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Jane Perkins’ dying wish:To see daughter married

Constructed circa 1895, this Queen Anne style house at 419 Bird Street, Hannibal, Mo., was home to the W.T. Perkins family. Daughter Jennie Perkins moved up the date of her marriage to Jim Williams in order to accommodate her mother’s dying wish of witnessing her daughter’s wedding. Jennie was married and her mother died on Jan. 9, 1902, in this house. Photo courtesy of Jean Meyer.


Two milestones in the W.T. and Jane Brown Perkins family took place on the same day, Thursday, Jan. 9, 1902.

The Perkins’ daughter, Jennie, at age 22, was united in marriage with Jim Williams at 2 p.m., at the family’s home, 419 Bird St., Hannibal, Mo., by the Rev. Dr. Packard of Park Methodist Church.

The wedding, originally planned for Jan. 23, was rescheduled at the request of Jennie’s mother, who wanted more than anything to see her first daughter married.

“To gratify the desire of the dying mother, Mr. Williams was called there hurriedly, and the ceremony performed in (Jane Perkins’) presence,” the Sedalia Democrat reported on Jan. 10, 1902.

At 9 p.m., that evening, Mrs. Perkins died, age of 44.

January weather

Despite the calendar, Thursday, Jan. 9, 1902, was “a lovely spring day” in Hannibal, Mo., according to a notation by Emma Williamson in her diary. Mrs. Williamson, a close friend of Jane Perkins, and a fellow member of Park Methodist Church, made frequent diary entries regarding events involving her family and friends.

As it often does in January, the weather turned, Mrs. Williamson wrote - from spring-like to “bright and cold,” by Sunday, Jan. 12, 1902. “Today we bury poor Jane. We feel very sad.”

Hannibal home

Jane Brown was born circa 1858 in Hannibal, daughter of Dr. Marion T. and Ellen V. (E.V.) Brown. She was united in marriage to William T. Perkins on Dec. 12, 1878, and their first child - Jennie - was born circa 1880.

W.T. Perkins was born in Quincy, Ill., circa 1854, and moved to Hannibal around 1875, when he was 21. When first married, the young couple lived with E.V. Brown in her boarding house at 303 N. Sixth.

419 Bird Street

Records show that W.T. Perkins purchased property at 419 Bird St., in 1888, and refinanced it in 1895. Esley Hamilton, while completing a State Historical Survey Historic Inventory, concluded that the current house was constructed in 1895 as a single-family house, and later converted into a double house.

When Hamilton wrote a report on the house in June 1980, the first floor of the house still had its original native oak mantles and 11 foot ceilings.

In 1910, the house was modernized, adding two kitchens and two bathrooms, utilizing space where servants quarters had previously been located.

Hearne connection

Jane Perkins’ sister, Fannie E. Brown Hearne, was the first wife of Dr. J.C. Hearne, a Hannibal physician, and mother to their two daughters, Effa and Katie Hearne. Fannie Hearne died July 14, 1884, in Hannibal, and was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery.

During the ensuing decade, Mr. and Mrs. Perkins maintained a close relationship with Jane’s brother-in-law, Dr. Hearne, who held a reputation as one of Hannibal’s most talented physicians.

But that reputation was tarnished following the Dec. 30, 1888 murder of wealthy Hannibal businessman Amos Stillwell. Mr. Stillwell’s widow later married Dr. Hearne, which added fuel to local gossip regarding the Hearnes’ potential involvement in the murder.

More than seven years after the murder, the Palmyra Spectator of Aug. 22, 1895, reported that a grand jury had returned an indictment against Dr. Hearne and (the new) Mrs. Hearne on the Saturday prior, for “the atrocious murder” of Amos Stillwell.

“Sheriff Pratt went to the home of W.T. Perkins, (419 Bird St., Hannibal) where the Hearnes were staying, and placed them under arrest.”

Dr. Hearne and the former Mrs. Stillwell were ultimately acquitted in the murder. They divorced. Dr. Hearne moved to California where he continued his medical practice.

Flour industry

A miller by trade, for many years W.T. Perkins worked for the Eagle Mills, located at 103 S. Third St., primarily serving as the company’s head miller. He was widely known and respected in the flour milling industry.

Moving on

Jane’s death left their two younger children without the oversight of their mother. Daughter Fanny was around 20 at the time her mother died, and son Edwin F. Perkins was around 17.

W.T. Perkins remarried, taking Minnie, daughter of Dr. Edward and Cassander Hornback Stockton, as his second wife.

W.T. Perkins died in 1928, and funeral services were conducted at 419 Bird St. Minnie survived him, living until 1957, when she died at the age of 91. She continued to live at 419 Bird St., until 1954, according to Esley Hamilton’s report.

The children

Jennie Perkins Williams lived out her life in Russellville, Arkansas. Her husband, James G. Williams, died in 1943. Jennie died in 1972.

Fanny Perkins married Lewis E. Duckworth prior to 1910. He was a coal accountant at Hannibal’s cement plant. They left Hannibal, living in South Dakota and Fort Smith, Ark., before moving to California. Fanny died in 1951, and Lewis died in 1958. They are buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Hannibal. They had two daughters, Mary Jane and Minnie Duckworth.

Edwin Franklin Perkins (1884-1957) married Ada L. Seaver in 1924 at Jackson, Mo. Through his life he lived in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Okla., ultimately moving to Orange County, Calif. He died Jan. 25, 1957, and is buried in the Seaver family plot at Rose Hill Memorial Park in Tulsa.

Good friends

Jane Perkins and Emma Williamson were both accomplished pianists. Mrs. Williamson notes in her diary and she and Jane performed together during a German musical at Mozart Hall on April 18, 1899.

A few days later, they played a duet at the high school (which was located at 828 Center St.)

A month later, on May 24, 1899, they played for the WCTU meeting at the home of Mrs. Lane.

To end out the year, Jane and Emma and other friends spent the day together on Dec. 12, 1899, marking Jane and W.T. Perkins’ 21st wedding anniversary.

Stillwell murder

For more information about the Stillwell murder, access the link to a book on the Hannibal Free Public Library’s website, “The Stillwell Murder or A Society Crime,” written by by Minnie T. Dawson in 1908, and edited in 2000 by Chase Hickman of Hannibal, Mo.


Jane’s father died when she was still a young child, and her mother, known as E.V., died in 1891.

The Emma Williamson diaries for the years 1896, 1899 and 1902 were transcribed by Steve Chou, and are included in his vast historical archives.

Edwin F. Perkins (1884-1957) son of W.T. and Jane Brown Perkins, is buried at Rose Hill Memorial Park in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photo by Mary Lou Montgomery

Jane Brown Perkins is buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Hannibal, Mo. Findagrave photo

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: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," and "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870." She can be reached at Her collective works can be found at


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