Two weeks before Christmas, on a drizzly and cold Sunday afternoon in 2016, Dana Riney of Hannibal listened intently to his great-great-great-grandfather’s stories of his life on an 80-acre farm west of Sidney, Mo., in the mid 1850s.

Two weeks before Christmas, on a drizzly and cold Sunday afternoon in 2016, Dana Riney of Hannibal listened intently to his great-great-great-grandfather’s stories of his life on an 80-acre farm west of Sidney, Mo., in the mid 1850s.

Prior to Sunday, John Perry Bartraum, who passed to eternal rest in 1900, was little more than a name and birth date to Riney, who is an active genealogy researcher and family tree builder.

“I really don’t know much about him,” Riney said on Sunday, referring to John Perry Bartraum. But now that has changed.

Bartraum was one of the 16 people who testified on behalf of Dorcas Hampton during her 1894 challenge of her father’s will at Hannibal. By testifying, Bartraum’s stories as told before Judge Ruben Roy in the Hannibal Court of Common Pleas became a permanent part of the court’s records. Those records were found five years ago under literally an inch of dust in the Ralls County Courthouse basement.

Bartraum’s testimony in 1894 helped Dorcas claim a child’s share of her father’s estate, and served as a key element in the historical biography of her life: The Notorious Madam Shaw.

Ironically, Dana Riney, retired from the Army and Continental Cement Co., is approximately the same age that his great-great-great grandfather was when he testified at the Hampton trial: 65.

Pertinent excerpts from the trial transcript follow.

Direct examination

Mr. George Mahan

Q. Mr. Bartram, will you give your full name? A. John Perry Bartram, it is a double name.

Q. How old are you, Mr. Bartram? A. That is a question that is pretty hard for me to answer; I had a record, I came from Virginia and we did not keep much record. I had a record, but it was burned. I can’t say positive; I am about sixty-five years old; I can’t say positive; that is about my age.

Q. Where did you live in an early day in Missouri, if you lived in Missouri? A. I came to Missouri in 1840, and have been here ever since, except two years that I went up to Wisconsin. The balance of the time I have lived in Missouri; this is my home.

Q. What place did you live at, when you arrived here in 1840? A. The first place I stopped was at William Greathouses’.

Q. Where was that? A. Above Sidney, about 16 or 18 miles from here.

Q. In Ralls County? A. Yes, sir.

Q. How far was that from what was known as the Brown place, or the Hornback place, and Judge Foreman’s place (where Dorcas Hampton’s father lived)? A. Not very far. I lived at that time, well I suppose about fifteen miles from that place, somewhere in the neighborhood of thirteen or fifteen miles west of the Greathouse place; I bought a farm there and own a farm there yet.

Q. Where did you live after that? A. After I lived there about ten years, I moved over across the river to what was known as St. Paul, in Ralls County; I was there about fifteen years, and then I bought a farm that I own today and moved back and have lived there ever since.

Q. At the farm you own today? A. Yes, sir.

Q. Where is it? A. About ten miles west of Sidney.

Q. Do you remember sometime in the early fifties, 1854 or 1855, of meeting a man by the name of Hampton, John A. Hampton? A. I can give you a correct history of the fact.

Q. Without any trouble at all? A. Yes, sir; of course, I recollect the first I ever knew of him he came to my house to see me on a business that he wanted me to engage in.

Q. Now, how long did you know that man? A. Well, I know him a right smart while; I have known him ever since that time.

Q. What was his full name? A. Doctor John A. Hampton.

Q. Was he the same man that died not long ago out here near Hydesburg? A. Yes, sir; I have known him ever since.

Q. Where did you first see John A. Hampton? A. Well, I saw him at my house; that was the first introduction I had to him.

Q. Where was your house? A. Ten miles from Sidney, right west in what is called the Settles’ neighborhood. At that time he came to see me, he said he was recommended to me, and he came to see me on certain business; and he told me what his business was. He said he had a girl that was treated so mean he thought all of her in the world, she was an only child and he had come to me and wanted me to take her and raise her. He being a stranger and not being settled there a great while, I told him I would have to study the matter over a while first. As well as I recollect, my wife was not at home, she was on a visit, probably across the river. He said he would come back Sunday and he done so. I can’t recollect the time of year, how long it was, but he come back to my house and he made a proposition just like this: he says, “you take the girl and raise her” as I had been recommended to him, he wanted a good place, and he says, “if you haven’t the means, I will furnish you the money, and you take her and treat her as you do your own children.” I finally agreed to do that, but after considering the matter – the people came to me with things, representing to me that Dr. Hampton was a terrible man and that he would get me into trouble; Then he came to me with another proposition; he says, “You come and move on what was called the Hornback place and I will furnish you with a good house, a barn and wagon shed and blacksmith shop and you just keep the books and I will give you half of the profits, and take this girl just like she was your own child.” I thought I would; I come down town and talked with the neighbors and they told me I had better not do it; I was a stranger and if I went into that business I might get into trouble, and I declined. Then him and the girl came back the third time to my house, and insisted on me and wanted me to take her. He said she was his only child, and he felt near to her, he could not think more of any one than he did of her. Well, I told him I did not feel like I could go into it now. After he found out I would not go into it, he did not come back any more to me.

Q. How did you say he referred to her – what did he say as to whose child it was? A. He said it was his own child; he invited me and my wife to come down. I can give you a history of that; I came down, me and my wife, after he had represented that it was his own child, the only child he had, and he wanted her raised right.

Q. What, if anything, did he say about her mother? A. I don’t know what he did say about her mother particularly. He said this about his wife; he said she was treated so bad he could not keep her there at home; she was treated every way mean, and he had to get a home for her. I was going to Hannibal, and I made it a point to stop as I was coming out, and see this girl, and this young man, what is his name, Oldham, he was there. I saw this girl; she was in her bare feet and was dressed more like a negro than a white girl; Oldham was dressed respectable. My wife made the remark that the way children was treated by a step-mother was a terrible thing.

Q. State whether the girl you saw there, was this plaintiff? A. Well, of course, there being a great lapse of time, I can’t say; I have seen her since she has been here in Hannibal. I attended business for Dr. Hampton and I have heard him speak of his girl; I have seen her here, but of course, not being acquainted I did not pay much attention; I have seen her here since she has the same features.

Q. You say, later you saw her in Hannibal? A. Yes, sir.

Q. You say Doctor Hampton talked about her here? OBJECTED to by Defendant as leading and putting the words in the mouth of the witness.

Q. What did you say about that? A. Well now, I can give you this.

Q. Just state what you said about having a talk with Doctor Hampton about her in Hannibal. A. I said I had frequent conversations with him about this girl; I had several talks, I done business for him a few years ago and said he used to speak about her.

Q. When was that? A. About three years ago, since I attended to his business here in Hannibal.

Q. Had you seen the girl then? A. No, sir, before that.

Q. How long before that? Had you seen her here in Hannibal? A. Yes, sir.

Q. How long before you had this talk with Dr Hampton in Hannibal? A. I don’t recollect whether I saw her after I had the talk with Dr Hampton or not, after I was there at the Hornback place.

Q. Had you ever seen her in Hannibal before that? Q. I saw her at home.

Q. Do you think this is the same woman? A. Yes, sir.

Q. When you talked to the Doctor about her, what did he call her? A. He called her “Daughter.”

Q. When was the last time you ever had any talk with John A. Hampton about his daughter? A. Probably it was a year maybe before he died. He would hardly ever meet me but what we would talk a good deal, and had something to say. He spoke very highly, as well as my recollection serves me, about her, about his having such a lovely grand-daughter, and he was going to St. Louis, or had been to St. Louis, to see her, and he spoke very highly of her.

Q. Who did he say he had gone to St. Louis to see? A. To see his daughter and grand-daughter.

Q. That was the last conversation you ever had with him? A. Yes, sir; I don’t recollect having any since.

Cross examination

Mr. Thomas Bacon

 Q. What time was it the Doctor first came to you about his daughter? A. Well sir, I don’t recollect the year or date particularly; it was somewhere along in the fifties; it was a short time after he came from Kentucky, he had just got her moved in here on this farm.

Q. What year did you give? A. I did not state the year, I don’t recollect the year; I am not positive about the year, not expecting that it would ever be brought up; if I had, I would have made a minute of it. It was a short time after he moved out here; he told me when he first came out here. Then in a short time after he moved he came to see me; I don’t remember just what year it was.

Q. Doctor Hampton was counted well off, wasn’t he? A. Yes, sir; at that time he was considered pretty well off; there were very few people in them times that was as well off; he had some negroes and a good farm.

Q. I believe you said at that time you were quite poor? A. Yes, sir; I had just started in the world; I had a small farm, 80 acres of land.

Q. He wanted you to adopt his child? A. Yes, sir; and as I said before, I never knew anything about him, and he came to me – I had been recommended to him to be a good person to raise his child – he wanted some one to take care of it and raise it just as I would my own; I could not give him a definite answer the first time, and the second time he came back I agreed to do it. I will just state it over again.

By Mr. Mahan:

Q. What has been your business since you have lived in the city of Hannibal? A. I have been engaged in plastering and different things.

Q. You are a laboring man? A. Yes, sir; I have followed plastering all my life; that is my principal business.

Q. You own your home? A. I once read law; I concluded I would quit hard work and I got a license to practice law under Judge Harrison and practiced law a few years.

Q. Do you own your home, that is what I asked you? A. Yes, sir; I own my home and four other houses.


Q. You are a married and laboring man? A. Yes, sir.

Q. How long have you been living in the city of Hannibal? A. About twelve years.

Q. Before that time, you were on a farm? A. Yes, sir.

Q. Who cultivated the farm? A. I did.

Q. You lived on the farm? A. Yes, sir.

Q. You were living on your farm and working the farm until you came to Hannibal? A. Yes, sir; and plastering together.

By Mr. Bacon: 

Q. You say you were admitted to the Bar in Hannibal? A. Yes, sir.

Q. Did you sign the Roll? A. I had a license to practice law, and practiced four years, and I just came to this conclusion – I had a license under Judge Harrison.

Q. Where did you practice? A. In Ralls County, and through the country there.

Q. What year were you admitted? A. I don’t recollect the year; it has been a right smart while ago. I thought I could not get to the top round of the ladder, and I just quit and went to following the plow. You all know, you heard me talk a little when you were Judge here.

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