While A.B. Sweeney was in the act of drawing molasses from a barrel at his family grocery store in late April 1860, the camphene lamp he used as a light source somehow “took fire and exploded,” starting a conflagration that would, in turn, take out 13 nearby frame buildings.

According to the next day’s newspaper account in the Hannibal Daily Messenger (preserved digitally via newspapers.com), Mr. Sweeney’s store was located on the north side of Market Street (later renamed Broadway) just one door west of the intersection with Third Street. In the street, directly in front of his store, was the old (at that time) Market House. Today, because of this fire and later urban development, there are no physical reminders left of this early, pre-Civil War commercial district.

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. Books available on Amazon.com by this author include but are not limited to: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870,” and “Hannibal’s ‘West End,’” 47 stories of the Market Street Wedge and on west to Lindell Avenue. Montgomery can be reached at Montgomery.editor@yahoo.com Her collective works can be found at maryloumontgomery.com.

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