For some 91 years — beginning at the end of the Civil War — the Nerlich family operated a grocery/hardware business on the southwest corner of Market and Arch streets in an area of Hannibal, Missouri, known as the West End.
Today, all that is left of the Nerlich legacy is a vacant triangle-shaped patch of grass located just a little to the west of Eugene Field School, the fading memories of a neighborhood grocery and hardware business, and the family members who lived upstairs.
German-born Hermann G. Nerlich and his wife Pauline moved to Hannibal, Missouri before March of 1865 — at war's end — opening a grocery store in a small frame building on the southwest corner of Market and London (Arch) streets, previously occupied by John Wathen.
In starting his new business in Hannibal — which was in the beginning stages of recovery following fierce fighting in this Southern-sympathizing community — Nerlich tapped into the experience he gained in the grocery field while working the prior 11 years in Quincy, Ill., where three of his children had been born.
From 1865 until 1956 — the next 91 years — Nerlich and subsequent generations of his family would continue to conduct business at this important West End location, selling groceries, hardware and feed.
The triangular-shaped, twostory, brick building which Hermann G. Nerlich built to replace the small frame building on the site circa 1885, served as a neighborhood landmark and family home until its demolition in the early 1980s.
Born in Prussia
The elder Mr. Nerlich, who was born in 1827 at Sniegel, Prussia, learned the cabinetmaking trade in his home country from his brother. At the age of 21 — in 1851 — Hermann came to the United States, first settling in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he married Paulina Boese in October 1852, and where their first son, Hermann C. Nerlich was born. They moved to Quincy, Ill., in 1854.
In 1861 they lived at on the east side of Tenth, between Hampshire and Maine in Quincy.
While doing business on Hannibal's West End, he was instrumental in politics, serving the Fifth Ward as councilman for at least one term.
Upon the death of his father, Herman G. Nerlich, in 1917, Edward F. Nerlich took over as owner and operator of the West End hardware, feed and grocery business.
As noted in a story published on this site July 4, 2020, Edward served as a minute man for Hannibal Hose Co., No. 2, in his early years. He was injured in a fall into a basement cellar while fighting a fire at the Raible grocery store on Market Street in March 1891.
Edward, a life-long bachelor and resident of Market Street, was born in Hannibal on March 23, 1865. He was well regarded as a developer and promoter of the West End business district, finally retiring from the business on March 1, 1947. He died in his sleeping quarters above the store the following year.
Edward was preceded in death by his parents and all of his siblings, and was survived by three nephews, Clarence Nerlich of St. Louis, Wray Nerlich of Chicago and Charles Nerlich of California, and a niece, Byrdie Cole of Kansas City.
Wray Nerlich's daughter, Mary Ellen Nerlich, who was born in 1916 at Hannibal, married Frederick C. Schock in 1935. In 1940, Frederick and Mary Ellen lived in a small two-bedroom, one-bath cottage at 2925 McKinley, a block north of St. Mary's Avenue.
Frederick went to work at the International Shoe Company in Hannibal in 1943, and the following year he was named manager of the company's office in Jerseyville, Ill.
Frederick and Mary Ellen returned to Hannibal in 1947, purchasing her family's business on Market Street following Edward Nerlich's retirement.
Renaming the business the Schock Hardware and Grocery Store, Frederick and Mary Ellen managed the business together.
In 1951, Frederick Schoch died at the age of 37, when his two daughters, Sherry Kay and Sandra Mae, were just 7 and 4.
His survivors included his widow and daughters; his parents, Frederick Charles and Charlotte Schoch, a sister, Mrs. Russell Huggins of Hannibal, and her son, John. (The elder Mr. Schoch was a brewmaster for Dick's Brewery.) Mary Ellen Schoch continued to manage the businesses after her husband's death. She married Clifford Rogers, and the family lived above the hardware store at 1901 Market.
The marriage to Mr. Rogers would be shortlived.
By 1955, she had closed the grocery store, and by 1957, the hardware store had closed as well.
About that time, Hannibal State Farm Agent Edwin S. Wilson viewed the Nerlich property with interest. He had conducted his insurance business on the second floor at 805A Broadway for several years. The Market Street site of the now-vacant Nerlich grocery store (1905 Market) seemed like an ideal location for his insurance office, and offered him a first-floor office on a busy commercial route.
He took a chance on this West End property, and it paid off. He retained his office at this site for the rest of his career.
“When Dad moved to Market Street it was still thriving with grocery (stores), several restaurants, a barber shop and an appliance store,” said Ed Wilson, son of Edwin S. Wilson.
“If you recall, Harv's Huntin' Hut was just across the street, and slightly west. Whalen Drug was a few blocks east on Market.”
The buildings were by the highway department in the early 1980s, shortly after Edwin Wilson retired from the insurance business, and were subsequently demolished, Ed Wilson said.
Mary Ellen Nerlich Schoch Harelson died in October 1988. Her husband, V.J. (Jack) Harelson, died in 1972. They are buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Hannibal.
Edwin S. Wilson died in 2001.
Edward Nerlich died in 1948, age 82-83. He is buried with his parents at Mount Olivet Cemetery.
Charlotte Titter Schoch and Fredrick Charles Schoch died in 1955 and 1967, respectively. Their son, Frederick C. Schoch, died May 15, 1951. They are buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery.
The elder Hermann Nerlich, in addition to operating a series of businesses in the 1900 block of Market Street, also dabbled in horse trading.
During late February 1899, Mr. Nerlich was just about to complete a deal to trade horses with a West End horse trader, when the horse he was about to acquire dropped dead.
In March 1901, Mr. Nerlich sold a “fine horse” to Mathew and Wingert, former Hannibal candy makers who had moved their business to Quincy, Ill. Jerry Gelvin, of Gelvin Brothers Livery, Feed and Sale Stables, 164-168 Market, was engaged to ship the horse to Quincy. (Stories, Quincy Daily Journal)
Sources: “History of Marion County” and the Hannibal Courier-Post's Centennial edition.
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. She can be reached at Montgomery.firstname.lastname@example.org Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com