top of page

House on Walnut Street reflects South Hannibal’s railroad heritage

Mamie Doughterty and her sister Catherine Dougherty, are pictured when they were little kids, at 608 Walnut Street. they are daughters of James J. and Sarah Dougherty. James Hoskins, who contributed this photo, said that when he was a boy, the porch was still on the front of the house, but it fell into disrepair and was eventually replaced.

Still standing at 608 Walnut Street, South Hannibal, is the two-story, brick house where James J. and Sarah A. Dougherty lived for most of their married life. Photo contributed by Meryle Martin Dexheimer.


James J. Dougherty, born during the post-Civil War years in Schuylkill County, Pa., followed the rapidly expanding railroads west when he was still in his late teens, settling in Hannibal, Mo., on the western bank of the Mississippi River.

Hannibal, thanks to the new bridge that opened in the years following the war, became an entry point to the “new west.” Railroads, heading both north/south and east/west, converged upon the town that Sam Clemens would ultimately make famous, and jobs along the rails were aplenty.

In May of 1884, Dougherty took for his bride Miss Sarah Moore of Hannibal, daughter of James Moore and his wife, Margaret Regan Moore.

Both James Dougherty and his new bride, Sarah, were born in the United States, to Irish-born parents.

A year after their marriage, James J. Dougherty was working as a switchman for the Missouri Pacific Railroad, and they - like many other railroad families - made their home in the blue-collar neighborhood known as South Hannibal.

By 1888, James J. Dougherty was working as a brakeman for the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad.

In 1892, Dougherty was a switchman for the St. Louis, Keokuk and Northwestern Railroad.

He and his wife purchased a house at 609 Walnut Street circa 1895, in a neighborhood which would remain connected to their family for many years to come.

In 1900, at the age of 33, Dougherty was appointed to the prestigious position of yardmaster for the Burlington Railroad; a job he would maintain for the next two decades.

They had three children: Mamie Dougherty, born circa 1885; Catherine Dougherty, born circa 1888; and James Dougherty Jr., born circa 1909.

In 1902, Mamie Dougherty was married to William Redden, son of Theodore Redden.

The Reddens

Evidence shows that the aforementioned Theodore Redden, a Hannibal lumber carpenter, likely resided in a still-standing two-story brick house located at what would later be numbered 609 Walnut, as early as 1877. At that time his address was listed as the east side of Walnut, south of Sixth, South Hannibal.

This was long before a fire station would be built in South Hannibal; before South Hannibal’s public school would be located at Fifth and Walnut streets, and long before anyone dreamed a motorized vehicle could ever climb Union Street hill.

By 1894, the Theodore Redden family left South Hannibal and moved to 321 Chestnut, on the north side of town, and soon thereafter the aforementioned Dougherty family occupied the Walnut Street house.

Mamie and her husband, William Redden (son of Theodore Redden) took up residency at 609 Walnut with his wife’s parents.

In 1912, the city changed numbering on houses throughout the town. The house at 609 Walnut was changed to 608 Walnut.

In 1919, Mamie Redden’s husband died.

In 1923, living at 608 Walnut were:

Mamie Dougherty Redden, widow of William Redden;

Eva Redden, Mamie’s daughter, a stenographer for Zimmerman’s Bakery;

Thelma Redden, Mamie’s daughter, a stenographer for Farmers and Merchants Bank; and

James J. and Sarah Dougherty, Mamie’s parents. (James J. was at that time yardmaster for the CB&Q Railroad.)


Three generations of the same family were living in a frame, two-story duplex located next door to the family’s original house in 1950:

Sarah A. Moore Dougherty, 80, widow of James J. Dougherty, who died in 1938;

Mamie A. Dougherty Redden, 62, (widow of William C. Redden, who died in 1919); and

Maurice E. Hand, 49, and his wife Eva M. Hand, 43.

(Eva M. Redden Hand was Mamie A. Redden’s daughter.)

Sarah A. Moore Dougherty died in 1950.

Mamie A. Redden died in 1961.

Maurice Hand died in 1962.

Eva Redden Hand died in 1985.

Railroad town

Railroads serving Hannibal in 1875, just prior to when this author believes the house at 608/609 Walnut was constructed:

Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad, general offices intersection of Second and Adams, South Hannibal.

Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway, office northwest corner First and Bird.

Mississippi Valley and Western Railway, office on the west side of First, between Bird and Hill.

Quincy, Alton and St. Louis Railway, office corner First and Bird.

St. Louis, Hannibal and Keokuk Railway, office corner of Main and Church.

Toledo, Wabash and Western Railway, office corner of First and Bird. Railroads included in the Hallock & Hawley’s City Directory, 1875-76, accessed via the Hannibal Free Public Library’s website

Note: Estimation of the date of construction for the house located at 608/609 Walnut is based upon examination of Sanborn fire prevention maps and by tracing addresses of family members in the Hannibal city directories, accessed via the Hannibal Free Public Library’s website. According to the 1885 Sanborn map, this house was the only brick house on the street; the others were frame structures.

By 1885, South Hannibal had two-story brick school house located nearby, near the intersection of Fifth and Walnut streets.

The house at 608/609 Walnut is located in the Peyton and Steven’s Subdivision, Lots 3 and 4.

In 1873, Joseph N. Peyton was a contractor, who resided at 423 Madison, South Hannibal.

In 1875, Joseph N. Peyton was listed in the city directory as a brick maker and builder. This suggests that he may have made the bricks for and constructed the structure at 608/609 Walnut.

James J. and Sarah A. Dougherty lived on South Hannibal’s Walnut Street for most of their married life. James Dougherty was yard master for the Burlington Railroad for more than two decades. Photo posted on by J.F. Bell in 2008. Permission to reprint requested. One of the Dougherty’s daughters, Kate Bell, died in 1938 at Mt. Vernon, Ill. Less than a month later, Mr. Dougherty died.

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


 Recent Posts 
bottom of page