During the early morning hours of Wednesday, March 12, 1902, Hannibal's firefighters, led by Theron B. Parks — Hannibal's fire chief of long standing — were put to the test when an alarm sounded at Central Park, alerting the town to a fire at Hannibal's Bluff City Shoe Co. The fire was discovered at the rear of the factory's two-story building, located at 108 North Fourth Street, directly to the east of the park.
Barely more than a block away from the South Fourth Street station, response came quickly from the firefighters whose dedication to their profession was legendary.
Forty-two-year-old Hannibal native William Dunn was charged with the responsibility of driving the department's horse-drawn fire fighting apparatus to the fire scene.
Firefighters assigned to Hannibal Hose Co., No. 1 and Hook and Ladder Co., No. 1, were Frank F. Tessimer, Fritz Nagle, Dennis Mahoney, utilityman, and Charles Mahoney, hoseman. Frank Gay was captain of Hannibal Hose Company No. 2, on Market Street. Others on this crew were William Mangle, William Nerlich, Edward Nerlich and William Grove, hoseman.
For a time it was feared that the entire business block on North Fourth Street – consisting of J.L. Rohrer's Hannibal Creamery, John R. Kaup's blacksmith and wagon making shop, Robert G.J. Sandifer's shoe repair shop, Claude W. Surrett's horseshoe business, and Peter G. Wade's saw filing shop – would be lost, but in a little more than two hours, firefighters were able to keep the fire contained to the factory building alone.
At morning's light, damage was accessed. Every piece of equipment in the fledgling shoe manufacturing company suffered effects from the fire, which ultimately shut down production and effectively put its workforce temporarily out of their jobs.
This translated into peril for the people who early on invested their sweat equity in moving Hannibal into the shoe production age. Workers, identified via the 1901 Hannibal city directory, included: Mrs. Harriet Adams, bookkeeper; Miss Lulu Breeding; William H. Dulany Jr., shipping clerk; John Fussner; Melvin Goodwin, shoe cutter; Moses C. Hanes; William B. Hawksworth, superintendent; George C. Huston; Matthew L. Hutchinson; Miss Emma Leake; James F. McHugh; Miss Ora Noel; Arthur C. Nugent; Thomas B. Nugent; Miss Clara Prisk; William Quirk; Edward Ragan; Miss Eva Redden; A.J. Rewley; John W. Roach; James W. Ryan; Miss Lizzie Stephenson; Miss Minnie Stephenson; Harry Thornton, foreman; William Thornton; Miss Minnie Weidmann; J. Wheatley; John Wichern and Ira Young.
That could have marked the end for Bluff City Shoe Co., were it not for ample insurance coverage and the support of the community. The company itself was first established in January 1897, with the purchase of the Logan shoe plant by stockholders John Logan Jr., Joseph Bassen and George Wessels, according to information published in the Jan. 11, 1897, edition of the Quincy Daily Journal.
Prior to the establishment of Bluff City Shoe Co., Hannibal's only wholesale shoe and boot distributor was William J.A. Meyer, who operated at Glasscock Street, southeast corner of Market.
Between 1897 and 1901, Meyer became a primary in the Bluff City business, investing his equity and experience into this new company, and by the time the 1901 Hannibal city directory was published, he was among the company officers: Thomas Gates Dulany, president; William J.A. Meyer, vice president, and John Logan Jr., secretary and treasurer.
The 1901 directory listed Bluff City's business address as 405 Broadway. Dr. F. Vernette conducted his medical practice on the second floor.
History reveals that the shareholders did, indeed, get Bluff City Shoe Company back up and running. In 1904, construction plans were under way for a new plant for the growing concern, a block-long building located at Maple and Collier. The city contributed the factory site and a $5,000 cash bonus, and in return the company pledged to pay $25,000 year in wages to its employees.
John Logan Jr.
John Logan Jr., whose roots dated to custom-made shoe production, led the growth of the Bluff City Shoe Company for two decades. Serving as manager of the company as early as 1903, he, along with his partners, facilitated the growth and movement of the factory from its location in the 100 block of North Fourth Street to the newly constructed $10,000 building at Maple and Collier.
Many more people joined the ranks of those employed by Bluff City. While not the only shoe factory in town by 1905, the Bluff City plant held its own regarding the manufacture and nationwide shipment of ready-made shoes.
In 1905, employees of the Bluff City plant included: Miss Minnie Andre, Albert Aubery, Bert P. Bennett, Walter Bowles, Miss May Bradshaw, Miss Lena Brammer, William L. Bright, Miss Myrtle Brite, Burt Brown, Terrell Brown, Fred B. Bryan, Roy Bryan, Thomas Cain, Bruce Casterline, Wm C. Cawthon, Wm. W. Christian, George S. Colcord, foreman, Gentry F. Collins, Thomas Cox, Garnet Crigler, Nelson Crow, William Curtis, Adelbert G. Dickson, Louis T. Eddy, Miss, Esther Egelston, Richard J. Fielder, Marevin Fleming, Miss Beulah M. Foley, Edward Foley, Robert L. Glynn, Miss Minerva Gott, Miss Bertha Hall, Robert Hanes, Thomas Hart, Nealy G. Haskins, Henry Hudelson, Frank Huffman, Muriel Huffman, Miss Leora Imhoff, Miss Mary U. James, Miss Lizie Kilian, Miss Hattie Kochs, Miss Margaret Lane, Edgar Lanum, Floyd L. Lavoo, Miss Effie Leake, Miss Georgia Leake, Miss Jennie Leake, Miss Hattie Leonard, Walter A. Leonard, Miss Gertie Lewis, Miss Maud Lewis, John Logan (wife Alice H.) manager, Victor Lugena, Robert A. Mc-Intire, Miss Mary McKenna, Miss Emma L. Mackey, Miss Nellie Malia, Miss Hallie Martin, James (col) Martin, Roy Mefford, Moses Meyers (col), Orian Miller Miss Verna E. Miller, Herman H. Montgomery, Miss Mary Montgomery, Miss Nellie Murphy, Robbin Norman, Miss Birdie Norris, Henry O'Reilly, Ben Parker, Miss Theresa Parker, Arthur Pennington, Charles A. Peterson, John Phillips, Miss Bertha Rather, Wm. Redden, John Roesler Jr., Shade Rost, James J. Roland, Charles I. Scott, Earl Selby, Miss Georgia Shepard, Miss Lizzie Simms, Louis Simpkins, Miss Belle Smith, Miss Lizzie Stephenson, Mark Theobald, Miss Fluella Tompkins, Wm. Tompkins, Miss Otella Troesken, Edward R. Troppmann, Clarence A. Troutman, Herbert R. Varney, James Waltz, Ernest W. Webb, Miss Eliza White, Arthur Wilhelm, Leonard Wilhelm, Preston P. Winn, and Elmer Wooten.
The year 1920 started off on a high note, with the announcement in February that all employees of the Bluff City Shoe plant would be granted a 10 percent hike in wages, effectively immediately.
But at the end of the year, the news from the plant was sobering.
Sixty-year-old John Logan Jr., co-owner and long-time manager of the plant, died from injuries sustained in a train/vehicle accident on Saturday, Dec. 25, 1920.
The Palmyra Spectator of Dec. 29, 1920, offered details of the tragic accident that claimed his life.
“John Logan of Hannibal, president of the Logan Shoe Co., and the Bluff City Shoe Factory, was killed by Burlington passenger train No. 43 about noon Christmas day. He was going from the factory to his home in a Ford Sedan and the accident happened at the Maple Avenue crossing. It was snowing at the time, and it is said that a box car on a side track prevented him from seeing the approaching train. The automobile was shoved up the track forty or fifty feet and he was hurled through the heavy glass, fracturing his skull and breaking his collar bone and several ribs. He was taken immediately to a hospital, where X ray examinations were made and a specialist from St. Louis sent for, but he died Monday night.”
Note: Names of firemen and shoe plant workers were culled from Hannibal city directories, housed on the Hannibal Free Public Library's website.
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. Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com