As the new year dawned in 1866, efforts were under way to repair the vast economic, social and structural damage caused by this country’s greatest internal conflict: The war between the states.
In Quincy, Ill., a raffle was announced that would raise funds for the education of the children left orphaned by the conflict. A.H. Potter was the general agent in charge of the fund-raiser for the Soldiers’ Orphan School, and tickets – at $2 each – were available from DeDougal and Brown, located on the South Side of Hampshire St., between Third and Fourth Streets, in Quincy. Prizes included sewing machines, and gold and silver watches.
At the same time in Hannibal, the homecoming of soldiers and the reuniting of families brought with it population growth and economic optimism.
That was the social climate Dr. Albert L. Allen embraced when he arrived with his wife in Hannibal in 1866. He was born in New York circa 1830, and educated at the Medical Department at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he graduated in 1861.
During the war, Dr. Allen was assigned acting assistant surgeon at St. Louis and Jefferson Barracks, where he worked from Nov. 15, 1861, through Oct. 10, 1865.
The website for the Missouri Civil War Museum, now located at Jefferson Barracks, notes: “There were times during the Civil War that Jefferson Barracks was treating more sick and wounded soldiers than any other hospital in the nation and many of these soldiers never left Jefferson Barracks and were ultimately buried there.”
At the war’s end, Jefferson Barracks quickly demobilized, and Dr. Allen went right to work, moving to Hannibal and opening an office at the corner of Main and Broadway in Hannibal. He located over the drug store, and established a residence on Eighth Street, on the west side, between Church and Lyon.
Interwoven in the tapestry of Hannibal’s past are the daily lives of this family, who contributed their intellect and talents for the good of all, leaving behind remnants of their existence that help make Hannibal what it is today.
Mary S. Blades was born in 1835 in New York. Her father, William Blades, was a clergyman, and in 1860 the family was living in Flint, Mich., where Mary was teaching school. She and Albert L. Allen were married Nov. 26, 1863, in Genesee, Mich.
A daughter, Mary Louise (aka Minnie), was born to Dr. Allen and his wife two years after their arrival in Hannibal – in January 1868.
A son, Willie Blades Allen, was born the following year, in November 1869.
Little Willie was called to eternal rest at the tender age of 6, in November 1875. His burial followed at Riverside Cemetery.
A second daughter, Elizabeth, was born in 1872, and died in 1873.
During early 1870s, Dr. Allen consolidated his medical practice and residence into one location, 214 Broadway, above the Isaac M. Lesem Dry Goods and Notions Store. By 1885, he had moved his family and practice to 222 Broadway, upstairs over William H. Nerlich’s hats, caps and gents’ furnishings store.
But the biggest move of all would come pre-1888, when Dr. Allen moved his practice and family to 109 S. Fifth.
On the night of Dec. 29, 1888, Amos Stillwell – who lived across the street from the Allens - was murdered in his bed.
Minnie T. Dawson wrote an account of the unsolved murder, which was published by the McMein Printing Co., Quincy, Ill., in 1907. A digitized version of this book, edited by Charles Hickman in 2000, is available in its entirety on the Hannibal Free Public Library’s website.
Ms. Dawson explained the role that Dr. and Mrs. Allen played on the night of the murder:
“Having placed the children in the servant’s room and locking the door upon them, (Amos Stillwell’s wife, Fannie) ran down the front stairs, found the front door open, ran across Fifth street to Mr. League’s wearing nothing but her nightdress, her feet being bare. She rang Mr. League’s door-bell violently, but they were slow to respond and she then ran to Dr. Allen’s. The doctor responded immediately. She said: ‘Oh doctor, Mr. Stillwell has been murdered by a burglar, and is lying in a pool of his own blood.’ Dr. Allen told Mrs. Stillwell that he would go over immediately, and as soon as the doctor and his wife put their garments on they ran over to the Stillwell house. Mrs. Allen took Mrs. Stillwell in charge and was putting some clothes on her when she fell into a cataleptic state. Dr. Allen and an employee of Mr. League entered the room where Mr. Stillwell lay.”
Mary Louise Allen
Dr. Allen’s only child to reach adulthood – Mary Louise Allen – traveled to New England to college, attending Mt. Holyoke in South Hadley, Mass.
Miss Allen went to work for the YWCA’s national office in New York, serving as secretary of the national board in 1913.
In 1920, she also served as chairwoman of the Mt. Holyoke alumnae endowment fund committee, charged with raising $3,000,000. Money was to be used for increasing teacher salaries by 50 percent, and for urgent building needs.
In 1918, during the first World War, the YWCA’s mission became “Work for Women and Girls in War Time.” Miss Allen was sent out in the field to assess the state of wartime women in the West and Southwest, and came back with a report:
“Our work took us into many communities which had heard only vaguely of the Association, and unexpected enthusiasm met us everywhere. At a mass meeting in Kansas City of delegates from the Southwestern, the South Central and West Central Fields, women had come 1200, 1500, even 1800 miles at their own expense, and they and the others present have gone back to their communities zealous for the cause.”
While in Hannibal, the Allens were members of the First Methodist Episcopal Church.
Mary Louise Allen died March 16, 1958, in Monterey, Calif.
Her mother, Mary Blades Allen, moved to Manhattan and made her home with her daughter following Dr. Allen’s death, which occurred on Feb. 4, 1897. Mrs. Allen died Nov. 23, 1922.
The family burial plots are in Riverside Cemetery, Hannibal.
After her mother’s death, Mary Louise Allen obtained a passport, and made at least two trips abroad.
On behalf of the YWCA, she studied in Great Britain and Holland. She also visited Belgium, France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and Czecho-Slovakia.
According to cemetery records, Mary Louise is buried at Riverside Cemetery alongside her family members, but no headstone could be located on the plot.