This year marks the 200th anniversary of the platting of Hannibal, Missouri. It was in 1819 that Moses Duncan Bates, who was born in Virginia in 1791, surveyed the future town of Hannibal. The site was named after Hannibal Creek, which is now called Bear Creek.

Bates and Jonathan Fleming built the first log cabin in Hannibal and, as new settlers arrived and purchased plats, the town grew.

Bates purchased the first steamboat, the General Putnam, in 1825, and began making regular rounds between St. Louis, Missouri, and Galena, Illinois, always stopping in Hannibal. Soon, other steamboats began stopping in Hannibal. They brought more pioneers who either settled in Hannibal or spent money stocking up on supplies as they made their way further west. By 1830, the growing community had 30 residents.

Hannibal’s population was around 1,000 when the Clemens family arrived in 1839. Their four-year-old son Sam would go on to become a writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer. Known around the world by his pen name Mark Twain, many believe Clemens to be the greatest humorist this country has ever produced. Two of his most famous novels are “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

Hannibal was chartered as a city in 1845. The following year, Hannibal was the third-largest city in Missouri. That same year, John M. Clemens (Sam’s father) and some of his associates organized the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad. The railroad was built to connect Hannibal with St. Joseph, Missouri, which was then the state’s second-largest city. It was this railroad that carried mail for delivery by the Pony Express which ran (literally) all the way to the future state of California. By 1850, Hannibal’s population exceeded 2,000.

The city continued to grow, not just in size, but as a regional marketing center for livestock, grain, and other locally produced products. Cement for the Empire State Building and the Panama Canal was manufactured at the Atlas Portland Cement Company in nearby Ilasco. Many sons and daughters of Hannibal have also achieved national notoriety during the city’s first 200 years. Some of them will be featured in future columns.

Elizabeth Davis was born and raised in Cooper County, Missouri, and has written HISTORICALLY YOURS for the Boonville Daily News for over ten years. She has covered the War Between the States, U.S. history, and Cooper County history. In celebration of Missouri’s upcoming Bicentennial, she has syndicated her column statewide and encourages readers all over the Show Me State to submit topic suggestions for future columns to