Quinctus Ennis Whaley, just 24 years of age, was called minister at Hannibal’s Scott Chapel Methodist Episcopal church during the winter of 1906-07.

Quinctus Ennis Whaley, just 24 years of age, was called minister at Hannibal’s Scott Chapel Methodist Episcopal church during the winter of 1906-07. The congregation was meeting in a rented building at the intersection of Lindell Avenue and Peter Street (which was later renamed Wardlaw). In order to conserve resources, they shared the building with the Second Christian Church congregation.

Rev. Whaley set up housekeeping in a little house near the church, and at the end of August 1907, he returned to Jackson County, Mo., where he married 23-year-old Mary Elizabeth Campbell.

He brought her back to Hannibal, where he introduced his wife to the congregation.

Regional roots

While the town of Hannibal was new to him, he had family roots not far away. He was born in Mexico, Mo., the son of Georgia and Ennis Whaley. The family later relocated to Kansas City, where the family was active in the Burns Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church.

Ennis Whaley worked as a carpenter by trade, and by the age of 15, his son Quinctus was working as a butler for a private family.

While this family’s lifestyle was quite typical of the times, Quinctus wanted much more out of life than a meager existence. He valued education, and set his sights on obtaining a college degree. He did just that by enrolling and subsequently graduating from George R. Smith College in Sedalia, Mo., in 1903.

The college was associated with the Freedmen’s Aid and Southern Education Society of the Methodist Church, and served as a strong influence upon the young man of color from Kansas City, and the path he would follow into adulthood.

Oratory

A year prior to his 1903 graduation, he served as a member of the “Pasteur Scientific Club” at the college. On Jan. 22, 1902, he participated in a discussion on the topic: “The wireless telegraphy will in five years supersede the present system.” Whaley spoke on the affirmative, along with Sylvester Kiby, Artee Fleming and J.A. Patton.

Rev. Whaley continued to practice his oratorical skills after graduation. Before locating in Hannibal, he lived in Chicago, where in mid April 1905, he was deemed the winner of an oratorical contest at St. Mark’s Church, as mentioned in the city’s black weekly newspaper, The Broad Ax.

Church history

It is commonly recognized that Scott Chapel was first established in 1887, at Brittingham Hall, in the 400 block of Broadway, Hannibal.

During the course of its 130-year history, church locations have included:

A two-room house on Bird Street.

Three years later, the congregation moved to the corner of Carr and Patchen streets.

Around 1892, the church moved to a location on Broadway, just to the west of Griffith Street.

Later in the 1890s, the Broadway site was sold, and the church shared Kipper Hall, located at 107 Peter Street (later renamed Wardlaw) with the Second Christian Church.

Finally, the congregation moved to its current location at 1815 Hope St., in 1917.

Bowling Green

In 1911, the Rev. George Grady was named pastor of Scott’s Chapel (also referred to as Peter Street ME Church) moving from Clarksville to Hannibal. The Rev. Whaley and his family consequently moved to Pike County, Mo., where he took charge of a ME Church in Bowling Green. Representing that congregation, he attended the Central Missouri Conference held in Mexico, Mo., April 3-7, 1913.

As the family settled in to their new environment, little could they know that much heartache was ahead.

Growing family; tragedy looms

Rev. Whaley and his wife welcomed their first child – a boy – while they lived in Hannibal. Ennis Marshall Whaley was born April 16, 1910.

Their second son, Aurelius R. Whaley, was born Dec. 26, 1912, at Bowling Green.

A third son, Marion Thomas Whaley, was welcomed into the family in 1913. He died when he was just three years old, on Nov. 21, 1916.

A fourth son, Leonard Whaley, was born in Bowling Green on Sept. 27, 1915, and died the following Aug. 13, at the age of 10 months.

To compound the family’s grief, Rev. Whaley himself died on Nov. 16, 1917. He was 34 years old. Father and two sons are buried at Bowling Green Cemetery.

Ultimately, Rev. Whaley’s widow returned to Hannibal, and began her teaching career.

Hannibal’s Lincoln elementary school

The 1929 Hannibal City Directory lists Mrs. Mary E. Whaley as principal of Lincoln School, located at 1023 Rock Street.

Hurley and Roberta Hagood wrote a history of Hannibal’s schools dedicated to education students of color, which was published in the Nov. 15, 2004, edition of the Hannibal Courier-Post:

“A Douglass branch school was located at 924 Rock Street. The Lincoln Branch School was at 1074 Fulton Avenue. Both schools were provided to allow Negro children to attend the first, second and third grades without the long walk to Douglass school in Willow Street.

“Sometime before 1916, Lincoln School on the Southside ceased or was combined with the former branch at Douglassville, and following this, the Douglassville Branch was called the Lincoln School. Mary E. Whaley was the teacher at this Lincoln school during the 1920s and 1930s. Within the last few years of the 1940s, Lincoln School ceased operating.”

During this time period, Mrs. Whaley owned a small house located at 2202 Spruce St. (now demolished). It is there that she raised her two surviving sons, Ennis and Aurelius.

City directories up through 1942 list Mrs. Whaley as principal of Lincoln. Sometime early in that decade, the school closed and students transferred to Douglass School.

Mrs. Whaley moved to North Carolina, where she died in 1951.

Among her former students: Major Griggsby and Minnie Morrison Smith.

Coincidence, or not?

J. Rosamond Johnson portrayed a character named Rev. Quintus Whaley in the Broadway production of “Mamba’s Daughters,” in 1939-40. The fictional play in two acts and nine scenes by Dorothy and Du Bose Heyward. At the Empire Theatre on Broadway, opened on Jan. 3, 1939. Also at the Broadway Theatre, opening on March 23, 1940. Source: “John Garfield, the Illustrated Career in Films and on Stage, by Patrick J. McGrath.

Mary Lou Montgomery is a writer, speaker and researcher with a specialty in history. She is the former editor of the Courier-Post.