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W.J.A. Meyer’s keen insight contributed to town’s betterment

In February, 1983, Esley Hamilton wrote a Status Report for a project known as “Identification and Protection of Historic Resources.” In that report, he described the Meyer house, located at 314 Virginia St., Hannibal, Mo.: “This house is the finest and least-altered example of the bungalow style in Hannibal. W.J.A. Meyer (1851-1925) was a contractor who introduced the bungalow to Hannibal from California, where it had become exceptionally popular, and he built most of the houses in this section of town. He was also an incorporator of the Bluff City Shoe Company.” City directory search reveals that the numbering of the house changed over the years, 146 Virginia in 1911; 316 Virginia in 1912; 310 Virginia in 1914; and today, 314 Virginia. 2023 photo by Mary Lou Montgomery.

Part two of a two-part series. See part one.


The death in December 1907 of 27-year-old Cecil C. Garrett, business manager for his father’s company, the H.C. Garrett Improvement Company, opened a window of opportunity for other developers to step in and shape the landscape of the Eure Place subdivision.

On April 4, 1908, W.J.A. Meyer, Hannibal businessman and entrepreneur, announced the purchase the east half of Eure Place, including both sides of the newly opened Virginia Street. At that time, Meyer revealed plans to construct 50 brick houses along this corridor.

One thing that Mr. Meyer did, but that the Rev. H.C. Garrett - the previous developer - had failed to do, was to arrange for running water to the Eure Place development. Meyer negotiated with the Hannibal Water Co., to extend its mains to the new subdivision.

The first people to settle into occupancy on Virginia Street, as far as early records show, were H. Ernest (1869-1949) and Althea E. Hart Riemann. Their house, on Lot 17, was one of two houses listed on Virginia Street in the 1909 Hannibal City Directory. The other house was vacant. The Riemann house was later numbered 238 Virginia. Ernest Riemann, together with his brother, A.G. Skinner, operated a grocery store at 701 Broadway.

Ernest Riemann’s father, Henry A. Riemann, (1845-1921) was a Hannibal contractor. The Mefford brothers, contractors mentioned in the first installment of this series, previously worked for Henry A. Riemann before starting out on their own.

In 1912, there were five homes occupied on Virginia Street, according to the Hannibal City Directory of that year:

206 Virginia, Walter E. Mack. (July 16, 1911 real estate transfer, W.J.A. Meyer and Jeanne S. Meyer, his wife, Hannibal, to Walter E. Mack and Elizabeth Mack, All lot 9 Eure Place. $3,300)

238 Virginia, Ernest Riemann, the aforementioned grocer.

240 Virginia, T.C. Robinson, co-owner of R.B. and T.C. Robinson, plumbers and electrical contractors. (This house was originally numbered 136 Virginia. Lot 18, Eure Place.)

300 Virginia, Livingston McCartney, superintendent of schools, and his wife, Mabel. (In 1911, the house was numbered 140 Virginia.) The house is just to the south of the W.J.A. Meyer property, part of lots 19 and 20.)

310 (ultimately renumbered 314) Virginia, W.J.A. Meyer, president of the Bluff City Shoe Co., and real estate broker. (Part of lots 20 and 25, and all of lots 21, 22, 23 and 24.)

‘Hannibal Beautiful’

In March, 1910, W.J.A. Meyer, was chair of the Civic Improvement Committee

in conjunction with the Hannibal Commercial Club. He undertook a city-wide betterment campaign.

Meyer had been named to this post by J.P. Richards, the organization’s president.

The campaign launched on March 3, 1910, with a dinner served by the women of the Park Methodist Church. Following the meal, Mr. Meyer addressed those assembled.

Among other topics, Meyer spoke of properly paving streets, the erection of lighting arches to give sufficient illumination to commercial streets, educating people as to proper pruning methods for trees, taking pride in home ownership, law establishment and enforcement, and the creation of a city park on Lover’s Leap.

His first agenda item was to solicit orders for 5,000 shade trees to be planted throughout Hannibal over a period of three weeks. A total of 4,000 order forms were distributed to school children to take home to their parents.

Ten-foot trees available for planting included:

Soft Maple trees, 35 cents each;

Carolina Poplars at 35 cents each;

Elms at 35 cents each; and

Hard Maples at 45 cents each.

The price included planting.

Dr. R. Schmidt, whose home and office were at Maple Avenue and Broadway, ordered a Catalpa tree.

The trees were purchased and planted in conjunction with the Sunny Slope Nursery, W.S. Hall, owner.

The Rev. H.C. Garrett, who, along with business partners first established the Eure Place Subdivision in 1906, heard of the tree campaign from his home in El Reno, Okla., and wrote a letter to W.J.A. Meyer, which was published in the Tuesday, March 22, 1910 edition of the Hannibal Evening Courier-Post.

“I enclose this order for six trees to be set in front of my lots, 107, 108 and 109 Magnolia avenue. (Addresses 201 Magnolia, 129 Magnolia and 127 Magnolia.) I want them to be 20 feet apart, starting with a soft maple and then an elm, so that I may cut out the maple when the trees are large enough.”

Rev. Garrett, who, along with his business partners had sold the Virginia Street portion of Eure Place to Meyer and partners in 1908, seemed pleased by the progress made by the new owner. “You are the right man in the right place,” he wrote to Mr. Meyer, “and I wish you all kinds of success.

“P.S. Pave the streets.”

Big announcement

W.J.A. Meyer made a major announcement on Dec. 11, 1913, via the Hannibal Morning Journal:

A new Catholic hospital was to be built, in the spring of 1914, at the foot of Virginia Street.

The Sisters of the Immaculate Conception Corporation of Maryville, Mo., drove a hard bargain when asking for a suitable construction site. The Hannibal Morning Journal reported in its Dec. 11, 1913 edition, “The purchasers demanded that the site should be on a paved street and in easy reach of the street car line.”

After studying property around town, they settled on the Broadway/Virginia street property.

The city agreed to pave Broadway west to Virginia Street, and the street car line was within two blocks of the property, intersecting with Broadway/St. Mary’s Avenue at Lamb street.

W.J.A. Meyer and his wife, Alfred Call and wife, and C.A. Howland and wife, made out the deeds for lots 52, 53, 54, 55, 56 and 57, Eure Place addition, to the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception Corporation of Maryville.

(Note: the Magnolia Street lots, [58-63] to the west of the hospital, were not affected by this land transfer.)

The three-story, brick hospital was to face Virginia Street. At the time, it was believed that the facility would be named St. Francis Hospital. (When completed, it was named St. Elizabeth Hospital)

Neighborhood growth

Other notable families would move to Virginia Street by 1916, including:

206: John R. McWilliams, bookkeeper, Powder Company

227: George B. Gentle, grocer, 1200 Broadway

228: Birt Wiley

233: Robert B. Robinson, T.C. and R.B. Robinson, plumbers and electrical contractors

237: Ben F. Smiley, city engineer

238: H.E. Riemann, grocer

240: Thos. C. Robinson, T.C. and R.B. Robinson, plumbers and electrical contractors

300: Livingston McCartney, school superintendent

305 Fred H. Fox, clerk Powder Company

310: W.J.A. Meyer

311: Roger Ledford, assistant timekeeper, Burlington Railroad

324: Harry Modesetti

W.J.A. Meyer served in a number of capacities throughout his life, which enhanced the beauty and stability of his chosen hometown, Hannibal, Mo. Photo contributed by Jean Meyer.

W.J.A. Meyer, at the age of 25. Born Sept. 24, 1861; died Dec. 28, 1924. Contributed by Jean Meyer.

Robert B. Robinson holds his daughter, Isabelle, circa 1914. He is seated on the front sidewalk of his home, located at 235 Virginia. The house in the background is 238 Virginia. Note that Virginia Street, at the time of the photo, was not yet paved, but the sidewalks were. Source: Glascocks of Marion County, Missouri, by Mary Lou Spaun Montgomery and Robert Robinson Spaun.

Thomas C. Robinson at his home, 240 Virginia, Hannibal, Mo. in July 1958. He died in September 1959. Tom’s granddaughter, Cathi Conner, of Yuma, Ariz., is pictured at far right. The two neighbor children are Jean and Fred Murphy. T.C. and R.B. Robinson (who lived across the street) were twin brothers. According to the Marion County Herald ( W.J.A. Meyer sold the property and house to Robinson in November 1909 for $2,909. Lot 18, Eure Place. Source: Glascocks of Marion County, Missouri, by Mary Lou Spaun Montgomery and Robert Robinson Spaun.

W.J.A. Meyer’s wife, left, Jane Ellen Scott Meyer, also went by Jennie Scott Meyer. The family called her Bonnie. At right is their daughter,  Helen Meyer Carstarphen (married to Harry Carstarphen.) This picture is in the back gardens of the big bungalow family house at 314 (previously known as 310) Virginia. The family believes that Helen Meyer Carstarphen (1895-1988) lived in this same house from childhood until the time of her death. Photo contributed by Jean Meyer.

Jean Meyer contributed this photo taken at the home of William Scott Meyer and his wife, Elsie Pictured from right, are their sons, Bill and Jack Meyer, and an unidentified friend. William and Elsie Meyer lived at 319 Virginia, across the street and a little to the north of William’s father, W.J.A. Meyer.

Virginia Avenue, Hannibal, Missouri. This is a photo of 238, 240 and 300 Virginia Ave., before construction of 242. The house at 324 is pictured in the distance. This photo was originally contributed by Mary Kelso, and is now part of the Hannibal Arts Council's Hannibal as History collection. Notice along the curbsides, on each side of the street, are young trees. In March 1910, W.J.A. Meyer, 146 Virginia (later renumbered 314 Virginia), purchased 50 soft maple trees to be planted on lots he owned on Virginia Street, in Eure Place subdivision.

W.J.A. Meyer and two dogs. Do you recognize the landscape? Mr. Meyer built houses in many Hannibal neighborhoods, including the South Side, on Collier and Hazel, and Oak Street. Photo contributed by Jean Meyer.

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

1 Comment

May 04

Mary Lou you sure bring the history of Hannibal alive. Thanks for all your efforts. I find your historical stories inspiring and fascinating. Where would be the history of Hannibal be without, I certainly don’t know.

Salim Akrabawi MD

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