichmann graduated from St. Louis University School of Medicine and returned to Hannibal to practice the profession.
The elder Dr. Reichmann wanted his younger son, Charles, to go to college, too. Charles attended the Missouri School of Mines for two years, then returned to Hannibal, where he worked as a (highly respected) motorcycle mechanic.
Dottisue Gansemer, who conducted extensive genealogy research on the Reichmann family more than 20 years ago, attaches personality types to the two brothers.
“John was a flamboyant person who liked to call attention to himself,” Gansemer wrote in a book she compiled after interviewing family members and friends. “John Reichmann returned to North Buena Vista in 1947 for his uncle’s funeral. He arrived (in the town of his birth) driven by his … chauffeur.”
“Charles,” she wrote, “was a daredevil type, who lived on the ‘wild side.’ He was an expert mechanic and was involved in a motorcycle agency and repair shop.” He was a 1930 graduate of Hannibal High School.
Let’s go flying
On Wednesday afternoon, July 19, 1939, just months following the deaths of his step-mother and father, Charles accepted an invitation from Clarence Mills to go flying.
Clarence, 25, was manager of Mills Auto Parts, a licensed pilot and was the previous owner of a 90 horsepower, nine-year-old black Cavalier cabin monoplane, which he had recently sold to Clay Hampshire, of Quincy, Ill.
Mills and Reichmann went to Quincy, and Mills subsequently told an employee at the airport that he had permission to fly Hampshire’s plane.
The pair left Quincy and headed across the river to Hannibal. As airplane flying was still a relative novel occurrence in Hannibal and its environs, the flight of Mills and Reichmann in the monoplane attracted a lot of attention.
After circling around town, the pair headed north, following the river presumably back to the Quincy airport.
When the boat flew up the river, 10-year-old Robert Kastner was attending a Red Cross lifesaving training camp with his father, H.E. Kastner. The river camp where the training took place was owned by Dr. W.H. Hays. Young Kastner told officials that he saw the airplane flying low and watched as it went into a tailspin, making about 4 turns. The plane leveled off, the boy said, then dove nose down into the river.
Mr. Kastner got into the Red Cross life-saving boat and sped to the wreckage, and was believed to be the first to arrive on scene.
Joe and Gladys Hamilton also saw the crash, while they were working in a field on the E.W. Nelson farm. Joe Hamilton said, the plane “did two or three flip-flops and started to fall.” He and his wife both said that the plane made a terrible noise when it hit the water.
Three Hannibal men, also witnesses to the crash, put a boat into the water and sped to the scene to help. They were Ace Powers, Charles Hendricks and Earl Fogle.
The bodies of the two accident victims were removed from the airplane within 45 minutes of the crash, and were taken to Hannibal under the supervision of Coroner O’Donnell.
The plane was pulled to a nearby sandbar.
By the time investigators arrived the following morning, parts of the plane had been removed, making a full investigation of the crash impossible.
Neither of the young men were married. Mills was to have been married to Miss Madaline L. Crowe, of Hannibal, Aug. 15, 1939.
When Charles Reichmann left the motorcycle shop early Wednesday afternoon, he bid farewell to his business partner, Jack Dunn.
Dunn later repeated to a reporter for the Quincy Herald Whig what Reichmann said to him as he was leaving the shop: “If you hear a big splash in the Mississippi after while, that’s us.”
Mr. Dunn told the reporter that at the time he did not realize the remark would turn out to be prophetic.
Charles Reichmann was buried near his father and step-mother at Grand View Burial Park.
Dr. John Reichmann died in November 1959 at his home, 3402 Greenway. He was just shy of 54 years of age, and had been in ill health for the previous eight years. He was survived by his wife Annette, and one daughter, Mrs. David (Nada Jean) Gray. Dr. J.J. Reichmann was buried at Grand View Burial Park.
The second accident victim, Clarence Mills, was buried in Muscatine, Iowa.
The house where Dr. Philip J. Reichmann lived and practiced medicine for more than two decades still stands at 3207 Market, Hannibal, Mo. 2022 photo by Mary Lou Montgomery
Dr. John J. Reichmann, photo published in the Hannibal Courier-Post at the time of his death in November 1959. Contributed by Dottisue Gansemer.
Only the rudder of the black Cavalier plane piloted by Clarence Mills of Hannibal remained out of the water after the ship plunged into the Mississippi six miles south of Quincy late Wednesday afternoon, July 19, 1939. This photograph was taken by J. Greene MacKenzie, of The Herald-Whig’s Hannibal office, after members of a rescue crew had attached chains and a cable to the rudder preparatory to turning the plane over on its back and towing it to a sandbar nearby. Quincy Herald Whig, Thursday, July 20, 1939
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,” and “Hannibal’s ‘West End,’” 47 stories of the Market Street Wedge and on west to Lindell Avenue. Montgomery can be reached at Montgomery.firstname.lastname@example.org Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com