Settlement preceded Hannibal's earliest development

Hannibal Courier-Post (MO) - Thursday, November 26, 1998

Author: Roberta and J. Hurley Hagood

Hydesburg, a very early Ralls County community about 4 1/2 miles southwest of Hannibal, was settled before Hannibal became a village in 1819. It was recognized as a pioneer village, and was located on a state road, and had stagecoach service, earlier than Hannibal.

The "Missouri Atlas," compiled by Adolphus Wetmore in 1837, describes Hydesburg as a village boasting of a store, post office and a tavern (or inn) which served as a stagecoach stop. The Wetmore map depicts a state road from St. Charles to the Des Moines River. This road was in existence in 1823, or perhaps even earlier. Stage stations, or "stops" were shown in St. Charles, Troy, Alexandria, Smiley's Gate, Bowling Green, Horse Mill, New London, Hydesburg, Palmyra, Wyaconda and Des Moines River.

The stage crossed Salt River at a place at which Charles Rice ran a ferry boat. It was near the site at which the old Salt River Covered Bridge was built in 1853.

At the stagecoach stops, passengers could start or terminate their travel, mail was delivered and picked up, and at some stops, meals or lodging were available at inns or near-by private homes. The home of James Neal was a stage stop in Hydesburg for several years.

In 1835, twenty-four Ralls County men petitioned for the building of a toll bridge across Salt River at Rice's ferry site. The state legislature enacted a ruling to permit its construction. However, the plans failed and Salt River was not bridged until 18 years later, in 1853.

There was much intermingling of families between Hydesburg and Hannibal in the early days. For example, the following families which had roots in Hydesburg became prominent leaders in Hannibal: the Eby family; Joshua Mitchell; the Hornbacks; the Davidsons; the Glascocks; James Brady (Hannibal's first mayor); and William Samuels (partner in the largest meat packing plant ever operated in Hannibal.)

Edmund Hyde, who at an earlier date gave Hydesburg its name, came to Hannibal in the late 1830s and owned a farm on the hill west of the present Rockcliffe Mansion. It was subdivided for homes some years after his death in 1841. Edmund was a brother to Wesley Hyde who lived in Ralls County, and to Jordan Hyde who lived across the river in Illinois and owned the earliest ferry boat that served Hannibal.

Records show that there were inhabitants in the Hydesburg area even in 1817, but it was not called Hydesburg until 1832.

By researching extensively at the Ralls County Courthouse, Billy Locke, a present Hydesburg resident, learned that Edmund Hyde and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Margaret Davis, owned farm land there in 1828.

How Hydesburg got its name

In 1832, Edmund applied to the federal government for a post office. In preparing the application, it was necessary to give a name for the fledgling community, and Hydesburg was an understandable choice. Thus the village received its name. Edmund was its first postmaster.

The Hydesburg post office existed from 1832 until Nov. 7, 1870, according to information given by Goldena Howard, Ralls County historian. Postmasters were: 1832-Edmund Hyde; George C. Light, 1835; Samuel Smith, 1839; Peter Forder, 1844; James Riggs, 1845; Jeptha Smith, 1847; James Goodwin, 1849; John Ray, 1851; Joshua Mitchell (who built a new post office building in 1854), 1855; Bailor Maddox, 1858; John B. Brooks, 1862; Gabriel Freeman, 1866; and John B. Brooks, 1868-1870. The earlier post offices were usually in a corner of the local store.

A great improvement in the state roads occurred in 1838 when the Hannibal to Keytesville Road was opened. This gave Hydesburg stagecoach service on an east-west road as well as the old north-south road of the St. Charles to Des Moines River road. The east-west road missed Hydesburg by a mile or so, but a short spur road ran into the village and was normally used on stagecoach runs.

In the early 1850s, plank roads, made from heavy oak planks providing the road surface, came into popular use. One such road, the Hannibal to Paris Plank Road, was constructed through Hydesburg, thence past the home of Dr. Tyree Rodes (currently the Morawitz place), and then beyond the Foreman home to the present intersection of Routes H and HH. The plank road was never completed to Paris. It was a toll road, with a 52-foot right-of-way, a toll gate located at each five miles. One toll gate was near the site of the Birney grout house in Hydesburg.

The plank roads were not successful. This one became the Paris Gravel Road. Its toll houses were sold at auction on Sept. 1, 1856, when the toll road became free.

The Paris Gravel Road remained virtually the same until 1960 when its course between Hydesburg and Hannibal was altered due to the building of the Bear Creek Flood Control Dam.

The "grout" house of Dr. and Mrs. Birney, mentioned above, was an unusual type of home, although there were others in the vicinity. It was pointed out to people passing by as a landmark. grout houses were built by a special process which resulted in a long lasting structure. A rock foundation was first built. Then four forms were made of lumber, each the size of a planned wall, with a space about a foot wide between its inner and outer surface walls with openings for doors and windows. These hollow forms were erected and secured.

Then the grout was prepared. It was a thin mortar mixture of cement and lime and water. As it was poured into the forms from the top of the hollow forms, the builder added crushed rock, gravel, broken glass or pottery, or any other available durable material, mixing it into the thin grout as it was being poured into the forms. This continued until the forms were filled to their intended height. After the grout had "set" and was solid and dry, the wooden forms were removed. Then the roof was added and the windows and doors framed and the flooring completed.

Hydesburg Schools

The Hydesburg settlers felt that educating their children was a matter of prime importance. Children, at first, were taught in their homes. In one case, a Mr. Rudisill, while teaching his own children, taught a young hired man who was part of the household to read and write. Subscription schools, each family paying its share of the salary to the teacher, were the earliest schools. The residents were serious about schooling, evidenced by the quality of teachers selected to teach their children, some of whom eventually became important in other professions, such as: Allen Gallaher, William P. Birney, William Bishop and others.

Hydesburg School Buildings

The mention of the earliest school building is from an account in an 1875 "St. Louis Christian Advocate" which states there was a small school house in Hydesburg in 1822.

It is a matter of record that in April 1855, the Hydesburg school board advertised for bids for construction of a 20 by 28 foot school building of brick or stone. This building, when completed, was more adequate than the first little building. It was used many years.

In the 1920s, the Hydesburg school became a part of a consolidated district along with Rensselaer, Huntington and Spalding with grades one to eight attending existing buildings and grades nine through 12 attending high school at Rensselaer with all grades administered by a superintendent at Rensselaer. The high school at Rensselaer existed until 1947 when students were transported to larger schools. In 1964 grade schools were closed and pupils transported elsewhere.

Medical Attention

Medical and health needs of residents were cared for by an able physician, Dr. William L. Birney, who lived in Hydesburg in a grout house which was a landmark for many years. He traveled by horse and buggy to neighboring communities dispensing pills and powders in little envelopes labeled "for fever," "for pain," or appropriate instructions, and he had a supply of chloroform, a whiff of which was administered in childbirth cases if needed. He was lovingly called "Old Doctor Birney" because his son became "Young Doctor Birney" to people of Hatch, then Center, then Hannibal.

The village of Hydesburg was not destined to expand into a city. As stated above, the Wetmore map of 1837 showed a store, post office and an inn. Later maps, found in atlases of 1878 and 1904, depict these additional facilities: blacksmith shop, grange hall, school, Methodist church, a parsonage, a dining hall, a negro church, Methodist cemetery, new roads and many more home and farm buildings.

The Hydesburg

Methodist Church

The history of Hydesburg is so intertwined with the saga of the Hydesburg Methodist Church that iitmay be said that the history of the church is the truest history of the community. A walk through its cemetery is a statement of its past from its first burial in 1833, and is a reminder of the people who lived there and in nearby Northeast Missouri places.

Information about the history of the church comes from the Methodist Archives at Fayette, and from Thelma Ruhl, a current church member.

This church had its early beginnings, soon after Methodism reached Northeast Missouri in the 1820s. Presiding elders of Palmyra and Hannibal circuits were helpful in meetings in homes at Hydesburg.

Itinerant ministers held camp meetings which resulted in conversions. Inasmuch as families came to camp meetings in horse-drawn wagons and other vehicles, bringing food and supplies for three to 10 days, the meetings necessarily had to be held where there was access to a water supply such as a creek or spring. Many camp meetings were held in August and in park-like areas with lots of shade trees.

One camp meeting in 1847 was described as being held on a creek five miles southwest of Hannibal. (This was in the Hydesburg area.) Rev. Jacob Lanius, a young clergyman, was said to have been a "forceful evangelist," and spent much of his early career conducting camp meetings. At one such meeting he reported 40 conversions to the Methodist Church. Other camp meetings reported were at Thrasher's Chapel; in 1851 one lasted 10 days with 85 conversions. Camp meetings were held also on the old Bay Mill road and a Camp Creek in Monroe County.

Until 1849, the Hydesburg church congregation met in the homes of members, the little old school house, the Grange Hall, or in shaded groves.

Three men gave leadership which led to formal organization of the Hydesburg church, and eventual completion of the first church building. They were Rev. P.M. Pinckard, a pastor; Andrew Monroe, early presiding elder; and Jacob Lanius, a young itinerant minister who became presiding elder. The latter two lived in the community. Andrew Monroe's first wife, Ellen Harrison, died at Hydesburg in 1853. Two years later, at a conference meeting, he met and married Elizabeth Ford, a widow, who was living at the home of her sister, Mrs. William Samuel (Lavinia) at Hydesburg. Elizabeth and Lavinia were daughters of George (Peg-leg) Shannon of the Lewis and Clark Expeditionary force.

The original diary of Rev. Jacob Lanius is found at the State Historical Society of Missouri, and it tells of his 20-year ministry, his marriage, and much of the history of Methodist Churches in the area. He died at the age of 39 in 1851.

The trustees of that first Hydesburg church were Temple Davis, Richard Boyce, John Frasier, James Hornback and John R. Floweree.

A brick church was built and dedicated in 1849. It was used for 30 years and was replaced by a larger building in 1879. When it was dedicated and came into use, the old 1849 building was used by the local Masonic Lodge for its meetings.

The 1879 church building served the congregation well. Many capable ministers were sent to conduct morning and evening services, to officiate at baptisms and weddings, and to comfort the bereaved.

An Unusual Wedding

As a rule, in the earliest days, funerals and weddings took place in the homes. However, a story of a wedding in the first little brick church is worth relating. Mr. John R. Floweree was first married to Susan Glascock. They had five children. Susan's death in 1848 left him a widower, but one one thought of his remarrying. However, he surprised his friends in a unique ceremony. His first wife's cousin, Mary Ann Glascock, on 27 October, 1849, attended morning worship, coming there with a neighbor, John Priest.

At the close of the service and the benediction, the minister, Rev. Smith, held forward his hands and asked everyone to remain seated. He stated there was a matter of church business to be cared for, a couple wished to be married. He then asked, "Will the couple please stand and come forward?" At this point Mr. Floweree rose and went forward, and Mary Ann, to the surprise of all, especially her escort, met him at the altar to "become the second Mrs. Floweree," and in time, mother of their seven children.

During the pastorship of Rev. John Sears, in 1906, the building was remodeled and enlarged. It was again substantially enlarged in 1963 and a steeple added in 1970.

Unfortunately the church was destroyed by fire in December 1976. Again, the faithful congregation rebuilt, and a new brick building was dedicated in 1979.

As time passed, near the turn of the century, new names appeared on the rolls of church, school and the community. An example is the Ruhl family. Members of this family gave important leadership in Hydesburg.

Ever respectful of its rich history, the Hydesburg Church is now almost 150 years old. Its present pastor is Rev. Marjorie McDaniel Woods.

The people who live, or lived, in the Hydesburg community are proud of it.

The church is still the heart of Hydesburg. "People helping people" is the secret of Hydesburg's friendliness and cohesion, and its being not just a place, but a community.