Historic cliff-side house has many stories to tell
This house, now numbered 512 Hill St., Hannibal, Mo., is part of the Hannibal Free Public Library’s collection, and is labeled as the home of Agnes Worrell. Agnes was a teacher at Hannibal’s West School at the beginning of the 20th Century. Her father, Stanley E. Worrell, and her grandmother, Anne Elizabeth Lawton Worrell Hewitt, also lived in this house. Reprinted with permission.
Kevin Suffern, who has owned 512 Hill St., Hannibal, Mo., for 21 years, shares this current photo of the historic house, after his renovations, which included a brand new porch, electrical and plumbing. Photo contributed by Kevin Suffern.
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
A single story, brick, five-bay house rests upon one of Hannibal’s highest rock bluffs, overlooking the vastness of the hills and valleys carved through out the centuries by the greatest North American river, the Mississippi.
Dating in years to pre-Civil War, the house and its earliest occupants likely saw how residents lived in fear during the days when the Union Army occupied Central Park during the Civil War; and witnessed the first puffs of steam from the cross-continent railroads.
Obviously built for the view, rather than ease of access, the house now numbered 512 Hill Street, with a steep cliff for a front yard, stands as a reminder of the ingenuity which composed early Hannibal.
So who were these people who chose for their home a location on a high bluff rather than a low valley?
The head of this household, in 1859, was Dr. George L. Hewitt, a widower from Quincy, Ill., who chose for his second wife, in 1853, Anne Elizabeth Lawton Worrell.
Dr. Hewitt had been a practicing physician in Quincy, but by 1859, prior to the onset of the Civil War, he had partnered with S.M. Carter in the operation of a flouring mill in Hannibal: State Mill, at the corner of Church Street at the Levee.
The new Mrs. Hewitt’s first husband, Franklin Angus Worrell, born in 1821, had been the guard on duty at the jail in Carthage, Hancock County, Ill., on June 27, 1844, when a mob pushed him aside, entered the jail and assassinated Joseph Smith Jr., an American religious leader and founder of Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movement, and his brother, Hiram Smith.
After testifying about the raid on the jail and the subsequent murders during the Carthage Trials, Franklin Worrell himself was ambushed and killed on Sept. 16, 1845, while transporting supplies for the store he operated in Carthage.
The Hewitts each brought children to this marriage, including his daughter, Minerva Hewitt, born circa 1836, and Stanley E. Worrell, her son, who was an infant when his father was killed in 1845. (Among the children Dr. and Mrs. Hewitt bore together was Georgiana Hewitt, half sister to both Stanley Worrell and Minerva Hewitt. Minerva Hewitt was the first wife of James Trent Eubank, a Hannibal businessman at the time, and after her death, he was married to Minerva Hewitt’s half sister, Georgiana Hewitt.)
This blended family and the offspring of Stanley E. Worrell lived in this hill-top house during the ensuing decades, until the deaths of Stanley Worrell in 1918, and his wife in 1920.
Stanley E. Worrell lived with his mother after the death of his stepfather (Dr. Hewitt) in 1870. Mrs. Hewitt married Judge Thomas Coke Sharp in 1881, and moved with him back to Carthage, Ill., where she would live out her natural life. Judge Sharp died April 9, 1894, in Carthage.
Stanley E. Worrell married Virginia Warner in 1873, and together they raised their five children in the hill-top home:
Shirley Worrell, born circa 1875, married Thomas Harrison, an attorney, and they made their home in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He was the son of Mrs. William P. Harrison of Hannibal. After his death, Shirley Harrison married Edward Allshouse. She died in 1944, and is buried with her second husband at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Hannibal, Mo.
Agnes A. Worrell was married to George Wood Govert, an attorney from Quincy, Ill., in the parlor of the Worrell’s home in Hannibal at 8:30 p.m. June 19, 1902. (They divorced in 1916.) Prior to her marriage, Agnes had been a teacher at West School (later renamed Eugene Field) in Hannibal. After her divorce, she made her home in Chicago, where she studied art and worked in the social services field.
Franklin A. Worrell, born about 1880, was a teacher at Hannibal’s West School in 1901. He trained as a telegrapher, and went to work for the CB&Q Railroad. In 1942, he was a civil engineer for the railroad. He died Oct. 23, 1946, and is buried at Forest Park Cemetery, Cook County, Ill.
Edna Worrell, in 1907 was a teacher at Hannibal’s Central School. She married Wm. E. Hamacher of Chicago in 1908, and they made their home at Piedmont, Mo. She died in 1951.
Dorothy Worrell Davidson Black, born in November 1892, was living in New York in 1951.
A story teller
Stanley E. Worrell, when he came to Hannibal with his mother, was first a merchant, then a miller, and ultimately, an inventor of a grain dryer with a world-wide customer base.
In 1904 he sat down with a Quincy newspaper reporter, and told about his father, the late Franklin A. Worrell.
The reporter wrote for the April 29, 1904 edition of the Quincy Daily Whig:
“In the afternoon Mr. Worrell dropped into The Whig office for a few minutes’ chat and being in a reminiscent mood, recalled his early life in Quincy and told of his babyhood which was spent in Hancock county during the Morman troubles there.”
On Sept. 16, 1845, “While on his way with a wagon train to Warsaw (Illinois) to procure supplies for the general store which he conducted at Carthage, Mr. Worrell was shot down from ambush, while sitting on his wagon. Companions placed him in a wagon and took him to Warsaw, fearing to return with him to Carthage. His young wife was notified, and with her infant child (Stanley E. Worrell), went to Warsaw where the remains were buried.”
Brought remains to Quincy
“When Stanley Worrell was 12 years of age, he went to Warsaw, had the bones of his father exhumed and brought them to this city, (Quincy, Ill.) where they were interred in Woodland cemetery,” the 1904 newspaper reported.
“The lad lived here until he was 16 years of age,” before moving to Hannibal.
Note: Franklin Angus Worrell’s account of that day is recorded verbatim as part of the Carthage Conspiracy Trial transcripts, 1845. (www.famous trials.com)
Note: In hand-drawn maps of Hannibal in 1854 and 1869, the house now numbered 512 Hill St., appears to be represented on Lot 8, Block 32, Hannibal, Mo. While it is difficult to definitely trace addresses of the era due to changing numbers, it does appear that 512 Hill St., was where the Hewitt/Worrell families lived.
Pictured the 1913 Sanborn fire prevention map, showing the Hewitt/Worrell house, then numbered 512 Hill Street, Hannibal, Mo. Digital library, University of Missouri.
Pictured the 1890 Sanborn fire prevention map, showing the Hewitt/Worrell house, then numbered 508 Hill Street, Hannibal, Mo. Digital library, University of Missouri.
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: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," and "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870." She can be reached at Montgomery.firstname.lastname@example.org Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com
Copyright Mary Lou Montgomery