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Photos, tucked away in a hidden drawer, offer vision of an era now passed

Archie Herman Webb, a long-time employee of the Prudential Company in Hannibal, was identified in this photo by his great-niece, Colleen McKowen. This photo was contained within a package of unidentified photos found in a secret drawer of an old chest by Carolyn McHardy of Hannibal, Mo.


A mystery unfolds in the form of unidentified photographs, tucked away long ago inside a hidden drawer built into a storage chest.

The chest, unassuming in its appearance and long ago left behind by its (probably deceased) owner, eventually found itself on the auction block at an estate sale, and the secret drawer continued to hold whatever secrets were hidden within.

Until one day, when the chest's new owner, Carolyn McHardy of Hannibal, Mo., investigated further, and found, of all things, an envelope addressed to Mrs. Mabel Trower, 200 South Fifth in Hannibal, containing a printed card identifying a 1939 Hannibal High School graduate: Leslie H. McCarty. (No relation to Carolyn McHardy)

But wait, there’s more: A Christmas greeting card. The intended recipient: Mrs. Virginia Webb, Oakwood, Mo. (c/o Hall Terrill). The inscription isn’t clear, but it could be signed: For Ever Your Pal, (a triangle) Herman.

In addition, there were five unidentified studio portraits in that hidden drawer.

The story continues

By now the curious mind wants to know more. Who is Herman? And why is his greeting card contained within a hidden drawer along with unidentified photos and Leslie H. McCarty’s graduation announcement?

Carolyn McHardy turned the photos over to this researcher for answers.

At least one late night of research on the internet led to a clue. The answer, at least a partial answer, would come three days later in a conversation with Colleen McKowen of Michigan, who while never having lived in Hannibal herself, was familiar enough with the town to remember (and still crave) its famous Maidrites.

It seems that both of her parents grew up in Hannibal, where they married in July 1940. Their names? Leslie H. McCarty and Kathleen Rickard (HHS class of 1940).

Leslie McCarty went on to spend his working years at the Ford Motor Company in Michigan, where he and Kathleen raised their children. Kathleen died in 2003, and Leslie followed her in eternal life on 2011.

Luckily for this researcher, their daughter remained in that area, and was active on Facebook.

Immediately accepting a facebook messenger request from this never-before-heard-of Hannibal aficionado, our electronic conversation ensued.

I sent the photos via messenger one at a time:

Do you recognize this man in a military uniform? No

Do you recognize this young woman with brown curls and a pearl necklace? No

Do you recognize the young couple, possibly posed for a wedding portrait? No.

Do you recognize the young boy with one leg tucked under the other? No.

And finally (by now I’m holding my breath, because this is the LAST photo): Do you recognize the young man wearing glasses?

“Yes,” she responded, and as my heart’s pace picked up, she continued: “That’s my grandmother’s brother, Herman Webb, my father’s uncle.”

Colleen was gracious enough to send a photo of her father, Leslie McCarty, taken during his early years. He was the son of Gladys Webb McCarty and Henry Odus McCarty, a cement plant worker, who married in Hannibal in August 1920. They divorced in 1926.

Gladys McCarty later married Paul Humphrey, (a nice man, Colleen said) and they lived at Perry, Mo. She became a licensed practical nurse, and worked at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for 20 years until her retirement.

Car accident

The Ralls County Record ( on Nov. 18, 1932, contains an interesting account of an automobile accident that serves to tie together the members of the Webb/McCarty families.

The accident took place just to the south of New London, in Spencer Township, Ralls County, Mo.

Leslie McCarty, then about 11, was riding in his mother’s car, and they were en route to visit his mother’s sister and husband, Edna and Norman Tribble, who were renting a farm owned by Durrett Winsborough. (Norman Tribble was also a noted car mechanic of that era.)

Also along for the family visit were A. Herman Webb and his (presumed) wife Virginia, and Mary S. Webb, mother of Herman, Gladys and Edna.

The McCarty car turned into the driveway just as Sheriff Arch Leonard turned out, and the two vehicles collided.

“Both cars were pretty badly wrecked,” the newspaper reported, “And one of the women named Webb was severely injured. Dr. Waters was called and rendered first aid.”

Note: A. Herman Webb worked for Prudential Insurance Co., in Hannibal, Mo., for more than 25 years, and was married to Mable Trower Webb until his death in 1989. Mrs. Webb died the following year. They lived at 3922 Evans, Oakwood, Mo.

Note: The two envelopes contained within the secret drawer were addressed to Mrs. Virginia Webb, who had previously (presumably) been Archie Herman Webb’s wife, and Mrs. Mabel Trower, 220 South 5th Street, Hannibal, who would soon marry Archie Herman Webb.

Can you identify this mystery photo? Woman in pearl necklace. Contributed by Carolyn McHardy.

Can you identify this mystery photo? Man in military uniform. Contributed by Carolyn McHardy.

Can you identify this mystery photo? Happy couple. Contributed by Carolyn McHardy.

Can you identify this mystery photo? Little boy. Contributed by Carolyn McHardy.

Leslie H. McCarty (1921-2011) Leslie McCarty grew up in Hannibal, Mo., and spent his working career at the Ford Motor Company in Michigan. Photo contributed by his daughter, Colleen McKowen.

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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