The Ozarks Playground Association

The Ozarks Playground Association (OPA) was founded in 1919 to promote tourism in the Ozarks. Headquartered in Joplin, the association published maps and brochures highlighting towns, resorts, attractions, and points of interest for visitors. The association eventually dissolved in 1979. Several of the maps and brochures have survived, but to this day, it is unknown what happened to the organization’s papers, i.e. minutes of meetings, correspondence, etc.

If you know of a family member who was involved with the OPA or know about any individuals who may have OPA material, drop us a line. Although it is of relatively little monetary value, the papers of the OPA (if the papers still exist) are an invaluable part of Ozark history, and need to be preserved for future generations.

The Architectural Legacy of Garstang & Rea: A. Hafley Building of Monett, Missouri

The A. Hafley Building sometime after 1905.

The next building in the Alfred W. Rea portfolio series is the A. Hafley Building of Monett, Missouri, built in 1905 at a cost $4,500, which in today’s money would roughly be $90,000 to $100,000. Unfortunately, we were unable to conduct in-depth research on this particular building, but we can happily inform you that the building still stands (or did recently!) next to the parking lot at the corner of East Broadway and 3rd Street.

The present day appearance of the A. Hafley Building via Google Street View.

Guest Piece: Leslie Simpson – Route 66: A Method to the Madness

I have always wondered why Route 66 took such a circuitous path through Joplin.  Coming in on West Seventh, it made a sharp turn left onto Main, then headed east on First over the viaduct.  It continued on Broadway, turning north on St. Louis; after crossing Turkey Creek, it took off at a 45-degree angle on Euclid.  It went a couple of blocks on Florida, then right on Zora and left on Range Line.  If it were not for the fact that Route 66 was built during Prohibition, one might wonder if the cartographers had been a little tipsy!

 

Route 66 through Joplin

Recently I was looking at some old plat maps of Joplin, and I noticed something.  The Southwest Missouri Electric Railway, an electric streetcar that was established in 1893 by Alfred H. Rogers, took an identical 45-degree angle after crossing Turkey Creek in its route from Joplin to Webb City, Carterville, Lakeside Park, Carthage and other points east.  The trolley line angled through Royal Heights, a separate village that had incorporated in 1907.  Eureka!  This information may be common knowledge, but since I did not know about it, I was excited to figure it out on my own.

Plat map showing the Electric Railway line north of Turkey Creek

At its peak, the railway company operated a huge fleet of streetcars and 94 miles of tracks in three states. But its days were numbered. As private ownership of motor vehicles increased, railway patronage dwindled. In 1925, the company began running passenger buses and phasing out its streetcars.  The Joplin stretch of Route 66 was under construction from 1927 through 1932.  After Royal Heights was annexed into the city of Joplin in 1929, the railway company removed the tracks through Royal Heights. The old track-bed was paved as Euclid and became part of the historic “Mother Road.”

The Architectural Legacy of Garstang & Rea: Carthage High School

Carthage High School

In 1904, at a cost of $105,000, Carthage received a new high school to replace its predecessor from 1870. The building received an addition in 1951 and a renovation in 1956. Further additions followed, one as late as 1988. However, the high school transitioned to a junior high school in 2009, when a new high school was built elsewhere. A visit down Main Street Carthage will show the 108 year old building in its current in use condition.

Carthage High School Reception room

Carthage High School Reception room


Carthage High School auditorium

Carthage High School auditorium


Carthage High School present day.

The Carthage High School building is today a junior high.

Take Me Out to Lakeside

Via Wikipedia.

Via Wikipedia.

African American ragtime musician James Scott, who spent his formative years in Carthage, Missouri, entertained crowds at Lakeside Park, just outside Joplin. In 1914, Scott wrote music for a song he called, “Take Me Out to Lakeside.” The words are by Ida Miller.

Take Me Out to Lakeside (1914)

First verse:

Take me to “Lake-Side” that beautiful place,
Where your life seems complete,
Orchestras playing and everyone swaying gives you such a treat,
Dancing and glancing with smiles so entrancing is all you can see
The Waltz hesitation is all the sensation,
Oh come and dance with me.

Refrain:

Take me out to Lakeside Sunday afternoon,
Where the band is playing, Flowers all in bloom,
Boys and girls together happy as a lark,
Take me out to “Lake-Side”
Beautiful Lake-side Park, park.

Second verse:

When twilight draws near and the whole world seems drear,
And you’ve no place to go,
You may sit guessing but no thought expressing The pleasures you love so,
You think of your only while you feel so lonely it all
Seems a dream
So while you are pining there comes a reminding,
A glorious thought it seems.

Refrain:

Take me out to Lakeside Sunday afternoon,
Where the band is playing, Flowers all in bloom,
Boys and girls together happy as a lark,
Take me out to “Lake-Side”
Beautiful Lake-side Park, park.

To listen to a sample of the song, visit this link at Pandora Radio.

A Ride into the Past

A street car makes its way up Main Street


It’s that time again, the Polar Express, a restored streetcar is now offering rides up in Webb City’s King Jack Park, on Saturday. Tickets are required and this is the last scheduled Saturday to catch a ride on a piece of Joplin’s past (at least until it’s warm again!). A ticket will gain you a 12 to 15 minute ride. The event, which includes a visit from Santa Claus, runs from 4:30pm to 9pm.

For a bit more history on the event, check out this Globe article.

The Architectural Legacy of Garstang & Rea: Earnest B. Jacobs House in Carthage, Missouri

Earnest B. Jacobs House in Carthage Missouri

Earnest B. Jacobs House

The next photograph in our Alfred W. Rea portfolio series is the Earnest B. Jacobs house in Carthage, Missouri. A History of Jasper County, Missouri and Its People, by Joel T. Livingston, has this to say about Mr. Jacobs:

Life is a voyage, in the progress of which we are perpetually changing our scenes. Ernest Jacobs has now arrived at a port where he can stop a while and look back at that part of the voyage he has already successfully made. He has seen the good and the evil that are in the world,—the ups and the downs, and he has learned to be uncensorious, humane. He has learned to attribute the best motives to every action and to be chary of imputing a sweeping and cruel blame. He has no finger of scorn to point at anything under the sun. Along with this pleasant blandness and charity there is a certain grave, serious humor. From this same port he can see an expanse of waters covered with a mist. If there are rocks ahead he cannot see them; if there are whirlpools he hopes to be able to avoid them with the aid of the same pilot that has guided him heretofore and by steering with the same steady hand that has up to this port kept his course straight.

Launched on the sea of life July 20, 1858, in the port of Chicago, Illinois, Ernest B. Jacobs set sail. To leave metaphor for a while, his father, John W. Jacobs was born in New York state in Watertown. He was educated there and studied for the ministry. He entered the Methodist church, his first charge being in his native state. Then he was stationed in Chicago, Illinois, where he was very well known on account of his eloquent oratory and his earnest, conscientious work. While he was still living in New York he married Lucy Young, a native of Ohio. After the death of her husband in Kansas City she went back to New York, where she is living with one of her children.

Ernest B. Jacobs went with his parents from Chicago to Carthage when he was very young. He went to the public and high schools in Carthage. Upon leaving school he taught for a number of years. Although he was a successful teacher, he did not intend to make teaching his life work. In 1877 he was tendered the position of assistant postmaster in Carthage; he accepted the office and held it for eight years, at the end of which time he became associated with the First National Bank of Carthage.

Desiring to learn the banking business thoroughly in all its branches, he started in at the bottom of the ladder, but quickly mounted the rungs until he became cashier. He has held this position for a number of years and is considered one of the veteran financiers of Carthage. During the twenty-six years of his connection with the First National Bank there have been a number of panics, but in that period the bank has never been obliged to borrow a dollar, nor has it been in financial straits at all. He is a director of the banks at Alba, Reeds and LaRussell and it is a significant fact that all three banks have been in a flourishing condition since his connection with them.

In 1884 Ernest B. Jacobs drifted into the matrimonial sea, taking with him Miss Carrie Farwell, belonging to an old Carthage family. The course was steered clear of the breakers which impede the progress of so many sailors in the same sea. They have two children Ernestine, born in Carthage, January 3, 1895, has just (1911) completed her course at the Carthage high school. Jay W. Jacobs, born in Carthage January 7, 1899, is attending the grammar school.

Image via Find A Grave.com


Mr. Jacobs’ connection with the Masons has been a very pleasant one. He is a member of the Carthage Blue Lodge, a Royal Arch Mason, a Knight Templar and a Shriner. He is a member of the Elks Club at Carthage. He is a Republican and by reason of his position and his wide circle of acquaintances is very influential in the political world. Brought up in the Methodist faith, he has continued with the same beliefs. He encourages his wife in her desire for continual self culture and most heartily approves of the literary club of which she is a prominent member. Mr. Jacobs believes that everybody must work and may play; he throws as much enthusiasm into the one as into the other.

He is an ardent and successful sportsman. He is a member of the Carter County Hunting & Fishing Club, of the Miami, Oklahoma Hunting & Fishing Club and of the Vernon County Field Club. When he takes a vacation he generally employs it in the indulgence of one or the other of his favorite pastimes, hunting or fishing. Whether in business, the world of sports or private life Mr. Jacobs is very popular and has the confidence of all who know him.

On December 12, 1927, the widowed Earnest Jacobs passed away from a stroke. Upon his death, Knell Mortuary oversaw funeral arrangements. Five years later, in 1932, Knell Mortuary purchased the Jacobs House and has since remained at the corner of West Chestnut and Garrison Avenues.

Earnest B. Jacobs House today.

Architectural Legacy of Garstang & Rea: Elks’ Clubhouse in Carthage, Missouri

Carthage Missouri Elks Clubhouse

Our next photograph in the Alfred W. Rea portfolio series is the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks clubhouse in Carthage, Missouri. The clubhouse was built in 1901 at an expense of $8,500, or approximately $220,000 in 2010 dollars. The Carthage Lodge No. 529 was founded sometime before 1900 and became defunct sometime before 1947. Presumably, the clubhouse was torn down at some point.

The Architectural Legacy of Garstang & Rea: Amos Armstrong Cass House, Carterville, Missouri

Amos Armstrong Cass House, Carterville, Missouri

We are happy to present the first of many photographs from the portfolio of architect Alfred W. Rea of Garstang & Rea. The featured photo is of the Amos Armstrong Cass House in Carterville, Missouri. Many thanks to Rea’s relatives for preserving and sharing Garstang & Rea’s architectural legacy.

Amos Armstrong Cass

The Biographical Record of Jasper County, Missouri, by Malcom G. McGregor, had this to say about Mr. Cass:

“One of the most conspicuous exponents of that sturdy spirit of American progressiveness which enables men to win success in any field of labor to which they may be called, that could be pointed out among the many successful miners and business men of Jasper county, Missouri, is Amos A. Cass, of Carterville. He is a native of Georgia, but was taken to east Tennessee while yet a mere child, and was there reared to manhood. James M. Cass, his grandfather, was a cousin of General Lewis Cass. His father, James M. Cass, died in Tennessee. His mother, who prior to her marriage was Miss Martha Jane Ryan, was a native of Georgia, and she died in Carterville, Missouri.

Mr. Cass, a contractor and builder, came to Jasper county in 1886 and engaged in the milling business, but soon began to give attention to mining. During the last five years he has devoted himself exclusively to mining, and is now interested in seven good plants, having three on the Cornfield land, at Carterville, one on the Perry lease, one on the McKinley lease and one on Judge McGregor’s lands, besides one other at Oronogo, all productive mines, well equipped with good machinery, and he has come to be known as one of the most extensive miners in the district. He is a partner and director in the Weeks Hardware Company at Carterville, and is a director in the Carterville Investment Company, of which corporation he is secretary.

A man of much public spirit, he has the best interests of Carterville at heart and he is one of its most active and progressive citizens and one of theleading Democrats of Jasper county. He was for eight years a member of the school board of Carterville and was influential in increasing the number of school rooms of the public schools of the town from four to fourteen and in securing the erection of two new brick school buildings. In 1867 he was received as an Entered Apprentice, passing the Fellow Craft degree and was raised to the Sublime degree of Master Mason. Later he took the degrees of capitular Masonry, became in turn a Mark Master, a Past Master and a Most Excellent Master and was exalted to the august degree of Royal Arch Mason; the degrees of Chivalric Masonry were conferred upon him and he was constituted, dubbed and created a Knight Templar, and still later he acquired the Royal degrees of the Secret Ineffable degrees of the Scottish Rite.

Mr. Cass married Miss Sarah Hunt, a native of east Tennessee. His son, Walter W. Cass, owns a good interest in four good producing mines and is connected with his father in the management of the Bell C. and L. C. mines, of which he is superintendent and his son, Carl C. Cass, is assistant superintendent. He had four daughters: Ollie, the eldest, the deceased wife of M. V. James, of Carterville; Lillie A., wife of O. H. Schoenherr; Belle B., at home; and Beulah Jene, a student in St. Charles College, at St. Louis, Missouri.”

According to his death certificate, Cass enjoyed his home by Garstang & Rea up until his death in 1915 from heart disease.

The Tri-State Terror

Missouri State Penitentiary - One time home to the Tri-State Terror, Wilber Underhill

Although many a Joplin resident will tell you that Al Capone and other infamous gangsters visited the city in the 1920s and 1930s, there is little, if nothing, in the historical record to suggest that the nation’s most “accomplished” career criminals came to town. We do know, however, that lesser historical figures did live in and visit Joplin, not counting Bonnie and Clyde’s short-lived stay in 1933. Although not a Capone, Wilber Underhill

Henry Wilber Underhill (his name was originally spelled Wilber but he felt that Wilbur was more masculine) was born in 1897 in Newton County, Missouri, to Henry and Nancy Almira (Hutchison) Underhill. The family had a small farm, but perpetual poverty convinced them to move to Joplin, where it was thought they could make a better life for themselves. In 1912, Henry Underhill, Sr. died suddenly and left the family without a steady stream of income. Almira moved her family from the house they were renting at 1218 Sergeant Avenue to the Blendville section of Joplin. Life continued to be one struggle after another. The Underhill children quickly became delinquents and became mixed up in petty crime. Wilber’s older brother Ernest was sentenced to the Missouri State Penitentiary for robbing and murdering a Joplin street vendor. At some point, Wilber was struck in the head by heavy glass bottles while rooting through a garbage pit, and was reportedly never the same.

Although he tried to make a living working odd jobs in Neosho, Wilber returned to Joplin and fell into a life of crime. In 1919, he was arrested for burglary. By 1920, Wilber had become more brazen. He began robbing couples on Joplin’s Lover’s Lane which was then located somewhere in Tanyard Hollow. A sting operation by Joplin detectives led to his capture and subsequent conviction. He was sentenced to two years at the Missouri State Penitentiary and joined his older brother Ernest who was still serving time.

After his release, Wilber headed for Picher, Oklahoma, but eventually drifted back to Joplin. On December 14, 1922, he robbed the Wilhoit Filling Station at 19th and Main streets. He was rounded up by the Joplin police, pled guilty to first degree robbery, and went back to the Missouri State Penitentiary. Underhill participated in a failed escape attempt, but was out by the winter of 1926.

Underhill immediately went back to a life of crime. During a robbery in Baxter Springs, Kansas, he shot a sixteen year old boy as he fled from Underhill and his accomplices. He continued to carry out a crime spree that led to the nickname the “Tri-State Terror.” Underhill was eventually captured, tried, and sentenced to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. He eventually escaped from a work detail and made his way to Kansas where he robbed and murdered a gas station owner. Authorities quickly caught on and when Wichita police officer Merle Colver attempted to question Underhill and his nephew, Frank Vance Underhill, Underhill shot and killed Colver. Wilber was later apprehended after a shoot-out in which he was shot in the neck. Apparently hell-bent on staying in every state penitentiary in the Midwest, Wilber was sentenced to life in the Kansas State Pentitentiary.

Ever the escape artist, Underhill and a group of other inmates managed to escape on May 30, 1933, and headed for Oklahoma. The men embarked on a crime spree that sent shivers up the spines of residents across the Four State region. The “Bradshaw-Underhill Gang,” as the group became known, ran riot despite the best efforts of area law enforcement officials. The FBI soon took notice and launched an effort to apprehend Underhill and his fellow gang members.

The FBI quickly located the gang in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and together with local law enforcement authorities, set out to capture them. A vicious gun battle ensued. Underhill was wounded in the fusillade of bullets. Despite having a number of submachine gun bullets strike him, Underhill was able to flee the scene. Despite having been shot multiple times, Underhill traveled sixteen blocks before breaking into a furniture store, where he collapsed. Authorities swooped in and arrested him. Taken to the hospital, Underhill was not expected to live. Still, most natives of Southwest Missouri are tough characters, and Wilber was no exception. Within a short period of time, he was taken back to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Shortly after his arrival, Underhill died in the prison hospital, bringing an end to a reign of terror.

On January 8, 1936, Underhill’s body arrived in Joplin and was taken to the Frank Sievers Undertaking Company. His funeral service, held at the Byers Avenue Methodist Church, was well attended. An estimated 1600 people crammed into the church to view Underhill’s corpse. He was then buried at Ozark Memorial Cemetery.

Although lesser known and certainly not as infamous as Capone, Wilber Underhill led a violent and bloody life, and his early years in Joplin may have inspired the long told tales of gangsters in Joplin.

For a more in-depth look at Wilber Underhill’s career, see R.D. Morgan’s book The Tri-State Terror. Regrettably it is not footnoted or sourced, but provides a detailed account of Underhill and his crimes, including his time in Joplin.