Rough and tumble Hannibal boy transforms into a national hero
Lieut. Andrew M. Ramsey, as published in the Cincinnati Post Dec. 12, 1917. Newspapers.com.
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
In January 1923, Lieut. Andrew Ramsey’s remains were transported by rail from Los Angeles, California, where he died, to Cincinnati, Ohio, where funeral services and burial awaited.
Eight months prior he had relocated to Los Angeles with his wife and four young children, in hopes that the warm climate might be beneficial to the deteriorating condition of his lungs.
Ramsey was gassed by the Germans in July 1918, while serving with the Armed Forces in France, and the effects were lingering.
The steam-fueled engines of the Union Pacific likely pulled his transport car across the western-half of the United States, passing through Salt Lake City and on into Denver. There, the train would have ventured across Kansas, through Ellsworth and Salina, into Kansas City. Changing trains at Kansas City, the UP would have followed Wabash tracks into St. Louis.
From St. Louis, there were direct rail lines on east to Cincinnati.
The city of Cincinnati was the adopted home of Lieut. Ramsey, 46 at the time of his death. It was where he met and married his wife, Josie Cummins, and where their four children were born: Virginia, Catherine, Cleve and Walter.
But it’s not where he grew to manhood. That distinction might as well be credited to Hannibal, Missouri, because that is where he achieved his early education, and where he learned survival skills that would serve him well during the 16 years he later dedicated to military service.
In 1891, 15-year-old Andy Ramsey was a student at Hannibal’s Central School, located on Center Street, between Eighth and Ninth. No doubt to the horror of the school’s principal, Miss Mattie R. Ray, he fell from a wall on the school’s property, landing upon his back and subsequently injuring his spine.
Dr. Richard Schmidt was called upon to administer aid, and offered little in the way of hope for the lad’s recovery. But Andy did survive. He was taken to the home of his brother-in-law and sister, W.V. and Margaret Ramsey Evans, in the Lindell avenue neighborhood, in order to recuperate.
Andy and the doctor formed a fast friendship, and for a while, Andy considered following the doctor’s footsteps into medicine. During his recovery, Andy even lived with the doctor and his family for a time.
That’s why, two months later, it didn’t seem at all unusual that Andy would borrow one of the doctor’s horses, in order to ride out by Salt River where his parents, Peter and Catherine Thomas Ramsey, were reported by the newspaper as living.
At day’s end, Andy on horseback, and his brother-in-law and sister in a spring wagon, the three left the family gathering and headed back to Hannibal. Andy gained speed upon the others, and when they caught up to him, seven miles south of Hannibal near the John Watson farm, they found him unconscious beside his borrowed horse.
They carried him home in the spring wagon, and once again summoned Dr. Schmidt. Once again his prognosis was poor, and once again, Andy recovered.
This story, as it stands, serves as an introduction to two families who had a short-term, yet impactful influence upon Hannibal.
This week, the focus is upon the Ramsey family and their wide-spreading impact; and next week, the Evans family.
Peter and Catherine Ramsey emigrated to the United States from England circa 1863, along with their infant daughter, the aforementioned Margaret Ramsey. After arriving in the United States, they lived first New York, and later Pennsylvania, and would go on to have a total of 10 more children. Two died in infancy.
Peter Ramsey worked in Pennsylvania’s coal mines, but had a vision for a better life. He headed westward in 1884, and ultimately bought a piece of farmland in northern Jewell County, Kansas, near the border with Nebraska. It would be some time before the family would move, but he never lost sight of his dream.
Andy, born in 1876, showed up on Hannibal’s radar in 1891, via a newspaper article clipped by Peter Stone and pasted into a scrapbook for future reference. In that article, Andy’s parents and sister were mentioned, as well as her sister’s husband.
William Virgil Evans, a native of Shelby County, Mo., had previously established a name for himself as a contractor in Texas, but in 1891, he was teaching penmanship at Bluff City Business College in Hannibal.
In the spring of 1884, Peter Ramsey’s son Robert was tending to the farm in Jewell County, Kan., being the first of his neighbors to bring new potatoes to market. “They were good sized and very palatable,” the Jewell County Monitor reported on April 2, 1884.
The bulk of the family arrived closer to the turn of the 20th Century, and in leadership and business roles, left a lasting impact.
Catherine Thomas Ramsey, the mother of the Ramsey children, died Thursday morning, Sept. 10, 1903, and was buried at Balch cemetery in Formoso, Kan.
Buried with her at this cemetery are:
Catherine J. Ramsey Magnusson 1865-1956, daughter;
Peter Ramsey Jr., 1867-1933, son;
Peter Ramsey Sr., 1841-1924, husband; and
Robert Ramsey, 1870-1947, son.
Other Ramsey children:
Margaret Ramsey Evans 1862-
Arther Ramsey, Pennsylvania, 1875-1920
Andrew Murray Ramsey, Cincinnati, 1876-1923
William Thomas Ramsey 1878-1946
Evelyn Alice Ramsey 1880-1950
Henry Scott Ramsey 1882-1967
Andrew M. Ramsey served in the regular army for 13 years, through the Spanish-American War and earned the rank of first sergeant. He resumed civilian life in Cincinnati until the government announced the opening of the Officers’ Training Camp at Ft. Benjamin Harrison. After attending this training program, he earned the ranking of first lieutenant. He was sent to France, going over as an advance detachment of officers of the 26th Division, in the fall of 1917.
Note: The Peter Stone scrapbook is part of Steve Chou’s vast historic collection.
Note: While in Hannibal, city directory listings for W.V. and Margaret Evans are at 109 and 111 Russell, and at 213 Union, presumably on Hannibal’s West End.
Note: Thanks to Becker Spaun and Gregory Hile for assistance with estimating the 1923 rail path from Los Angeles to St. Louis.
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 Amazon.com 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,” and “Hannibal’s ‘West End,’” 47 stories of the Market Street Wedge and on west to Lindell Avenue. Montgomery can be reached at Montgomery.firstname.lastname@example.org Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com
Photo collage of Lieutenant Andrew M. Ramsey’s family, as published in the Cincinnati Post, Cincinnati, Ohio, on Aug. 27, 1917. Lieut. Ramsey his holding his daughter, Effie Ramsey. His wife, Mrs. Josie Ramsey, is holding son Andrew Jr., and Cleve Ramsey is on her right. Newspapers.com
The original Central school, located on Center Street between Eighth and Ninth streets, Hannibal, Mo. Steve Chou collection.