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Marion County native early college president

Rev. George F. Ayres, Ph.D. 1903. Received $10,000 from Andrew Carnegie to build Jubilee Hall in 1907. The residence hall was renamed Ayres Hall in his honor in 1927. Photo from Lindenwood University.


The Rev. George F. Ayres, Ph.D., who spent his formative years in the vicinity of Rensselaer, Ralls County, Mo., distributed diplomas to 20 graduates of the all-female Lindenwood College at St. Charles, Mo., during the 79th annual commencement ceremony on Tuesday, June 7, 1910.

Among the graduates of that class was Evalyn Hornback, the 18-year-old daughter of Shelton M. and Cordelia F. Hornback. Evalyn, like Rev. Ayres, grew up at Rensselaer, Mo.

In his address to the students, Rev. Ayres advised the young women to think on “whatsoever things are lovely.

“Loveliness is a means whereby men are carried up to those planes where fellowship may be had with God, and holiness is devine. Loveliness that exhausts all of its wondrous powers in the gratification of itself is of the earth, earthy.”

Studious path

Rev. Ayres’ path to the presidency of Lindenwood College included graduation from Westminster College at Fulton, Mo., in 1887, and from Chicago’s McCormick Theological Seminary, in 1891. Following his tenure at the seminary, he was afforded a prize for best general scholarship in his class.That prize afforded him the opportunity to conduct post-graduate study in Germany, at Leipsic and Halle Universities.

Just five days after he filed his passport request in Texas, Charlia L. Heron, 20, a blue-eyed brunette from Washington, D.C., was also making plans to study abroad. On August. 6, 1891, she applied for a passport to allow her to attend Germany’s Leipsic Conservatory.

It is unclear if the two met in Germany, or knew each other previously. What is known is that the two would marry on June 21, 1893, at the residence of the bride’s mother, at 1316 13th St., NW, Washington, D.C. For their wedding trip, they first traveled to Missouri, to spend time with the bridegroom’s family, then continued on to Chicago, to visit the World’s Columbian Exhibition.

Family ties

George Frederick Ayres was born May 17, 1865, at Hannibal, the son Dr. Eugene W. Ayres, a physician, and his wife, Kate Ayres.

George and Kate Ayres raised three children, Mary Frances (Fanny) Ayres, born in 1862; the aforementioned George Ayres, and Evelyn Ayres, born in 1866.

Early in their married life, Dr. Ayres, the family patriarch, was a practicing physician in Clay Township, Ralls County, Mo. 

In April 1876, he announced his intent, in the Hannibal Clipper, to open a practice of medicine in LaGrange, Mo. The newspaper, on April 22 of that year, reported that Dr. Ayres “was in the city this morning awaiting the arrival of the up packet.”

Just two years later, the family experienced quite a scare.

“A tramp entered Dr. Ayres’ residence on Main Street the other day in broad day light and stole two shirts. Dr. Ayres was at that time out upon professional business, and the other members of the family, with the exception of one of the little girls, were all away from home. The little girl was up stairs and saw the tramp enter the house, but was too much frightened to raise an alarm, so after deliberately searching the premises and appropriating the shirts he walked away unmolested.” The LaGrange Democrat, April 20, 1877.

By 1880, they were settled into a house located at 106 Third Street, LaGrange.

Ultimately, Dr. E.W. Ayres and his family moved back to Rensellaer, and as years passed, settled in Hannibal.

Rev. Ayres’ career

Following his studies abroad, Rev. G.F. Ayres taught Greek and Latin at Washington College, near Jonesborough, Tenn.; he was president of the Kansas City Ladies’ College and afterward was pastor at Poplar Bluff, Mo., for about four years. After that,  he became president of Lindenwood College, in 1902.

On Sept. 3, 1903, the Daily News Bulletin of Brookfield, Mo., announced the Lindenwood College faculty for the upcoming year. Among the staff:

Rev. G.F. Ayres, school president and teacher of Metaphysics.

Laura J. Heron, Rev. Ayres mother-in-law, supervisor of Home; and

Charlia L. Ayres, Rev. Ayres wife, assistant piano.

The St. Louis Republic of Oct. 22, 1903, outlined Rev. Ayres’ expansion plans for the college:

Among the reports presented was an address by the Rev. George F. Ayres, president of the college, who outlined a plan for the development of the college, involving an expenditure of $140,000 and including dormitory, science hall and hall for music and art and elocution.


Upon the completion of Jubilee Hall, a girls’ dormitory on the Lindenwood campus, in October 1908, Rev. Ayres traveled to Indiana, where he stayed at Mudlavia, a hotel and spa built on the site of a natural spring in Warren County. The St. Charles Weekly Banner-News reported in its Oct.. 15, 1908 edition that Rev. Ayres visited the spa “for the purpose of rest and recuperation after a year of hard work made necessary in the building up and management of the larger Lindenwood.

“Jubilee Hall is now fully completed and every available room is filled with students. This building is the best equipped girl’s dormitory in the United States.”

Death calls

Rev. Ayres died Oct. 23, 1913, at the age of 48. He had previously suffered with gall stones, and underwent an operation for that condition July 1913. At that time his condition was considered to be serious.

Posthumous honor

On Oct. 21, 1927, following an extensive remodeling of the dormitory, Jubilee Hall, was posthumously renamed in honor of Dr. Ayres.

Among the speakers on that occasion was James T. Quarles, who was a member of the Lindenwood faculty during Dr. Ayres’ tenure. The Lindenwood College bulletin in November 1927 described the scene: “He spoke of the courage of Dr. Ayres in coming to Lindenwood. At that time Sibley Hall, the only dormitory and educational building, was in a dilapidated condition, but Dr. Ayres saw a great opportunity back of the fine old traditions, and plunged into the task of bringing order out of chaos.”

Evalyn Hornback, 

Evalyn Hornback, the aforementioned recipient of a diploma from Lindenwood College in 1910, was married to Rev. Jonas William Boyer in June 1916. She died April 24, 1980 at St. Joseph Hospital in St. Charles. Smith Funeral Home and Chapel in Hannibal conducted her services, and burial was at Hydesburg Cemetery, in Ralls County, Mo. Survivors included four children, Mrs. Richard Ebersole of St. Charles, J.W. Boyer Jr., of Kirkwood, Robert S. Boyer of Rockford, Mich., and Richard E. Boyer of Toledo, Ohio.

Ayres family

Laura J. Heron, mother-in-law of Rev. Ayres, died of pneumonia in January 1912, at the age of 60. At the time of her death she was vice president of Lindenwood College.

Katherine J. Hays Ayres, Rev. Ayres’ mother, died May 15, 1912, in Clay Township, Ralls County, Mo., at the age of 74.

Dr. E.W. Ayres, father of Rev. Ayres, died Aug. 30, 1920, at Hannibal, age 83. 

Evelyn Ayres, sister of Rev. Ayres, who for a time taught math at Lindenwood College, and later taught math at Hannibal High School, died Dec. 18, 1924, in Hannibal.

Charlia Heron Ayres, wife of Rev. Ayres, died May 2, 1931.

Mary F. (Fanny) Ayres Abright, sister of Rev. Ayres, died July 28, 1954, at Kirkwood, Mo., at the age of 91.

Note: The Rev. George F. Ayres was a first cousin of Belle Ayres Robinson, Mary Lou Montgomery’s great-grandmother.

Evelyn Ayres, sister of the Rev. George F. Ayres. Hannibal High School yearbook, 1924.

Ayres Hall postcard, 1950. Lindenwood College, founded 1827. Source, Digital Commons @Lindenwood University.

Charlia Ayres, wife of the Rev. George F. Ayres. 1909 yearbook, Lindenwood College.

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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