Built circa 1870

Marx Lesem of the firm Lesem & Bro was the home’s resident per the 1875 city directory. Marx and his brother Isaac dealt in dry goods and became one of the largest in Northeast Missouri.

The 1892 city directory shows 203 North Third street as the home of W.W. Birkhead, a dentist, and his wife, Laura. 1 The Birkheads had one daughter, May, who was born in Louisiana in 1883. She worked as a seamstress here until she took a life changing trip on the steamship Carpathia in April of 1912.  On this trip, the Carpathia had to change its course to rescue passengers from the Titanic. She talked to the Titanic survivors and made sure to take lots of notes and obtain pictures of them. When the ship made it to New York, May sold her story to a New York newspaper. She was then hired as a Paris correspondent. She lived and reported from Paris through World War I.

May-Birkhead cropped

In 1927, she joined the staff of the Chicago Tribune. She continued to live in Paris and spread the French news to the United States. She was living in Paris in 1939, when WWII broke out. She was still living there when it was occupied by the Nazis shortly after. She was planning to stay in Paris to keep reporting, but she became ill and Nazi control tightened. She fled Paris with a physician. While attempting to flee, she and the physician were arrested as suspected British spies. They were able to prove their innocence, and after five days they were released. They crossed through Spain to Lisbon, Portugal where they boarded the steamship Excambion bound for New York City. May passed away in New York City on October 27, 1941 after over a year of being sick. 2

1. “Pike County Directory: Louisiana City Business Directory (1892-1893).” n.d. Louisiana, Missouri.
2. New York Times. 1941. “May Birkhead, Former Tribune Writer, Is Dead,” October 28.