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M.T. school work progressed; contractor built nearby houses

Mark Twain School, Class 4, 1921. The girl on the second row, (with the big hair bow) far left, is Margaret Robinson, daughter of Robert B. and Kathryn Glascock Robinson. Margaret was born in April 1915, making her about 6 or 7 at the time of the photo. The school at this time still had just four classrooms. In the mid 1920s, the building was expanded to the north toward Hill Street. Photo, by Hannibal Photo and Art Co., was contributed by Steve Chou.


Charles E. Emmons and his wife, Sarah, had a bird’s eye view of the construction of Mark Twain elementary school 1911-1912. As a Hannibal painter and contractor, he built several houses directly south of the school - along West Bird Street - during the same era as the school construction.

His home, in 1912, was at 2617 Bird, (later renumbered 2701 Bird) a two-bedroom, single-bath bungalow. The school building, under construction across the street, was numbered 2714 Bird.

The story of how he obtained and developed this neighborhood block, parallels that of the school’s construction.

Until 1909, the city limits of Hannibal ended at Levering Street, a block to the east of the new school. Streets were gravel - macadamized - at best.

In November 1910, representatives of the St. Mary’s Avenue Improvement Association asked the gas company to extend gas mains in the district.

In December 1910, Fred Tippy, manager of the Citizens Gas Company, said that the gas company was going to spend a large sum of money in building a new plant and laying new mains.

The closest fire station was located at Market Street and Dowling. Neighbors asked for a chemical engine or chemical fire extinguishers for the district.

Street lights were installed in this district in November 1909, followed by the expected installation of electricity to individual homes.

Between November 1909 and November 1910, 35 houses were erected in the district.

Emmons’ career

Emmons and his step son, Paul M. Costello, were carpenters and painters. In March 1901, Emmons was the head of the paint department for James R. Key’s paint shop, 115 S. Main.

By 1903, Emmons, partnered with a man by the name of Rosser, secured the bid for painting the electric light towers in Hannibal, and the old iron bridge which was to be placed over Bear Creek on Third Street.

Historic land ties

In June 1903, when West Bird Street was still known as Jamison Street, Charles E. Emmons and his wife purchased all of lot 4, Hawkin’s Subdivividson, from Lena Mason, a famed black evangelist who called Hannibal home for a good portion of her life.

In addition, Lena Mason and husband sold Lot 3, in the same subdivision, to Mr. Emmon’s stepson, 21-year-old Paul M. Costello.

Mrs. Mason sold each lot, with 50-foot fronts on Jamison Street, for $200. The property was located in what would become known as the St. Mary’s district, west of Hannibal proper.

The Sunday, Feb. 8, 1903, edition of the Hannibal Courier-Post carried the following announcement: “Mrs. Lena Mason will preach at the (Allen Chapel) AME church tonight. All are invited to attend the services. It is the last sermon she will preach in Hannibal, for the present, at least.”

She left for Philadelphia, Pa., but returned to Hannibal often, where she was a guest minister at the Allen Chapel church, and at least on one occasion, at the Second Christian Church on West Broadway.  She had two sisters living in Hannibal, Mrs. Fannie L. Flanagan, wife of William F. Flanagan, and by Mrs. Annie Williams of Hannibal.

Circa 1904, Emmons was building houses.

During the winter of 1904, Emmons acquired the plans for the construction of a new residence, presumably on the lot he purchased from Lena Mason. “He will have the work started as soon as the weather will permit as he desires to get into the house as quickly as possible, the Hannibal Courier-Post reported in its Feb. 26, 1904 edition. In mid-March, 1904, the house was ready for plaster.

In October 1905, C.E. Emmons and wife purchased two additional lots in the Hawkins Subdivision. He purchased from Wm. B. Hawkins Lot 6, for $75; and Lot 7, for $50. Hawkins was a Hannibal native who had moved to Lexington, Ky., circa 1886. W.B. Hawkins was the son of Jamison Hawkins, likely for whom Jamison street was named. He was brother to Mrs. William Henry Hatch.

In 1905 and 1907, Emmons’ address was 216 Jamison.

Presumably, the houses that were built on Lots  2 and 3 (purchased from Lena Mason), and Lots 6 and 7 (from W.B. Hawkins), were constructed by Emmons and Costello. In addition, Emmons lived at 2617 Bird from 1914-23, in a house which was built on Lot 5. Paul Costello’s brother, William Costello, was working as a gas fitter in Hannibal in 1918, and lived at 2615 Bird (Lot 4.)

Today’s addresses for the houses on this block are:

Lot 3, 2613 Bird

Lot 4, 2615 Bird

Lot 5, 2617 Bird

Lot 6: 2701 Bird

Lot 7: 2703 Bird

Lot 8, 2707 Bird

Lot 9, 2709 Bird

Lot 10, 2713 Bird

Lot 11, 2715 Bird


Meanwhile, construction was about to begin on the new Mark Twain elementary school building, situated facing Bird Street on a lot measuring 180 feet by 300 feet.

Samuel Richardson and H.W. Mangles, 272 Market, won the construction contract.

Framing lumber for the school arrived in late October 1911.

The Oct. 24, 1911, edition of the Hannibal Courier-Post stated:

“The material is one of the very finest lots of framing lumber ever received in Hannibal.

“The building is so designed that three units, of which only the first is being erected now, can be made to constitute it, the others being added as the needs of the district require. Many years in the future are thus being planned for and as new sections are added any appearance of a patch work structure will be eliminated.”

By mid November 1911, the foundation and the walls for the first floor were in place, including window frames. By Dec. 3, 1911, the brickwork and the window casings on the second floor were in place. By Dec. 10, the brickwork was complete and cross beams had been added for the roof. On Dec. 15, the newspaper reported that the roof was in place, and next plastering would begin on the interior.

The building was opened for public inspection in mid May 1912, and dedication was on May 22, 1912.

School officials decided to dig a well in order to supply water to the new school.

The Courier-Post reported, on July 14, 1912, that water had been found on the school grounds.

“At a depth of 312 feet, a good flow of water was struck on the Mark Twain School grounds and the well was sunk five feet deeper making a total depth of 317 feet. … After boring through rock and shale 312 feet a sandy strata was reached and a powerful spring of cool, soft water. In less than a day the water stood in the well over 200 feet and the flow seems to be sufficient to supply one half the St. Mary’s avenue district.”

J.W. Boren was hired as janitor for the school, at a salary of $25 per month.

At the start of the school year, there were two teachers at Mark Twain school, and nearly 140 pupils. The school board was to consider whether to hire an additional teacher. They ultimately added one teacher, on a month-to-month basis. The new building had four classrooms. For the 1912/1913 school year, teachers were Agnes Gettler and Minnie LaFon, and principal was Josephine McCarty, who presumably was also a classroom teacher.

On Oct. 11, 1912, the school released the names of students who had been neither absent nor tardy during the first month of school.

Room 1

Ernest Barr 

Ruth Branstetter 

Opal Conner

Catherine Couch

Stephen Coy 

Dimple Davis

Carr Druell

Lulu Ertel 

Astella Farrell

Edna Fincke

Donald Fitzgerald 

Dean Gibbs

Harry Hubbard 

Josephine Hudnell 

Katherine Johnston

Etta Keith

Leona McKay

Lloyd O’Donnell

Bradley Osterhout 

Lucile Osterhout 

Della Rush

Edith Rosser

Albertina Shaw

Priscilla Southgate 

Lauister Tipton 

Wilhelmina Tipton

Ray Willey

Room 2

Cecil Buchanan 

Harold Conner 

Mable Cooper 

Dorothy Cramer

Hattie Davis

Lucile Griffith

James McNally

Kathryn McNally

Eva Mayes

Harlan Mefford 

Gladys O’Donnell

Alice Rush 

Virnelia Shelton 

Robert Southgate 

Mary L. Smith

Margaret Wheeler

Clarence Tombaugh

Room 3

Jeannette Baker

Mildred Bennett 

Fred Burnett 

Joe Burnett 

Bertha Curtis 

Fannie Curtis 

Arthur Davis 

David Dunn

Nona Ertel

Cecil Farrell 

Lily Farrell 

Dora Fincke

William Fincke 

Charles Kespohl

Mary Lennox 

Dorothy Martin

Gretchen Marris

Gladys Mefford

John Martin 

Goldie Menefee 

Amy Munson

Charles Munson

Dewey Nance 

Gilbert Polson

Clarence Rush

William Shaw 

Louise Shelton 

Sarah Shelton

Theodore Shelton 

Gladys Smith

Dorothy Southgate

William Stoops

Beulah Thrasher

Ira Willey 

Marcquis Willey

2701 Bird Street, Lot 6, Hawkins Subdivision. In October 1905, C.E. Emmons and wife purchased Lot 6, in the Hawkins Subdivision, for $75, from Wm. B. Hawkins. In 1912-23, data  suggests this house was numbered 2617 Bird, and was owned and occupied by C.E. Emmons and his wife, Sarah. Photo by Mary Lou Montgomery, 2023.

2703 Bird Street, Lot 7, Hawkins Subdivision. In October 1905, C.E. Emmons and wife purchased Lot 7, in the Hawkins Subdivision for $50, from Wm. B. Hawkins. In 1912, Asa Palmer, employed by D.T. Stove Co., lived here. In 1914, Lewis O’Connor, a lawyer, and his wife, Bridgie, lived here. Photo by Mary Lou Montgomery, 2023.

2707 Bird Street, Lot 8, Hawkins Subdivision. In 1912, Howard Leonard, a butcher for C.F. Rich’s Meat Market, 1221 Market, lived here with his wife, Isabelle. In 1914, Russell C. Arthur, a plumber for Robinson’s Plumbing and Electric, lived here, with his wife, Annie. Photo by Mary Lou Montgomery, 2023.

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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