The Five Cyclists of Joplin

Cycling was all the rage in the 1890s. Cycle tracks were built, races were held, and cycling associations were formed all across America. Cycling became an accepted form of transportation, rather than just a passing fancy. Today we might think of Mongooses, Schwinns, or Bianchis – brands that allow cyclists to ride across the country, over mountains, and commute to work on city streets. Bicycles in the 1890s, however, had heavy frames, cumbersome rubber tires, and uncomfortable seats. That did not deter a group of five friends from Joplin who hopped on their bicycles in the summer of 1896 and pedaled to Louisville, Kentucky.

The Intrepid Joplin Cyclists

Businessman Fred Lawder, attorney Arthur E. Spencer, Boone Jenkins, Captain Marion Staples, and “Ike” Simon left Joplin in August. Although they planned to pedal from Joplin to Louisville, they decided to ship their bicycles to St. Louis and then pedal to Louisville. They made the trip in four days with stops at Vincennes, Indiana, and Cincinnati, Ohio. They spent a considerable amount of time in Louisville before heading west on their bicycles, passing through much of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. They returned to St. Louis where Simon and Spencer, citing pressing business concerns, caught a train back to Joplin. The remaining three men made the trip back to Joplin by bicycle.

They became somewhat of a media sensation. It was recalled that “at every city in which stops were made the party was besieged by reporters, and newspapers published column after column regarding the tour, together with photographs of the tourists and their bicycles.”

The remaining three men returned to Joplin in September, but not before Captain Marion Staples appointed himself a missionary for presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, and preached the gospel of free silver to curious onlookers during the trip. Staples was a surprisingly spry fifty years of age when he made the trek. It was reported that while the other riders were young men, Staples “stood the trip as well if not better than his companions and reached home in better physical condition than he was when he left.” He lived to the ripe old age of 78.

Source: Joplin Daily Globe

Joplin City Marshal Explains Suicides in Joplin


In 1904, Joplin City Marshal John A. McManamy gave an interview regarding suicide cases in Joplin. In it, one can observe strains of gender, class, race, and economics that provides insight into the suicidal trends of the city.

McManamy claimed that the majority of would-be suicides in Joplin were women, often “women who have fallen from the highest plane of moral standing. As a rule they are not successful.  But as a rule also, this class of women, if they fail the first time, they try it again.” Very few African-Americans in Joplin attempted suicide, McManamy claimed, as “it is the rarest sort of thing that a negro ever wishes to end his own life and it is more rare still that they ever attempt to end it. Negro men are not the least prone to commit suicide and negro women seldom bother us in this manner.

According to the marshal, most suicide cases involved the use of carbolic acid, which caused an individual to “suffer the greatest of agonies before they finally shuffle. In the event they do not take enough of the poison to produce death, the suffering they undergo while recovering is fearful.”

Others chose to use morphine and cocaine. If the police found a morphine user before death claimed them, the officers would treat them for morphine poisoning by “pounding the party with wet towels, by rapping him hard knocks on the body, by rubbing the legs until they almost blister and in fact indulge in almost every kind of heroic treatment that will keep the would-be suicide awake, until the antidotes have time to neutralize the morphine.” McManamy noted that cocaine and arsenic suicide attempts also required “heroic treatment” as the would-be victim would often go into spasms while yelling, groaning, or crying. He disapproved of what he called “gun play,” but unhelpfully pointed out that cutting one’s wrists was the most effective way to end one’s life.

When asked what caused many of the would-be suicides in Joplin, McManamy declared, “Suicides usually follow debauches, or financial reverses. Debauches with the women and financial reverses with the men. These debauches may be brought about by many causes, disappointments in love being the most frequent.”

For the benefit of the paper’s readers, the marshal sternly pointed out “An attempt at suicide is poor business. Not over ten per cent of the attempts that are made are successful. The agonies, the sufferings, the tortures of the period following the attempt, with those who are not successful, make the game not worth the candle. Life may not hold out any hope to the would-be suicide, but there is seldom a life so devoid of hope, or so without light, that it is not better than the life of one who is frustrated in an effort to end all with one fell swoop.”

Source: Joplin News Herald

If you ever find yourself in need of help or in a time of crisis and need someone to talk to:

Post Memorial Art Reference Library Debuts New Website

For those of you who may have missed the announcement last week, the Post Memorial Art Reference Library recently unveiled a newly designed website. The new look is a good one, adding separate pages about the library which cover the library’s great benefactors Winfred and Elizabeth Post, the art and antique collection (broken down by type), library resources, and library news. Including in the library resources is information on resources concerning historic preservation. Additionally, the website now offers up to date information on exhibits at the library, as well exhibits of the past.

If you’re not familiar with the Post Memorial, it’s the little gem tucked away in the back of the Joplin Public Library by the computer area, directed by one of the experts of Joplin history, Leslie Simpson. If you haven’t visited it yet, there’s no excuse not to do so after visiting its new website.

A Chilly Ride to the Past

A street car makes its way up Main Street

Street Cars used to be found traveling up and down the major streets of Joplin and connected the city to the surrounding communities. For those of you who would like to experience the real thing, you can catch a ride on the “Polar Express” up in Webb City this coming weekend at King Jack Park. A year long resident of the park, the street car is literally rolled out from time to time for the joy of taking a ride on her.

You can watch the street car carry ticket holders from last week from 1 to 3 pm, or grab a free ticket and take a ride from 3 to 6pm. Don’t miss this chance to experience a bit of the past!

Source: Joplin Globe

Joplinites in Kansas City

Joplinites, as residents of Joplin were referred to at the turn of the century, were a restless bunch. Throughout the last half of the nineteenth century, Joplin miners were not afraid to work as scabs in the copper and silver mines of the west, while others left in the hopes of striking it rich in the Klondike Gold Rush. Some, however, sought wealth in the metropolisies of the Midwest. Kansas City was among the burgeoning cities that beckoned to Joplinites.

One article from the News-Herald discussed a number of former Joplin residents who had since made Kansas City their home. James A. “Jim” Bolen, an early Joplin resident who served as a Jasper County deputy sheriff and as county recorder, owned the Bolen Lead and Zinc Company. He also served as president of the Zenith Mining Company. In 1879, he moved to Kansas City and founded the Bolen Coal Company. He made a large fortune and was once mentioned as a candidate for mayor.

Another former Joplinite in Kansas City was Thomas A. McClelland, who, like Jim Bolen, was an early resident. He served as Joplin’s city collector. After becoming wealthy from investing in land and mines, he moved to Kansas City. He did not forget Joplin, as he gave the city the land for what is now known as McClelland Park.

M.D. Darnall, who was associated with the white lead works in Joplin, moved to Kansas City where he became involved in the real estate business. B.T. Webb, who was once Joplin’s city clerk, also moved to Kansas City. He, too, went into the real estate business. W.F. Snyder, who once worked for the News-Herald, owned a cigar stand on West Ninth Street. John Cotton was working as a dentist. Harry Brundidge, a sign-painter, was kept constantly busy as a sign-painter for the numerous businesses in Kansas City. Pat and Tom Clifford, who struck it rich from diggings on Parr Hill, were considered to be long time residents of Kansas City. Numerous others, including musicians, porters, train conductors, and lawyers had since moved from Joplin to Kansas City, but clearly they were fondly remembered and not forgotten, despite having left the city that gave them their start.

Sources: Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri, Joplin News-Herald, Joplin City Code of 1917

A Spring in Joplin

The Ozarks have always been abundantly blessed with springs, creeks, and rivers. Although Joplin’s neighbor to the south, Neosho, is hailed as the “city of springs,” Joplin was once home to the notable “Ino Spring.”

The Ino spring was located a half-mile west of Joplin near where two men, Frazier and McConey, had a brick ward in the early 1870s. The site became popular as Joplinites would drive out in the summer to cool off at the spring. The spring was described as a “stream of sparking water” that gurgled up from the side of a “slight uprising in the ground, not exactly a hill, but a knoll forming one side of a shallow gulley.” Joplin’s old-timers remembered the spring and it was tradition that “when the Indians roamed the prairie where Joplin now stands that they quenched their thirst” at the spring. By the turn of the century, it was “surrounded by numerous mining plants with immense pumps.”

The name of the spring came from the nearby “Ino” (I Know) Mining Company in upper Leadville Hollow. Reportedly the Ino mine was drained of water of almost 200 feet, but the little spring kept flowing. As Chitwood Hollow opened up to mining, it became known as the “Ino Spring.” Teamsters, lead and zinc haulers, coal haulers, and others stopped to water their horses at the spring as well as supplied water to the nearby Chitwood mining camp.

By the turn of the century, the citizens of Joplin were calling for pure water. In response, an unknown enterprising entrepenuer decided to haul water in from the Ino spring, despite competition from the Redell and Freeman “deep well wagons.”

It is unknown now if the spring still flows, we can only hope that it does.

Source: Joplin News Herald