Reckless Wheelmen of Joplin

A bicyclist pauses outside the Keystone Hotel at 4th and Main.

In 1897, the Joplin Globe reported that a large number of cyclists were ignoring a city ordinance that required cyclists riding at night to use a headlight. The paper called upon the Joplin Police Department to enforce the ordinance after a large number of complaints had been made by “persons who have narrowly escaped being run down at dark corners by reckless riders.” While no accidents had taken place, “several new profane expletives have been added to the vocabulary by people who have been made to jump sideways or straight up in order to avoid being run over.”

The Globe wryly suggested that the irresponsible night riders “lose a few spokes out of a wheel” and fly through the air as it would do them more good than a “little fine.” The ordinance should be enforced, the Globe demanded, instead of people  carrying shepherd’s crooks at night to fend off “bicyles ‘running wild.”

Curiously during this era, Joplin, Columbia, and Carthage all passed city ordinances that would have prohibited the use of bicycles within each city. The Missouri Division of the League of American Wheelmen went to court and defeated each ordinance, leaving Joplin residents to dodge and fend off careless cyclists.

Source: Joplin Daily Globe

Missouri Life Magazine Proclaims Joplin Number One City

The February, 2011 issue of Missouri Life magazine named Joplin as the number one city in the state. The magazine looked at a variety of criteria including education, crime, unemployment, public libraries, hospitals, and local sales tax. While the article is not available for free online, it does credit Joplin City Manager Mark Rohr for the inspired revitalization of downtown Joplin that has brought new life to the city. If you want to read more, just visit your local public library and see if it has the latest issue of Missouri Life.

Congratulations to Mark Rohr, his staff, and the people of Joplin who have worked hard to improve Joplin!

The O’Hickeys – Joplin Baseball in the 1890′s

Before the Miners, baseball in Joplin took the form of amateur teams that emerged from a variety of places, such as the Joplin Bankers. Another such team was “The O’Hickeys.”

The O’Hickeys, which existed for several years in the 1890s, claimed an undefeated streak. Their practice ground was none other than the Kansas City Bottoms. The team was composed of an eclectic group of men of varying backgrounds, united only by the fact that all the men lived at the O’Hickey boarding house. Among them was the owner of the boarding house, third baseman “Cap” O’Hickey (seated fourth from the left – presumably in the white shirt). The gentleman in the center foreground with the baseball bat across his lap was the manager of the Keystone Laundry, Joe. W. Walker, and behind him, the Keystone Laundry bookkeeper, Charley Ryus.

A mine operator and O’Hickey catcher, Bill Borey, is the fellow seated to the right of Ryus and in his hands is an unnamed team mascot. To the right of the team mascot and Borey, dressed in a “natty white outfit” is Ralph Moore. Reportedly, Moore began as a jeweler’s assistant but ended up a successful Vaudeville actor. Robert Norris, a coal dealer, is seated to the right of Moore. Finally, the team was rounded out in the photograph by John Mathes, a dry candy manufacturer, who is standing next to o’Hickey and Ryus. Not pictured, but a member of the team was Joe Tucker, a former Southern Association pitcher.

Joplin Globe article on Joplin High School

For those who might have missed it, the Saturday edition of the Joplin Globe carried a brief history behind the construction of the Joplin High School building built at Eighth and Wall.   The article covers the story from the school building’s initial planning, its architect, as well student efforts to raise support for the idea, and its eventual construction.  At the end of the article, one can find a short note on the influence of the First World War and small pox.

Source: The Joplin Globe

What Did You Do During the War, Grandma?

Joplin Police Chief Joseph H. Myers

During the height of World War One, a covert raid was launched by the Joplin Police Department on behalf of the federal government. Chief of Police Joseph H. Myers, Assistant Chief of Police Charles McManamy, Chief of Detectives William F. Gibson, and an assortment of “street sergeants” met under the cover of night at the police station. Few, if any, of their colleagues knew about the raid. Chief Myers was concerned some of his men might tip off the intended targets.

At eleven o’clock at night, the men set out in squads. Their orders: to raid all rooming houses on Main Street and arrest all female occupants. In a complete surprise, the chief and his men successfully carried off the raid. One hundred and forty two women were taken into custody and taken to the Joplin Police Department. Once there, they were examined by “city physicians under the direction of Dr. R.B. Tyler,” Joplin’s commissioner of health and sanitation. Those assisting Tyler were Drs. W.H. Lanyon, J.B. Williams, D. R. Hill, and R.W. Amos. Of that number, fifty five women were  detained on suspicion of having a venereal disease.  They were to be held for observation and would be released only  after they showed no signs of a sexually transmitted disease.

After the raid and subsequent examinations, Dr. Tyler told a reporter that “Joplin is unusually clean. Few of the girls detained will be required to remain in the detention home.” He estimated that at least ten percent of the women arrested were afflicted with venereal disease. Curiously, as the sun rose in the sky over Joplin, eight women voluntarily  surrendered themselves at the police department for examination.

Judge John McManamy (Also former Joplin Police Chief)

For those fortunate enough to escape detention, they were brought before Judge John McManamy and charged with “improper conduct.” Apparently many, if not all of the women, pled guilty and paid a $10 fine. They were then released on “parole” with the understanding that they were to report weekly to Chief Myers or to Desk Sergeants Dave Isbell or Verna P. Hine. The women would have to report their current address and whether or not they had been “working.”

Police Matron Wathena B. Hamilton and Assistant Matron Minnalin McKenna were to assist women find gainful employment if requested.

Shockingly, it was reported:

“Investigations conducted by the police at the instance of officials of the war department resulted in the obtaining of approximately twenty names of wives of soldiers and sailors in government service, either in Europe or in American  cantonments. Should they be found to be of questionable character, reports will be made to the proper officials and  their allotments stopped, if their husbands request it.”

Talk about government intrusion!

Second and Wall – Site of the 1903 Joplin Lynching

In anticipation of our coverage of the 1903 Joplin lynching, we bring you photographs of the location of the tragedy: Second and Wall. It was at this intersection that Thomas Gilyard was lynched from the arm of a telephone pole by a mob. First is a drawing of the lynching that was printed in the Joplin Globe immediately after the lynching.  The artist was Ralph Downing, who later went on to be an artist for the Kansas City Star (where he worked the rest of his career). 

The lynching of Thomas Gilyard

The first photograph comes courtesy of the Post Memorial Art Reference Library and was taken  just a couple months after the lynching, if not sooner.

The back of the photo read, "Joplin, Mo. June 17, 1903. This is where Bro. C.H. Button and myself lodged at the home of Mr. Wilson. The telegraph pole is where a negro was mobbed and hung last spring. Taken by Prof. C.H. Button, J.R. Crank. Taken at Bible School Convention." Courtesy of the Post Memorial Art Reference Library, Joplin Missouri

The next photographs were taken just last month, December 2010.  Regrettably, the time of day and the position of the sun got in the way of nailing a photograph from the exact same position.  For identification purposes, the only surviving landmark from the gruesome moment is the stone retaining wall which you will find in all the images.

Second and Wall - Present Day

Second and Wall - Present day

If you don’t want to wait to learn more about the lynching, you can read about it in White Man’s Heaven by Kimberly Harper or pick up the most recent edition of the Missouri Historical Review.

Sources: Post Memorial Art Reference Library, Joplin Daily Globe, White Man’s Heaven by Kimberly Harper, and Historic Joplin Collection.

Why the Missouri School of Mines isn’t in Joplin


Why Isn’t the Missouri School of Mines in Joplin?

When thinking of Joplin’s past as a part of the Tri-State Mining District, an area that covered thousands of acres, one might wonder why the Missouri School of Mines was not located in Joplin. After all, the lead and zinc mining industry was a dominant industry for decades in the region, and notable advancements in mining were made in the area.

The most obvious reason is because the Missouri School of Mines was founded in 1870. Joplin, founded in 1871, was not yet a muddy mining camp on the edge of Ozarks. The French began mining in what is now today eastern Missouri in the 1700s. The mining industry in eastern Missouri actually endured until the 1970s when mining giant St. Joe Mineral Corporation finally shut its doors.

During the middle of the nineteenth century, there was an interest in establishing a school of mines and metallurgy. Rolla, on the edge of Missouri’s eastern mining region, was selected as the location of the new school. In 1870, the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy opened its doors to students.

Joplin was established too late to be considered as a location for the Missouri School of Mines. In fact, it was not until 1937 that Joplin received its first college, when the Joplin Junior College was established (eventually to become Missouri Southern State University). One can only wonder what Joplin would be like today if it had received a state normal school like Springfield, its neighbor to the east, whose state normal school is now known as Missouri State University.

Joplin Lynching featured in Missouri Historical Review

The Missouri Historical Review, an award winning scholarly publication of the State Historical Society of Missouri, just published its January quarterly edition. Prominently featured in this edition is an article covering the 1903 Joplin lynching. The article is an adaptation of the chapters about the lynching from the book White Man’s Heaven by Kimberly Harper. If you are a member of the State Historical Society, you will receive a copy of the Missouri Historical Review in the mail. If not, you can find a copy to read at the Joplin Public Library on their current magazine shelves. Unfortunately, the library has not yet bought a copy of the book, which is definitely recommended, even if you get the chance to read the article in the Review.

The Would Be Lynching of William Boston in Galena, KS

Seven years after the successful lynching of Thomas Gilyard, a topic we will be giving considerable attention to in the near future, another lynching almost occurred in the neighboring community of Galena, Kansas, literally down the road from Joplin.

The would be victim of mob violence was an African-American resident, William Boston, or William Baldridge (as he was also sometimes called), had only recently been released from the state reformatory for cutting a street car conductor.  As of 1910, Boston was just 21 years old, could not read or write, and may have even been listed as “deaf  and dumb,” in the census.  He was a Kansas native, but lived with his widowed grandmother, originally from South Carolina.   The job William landed was at the Windle & Burr livery stable, and with it the coworker, Benjamin Jones, a foreman, born near Kansas City and approximately 51 years old.  The alleged events thereafter followed.  It came to Boston’s attention that Jones had a considerable amount of money upon him.  The not quite reformed liveryman waited until night fall and for the foreman to fall asleep.  To ensure a quick escape, he walked to another livery stable and telephoned for a carriage to wait him at the east side of town, his destination the depot of the Frisco Railroad.

At that point, Boston returned to work and to the sleeping Jones.  At this point, Jones had only hours to live, and of those hours, most of them spent dying at St. John’s Hospital.  A piece of wood in hand, described as a scantling, Boston clubbed Jones in the head, smashing his skull.  The killer took the money that Jones possessed and made for his escape.  Not long after, the dying Jones was discovered by a coworker and the police alerted.  It became a chase to catch the killer.

How the Galena police discerned that Boston would make for the train depot is unsaid, but there they found him with a believed intent to catch an eastward headed train.  At the point of three revolver barrels, Boston confessed to his identity in the early hours of the morning.  He was quickly taken into custody to the city jail of Galena, where to initial dismay, only $6 was found on his person.  The lack of the estimated sum taken from Jones was a mystery soon solved by the inquiry toward the “chewing tobacco” that Boston had in his mouth.  Forced to disgorge it, the tobacco proved to be $70.  To the Galena police, as well the natives of Galena, it seemed for certain that Boston was Jones’ attacker.  This was cemented by a supposed confession by Boston, locked behind the bars, that he was the only man involved and did attack Jones.

By sunrise, word has spread amongst the community of the attack and that the killer was in custody.  Men, and later boys, began to gather around the jail.  Hundreds, it was claimed, but by around 9 am, the number was said to be approximately 200.  “Summary justice” for Boston was the subject of nearly every conversation, but, as a reporter noted, there seemed no leader ready to guide the mob into action.  However, as time passed, the aggression of the mob began to rise.  Galena police officers were “hooted and hissed,” as they began to repeatedly refuse to turn over the keys to the jail within which Boston sat.

The Galena police chief, John Fitzgerald, the 44 year old son of Irish immigrants, grew alarmed as the intensity of the mob increased.  The police chief vowed not to allow his prisoner to fall into the hands of the ever more bold crowd and quickly made two orders.  First, he stationed a number of officers at the front of the city jail, and told them to act as if nervous about protecting the prisoner inside.  Second, he requested a car brought to the rear of the jail.  The plan worked.  As the mob watched the distraction out front, Fitzgerald with a handcuffed Boston climbed into the motorcar and swiftly sped away to the county jail at Columbus.  It was no time sooner, that a blood thirsty leader finally emerged and an organized the mob prepared to force their way into the jail, but only like a wave breaking upon the shore, to disperse upon the news that their prey had gotten away.

In a room at St. John’s hospital, Benjamin Jones, first generation American died of his wounds at approximately 2:30 pm on June 29, 1910.  In Columbus, Kansas, William Boston quietly awaited to be tried.  In Galena, Kansas, the Tri-State area narrowly avoided its next lynching following that in 1906 of Springfield, and the 1903 lynching in Joplin.  Were it not for the quick thinking of its chief of Police, John Fitzgerald, the murderous legacy might have continued.  For more on that legacy, either stay tuned in the near future for our posts on the 1903 Joplin lynching, or pick up a copy of White Man’s Heaven: The Lynching and Expulsion of Blacks in the Southern Ozarks, by Kimberly Harper.

Death certificate for Benjamin F. Jones

Source: 1910 United States Federal Census, Missouri Digital Heritage: Death Records, Joplin Daily Globe

Historic Joplin in the Joplin Metro Magazine

For those of you who have not yet had the chance to pick up the latest issue of the Joplin Metro Magazine, Historic Joplin was the focus of an interview. In addition, the magazine also featured a piece on what was going on a century ago in 1910 from the front page of the Joplin Globe.  You can read the latest edition online here.