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Street car mishap left child disabled

Handwriting on this rare 1905-era photo is believed to be that of Sinclair Mainland, whose father, John S. Mainland, was a long-time manager of the Hannibal Electric and Railroad Company. Sinclair Mainland’s handwriting describes the movie theater and event venue, to the right, that served Hannibal-area residents from the summer of 1901 until October 1906. It was located on the east side of St. Mary’s Avenue, directly to the south of Rackcliffe Street. In 1905, there was a ramp on St. Mary’s Avenue that allowed for five street cars to load at the same time. Mainland family photo album shared by Willie Richmond of Hannibal. Directly behind the car in the distance is a grocery store, “Cheap Cash Store” operated by Wm. S. Ardrey. That store would be located where the St. Mary’s Pharmacy was once located, now addressed 2900 St. Mary’s Avenue. (In 1905, the address was 2400 St. Mary’s Avenue.)


During the course of Missouri’s history, a number of assigned dates have been used for the celebration of Emancipation Day. Perhaps most common was Aug. 5, a month and a day following the nation’s observation of independence from British rule.

The celebration of independence that Americans experienced wasn’t universal, however. Frederick Douglass, in a speech given on July 5, 1852, said, “What, to the slave, is the Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelly to which he is the constant victim.”

In Hannibal, on July 5, 1905, the Eighth and Center Street Baptist Church hosted an all-day picnic and celebration of Emancipation Day, at Smith’s Park on St. Mary’s Avenue. People of color, living in all parts of Hannibal proper, ascended to this remote location - still outside of the Hannibal city limits - via the Hannibal Electric and Railroad Company’s electric street cars.

Smith’s park, established in the summer of 1901 on a five-acre grove owned by Mary L. Smith, (the mother-in-law of John S. Mainland, street car company manager) consisted of a pavilion and plenty of space for picnics and family gatherings on the hillside east of St. Mary’s Avenue, adjacent to Rackliffe Street.

Among those in attendance on that July day were Mary and Lora Slayton, mother and daughter, who lived at 921 North Street.

Large family

The extended Slayton family had a large presence in Hannibal at that time; Mary’s husband, Levi, was one of 16 children raised by George and Eveline Slayton, 10 of whom survived into the 20th Century.

A number of the Slayton children - Levi’s siblings - settled in Hannibal following patriarch George Slayton’s death in 1893. They included, as culled from various records on

Alfred, born circa 1867 (wife Ida Newberry, divorced in 1913);

Levi Slayton, born 1868 (wife Mary, daughter Lora);

Rosa Slayton, born circa 1871; (married Sherman Rice in October 1893);

Boone Slayton, born 1875 (wife Bertie);

George Slayton, born circa 1882;

Ethel Slayton, born in 1884;

Joseph Slayton, born 1885;

Vesper Slayton, born in 1892. She graduated from high school in Hannibal and in 1912 enrolled in a combined business and shorthand course at Dixon College in Illinois.

Richard Slayton, born 1864, was married to Amanda Coleman (1870-1922). In 1919, their son, Ola, was the charter vice commander for Hannibal’s Clarence Woodson American Legion Post No. 155. Maceo Wilson was veterans organization’s first commander.

There is little doubt, with this much family in the vicinity, that Mary and Lora Slayton were surrounded by loved ones on this celebratory day, which took place just five months following the death of their husband/father, Levi Slayton, at the age of 34.


At the park, located at the bottom of the hill on St. Mary’s Avenue, the car company had expanded its loading dock to make room for five street cars to load at once. As the last car was preparing to leave the park for destinations toward Hannibal proper, Motorman Cashman announced the imminent plans for departure.

As he made his way from the back of the car to the front, the car itself started to move. By rushing to the front, he was able to engage the hand brake and thus stop the car from rolling before it reached a decline onto Hawkins Street. Regardless, the newspaper of the day reported that passengers on board began to panic.

Lora Slayton, daughter of Levi and Mary Slayton, was seated toward the front of the car next to her mother. She either fell or jumped from the moving car, and her leg caught between a wheel and the track.

Taken to Levering Hospital for emergency treatment, Dr. Henry L. Banks, assisted by Dr. O.C. Queen, deemed it necessary to amputate her leg.

A year later, following the presentation of evidence, a jury in Lewis County, Mo., awarded Lora $1,500 in compensation for her loss.

In 1919, Lora Slayton was married to Louis Whitfield, and he preceded her in death. Lora continued to live at 1100 North Street with her mother until her death in 1948 at the age of 51. She was buried at Robinson Cemetery.

Her mother, Mary Slayton, died in February 1953. She was buried near her daughter.

Short-lived park

Smith’s Park, managed by John S. Mainland, was a popular gathering spot and entertainment venue during the spring, summer and fall, from August 1901 until the last day of October 1906.

Historic tidbits

from Steve Chou:

In June 1904, Fred Buhrmeister, a native of Quincy, Ill., known professionally as Fred Burr, performed at the open-air theater with Fred Varenhorst.

The Rigler Orchestra performed at this venue on July 6, 1904.

In mid August, 1905, management opened an open skating rink on the premises. The managers were Peter Schwartz and Cori Lippincott. Skates were furnished, and the fee was 15 cents per hour or 25 cents for the evening.

On May 22, 1906, the park had its grand opening for the season. Dances were staged on Mondays and Wednesdays.

In June 1906, Superintendent John S. Mainland purchased a fine Whitney piano for the venue. The West Side Military Band rode the street car from the foot of Broadway to Smith’s Park on Car # 23, playing music all the way.

There was no dance on Oct. 2, 1906, due to the cool weather. The park was closed for the season.

On Oct. 31, 1906, a local newspaper reported that a force of men were taking down numerous strings of lights, and noted that it was doubtful that the park would be reopened in the spring.

Note: In 1906, comedian Fred Buhrmeister performed at the People’s Theatre in Hannibal.

Steve Chou offers this information about Smith Park:

It has gone by at least four names during Hannibal's history.

Hill City Park;

Camp Meeting Hill;

Fairview Park; and

Smith Park.

In 1918, the Home of the Friendless was constructed uptop the Radcliffe Street hill.

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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