In And Around Hannibal, by Rita Hooper

In 1920, seven acres were purchased on Cayuga Street for use as a school athletic field.

Financing for this acquisition was quite unique. All the money was raised and donated by the students, alumni, residents and teachers of the school system.

Subscribers of the fund actually held the deed to the property and granted the school exclusive use of it for athletic purposes. Not one dime came from the levy of school taxes.

At 3:15 in the afternoon of Friday, Feb. 23, 1923, smoke was discovered pouring out the second floor windows of the school building by the janitor, Frank Little.  (Remember from last week…this building was on the site of the present day Dollar General, built in 1868.)

Fortunately, the students had left the building just minutes before the blaze was noticed. Responding to the alarm, the firemen hastily arrived on the scene with their chemical apparatus, directed by Chief R.A. Bradt.

(R.A. Bradt was the first fire chief of the Hannibal Volunteer Fire Company, Inc. and was one of the charter members in 1910.)

Unfortunately, their chemical equipment failed to operate, necessitating the formation of a bucket brigade bringing water from the Methodist parsonage next door.

This proved inadequate to check the flames and within two hours the structure was reduced to smoldering ruins. However, the firemen and villagers were able to save a quantity of furnishings and books, plus the school piano.

In addition, the firemen were able to save the vocational training building to the rear of the school and other nearby dwellings. This was due in large part to the fact that all the roofs had a heavy covering of snow and there was no strong wind.

The cause of the fire was attributed to the buildup of soot in the chimney as a result of burning soft coal in the furnace.  Once the accumulated soot ignited, the hot chimney then in turn set fire to the adjoining woodwork.

The Board of Education met the following morning to assess the damage and to make arrangements to use the local churches and halls for instruction until a new school could be built.

The first three grades finished that school year and the next in the session room of the M.E. (Methodist Episcopal – the present day United Methodist Church, same church and congregation just a name change) Church.

Grades four through six were in the session room of the Presbyterian Church  until the fall of 1924. (The Presbyterian Church later federated with the Baptists and currently known as God’s Vision Christian Church.)

High school classes were held in McFarland and Chillson Halls. The homemaking and agricultural classes continued in the vocational training building.

The first action taken for the construction of a new school occurred March 20, 1923, when the decision to acquire a new site was approved at a district school meeting.

The considered location was the athletic field owned by the citizen’s group.  This property was just up the street from the burned out school, separated by two residences.

It made good sense to have the scholastic and athletic activities all in one place.

Plans for a new 18-room school building, including a gymnasium/auditorium, were created by architects Hallenbeck and Van Auken. On Oct. 26, 1923, the corner stone for the new school was laid during a special ceremony which included an address by David P. Morehouse, Sr.

Construction continued into the following year and was finished in time for the beginning of school in September of 1924.  There were 18 in the first graduating class in 1924; Helen Cooper was valedictorian and Harold Horton was salutatorian.

At a special meeting held Jan. 26, 1942, authorization was given to purchase additional land for school purposes from Grant Wilson. Today, what used to be District No. 4, is now the center of the sprawling Hannibal Central School system.

OK, fellow historians of Hannibal, where and what were Chillson and McFarland Halls?

Likewise who were Hallenbeck and VanAuken…yes I know they were architects but where were they located?  Who was David P. Morehouse, Sr.?  A local big wig or someone from Albany? Syracuse?

What happened to Helen Cooper and Harold Horton after graduation? Any other information you can offer about this story would be welcome, so drop me a note…All of Hannibal wants to know!


This week we learned of another weather related tragedy, this time in the Philippines when Typhoon Haiyan brought horrific winds and rain and storm surges topping 20 feet.

At this time the government has estimated 10,000 people may be dead. Many people are missing, many are homeless and hungry and looking for family.

Relief agencies from the United Nations to the Red Cross, to Catholic Charities and Church World Service have kicked in and are already on the scene trying to bring order out of chaos. Money and prayers are urgently needed. I have already heard from CWS and they have tapped into global networks to help provide emergency food, shelter, water and other relief to those most in need.  As the storm moves north, CWS staff in Vietnam stand prepared to help.


Hannibal Senior Dining Center meets at noon for dinner at the Senior Center (Library Building) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Come early for coffee and news or to work on a jigsaw puzzle or  play games or just some idle chit-chat!  Give Rosemary a call and make your reservation, 564-5471.  This week’s menu is:

Monday: Beef stroganoff over noodles, green and yellow beans, orange juice, cookie

Wednesday: Thanksgiving luncheon of turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, 5-way blend vegetables, juice, pumpkin pie

Friday: Crispy fish clipper, au gratin potatoes, vegetable blend, juice, peaches

Activities: Monday, Wii bowling;  Wednesday, bingo after lunch; Friday,  shuffleboard and other games

Elderberries will not meet Nov. 26 – Have a wonderful, thankful Thanksgiving.

The Christmas gathering will be at noon Dec. 10 at the American Legion. Catered by Brenda Fletcher. Call George Darling and make your reservation today.

The annual Thanksgiving raffle basket is at the library full of great stuff for your holiday. It has a gift card from the Village Market, gift certificate from Travis Floral, turkey platter, tablecloths and more. Drawing is Nov. 24.

Plans are underway for the celebration of the 10th Annual Country Christmas in the town of Hannibal Nov. 23 and 24.  This event kicks off the holiday season and showcases local merchants’ seasonal offerings.

The Friends of the Library will hold their annual Christmas Tree Festival.  Visitors to the Community Center, 162 Oswego St., can bid on decorated trees and wreaths from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 23 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 24.

The theme for this year’s Festival is “The Polar Express.” Contact Linda Remig at 564-6643 for information or pick up an entry form at the library.

If you have ordered this year’s Christmas ornament from the Historical Society, you may pick it up Nov. 23 and 24.

The Hannibal United Methodist Church, 320 Church St., is sponsoring a craft show from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 23. A soup, sandwich and homemade pie lunch will be served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lunch takeouts are available.

God’s Vision Christian Church, 326 Church St., will have an open house and tour at the church from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 23. There will be refreshments.

At 4 p.m. Nov. 24, the Hannibal Historical Society is hosting The Village Christmas Tree Lighting Festival at the Village Square, with the arrival of Santa Claus.

At 4:15 p.m., students from Kami’s Kix Dance Studio will perform. Community organizations involving students have been invited to set up tables where children can make crafts or families can make purchases.

At 4:45 p.m., the Port Byron Brass will begin playing songs of the season. Door prize drawings will take place, followed by the children’s parade and the lighting of the Christmas Tree in the Village Square. Each child who attends this event will receive a gift from Santa, and be given an ornament to hang on the Village Christmas Tree.

There will be a community Thanksgiving Service following the tree lighting – at about 6 p.m. at the Hannibal Methodist Church, 1 block west of the village square on Church Street.

The Rev.  Dean Flemming will bring the message and refreshments will be served.  You are asked to bring groceries for the Hannibal Resource Center…they are anticipating  they will need food for 2,500 meals over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Shirts ‘N Skirts, Square Dance Club, meets from 7 to 9:30 p.m. every Friday evening at the Fulton Municipal Building, South First Street, Fulton.

All ages are welcome, under 16 years old must be accompanied by an adult. For more information, call 591-0093 or email

The Hannibal Town Board meets the third Wednesday of the month, Nov. 20.

Remember this column is about and for the people of Hannibal and the surrounding area. If you have an event that you would like the public to know about, send me an e-mail or give me a quick call.

Rita Hooper 706-3564

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