Growth of A City – Fourth Street Looking East

At the height of Joplin’s boom days, the intersection of Fourth and Main streets was the beating heart of the city’s commercial district.  It was no coincidence that the city’s two greatest hotels, the Connor and Keystone, faced one another from opposite corners, or that Democratic party boss, Gilbert Barbee owned the House of Lords on another corner.  Along Fourth Street, particularly that west of Main, was prime real estate.  One venturing down west Fourth Street found themselves passing the Club Theater, as well the Elks Club lodge and the home of the Miners Bank.  In the next few photos, we’ll examine the change to the street over just a few years.  In addition, with a nod to Leslie Simpson’s latest book, Now and Then and Again: Joplin Historic Architecture, a present day view of the street.

A view of Fourth Street looking east - sometime before 1906.

A view of Fourth Street looking east - sometime before 1906.

In this first view there are several clues to time the photograph was shot.  First, visible to the right is the steeple roof of the Club Theater.  The Club Theater was completed in 1891.  The conical roof further down the street marks not only the Keystone Hotel, built in 1891 and completed a year later, marks the intersection of Fourth and Main.  On the left side of the street, a block down and hardly noticeable is the old Joplin Hotel.  What is not in this photograph is the Connor Hotel, an eight story building that was built where our squat Joplin Hotel now stands.  The Joplin Hotel was razed in 1906.  As such, we know this photograph dates from before that time.  Speculatively, sometime from 1891 to 1906.

View of Fourth Street looking east sometime after 1908.

View of Fourth Street looking east sometime after 1908.

In this view we have some familiar faces.  The Club Theater on the right, the Keystone down the block, and on the immediate right, the once Elks Lodge and offices of the Joplin Water Works.  The main difference is now the reverse of our previous photograph.  Where the old Joplin Hotel stood, now stands the Connor.  Its presence lets us know that this photograph was taken after its completion in 1908.  Note the change in design of the automobiles on the street and the lack of horse drawn wagons or carriages that were present in the previous view.

Fourth Street looking east - sometime before 1913.

Fourth Street looking east - sometime before 1913.

Our third view of Fourth Street.  The Connor and the Keystone are both present.  The steeple roof of the Club Theater is conspicuously absent, though you can see the roof line of the club’s western side.  Incidentally, by this time, the Club Theater, despite a renovation in 1905, had lost its status as the finest theater in town to the Shubert Theater which was located several blocks down to the south.  The vehicles are a little more modern and a subtle aspect is the switch from one set of trolley tracts to two.  Also different, which allows us to place this photograph as more recent, is the addition of electric signs to the facades of the buildings.  Now, we state that this photograph is dated as having been taken before 1913.  How did we come to that number?  In this case, its simply knowing your source.  This photograph came from a booklet published in 1913 to publicize the city, which allows us to place that hard date.

Fourth Street looking east - present day.

Fourth Street looking east - present day.

This photograph, taken on March 13, 2010, is not for the faint of heart for those who love the architecture of bygone days.  All that remains from the previous photographs is our friend the one time host of the Elks and Joplin Water Works building on the immediate right.  The row of buildings on the left are gone, though a few halfway down the block disappeared in the 1920’s when the Connor built an annex further down the block from its Fourth and Main location.  The Club Theater is gone, the front of a car, marks the parking lot that now remains in its place.  On the left down the block is the Joplin Public Library, situated where the Connor Hotel stood until 1978.  The Keystone, destroyed several years before the Connor, is gone.  The building visible beyond the library is the Joplin Globe office, visible only because the Worth Block was demolished (taking with it the House of Lords).  On a bright note is the tall building at the end of the block on the right side.  It was built around 1923 and managed to survive the devastation that was “Urban Renewal.”

If any comfort can be taken from this view of modern day Fourth Street it is that the City of Joplin has embarked on a mission to restore and recognize the city’s remaining historic buildings.  A drive down Main Street reinforces the belief that while a lot has been lost, that which remains will be saved.

Sources: Historic Joplin collection, Missouri Digital Heritage.

The Bloomer Girls Come to Joplin

In turn-of-the-century America, teams of “Bloomer Girls” traveled across the country challenging men’s amateur, semi-pro, and professional baseball teams to exhibition games. Despite being nicknamed for the loose-fitting trousers that they wore on the diamond, Bloomer Girls were tough competitors. One such “Bloomer Girls” team arrived in Joplin in June 1898, to play a series of seven baseball games against McCloskey’s Giants at Cycle Park. Interest was so intense that promoters added additional seats in anticipation of large crowds of spectators.

Maud Nelson, star pitcher for the team, was hailed as “a twirler of exceptional speed, and it is a common occurrence for her to strike out the strongest batters on the opposing team.” Nelson, a native of Chicago whose real name was Clementina Brida, grew up playing baseball with her brother. As a pitcher, she was reportedly paid $250 a month.

Although the Bloomer Girls engaged in athletic competition with men at a time when women were still governed by stifling Victorian mores, their manager assured the Globe’s reporter that the Bloomers were “refined ladies, most of whom learned the art of ball playing on account of it being a health giving exercise, and only adopted it as a profession after becoming experts and receiving flattering offers to play in exhibition games.”

McCloskey, manager of the opposing team, asserted that the Bloomer Girls came “highly recommended, both as to their excellent playing and conduct on the diamond.” Potential spectators were assured that “the management guarantees that nothing will be said or done but what the most refined lady in the audience will approve.”

In one of their games prior to coming to Joplin, the Bloomer Girls played the Eurekas, a local men’s team in Richmond, Virginia. The Eurekas were warned that the Bloomer Girls “asked no favors, and wanted the game played on its merits.” Captain Boyne, manager of the Eureka team, instructed his players, “to knock the Bloomers silly.”

Whatever preconceived notions the men of the Eureka baseball team may have had about women baseball players were quickly overturned when it was found that it “would be no easy matter” to beat the Bloomer Girls. By the end of the ninth inning the Bloomer Girls led the Eurekas 11 to 5. Maud Nelson was hailed as “a peach, her work in the box alone is worth the price of admission to the game.” She “handles herself like a professional pitcher, throws well, gives the catcher curve signs, and can stop or catch a ball with either hand.”

A 1901 cartoon of the Bloomer Girls from the San Francisco Call.

A 1901 cartoon of the Bloomer Girls from the San Francisco Call.

When the Bloomer Girls played McCloskey’s Giants at Cycle Park, they faced fierce competition from the Giants, who played as if “they had reputations to lose.” Managers McCloskey and Menefee livened up the game by having their men run between bases with the Bloomer Girls in hot pursuit. Unfortunately for the Bloomer Girls, they lost the first game 14 to 1.

Maud Nelson, who was “justly” billed as the “star of the team,” continued to be involved in baseball for years to come as a manager and team owner, anticipating the time when the women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

Sources: The Joplin Globe, the Library of Congress,, Wikipedia: Maud Nelson.

Proof that Joplin needs a Police Matron

While the Joplin city council had by 1904 agreed to the necessity of a police matron due to popular demand, a year later, no matron had yet been appointed.  As a response, the Joplin Globe ran an article offering proof to the need of the city to hire a matron.  The headline read, “PROOF THAT JOPLIN NEEDS A POLICE MATRON,” and the paper argued the following:

“The police records show the arrest of eighty women during the month of May.  Eighty women are supposed to have been locked up in the Joplin city jail in the last month without the care of counsel of a police matron.  There was none but the regular police force to listen to the appeals of, or to advise these erring women charges of the city.  True, most of them were doubtless hardened and seemingly deserving of little better than they got, but who can say?

Who can say to what depths each separate individual has fallen to what extent any one was irreclaimable?  The charges as a result were in the cat-purse of blanket charges, if the term may be so used.  Twenty-nine of these eighty women were charged with prostitution, twenty-one with lewd conduct, thirteen with street walking, thirteen with disturbing the peace, and one each with drunkenness, petty larceny, interfering with an officer, and being suspected of robbery.  Hard charges, those, yet many cried when locked up.  Some were not really bad.  Surely one or two, at least, might be prevailed upon to repent and change her ways.  Certainly enough soul remained to cry out through the tears of those eighty bad women to justify the attention of a good and worthy police matron.

The records prove that one, anyhow, might have been saved from death, if not also from deeper depths of sin, for one of these eighty was Lucy Scott, the young, fair, but wayward girl who took her own life as she confessed, because nobody would come and talk to her about going to a reform school.  A police matron could have saved one life last month.  Who knows, how many wrecks could have been averted?”

A year later, the position was finally assumed by Ellen Ayers.  See our earlier post on Mrs. Ayers concerning her appointment and reaction to the job.

Sources: The Joplin Globe

The Pawn Shop on the Corner

The Joplin of today has numerous pawn shops dotting its streets and thoroughfares. Perhaps the most iconic pawnshop is that of Ben Milgram on Main Street. Pawn shops, however, were in downtown Joplin long before Milgram set up shop.

According to one turn-of-the-century account of Joplin pawn shops, people pawned the coats off of their backs for twenty-five to fifty cents. One pawn shop owner reported that a man had come into his store and asked to speak to the owner in the back. Embarrassed, the man asked the pawn shop proprietor if he “could get a loan on a good pair of shoes.”

Another Joplin pawn broker told the story of one of his repeat customers, an elderly African-American woman who often pawned her solid gold dental crown for money. According to the broker, she would enter his shop, take off her dental crown, wrap it up in a piece of paper, and then get her money. She reportedly had done this so often that the store owner rarely ever checked the paper to see if the crown was in it or not. One pawn shop operator on Third Street related the story of a man who burst into his store, pulled out his dentures, and asked “Say, mister, what’ll give me for these?”

A representative view of a pawn shop from the time period.

A representative view of a pawn shop from the time period, though not a Joplin pawn shop.

Men were not the only ones to patronize the pawn shops of Joplin. Women were known to “buy diamonds one day and come back to the same place and pawn them the next.” One woman reportedly pawned her wedding rings in order to pay for the cost of a divorce. Another woman pawned her expensive silk dress to get enough money to pay her brother’s rent after he fell ill and was unable to work. Fortunately she was able to reclaim her dress within a few days. One pawn broker remarked, “Yes, I’ve all sorts of things offered me; shoes, shirts, coats, and hats to diamonds and false teeth, and I wouldn’t be surprised to have a woman come in and want to borrow money on her false hair.”

Thus, a drive down Joplin’s Main street with pawnshops on the corner isn’t a recent phenomenon, but an experience shared with residents of Joplin that stretches back a century.

Sources: Library of Congress and the Joplin Globe.

Joplin’s Hello Girls

In 1905, Joplin residents who picked up the phone to place a call would have heard a cheerful “Hello Central!” Joplin’s “Hello Girls” were said to be a “combination of encyclopedia, dictionary, city directory, blue book, weather vane, atlas, human alarm clock, and bureau of information in general.” Altogether there were thirty-five young women who were responsible for directing calls in the city of Joplin. Twenty-two of the telephone operators were assigned to the main line and answered an estimated 16,000 calls per day.

The Bell Telephone Company of Joplin, Missouri

Some of Joplin's Hello Girls likely worked at the Bell Telephone Company's building.

One night operator on the Bell line of the Missouri & Kansas Telephone Company spoke with a Joplin Globe reporter regarding an average work night. “Oh, they just ask everything,” the operator replied when asked what people asked when making a call. “So many people ring up to ask when the next street car goes to Carthage, or to Galena, and whether the East Joplin dinky is running today. Then there’s the trains. It would be folly for a central operator not to know the exact time of departure from and arrival of every train in Joplin, and if we don’t want to get our heads taken off by an information craving public, we’d better known just how late that Frisco from the west is tonight, and whether the Katy carries passengers on its local freight.”

It was also not uncommon for folks to pick up the phone to find out the time of day. The operator slyly remarked that she believed some folks did so just to save on the price of an office clock. Joplin residents also picked up the phone to find out where a fire was, often ringing up the operator to gasp, “Where’s the fire, Central?”

Although an operator might receive a dozens of calls on a night when the fire alarms rang incessantly, at least one operator did not mind the inquisitive phone calls, telling the Globe reporter, “We all sort of have a mutual interest in fires, and it’s a sort of human weakness, I’ll admit, to realize that we are very important for once in our little lives. It makes us sort of proud, you see, and we just answer away with might and main telling them all where the fire alarm came from.”

Other common questions the operators received were regarding the dates and times of church services, the location of specific mines, the meaning of words, the authors of books, and even “what the sign is when you dream you saw your fellow.”

Operators displayed patience with their customers, especially in the case of the elderly who were often hesitant to speak into a phone and would forget who they wanted to speak to, including one older lady who would call up and say, “Oh, I want to talk to a woman, she lives out on, oh, I forgot the street and I can’t think of her name. She’s a milliner.”

A telephone operator circa 1911.

This unnamed telephone operator from 1911 is representative of telephone operators of the time.

Besides patience, an encyclopedic knowledge of train schedules, businesses, and people, the other essential quality needed in a “Hello Girl” was youth. Acting Secretary H.E. Scovern of the Home Telephone Company told the reporter that, “It’s not altogether an easy thing to secure the desirable sort of operators. We have them here from fifteen years up, but the girl of seventeen makes the very best. She’s quick and alert and readily learns the run of the business and the professional men the line caters to. She must know them all, and there are something like 1,300 phones to keep in mind.” Scovern said a “Hello Girl” had the instinct of Sherlock Holmes and the cunning of an expert in the dead letter department at the Post Office. He praised one operator who, through her extensive memory and ability to analyze voices, could detect “fraudulent use of the toll board exchange” and despite the many “rag chewings and some unpleasantness” proved a “valuable guardian of the company’s interests.”

Sources: Library of Congress and the Joplin Globe.

An Outlaw Killed in Joplin

The end of an era came to a close when, on August 16, 1924, Joplin Police Detective Lee Van Deventer shot and killed Roy Daugherty.  Daugherty, a member of the fabled Wild Bunch, met his end when Van Deventer shot him just above his heart as a young child clung to his leg. The mortally wounded bandit staggered, then collapsed onto a nearby bed, and died. With his death ended a saga of the Wild West that began in 1870 in nearby Barry County, Missouri, where Daugherty was born.

At the age of 14, Roy Daugherty ran away from home to Oklahoma.  It was there that he adopted the nickname “Arkansas Tom Jones” and fell in with Bill Doolin of the famed Doolin Gang.  A string of subsequent robberies ended with the “Battle of Ingalls,” in a saloon in Ingalls, Oklahoma, when United States Marshals under the command of E.D. Nix sought to capture the Wild Bunch.  It was a bloody gunfight that ultimately left three marshals and four outlaws dead.  Daugherty was captured when James Masterson, brother of legendary lawman, Bat Masterson, hurled a stick of dynamite at the outlaws and managed to stun Daugherty long enough to arrest him.

United States Marshal E.D. Nix

Legendary United States Marshal E.D. Nix who oversaw Daugherty's capture at the Battle of Ingalls.

Daugherty was sentenced to prison for 50 years, but was released early. It wasn’t long before he returned to a life of crime. It was approximately 1901, after an arrest, when Daugherty’s first recorded visit to Joplin may have happened, purportedly as an unwilling participant in a traveling exhibit of the Wild West.  It is entirely possible this event never happened, but the lifelong outlaw did find his way to Joplin in 1917.

While much of Daugherty’s criminal career happened in neighboring Oklahoma, by 1917, it was rumored he had played a role in a series of robberies in Missouri, including a bank job in the small town of Fairview, in neighboring Newton County.  In 1917, Joplin police detectives William F. Gibson and Charles McManamy sought him for robberies in Oronogo and Wheaton, Missouri.  Their investigation led them to a farmer who, after an hour of intense interrogation, finally confessed the location of Daugherty’s safe house.  The hesitation had not been out of loyalty, but for fear that the outlaw would seek vengeance for the betrayal of his location.

Possibly out of doubt of their informant’s confession, or perhaps for lack of a better plan, the Joplin detectives simply knocked on the door of the house in which Daugherty was reportedly inside.  It may have come as shock when the outlaw opened the door himself, but if the men were surprised, the moment quickly passed as both lawmen charged into the house to arrest Daugherty.  Daugherty stumbled back into the house, while McManamy and Gibson rushed after him, and the three found themselves caught in a moment of hesitation focused around a revolver that lay on a nearby table.  All three men lunged for the weapon, and had Daugherty been the quicker, the stories of Detective Gibson and McManamy might have ended that day.

Gibson reached the pistol first.  Daugherty, who seemed to have known the detective, reportedly said, ” I’m glad you got it, Billy.  If I had beat you to it, I would have had to kill you.”  And so, the Barry County native was returned to prison courtesy of the Joplin Police Department and sentenced to 8 years.  Daugherty, despite being a former member of the Wild Bunch with a string of robberies to his name, was released early on good behavior.  If Daugherty had served his entire prison term, it is entirely possible that the events of August 16, 1924, might have never happened.

Roy Daugherty in the prime of his life.     Roy Daugherty in the prime of his life. Via Wikipedia.

Roy Daugherty in the prime of his life. Via Wikipedia.

Some things had changed since 1917.  Joplin detective, William Gibson, had been promoted to Chief of the Joplin Detectives.  Likewise, some things had not changed, such as Roy Daugherty’s penchant for robberies.  This time it was a bank in Asbury, a town on the Kansas – Missouri line, just northwest of Joplin.  The Joplin police sought out the 54 year old outlaw, and were tipped off to his location on a hot Saturday afternoon.  Once more, William Gibson set out to arrest Daugherty, accompanied by fellow detectives Len Van Deventer, Tom DeGraff, and Jess Laster.  Chief of Police Verna P. Hine also joined the detectives.

Word was that Daugherty was in the home of a Joplin local known as “Red” Snow at 1420 W. Ninth Street.  The plan was simple.  Two cars, one with Gibson and Van Deventer, the other with DeGraff, Laster, and Hine, would speed to a stop in front of the home and the men would rush the house.  Afterward, Detective Chief Gibson reflected on his thoughts as the lawmen left to capture Daugherty:

“I knew there would be trouble when we left the station to get Daugherty.  I knew we were after a man who had shot first in eighteen fatal encounters and I expected no surrender.  Daugherty would die with his boots on and I believed that someone else would unlace them tonight.”

As the police neared their destination, the car in which Police Chief Hine was riding in veered off a block early.  At that point, Gibson believed that Hine had elected to stay out of the capture, a claim that Hine later denied.  When Gibson arrived, he headed for the rear of the house, convinced that Daugherty would try to escape out the back.  Gibson described what happened next to a reporter:

“I saw him [Daugherty] through a window as I ran toward the back door to cut off his escape, and I knew then he knew that it was to a finish.  He ran crouched, to present as small a target as possible, his gun clutched in both hands before him.  I reached the porch in the rear of the house and met him at the door.”

At that point, Daugherty opened fire point-blank on Gibson.  Gibson later was at a loss as to how he was not hit by the outlaw’s fire, especially after he discovered a bullet hole in his hat. Gibson sought cover behind a nearby bush and returned fire.  Three of his bullets hit their intended target. Daugherty was hit in his left wrist, his right side above the kidney, and was grazed on the side of his head above an ear.  Sufficiently discouraged from escape out the back door, Daugherty headed for the front.

As Daugherty did so, Red Snow’s wife, caught in the middle of the gunfight, screamed loudly.  He did not get far.  In the time in which Daugherty and Gibson had exchanged shots, Detective Van Deventer entered the house through the front door.  The two found themselves in a face off and the younger Van Deventer fired first.  The large .44 caliber slug from Van Deventer’s revolver struck Daugherty in the chest and the man who had rode with the Wild Bunch fell dead onto a nearby bed.  At his feet, the young child of Red Snow bawled, confused and frightened.

After confirming that Daugherty was dead, Van Deventer and Gibson helped themselves to two cigarettes from the dead man’s shirt pocket. His body was sent to the Hurlbut Undertaking Company and reportedly attracted the attention of thousands who came out to view the corpse of the famed bandit.  Later it was discovered that Daugherty’s .38 revolver had jammed after he had fired only two shots at Gibson, which might have been a reason that both Gibson and Van Deventer had emerged unscathed in the ordeal.

Roy Daugherty's death certificate.

Roy Daugherty's death certificate.

Daugherty’s death brought about the resignation of the Joplin Police Chief Hine.  When the police had set out to capture, Hine’s car had turned away a block too early.  Hine later stated that he thought he was supposed to go to the rear of the house to cut off escape.  Hine was later accused of cowering behind a barn while Gibson shot it out with Daugherty.  The police chief claimed he had thought Gibson had been shot dead, when the detective had only crouched for cover, and thus had paused in his approach toward the house.  Hine also argued that he had never even paused, but the entire time had been on a slow approach to the house; slow only because of high grass that had grown up in the rear of the property.  His explanations were not enough.  Joplin Mayor F. Taylor Snapp publicly called the police chief a yellow coward and demanded his resignation.

Ironically, Hine, a former barber, had been appointed by Mayor Snapp two years before, his only experience was having served as a special park policeman in Schifferdecker Park and six years on the Joplin police force.  His inglorious end as Joplin Police Chief came only two days after the gun battle when Hine handed in his badge..

Roy Daugherty was not the first notorious gunslinger to visit Joplin, nor was he the last infamous outlaw to come to the city.  In less than ten years, a modern successor to the Wild Bunch rolled into town, headed by two outlaw lovers commonly known as Bonnie and Clyde.  Unlike Daugherty, the Barrow Gang escaped fate in a hurried departure from Joplin, but that is a story for another post.

Sources: U.S. Marshals website, the Joplin Globe, and Digital Missouri.