The Joplin Funeral of the Villainous Young Brothers

If you are from Joplin or have lived in Joplin, then you have undoubtedly heard of Bonnie and Clyde’s infamous visit in 1933. You may have even visited Peace Church Cemetery to view the grave of Joplin native William “Billy” Cook who committed six murders before he was apprehended, tried, and executed at San Quentin. But you may not be aware that the two men responsible for one of the deadliest days in law enforcement history are buried in Joplin.

On the morning of January 13, 1932, the bodies of Harry and Jennings Young were brought to Joplin for burial in Fairview Cemetery. Watching the caskets being removed from the hearse, one onlooker remarked, “I wish I were the devil. If I were I’d be getting my pitchfork sharpened up for those two.” One reporter recounted that there was a “slight undercurrent of jeering” as the Young family filed toward the grave.

Harry and Jennings Young were career criminals. In 1929, after Marshal Mark Noe pulled Harry Young over for drunk driving in Republic, Missouri, Young shot and killed Noe. Harry and his brother Jennings went on the run, but returned to the Springfield area to visit family. Their presence became known when Springfield police were contacted by a car dealer who claimed that Young’s sisters had tried to sell him a couple of stolen cars. When questioned by police, the sisters admitted their brothers were holed up on a farm outside of Springfield. Greene County Sheriff Marcel Hendrix, two deputies, three Springfield city police officers , and others, headed out to apprehend the Young brothers. In the gun battle that ensued, six of the officers were killed, including Sheriff Hendrix. Some of the surviving officers were able to return to Springfield and brought back reinforcements only to find the Young brothers had escaped.

During a national manhunt, the brothers were eventually located in Texas were they engaged in another shootout with law enforcement authorities. This time, however, they did not survive. Instead, the two brothers shot each other in order to avoid capture. Their bodies were brought back to Missouri on the insistence of their mother, who, according to one reporter, could not leave the state of Missouri due to her status as a prisoner. The bodies were sent from Texas to Vinita, Oklahoma, before being embalmed at the J.J. Gees Undertaking Parlor in Pittsburg, Kansas. From there the bodies were reportedly driven to the Greene County, Missouri, line, were the hearse was met by Greene County officials who then returned it and its cargo to Joplin.

It was reported that “Joplin police protection was not afforded the funeral. [Joplin] Police Chief Harrington was opposed to holding the funeral in Joplin, and said this morning, ‘I wasn’t going to have any of my boys hurt, for no good reason.’”

Before the caskets were lowered into the ground, the lids were taken off so that the bodies of the Young brothers were visible. A Greene County deputy sheriff formally identified both corpses as that of Harry and Jennings Young and then took fingerprints. This was done so that if someone filed for a reward claim, law enforcement officials could provide the reward money without hesitation over the identity of the two men.

Dirt was then shoveled onto the caskets and the family members under arrest were taken back to the Joplin city jail for holding.

If you do plan on visiting the graves of any of the aforementioned individuals, please be respectful of each respective cemetery’s rules, and do not disturb any grave sites.

For a more detailed glimpse, including photographs of the men involved and the house,  into what became known as the Young Brothers Massacre, here’s a link to a book published shortly after about the shoot out (note of warning: the book describes the bullet wounds received in graphic terms and photographs of the deceased brothers, as well there may be some creative embellishments).

Joplin Live Wire: O.P.M. Wiley

If the desire for something sweet, something chocolate, comes over a modern day Joplinite, they can hop in the car and make their way to the Candy House.  A hundred years ago, the Joplinite with the sweet tooth might have made their way to the Independent Candy Company, the secretary and treasurer of which was Oliver P.M. Wiley.    An Indiana native, Wiley made his way to Joplin from Parsons, Kansas,  during what the Joplin Daily Globe described as, the “Boom of ’99.”   Perhaps his first job in Joplin was assistant manager at the Joplin Hotel, the hotel owned by Thomas Connor which was razed to make way for the Connor Hotel.  Two years later, he helped form and establish the Independent Candy Company.  In 1910, Wiley was the elected official from the Fourth Ward on the City Council (one of his two elections to the city council) and called 634 Wall Street his home.

The factory was bought and incorporated into the complex that is now home to the Joplin Supply Company.

The Joplin Independent Candy And Manufacturing Company was reportedly established in 1903 and was located at 4th and Missouri Street (now Michigan Street).  It was famous for its “Ye Olden Tyme” candies and the company motto was “Do ye unto others even as ye would they should unto thee.”  The factory shut down temporarily in 1918 for a lack of sugar.  While at the time of the live wire in 1910, Wiley served as treasurer and secretary and eventually rose to the position of company president.

Wiley had an active civic life.  In 1925, he was made a 33 degree Mason and was on the building committee that oversaw the construction of Joplin’s present Scottish Rite Cathedral (he was also on the YMCA board established to build the present YMCA building at 5th and Wall).  He helped organized Joplin’s Rotary Club and was its first president, and was elected also to the school board in 1914 and served as president from 1916 to 1920.  As a member of the Chamber of Commerce, he served one term also as president.  Prior to his death, he was elected as an associate judge of the Jasper County Court’s western district.  Wiley, unlike our last live wire, made Joplin his permanent home and died on January 19, 1936.  Wiley is buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery.

Joplin’s Potter’s Field

“Every wooden headstone in the potter’s field bears a name – some name.  No one guarantees it to be the correct name, but the name is there just the same.”

The unknown dead were the unwanted in Joplin just a few years after the turn of the century.  For those who perished in the city, without anyone present to claim their body, there were several cemeteries to be laid to rest.  For those unfortunates who died without any present to witness to their name or identity, a specific place in the earth was reserved.  It was located in Potter’s Field, a traditional name for burial spots for the poor and forgotten.  Joplin’s Potter’s Field was found at the western fringe of Joplin’s westernmost major cemetery, Fairview Cemetery.  There the dead rested beneath a landscape dominated by mines, from the mining houses to the chat piles.  It was a barren and lonely place.

The Potter's Field in Joplin, Missouri

A sketch of Joplin's Potter's Field.

The Joplin News Herald reflected on the visitors to the pauper’s cemetery, mothers in search for sons, brothers looking for brothers.  There was one exception, the News-Herald reported.  Husbands rarely, if ever, sought their wives in Joplin’s potter’s field, though it was surmised that sometimes it was husbands who sent their wives there to sleep amid the mines.

Source: Joplin News Herald