In the first part of this travel series, we had just delved into this quaint, small town of just under 18,000 people. However, Hannibal’s breadth is not confined to its size or the number of its denizens. A closer look reveals rich depth and complexities that combine to make it one of Missouri’s most popular tourist attractions.

Fascinating Personalities abound

One of Hannibal’s other famous personalities besides Mark Twain is Margaret Tobin Brown. Born in Hannibal and on her way here when the Titanic sank, she is now known as the “Unsinkable Molly Brown,” an Irish immigrant said to have risen from rags to riches. Her story is presented at the Molly Brown Birthplace and Museum, which was closed and will have a grand reopening on May 1. (Note: There are other Molly Brown museums located in the U.S.)

Here, visitors learn about her historic connection to the Titanic and the upper echelons of society, the multifaceted Irish and other immigrant communities in Hannibal back in the day and a great deal more. The Hannibal History Museum also offers a live performance about her, titled “The Life and Times of Molly Brown.”

Although Twain’s characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are known and loved the world over, not nearly as much is known or written about Jim, the slave in “The Adventures of Huck Finn.” More about him is presented at the Huck Finn Freedom Center: Jim’s Journey.

Opened in 2013, the center plays an important role in the Hannibal story, as it was Jim, Twain’s written creation, whose character and life is in part based on a real slave from Hannibal named Daniel Quarles. In fact, Jim’s story is significant in that, according to representatives of the center, “It is the first African-American character portrayed by a white person as a full-fledged human being, no longer a caricature, but a human, a husband and a father.”

The story of Jim and his family is also the story of how from the 19th to the 21st centuries, both African-American slaves and free people lived in Hannibal and the surrounding area. It’s also an example of Twain’s deep connection with all peoples, lifestyles and socioeconomic conditions of the day, which have garnered his writings so much international appeal.

The center, situated in an old stone house thought to have been built by slaves, is chock full of photos, memorabilia, clothing, historical documents and other items relative to Hannibal’s African-American community over the past several generations.

Spooky and Dreamy

An interesting fact about Hannibal is that it is considered to be one of the most haunted towns in the country. As such, visitors here enjoy embarking on the popular Haunted Hannibal Ghost Tours. Paranormal activity amongst the graves of Back slaves and Civil War soldiers at the Old Baptist Cemetery, present-day ghosts of the mansions on Millionaires’ Row and a wealth of other notoriously haunted sites both past and present, including the Mark Twain Cave, are all part of the spooky fun!

Accommodations in Hannibal run the gamut, all situated just a short walk or drive to the Historic Downtown area. You’ll find the standard small hotels and motels, including the Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites, Econo Lodge, America’s Best Value Inn and Quality Inn and Suites Conference Center, plus several local entities, such as the Hannibal Inn and Conference Center, Best Western on the River and the Mark Twain Motor Inn.

For a unique lodging experience, opt for one of the many popular bed and breakfasts. Among them are the Rockcliffe Mansion, Dubach Inn, Robards Mansion, Garth Woodside Mansion and Cottages, Belle’s Painted Lady, the Garden House Band and Stone School Inn, just to name a few. These are beautifully restored homes reflecting what is referred to as “the wealth and prosperity of Hannibal’s Gilded Age,” featuring stunning architectural Italianate, Queen Anne Victorian and Second Empire styles and intricate detailing inside and out.

I stayed with the most delightful innkeepers at the Reagan’s Queen Anne Bed and Breakfast Inn. Built in 1889, the home was the former W.B. Pettibone Mansion and is still one of the most beautiful and historic houses in town. Every detail has been meticulously restored and cared for, offering a very authentic experience for guests coming here from across the country.

From the wrap-around porch and exterior spiral staircase to the rear garden, the main foyer, gentleman’s parlor, Ladies’’ parlor, golden oak diningroom, grand staircase and hallways, Norm and Judy Reagan have left no detail behind. This is especially evident in the décor of the six charming bedrooms, each “dressed to the nines” in period architectural details, furniture, bed linens, window dressings, pictures, accoutrement and so much more. Staying here was a joy—and a delicious pleasure, for the couple has been honored for their amazing morning breakfasts!—As was my visit to Hannibal, a lovely treat in northeast Missouri.

Lysa Allman-Baldwin writes for numerous online and print publications, including as the cultural travel writer for www.Examiner.com and as a senior travel writer for SoulOfAmerica.com, an Afrocentric travel website. Lysa can be reached at lallmanbaldwin@kc.rr.com.

Resource list

  • Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau: 573-221-2477, www.visithannibal.com
  • Haunted Hannibal Ghost Tours: 573-248-1819, www.hauntedhannibal.com
  • Huck Finn Freedom Center: Jim’s Journey: 217-617-1507, www.jimsjourney.org
  • Molly Brown Birthplace and Museum: 573-221-2477, www.visitmo.com/molly-brown-birthplace-and-museum.aspx
  • Reagan’s Queen Anne Bed and Breakfast Inn: 888-221-1251, 573-221-0774, www.reagansqueenanne.com