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Veteran police matron played pivotal role in maintaining Hannibal’s peace

Ella Tepper Garland Bradshaw was pictured along with other Hannibal police officers in the Hannibal Courier-Post at the beginning of January 1942. Married to Samuel Bradshaw in 1935, she was identified in this photo as Mrs. S.T. Blackshaw.


On a clear evening in late August, 1919, a young man approached a small-framed woman as she walked through the square block dedicated since the town’s incorporation as Hannibal’s Central Park.

“May I have the pleasure of your company?” he asked.

She demurely answered, “Sure,” and subsequently suggested they take a short stroll across Broadway’s cobbled pavement and along the sidewalk on the west side of South Fourth Street. He eagerly agreed.

Just a block into their walk, she stopped at the corner of Church and Fourth, which was (not coincidentally) the police station.

The woman then identified herself to this young man as Mrs. Ella Garland, Hannibal police matron.

New London’s newspaper, the Ralls County Record, described what happened next: “When they arrived at the police station she turned him over to the officers. It cost the fresh young man $17 to take that ‘stroll.’”

Frankford native

Ella Tepper Garland, born Nov. 30, 1868, and raised at Frankford, Mo., moved to Hannibal Mo., circa 1908, accompanied by her husband, Thomas Garland, a brakeman for the Burlington railroad. They first settled into a frame one-story duplex, then numbered 440 Rock St. (The half of the duplex where the Garlands lived in 1908 is now numbered 512 Rock St.)

Three years into her Hannibal residency, and after completing a business course at the Hannibal Commercial College, she accepted an appointment as attendance officer for Hannibal’s public schools. After one year, circa 1912, Mayor John Dreyer named her to the (at first) unpaid position of Hannibal police matron.

Looking back on her career in March 1935, the Quincy Herald Whig described her role: “She next worked under Mayor John K. Mills as a regular police officer receiving regular pay. While her work consisted chiefly in working with young persons who had gone astray, especially young girls, it was necessary on occasions to make arrests, sometimes of men. The diminutive gun she carried in her pocket book could grow to formidable proportions when it was viewed from the muzzle by some culprit who deemed a police woman only a figurehead.”

Keeping the peace

Details of her 34-year career were oft described in Quincy, Ill., newspapers, which are available in a free search engine provided via the town’s library, and the Ralls County Record, accessible via

Some examples:

Ralls County Record, April 30, 1920: “Frank Fay, aged 45, was arrested Friday night in his room in Hannibal by Officers (Frank) Hinks and Mrs. Ella Garland. Pansy Eubanks, a 10 year old girl, was in Fay’s room where he was arrested. It is said that his attention to the child was the cause of his arrest and he may have to face a serious charge. He denies that he had mistreated the child and says his only reason for wanting to be near her was on account of the fact that she resembled his dead child so much.”

Ralls County Record, May 5, 1922: “Mrs. Ella T. Garland, police matron, left yesterday for Chillicothe. She took Lulu May Gay, Hazel Johnson and Freda Wisman to the Industrial Home for Girls. Before the three girls left Hannibal to enter the institution they gave to the authorities a list of men whom they had been with, together with the amounts paid them. The names caused considerable surprise. Friday’s Hannibal Courier-Post.”

Ralls County Record, Sept. 7, 1923: “Two girls aged 10 and 11 years were arrested last week in Hannibal charged with shoplifting. Prosecuting Attorney (Roy) Hamlin and Police Matron Ella Garland had the girls taken to their parents and given a sound whipping in the presence of the officers.”

Sycamore Street

By the mid 1920s, Ella and Thomas Garland had moved to Hannibal’s south side, namely 808 Sycamore Street, a block to the east of what is now Missouri Route 79. The frame dwelling, long since a victim of repeated Mississippi River and Bear Creek floods, stood amidst the blue-collar neighborhood of railroad and cement workers, grocery stores and pharmacies, and nearby to the neighborhood’s fire station. It was in this house where Mrs. Garland’s father, Herman Franklin Tepper (for 25 years justice of the peace of Peno Township, Pike County, Mo.) lived out his remaining years before his death in early February, 1927.

The following year, in November 1928, Mrs. Garland’s husband, Thomas, died.

In February 1935, Ella Garland was married to Samuel T. Blackshaw in a ceremony performed by Rev. Robin Gould, pastor of Park Methodist Church. Mr. Blackshaw was a Hannibal fireman from 1905 to 1911. In 1913, Blackshaw worked as a Hannibal police officer. After that, he worked as a special agent for the CB&Q Railroad. The Blackshaws continued, for a time at least, to live at 808 Sycamore.

Beginning in January 1937, Mrs. Garland Blackshaw left the Hannibal police force and worked instead as a commissioned deputy for former Hannibal Police Chief and newly elected Marion County Sheriff William Schneider.

In 1939, Hannibal’s new police chief, James Featherstone, reappointed Mrs. Blackshaw to the city post of police matron, and two years later, a room in the south wing of the police station was remodeled by men serving time in jail, and this space was dedicated as Mrs. Blackshaw’s office and conference room.

After a 34-year law enforcement career, she died in July 1945, and was buried at Frankford. At the time of her death she was a member of the International Police Woman’s Association.

Foster parent

While Mrs. Garland Blackshaw didn’t have children of her own, she was a foster parent to at least three children raised in Hannibal, who considered her to be their mother.

Mrs. Idella (Mrs. Weldon C.) Swiger, a trained nurse from Omaha, Neb. (1893-1975)

Mrs. Maurine (Mrs. Edwin L.) Adams, who lived in Hannibal for many years, before moving with her husband to Fresno, California.

John Clyde Gilbert, a long-time pressman for the Sedalia Democrat, was born in 1892 and died in 1939. He was the son of Thomas Gilbert’s brother, Lowen Gilbert, who died in 1909. Prior to moving to Sedalia, Clyde worked as a pressman for the Hannibal Courier.

This old building, on the northwest corner of Church and South Fourth streets, served as Hannibal’s jail for many years, until replaced in the 1960s. Still standing in 2022, this is the building where Ella Garland Blackshaw served as police matron for some 34 years. Photo by Mary Lou Montgomery

This photo of Ella Garland Bradshaw and her new husband, Samuel T. Bradshaw, was featured in the Quincy Herald Whig on March 10,1935. The photo was accessed via the Quincy library’s digital newspaper collection.

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," 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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