top of page

Martin family left ‘ink on paper’ legacy

This boarding house, located at 517-519 Broadway in Hannibal, Mo., is attributed to the Hannibal Arts Council’s historic photo collection. While the date of this photo is unknown, the structure was known as the “Martin House” in 1881-1885, operated by the Robert Martin family. In 1879 it was known as the Helm House; in 1888 it was Hotel Dooley; and in 1895 it was the Kesler House. Mary D. Martin and Willliam T. Milroy were married here in January 1885.


Inside a frame dwelling at 517-519 Broadway, Hannibal, Mo., known in January 1885 as the “Martin House,” 27-year-old Mary D. Martin and William T. Milroy were united in marriage. Conducting the ceremony was the Rev. Enoch K. Miller of Park Methodist Church, who was considered at the time to be among the best preachers in the conference.

Miss Martin, the youngest daughter of Robert and Orpha Craig Martin, was the second of the family’s three children to marry. Emma S. Martin (a former school teacher and a current church organist), three years older than Mary, married James Williamson in December 1882, and younger brother Charles remained, at that time, a bachelor.

No grandchildren had been welcomed into the Martin family at the time of Mary’s marriage, so anticipation must have been high on this account.

Mary - like her siblings - spent her lifetime in Hannibal. She chose for her husband William Milroy, the son of John M. (a lumber merchant) and Catharine Milroy of Louisiana, Pike County, Mo. William Milroy, at the time of the wedding, was working as a bookkeeper for the Northwestern Lumber Company in Hannibal, and was also Martin House boarder.

The future looked bright for the extended Martin family: Robert, a master stonecutter and monument dealer; his wife, Orpha, who successfully operated three different boarding houses during their long residency in Hannibal; Emma, a church organist and former school teacher now married to an up-and-coming Hannibal businessman; Mary, now married to a man of numbers in the booming lumber industry; and Charles R. Martin, a clerk at the post office, which was located at Main and Broadway.

But then …

Just nine months after his daughter’s wedding, Robert Martin became particularly winded while climbing a flight of stairs at Palmyra’s new Opera House. The Palmyra Spectator reported on Oct. 23, 1885: “Just before the curtain arose on the first scene his head dropped forward, and partially rising in his seat he fell forward dead.” Burial followed in Mount Olivet Cemetery.

A year after her marriage, Mary Martin Milroy was with child. The news must have brought joy to the family, still grieving over the death of her father. In June, Mary gave birth to a daughter, also named Mary, at the Martin home. But complications set in, and claimed the life of the new mother on June 6, 1886. She was 29 years old. Cause of death was puerperal (postnatal) convulsions, possibly eclampsia. Tragically, the infant died the next day. Mother and daughter were buried together in Mount Olivet Cemetery.

Time passed. In 1892, Mary’s husband, William Taylor Milroy, left Hannibal and relocated to Wausau, Wis., where he accepted a job with the Alexander Stewart Lumber Company. In Wisconsin, he married Miss Alice Clark of Wausau. He continued to work for the lumber company until about 1907. He died July 25, 1916, and burial followed in Pine Grove Cemetery. His only survivors were his wife and two sisters.

Charles Martin

The only son of Robert and Orpha Martin began his career with the post office at the age of 18, in 1878. Most of those hired were Civil War veterans, but Charles was an exception.

He primarily lived, during his bachelor years, with his mother, sister and his brother in law, James Williamson.

But in September 1900, that changed. John E. and Loraine Jones, 307 N. Sixth St., hosted a quiet wedding for Charles, age 41, and his bride, Mrs. A. Lee Lionberger, a widow with two young daughters. The Quincy Daily Journal reported on Sept. 6, 1900: “Immediately after the ceremony the happy couple entered a carriage and were driven to their future home at 1003 Lyon street, where they will be home to their friends after Sept. 20.”

Kept a diary

Emma Martin Williamson kept a diary of the family’s comings and goings, and in recent years, entries for 1896, 1899 and 1902 were obtained and transcribed by Hannibal’s Steve Chou.

During this era, Emma was active in the work of Park Methodist Church, and within the social circles of the community. She interacted with such families as the Pettibones, Lambs, Mahans, Pindells, Robinsons, and Bacons. She worked on behalf of the Home of the Friendless.

Until her brother’s marriage, the extended family - Mr. and Mrs. Williamson, the elderly Mrs. Martin and Charles - lived together at 113th N. Ninth Street.

On Monday, June 8, 1896, Emma’s diary entry somberly notes: “10 yrs today we buried Mary.”

During the diary’s era, several important historical events are noted, including:

Election of William McKinley to the presidency. “Nov. 4, 1896: McKinley reported elected until noon, then news of Bryan. Greatest excitement known.” Nov. 5, 1896: “McKinley’s election made sure.”

Family deaths

Orpha Craig Martin, mother to Emma and Charles, died in January 1906.

After two business failures, Emma’s husband, James F. Williamson, ended his life in 1909 within the walls of the Park Methodist Church.

Charles Martin’s wife, Lee, died September 1923.

Ultimately, Charles and Emma were the family’s lone survivors.

Charles retired from the Hannibal Post Office in 1930, where he worked for 52 years. He died in August 1943, at the age of 82. At the time of his death, he and his sister Emma were living at 612 Center St.

Emma died in 1949 at Long’s Rest Home, 3301 Market, at the age of 95.


While there are no lineal survivors of this important Hannibal family of long-standing, there are “ink on paper” reminders of the family that played an important role in Hannibal’s development.

Emma’s aforementioned diary survives, as do images taken by Charles Martin, who was an amateur photographer. Steve Chou notes that Charles was the first Hannibal photographer to publish picture postcards, and Chou has a collection of those cards in his vast archive.

Perhaps most noteworthy is a photo of the boyhood home of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, circa 1900. This photo is featured in Chou’s book, “Hannibal, Missouri, Bluff City Memories,” published by Arcadia.

Robert, Orpha, Emma and James, Mary and young Mary, Charles and Lee, are all buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery.

Thanks to Donna Brown of Mount Olivet Cemetery, Steve Chou, and Kerrie Otten of the Hannibal Arts Council for their assistance for research for this story.

This is a segment of the Sanborn fire prevention maps of Hannibal, Mo., 1885. The sketch shows the floor plan of the Martin House, which was located at 517-519 Broadway. Mary D. Martin and William T. Milroy were married in this house in January 1885.

This photo of the Hannibal Federal Building was taken by Charles Martin. The building opened in 1888, and Mr. Martin worked for the post office until his retirement in 1931. STEVE CHOU COLLECTION

This 1957 photo shows the Kansteiner Hardware Store at Ninth and Broadway in 1957. Behind the building are houses at 109 and 113 N. Ninth, now demolished (as is the hardware store.) 109 N. Ninth was owned by the Kansteiner family, and the two-story white house, at 113 N. Ninth, was where James and Emma Williamson lived from the mid 1880s until circa 1903. Also living there was Mrs. Williamson’s mother, Orpha.

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


 Recent Posts 
bottom of page