William Robbins describes the 1850 stage coach route from Paris, Mo., to Hannibal, Mo.
Capt. William Robbins. Photo from Kevin K. Mittge's collection.
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
This is an excerpt from "The Notorious Madam Shaw," by Mary Lou Montgomery.
In 1894, Dorcas Hampton challenged the will of her biological father, Dr. John A. Hampton. The trial took place at Hannibal. The following testimony, based upon his memories from 1850, was given by William Robbins regarding the stage coach route from Paris, Mo., to Hannibal, Mo. Dorcas Hampton was represented by Hannibal attorney, George A Mahan.
William Robbins lived where Centerville Road and West Ely Road form a V.
William Robbins was a young man of 22 when he first met Dr. John A. Hampton. It was late 1849, and Dr. Hampton and his lady had just arrived in Missouri from Kentucky. While staying at the Forman way station in Ralls County, Hampton learned that his childhood friend, John Robbins (William's father) lived nearby. He asked a stage coach driver to drop him off at the Robbins' house, where he ultimately settled for an overnight stay.
Forty five years later, in 1894, William Robbins testified: "The stage drove up the lane from Peter Foreman's. My brother, the driver, drove up and stopped, and Mr. Hampton got out, and my father went out and met with him, and talked with him. They recognized each other; from their talk I learned they had went to school together in Kentucky, in Lexington, that was the talk.
"(Dr. Hampton) spoke to my brother and said, 'Young man, I am going to stay and talk with your father.' and he staid all night, and the next morning he told my brother to tell the young lady up there at Mr. Foreman's that he would be up the next day, that he would not come that day. So the next morning, after he staid all night, the stage went out very early and the Doctor went off and said, 'You tell the young lady that I will not be up until to-morrow morning,' twenty-four hours from then.
"That evening, she came down. She took him aside and they talked a little bit, then the Doctor turned to my father and said, 'John, I believe I will go to Hannibal,' and they got in the stage and come to Hannibal together that evening."
Before leaving for Hannibal, Dr. Hampton introduced his traveling companion as Mrs. Sweeny - or Thornton, - or Meara, William Robbins remembered. Again, he paraphrased Dr. Hampton: "This lady that I have with me, I am not married to, but we are going to get married."
William Robbins' next encounter with the future Mrs. Hampton would do little to endear her to this new neighbor.
The schedule of the stagecoach in 1850 was dependent upon the condition of the roads.
"(The stage coach) generally got to Hannibal about dark or a little before. But the roads, it was in the winter time, and it was not frozen hard enough to bear up in all places and ice would break through and sometimes they would not get to our house until dark.
"The stage mired down. My brother had a horn he would blow when he needed help; there was an understanding that he would blow the horn when he was mired down, and the people would go that were within a reasonable distance. This morning the stage broke through; I think there were about 10 passengers on; this lady, when we got down there, was sitting on the bank and the Doctor was helping to pry the wheels up, and she called him and told him to come up there and sit down by her; she told him he would get his clothes dirty, and she would not let him help."
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