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Hancock brothers notable clergy in church’s history

The Second Christian Church, located at 1616 West Broadway, Hannibal, Mo., on Aug. 11, 1933. Herring Studio photo; J. Allen Ballard, identifier. Hannibal Free Public Library collection.


The Hancock brothers were considered to be among the most prominent of Midwestern evangelists during the latter portion of the 19th Century, and the early decades of the 20th Century. They criss-crossed Missouri, either singularly or as a duo, stopping at small towns along the way, such as Potosi, New London, Kearney, Salisbury, Neosho and Dover, in order to spread the Word.

Whether raising money for repairs to a church roof in Kansas City, saving souls in the waters of the Salt River at Paris, or adding 31 members to the church roster at the Second Christian Church in Hannibal, the Hancock brothers could do it all.

And Hannibal was a key spot on their evangelistic journey.

Each brother, in his turn, served as minister for Hannibal’s Second Christian Church, then located on West Broadway.

W.M. Hancock, born Feb. 11, 1862, was referred to in the Aug. 19, 1911, edition of the Hannibal Courier-Post as the “founder and organizer of the (Hannibal)  congregation.” Research confirms he was associated with the  Second Christian Church in Hannibal as early as 1886. That’s when trouble arose over church leadership. The Palmyra Spectator described the scene: “Trouble arising in the colored Christian church in Hannibal over a a surplus of ministers.” Some congregants wanted the Rev. Thos. Shropshire in the pulpit, and some wanted the Rev. W.M. Hancock to continue in his role. Eventually, Rev. Hancock went on his evangelistic way, but by 1894, he was, at least temporarily, and would continue to be - off and on - back in the Hannibal pulpit.

M.C. Hancock, born April 15, 1871, was called to the ministry of the Second Christian Church on Sept. 14, 1913. He would continue in that capacity until he died of influenza on Aug. 5, 1926, in Hannibal, at the age of 55.

It was during the tenure of Rev. M.C. Hancock that a new church building was constructed.

The story of the Hancock brothers begins in the1860s. Their parents, Stephen and Sally Hancock of Nashville, Tenn. settled in Wyandotte, Kansas, following emancipation. Wyandotte is now a part of the Kansas City metropolitan area.

The two young brothers would become among the most memorable Missouri Disciples of Christ ministers of their era.

In Hannibal, the Second Christian Church was a single-story frame building, and served the congregation from an estimated 1875 until the building was torn down in 1917. 

It was during the tenure of the Rev. M.C. Hancock, in 1917, that construction on the two-story, stone structure, which would serve Hannibal’s Second Christian Church congregation for many years, was begun on West Broadway. 

During the same decade, the Rev. Hancock’s brother, the Rev. W.M. Hancock, was putting the finishing touches on the Second Christian Church in Lawrence, Kan., where he was minister at the time.

Rev. W.M. Hancock, the older of the two brothers, told the Lawrence Daily Journal World for its Nov. 16, 1916 edition,  about  the Kansas’ church construction: "Contributions of material have made possible the building of the church, and members of the congregation have donated their time to the work of construction. The church is now completely enclosed, the roof having been finished last week, and the work of plastering will start soon. Rev. Wm. Hancock, the pastor, has taken an active part in the actual work on the building and as he is a plasterer will personally supervise the finish of the interior.”

It would be a fair guess to say that Hannibal’s church was built on the same premise: Volunteer labor combined with donated materials to put together a proper church for worship.

The Hancock brothers come across, in a number of articles that dotted Missouri and Kansas newspapers during their lives, as the energetic type, willing to roll up their sleeves to get the work done.

At the end of his life, in 1925, the older of the two brothers told the editor of The People’s Elevator in Wichita, Kan., that he built 48 churches during his career as a Disciples of Christ minister; sadly for him, that was two shy of his goal of 50.

The Rev. M.C. Hancock lost two family members to death while working at Hannibal; Annie Early, his daughter, died Dec. 26, 1916, in Chicago.  Services were conducted at the Hannibal church.

William Robertson, Rev. M.C. Hancock’s son-in-law, died in Tacoma, Wash.

San Francisco

Rev W.M. Hancock was reported injured in a freak street car accident the evening of March 19, 1906, in San Francisco. The Berkeley Daily Gazette reported on its front page on March 20 that “Minister has foot crushed.”

The particulars are as such: “While attempting to cross the tracks at the juncture of Alcatraz avenue and Grove street last night, Rev. W.M. Hancock of Kansas City, Mo., was struck by an Alcatraz avenue street car and so severely injured that it was found necessary to amputate half of his right foot.”

The operation took place at Roosevelt Hospital.

The operation may have slowed his gate, but it didn’t curb his enthusiasm for delivering the Word.

Note: The 1906 Great San Francisco Earthquake occurred less than a month after Rev. Hancock’s accident, shaking San Francisco with a record force at 7:12 a.m. April 18, 1906.

Death calls

Death would come to the two brothers during a relatively short time span.

Rev. W.M. Hancock died Feb. 24, 1925. His death notice in The People’s Elevator newspaper at Wichita, Kan., said that he had been preaching since he was a boy. He was 63 years old. The newspaper noted that many of his white friends were in attendance at the service. He was buried at Oak Grove Cemetery, Kansas City, Wyandotte County, alongside his mother, who died in 1883. He was survived by one sister, Mrs. M.E. Price, widow of Matthew E. Price, and a daughter, Albertha E. Robinson (Mrs. Warrick E.) Graves.

Rev. M.C. Hancock, who lived with his family at 1917 Settles in Hannibal, died May 25, 1926 of influenza. Burial was in Robinson Cemetery. His wife, Lilly May Hancock, and son, Roy, ultimately moved to Cincinnati, Ohio,  where Roy went to work at a Steel Mill. Among his survivors was his daughter, Mrs. Martha Robertson Blount, and her son, Frank Robertson, Tacoma, Wash.

Today, the church proper continues to thrive at 404 Willow St., the congregation 150 years strong. The Rev. Angela Williams, a Hannibal native and fifth generation Disciple of Christ, is the minister.

In 2024, all that remains of this early church edifice, and the frame building that stood on the same parcel of ground 1875-1917, is an empty lot, some stones and weeds.

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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