The Olivia Apartments: Before and Now

One of the more luxurious apartment buildings in Joplin’s early history were the Olivia Apartments.  The building was built in 1906 by Dieter and Wenzel construction firm on plans designed by one of Joplin’s widely used architects, Austin Allen.  The man footing the $150,000 bill was Anton E. Bendelari, who had made his fortune in mining.  The building was named for his daughter, Olivia.  We’ll offer a more detailed history of the Olivia in the future, but for now here’s a look at the building’s past and its present (August 2010).   As you may notice, while a survivor of over a 100 years, the Olivia has lost some of her exterior features.

The Olivia sometime after 1906.

The Olivia sometime in the late teens or early 1920s.

The Olivia as of August, 2010, during its restoration.

Your Local Power Company

As Empire District Electric Company trucks and employees tirelessly work to repair downed lines and restore power throughout Joplin, they are carrying on a long tradition of service to the community.  Since 1909, the company has provided power to Joplin for over a century.  Below is an ad from the company’s earlier days when electricity was still a technological marvel and a convenience that many eagerly sought.

An ad for Empire District Electric Company from 1911.

 

Source: Joplin Daily Globe

The Interurban

Only relics, rusting pieces of steel, and the rare preserved object remain of the great interurban railway that once connected the cities and towns of the Tri-State area. While we intend to go much further into depth on the railway, for now we’re going to provide a glimpse of it. Below is a map from 1911 showing the steel web of connections of the Southwest Missouri Railway.

Click on Image for Larger Image

An article from the Joplin News Herald proudly boasted that the railway was one of the first of its kind, beginning service in 1893 with a 10 mile long connection between Joplin, Cartersville, Webb City and Prosperity. Nearly two decades later, the railway had accumulated 75 miles of track and was accessible to over a 100,000 residents of the area. In 1894, the railway was used by 400,000 travelers, a number that grew to an astronomical 8,000,000 by 1910.

Initially served by small cars, like the one pictured below, by 1911, larger trolleys were in service powered by four 50 horsepower engines. Cars ran every half hour between the towns with the exception of Joplin to Carterville, 15 minutes, and Joplin to Webb City, every 10 minutes. The costs ran anywhere from 1 penny to 1 1/2 cents per mile. A very low and reasonable rate, the article in the News Herald added.

Car No. 3 was powered by two 25 horsepower engines.

Source: Joplin News Herald, 1911

“Young Men Are Dying” – Frances Perkins’ visit to Joplin

Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor

On April 23, 1940, a crowd of two hundred people stood on the train platform at Joplin’s Frisco Depot, awaiting the arrival of an important visitor to the city.  Many of them would have identified themselves as union representatives, but their visitor was not famed labor leader John L. Lewis, head of the United Mine Workers. Instead, when passengers began to disembark from the train, the individual who captured the crowd’s attention was a woman, often described by her contemporaries as “plain,” perhaps even ordinary looking. Plain and ordinary she was not. Frances Perkins, U.S. Secretary of Labor, was the first woman appointed to a position in the U.S. Cabinet. In response to the epidemic of “miner’s lung” in the Tri-State Mining District, Perkins convened a conference known as the Tri -State Silicosis Conference to allow concerned citizens, representatives from mining companies, government officials, and union representatives to discuss the issue.

Among those waiting at the platform to greet Perkins were Evan Just, secretary of the Tri-State Zinc and Lead Ore Producers Association; Frank Evans, president of the association; and the Reverend Cliff Titus, representing the Joplin Chamber of Commerce. Perkins then headed to the Connor Hotel where she stayed during the duration of the conference. She held a five minute press conference in which she stated that the purpose of her visit “is because you have silicosis there, and the labor department is concerned in preventing and correcting conditions due to silicosis.” After the press conference concluded, Secretary Perkins then headed outside to board a specially chartered bus. Together she and thirty other individuals representing various interests toured the mining district. Traveling out of Joplin on Route 66, she sat at the front of the bus with Tony McTeer, the district CIO president, and Evan Just. While driving past squalid miner’s shanties, Secretary Perkins remarked that something needed to be done to help those living in such dire circumstances.

Secretary Perkins in a Joplin Missouri

The first stop was at the St. Louis Refining and Smelting Company’s Ballard Mine near Baxter Springs, Kansas. Secretary Perkins donned a “miner’s metal hat, raincoat, and overshoes” before she descended 350 feet into the mine where she then watched demonstrations of different mining methods. She was reportedly very interested in the “methods used by miners in drilling and in a dust control demonstration” given by Fred Netzeband, air hygiene engineer of the Tri-State Zinc and Lead Ore Producers Association. Secretary Perkins was later quoted by an observer as saying, “The world should know the true picture of methods being used in controlling and eliminating dust in the mines.”

Secretary Perkins meets a Joplin Miner

After the demonstration, she then met with several of the miners, shook their hands, and listened to their views of the different methods used to control dust. Perkins was accompanied twenty other interested individuals, including Episcopal Bishop William Scarlett of St. Louis; the Reverend Charles Wilson of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in St. Louis; and Miss Elizabeth Wade White of New York. All three were members of the Tri-State Survey Committee. It was perhaps the one and only time that a bishop of any religious denomination toured one of the Tri-State District’s mines.

Secretary Perkins then visited Treece, Kansas, and Hockerville and Picher, Oklahoma to view housing conditions. In Treece, she visited the home of Mr. and Mrs. William Hannon. Hannon and two other former miners told Perkins that they suffering from silicosis and were unable to receive treatment. Hannon’s wife and four children also reportedly suffered from silicosis.  She then met with six women, described as the widows of miners, who stated that they and their children were plagued by silicosis. Secretary Perkins’ bus did not stop in Hockerville and Picher, but she was reportedly able to view “slum conditions” in all three towns from her bus seat. She then returned to the Connor Hotel and prepared for the conference which began at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The conference itself was held on the roof of the Connor.

Secretary Perkins prepared to descend into the mine.

The conference revealed a variety of attitudes. After making her opening remarks, Secretary Perkins was followed by the Reverend Cliff Titus. Titus, appearing as a “representative of the public,” declared that workers in the Tri-State Mining District were all white, not foreigners; and that “they are independent and prefer to choose their own methods of living.” He then continued “Many of our people prefer to live near chat piles because they want to spend their money on other things” like cars.  But Titus acknowledged that “people of the district are willing and anxious to bring about better living conditions in the mine sections and will co-operate with state and federal agencies.”

Evan Just, secretary of the Tri-State Zinc and Lead Ore Producers Association, spoke on behalf of a majority of mine operators. He declared that operators had made great strides in reducing silicosis over the last several years. Just cited statistics that allegedly showed that incidences of silicosis in miners had been reduced from 60 percent in 1913 to 22 percent in 1929. Further progress, he claimed, had been in the years since. What Just failed to mention, however, is that this only applied to the large mining companies who could afford modern mining equipment, and not the smaller independent operators who could not. Just, however, denied that individuals could contract silicosis from surface dust.

Miner shacks from the turn of the century - the condition of miners' homes continued to be poor decades later.

He then addressed living conditions in the Tri-State Mining District by stating that slum conditions were the result of social problems. “That many people who can afford better homes prefer to live in small, unpainted two and three-room shacks and spend their surplus funds on automobiles and radios cannot be charged against the mining industry,” Just maintained, although he claimed the mining industry did want to eliminate squalid living conditions. He was followed by representatives from federal and state public health, relief, and labor agencies. Even former Joplin resident Mrs. Emily Newell Blair, the noted political activist, was in attendance. Notably, former miner and the district CIO president, Tony McTeer, spoke in the interests of miners. He said, in part:

“Madam Secretary, ladies and gentlemen, conferences as such are not new to you, and to many people it is the usual approach to a problem, to sit down with all interested parties and discuss what is wrong in order to agree on a remedy. I can frankly tell you that a conference of this sort is new and different to the working people of the Tri-State area…

Some people believe that because the miners have not made a lot of noise about their troubles, because of the ignorance of themselves and others, that the workers have no troubles. That is not correct.
I am proud of our miners here. They know they have troubles aplenty, and what they are, but they also know false hopes when they see them. They have been fooled too often, so that now they don’t let themselves in for another deception.

However, they also know a good beginning when they see it. And this conference was received by the people of the Tri-State with great hope and anticipation of beneficial results…

We appreciate your coming this long distance, knowing that you would be convinced that here lies a serious problem.
Young men are dying. Ailing mothers and sick little children arouse in you the interest you have shown by being here today. Our district has the greatest percentage of widowhood in the United States; a sad commentary. These are the things that must be stopped for the future welfare of all the citizens who live here.

The problem as we see it is threefold. First, dust control; second, proper hospital facilities; third, adequate housing.

To reduce the high death rate among the miners requires better dust control and better working conditions in the mines. Stopping silicosis is one step in the direction of curbing the infection of tuberculosis. Mines today go in for more mechanical equipment, as we are living in a world of progress. I haven’t myself worked in a mine for the last five years, but the mining conditions and the health of the miners are my business. Our people working in the mines today give many exact reports of what does on in the mines.

It is said that wet drilling has solved the problem of dust control.

There have been two general fields of mining in this district. First, what we term the old country, which is the Joplin, Webb City area. Second, the Oklahoma and Kansas mining district. In the Joplin district the drilling was done with the piston machine or dry drills. The water liner drilling machine was introduced into Oklahoma and Kansas fields in 1916 or 1917, and from around that period it has been used exclusively. I wish to speak from my own experiences on this. I have never worked in mines except where water-lined drills were used, and I have silicosis, or dust on my lungs. We can produce the names of hundreds of men who have never worked except under wet drilling conditions, and we have buried a great many of them. I have prepared a list of some of those men who I know have died. I am turning it, with my statement, over to the chairman of this meeting.

Since wet drilling alone does not solve the problem, the problem still is dust control. We must get at the root of the problem…”

At the end of the conference, the Tri-State Survey Committee of New York sponsored a showing of “Men and Dust,” a short documentary film by noted photographer Sheldon Dick. Dick had journeyed to the Tri-State Mining District to illustrate the impact of silicosis on the lives of area miners and their families. It was Dick who famously dubbed Treece, Kansas’s Main Street as the “street of walking death.” An estimated one hundred people stayed to watch the film in the Connor Hotel’s Empire Room. Evan Just decried the sixteen and a half minute film as a “smear campaign” against the mining district and the companies that operated there.

After twelve hours, Secretary Perkins was scheduled to leave Joplin to return east. She announced that she would “appoint in the near future a committee of representatives of the three states to explore the possibilities of perfecting a ‘state compact agreement’ for coordinating the work of concerned authorities and agencies.”

Before leaving, she spoke to a crowd of 700 to 800 people at an open labor meeting sponsored by the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers and the American Federation of Labor. Her speech focused on the need to improve housing and living conditions in the mining district. After concluding her remarks, Secretary Perkins then left to catch her train.

As David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz point out in their book, Deadly Dust, the issue of silicosis faded away because of the lack of a strong labor movement to press for better working and living conditions, and the subsequent collapse of the mining industry in the Tri-State region. After the death of FDR, subsequent administrations had little concern for miner’s lung. But for a brief period of time, Joplin and the rest of mining district captured the attention of the nation

Sources:Joplin Globe Deadly Dust: Silicosis and the On-Going Struggle to Protect Workers’ Health by David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz “What You Really Want Is an Autopsy”: Frances Perkins and the U. S. Government Conference in Joplin, Missouri, 1940 http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/128/

Toilers of Darkness

In the following story that we have presented in its entirety below, an anonymous Globe reporter writes in a florid style that one no longer finds in the pages of today’s newspapers. The article demonstrates a style of journalism that no longer exists as editors now demand clarity and conciseness, not flowery run-on sentences. One rarely thinks of the people who work the night shift, but as this article shows, little has changed since the turn of the century. We still rely upon the police, the fire department, security guards, janitors, and twenty-four hour fast food restaurants to look after us in the wee hours of the morning. And, as the reporter neglected to mention, far more women may have worked the night shift than he realized, only as soiled doves in Joplin’s red light district.

“In the hours of darkness, while thousands of Joplin people are wrapped tightly in the arms of Morpheus, hundreds of others are toiling for those who are unconscious of what is going on around them at that hour, keeping the big mill of life in one continuous grind.

It is not often that the average person gives a thought to those who are laboring during the hours of the night, after their daily toil is completed.  Some hurry home to a hearty supper and a pleasant evening with the family, while others remain to enjoy a good production at the local theater or visit with a friend, but few of those think of others, who are at that very hour preparing to take their places and keep the great machinery of life well lubricated, so that it will run again the next day without a hitch.

It will be of extreme interest and will, no doubt, cause great surprise to thousands of Joplin people to know that more than 1,000 inhabitants of this city work throughout the entire night, besides there are hundreds of others who devote half the night to labor.

In its slumber the city must still be supplied with heat, light and water, its homes must be protected from fire, its streets and stores must be guarded and food for thirty-five thousand mouths must be prepared before the dawn.  And all of this work and much more must fall to the lot of the toilers of darkness.  Year in and year out, the city as a great workshop never rests period.  While the day working people of Joplin are seeking relaxation, and while later hundreds of homes are quiet in slumber, a small army of tireless men and boys, and some cases women, is swaying back and forth in the nightly routine of their work, keeping up the great gind.

While thousands of Joplin people are sleeping, hundreds of miners are at work, bakers make bread for the slumberers to consume the next day; messengers boys hurry in every direction, firemen jump from their cots at the sound of the gong, ready to protect the sleepers from the ravages of fire; officers pace the streets in an effort to keep order; telephone girls are always on the alert to answer midnight call and hundreds of others stop only long enough to eat their midnight luncheon and then continue until dawn gives them the signal to retire.

Janitors and porters spend the weary hour of the night with their brushes and mops, preparing the hotel lobbies and business blocks for the next day’s work.  Often times, these creatures are overworked, and they are helped in some cases by their wives, sisters and friends.

Night scenes among the railway employees are filled with variety.  The hours of these night workmen are long, most of them coming on duty at 6:30 o’clock in the evening and working until that time in the morning.  In the switching yards, the night visitor may see the most interesting side of railroading.  In stations along the line, there are yard clerks, watchmen, roundhouse employees, car checkers and night operators.  The Missouri Pacific employs a force of 15 men during the night.  This includes a baggage man and operator at the passenger depot, yardmen and roundhouse employees, who are kept busy with the engines, keeping them clean and in repair.  The Frisco employs 16 and the Kansas City Southern nearly as many.

In Joplin there are at least a half dozen restaurants kept open throughout the entire night.  Waiters, cashiers, cooks and dishwashers have little time during these long hours for idleness.  In the saloons, which are never closed until the lid smothers the lights early Sunday morning, there are at least two men – the bartender and the porter.  Some places employ three men, and even four men during the night.

A large number of private watchmen work during the night.  Almost every person knows of the 14 patrolmen who guard the city by night, few stop to think of the many, who, in factories and stores, tramp ceaseless, only stopping at intervals to rest.  Some firms have old men for the work of watchmen, and others only employ young men.  The work is lonely and the hours are long, and in many firms the watchmen are on a constant tramp.  Next is the squad of regular officers, whose work is just as tiresome – but with much more variety perhaps, than that of the private watchmen.  Some are patrolling gloomy alleys, while others are watching the stores and residences, always ready to defend the lives and possessions of their sleeping brothers.

Electricians may be summoned to fix broken wires.  Often times they have to climb roofs and fire escapes [while the] working world is asleep, is an experience of unusual interest.

For a spectacular sight, one should visit a foundry.  During the day it may be interesting, but at night when in dark and dangerous places, where only great care makes the feat possible.

To visit the industrial places of Joplin night, when a weird quietness hangs over the city, and the day-darkness settles over the city, the scene is one of splendor.  At present, however, there are few foundries working night shifts.

Among the unceasing of the night are the dozen or more cab and baggage drivers of Joplin.  It matters not whether the weather be warm or cold, rain or snow, these fellows go just the same.

As near as can be estimate, there are thirty restaurant employees laboring during the entire night and about the same number at the hotels.  The hotels employ a night clerk, one or two porters, as many bell boys, an engineer and sometimes a helper for the latter.  From 20 to 25 saloon employees are at work, and in more than 100 concentrating mills, that operate at night, about 500 men tramp to and fro to their work as the sun rises and sets.  Engineers, electricians and watchmen are kept busy at the lighting plants, there being about 12 in all.  One postal clerk operates at the post office between the hours of six o’clock in the evening and four in the morning, when he is relieved.  About six telephone girls remain at the boards from 10 o’clock at night until 6 in the following morning.

Three of the bakeries work night shifts, there being a score or more of breadmakers all told.  14 firemen stay ready to respond to their calls, and three telegraph operators at are at work in the Western Union and postal companies’ offices.  Three or four messenger boys work throughout the entire night, and often times others are summoned to help the boys with their messages.

The Globe a force of 26 men, who all work until the grey hours of the morning.  From 2 to 4 nurses are on the alert at St. John’s hospital.  The Wells Fargo Express company employs two men during the night, and many others grind out their work night after night.

To give complete details about Joplin’s toilers of darkness would be almost an impossibility, but there is one other fact highly worthy of notice.  While women have, to some extent, usurped the places of men in many occupations and callings of the day, the sterner sex has yet a monopoly on night work.  Except for the telephone operators, there are few women night workers.  It is estimated not more than 5% of the night workers are women.”

 

Source: Joplin Daily Globe

What the Train Brings In

Any town with a railroad was bound to have its share of characters. Joplin certainly had its share. In 1897, Arthur Harrold, an eighteen year old tramp, arrived in town with a curious collection of artifacts. Harrold told a Globe reporter that he hailed from New York City and had left the Big Apple eight years and ten months earlier to see the country. With him he carried a sack full of relics that rivaled the collection of the Smithsonian: fragments of rope used to hang Cherokee Bill; a petrified potato; spectacles given to him by the first settler of Texas; the bullet that killed General James McPherson; cartridges owned by Cherokee Bill and one of the Dalton boys; saws used by Noble Shepherd when he cut his way out of the St. Louis city jail; and letters from officials from all over the country certifying his presence in their cities.

Harrold’s journey was sparked by a wager that he could not travel 65,000 miles in a ten year period and save up $6,000. At the time of his arrival in Joplin, he had reportedly saved $5,382 that was deposited in a New York bank. As part of the wager, he was not allowed to beg, steal, or borrow on his journey. Should he fulfill his mission, Harrold was to receive $5,000 from the Police Gazette magazine plus $5,000 from New York World and Associated Press.

At around the same time, another character drifted into Joplin, but not one that the police wanted to see. “Kansas City Jack” was described as a “bum” who was not “meek.” Upon arriving in Joplin, Jack immediately raised a disturbance at one of the train depots. Officer Jack Winters was called and quickly collared Kansas City Jack. But the bum was not one to go quietly as it was a “continual fight all the way from the depot to the station house.” In the course of their journey, the officer knocked Jack down “about twenty times and was about tuckered out when he reached the jail.” His neat, clean police uniform was reduced to shreds as the officer arrived at the police station wearing “only a pair of shoes and a tired looking countenance.” This, according to the Globe, was “the sort of struggle every officer is reported to have who arrests Kansas City Jack.”

After he was processed and released, Jack did not stay out of trouble. At two o’clock in the afternoon, Deputy Marshal Fones discovered some bums were passing liquor through the jail window to prisoners inside the jail. Upon going outside, Fones found that Kansas City Jack was one of the main culprits. After a struggle, and Deputy Marshal Fone’s pants being destroyed in the process, Jack was back in jail.

If Fones expected the rest of the day to go smoothly, he was wrong. At five o’clock that afternoon, while Fones was talking to a friend on Main Street between Second and Third streets, a little boy named Ira Chubb ran up and told him that prisoners were escaping from the city jail. Fones, together with Officer Winters and Deputy Constable Hopkins, took off in hot pursuit. Their chase was made all the easier by a group of young boys who were following the escapees. The prisoners were captured at Third and Byers. Upon inspecting the jail, it was discovered that one of the prisoners was a “mechanical genius” who had managed to unlock the jail door using only a simple wire.

There was never a dull moment in early Joplin!

The Lawyers

The scene of undoubtedly many a colorful exchange between Joplin's lawyers. It later burned to the ground.

We have covered desperados, sinful sirens, and other ne’er do wells in the past. We have yet, however, to discuss the lawyers who were called upon to defend their clients over the years. There are biographical sketches of many judges and lawyers in the various Jasper County histories, but nothing quite brings the local bar to life like the address the Honorable John H. Flanigan delivered before the Jasper County Bar Association on March 1, 1941, the one hundredth anniversary of the Jasper County Circuit Court. Although we cannot reprint the entire speech in its entirety, we can share some of the more colorful stories he related to his audience.

One of the most vivid tales Flanigan shared was one that he had heard from the venerable Samuel McReynolds:

“One of the old time lawyers in Carthage was Bill Green. He died in the State Hospital [Insane Asylum] at Nevada. For years before his confinement there his mind had been failing, but the failure was so gradual that many were unaware of his condition. Samuel McReynolds told me that on one occasion his firm had been requested by a law book concern to make collection of an account against Bill Green. The firm was unable to make the collection and thus the matter stood until one day a salesman from the law book concern called at the office of McReynolds & Halliburton on a sales trip. Learning that the Green account had not been paid, he asked Judge McReynolds if there was any objection to his undertaking to collect. McReynolds agreed that the salesman might try it.

In a few minutes, the salesman came back white as a sheet and quivering like an aspen leaf. He said:

‘Mr. McReynolds, I have had a perfectly horrible experience. I went up the stairs, found Mr. Green’s door, walked in, and found a very large man lying full-length on the floor. The floor was covered with papers and documents. The man had a large past pot on the floor and a paste brush in his hand. Without preliminary, the man said, “This is my filing system. For years I have been unable to find lost papers. Now I take a paper, put paste on it with this brush, slap it on the wall and there it is until the end of time. I am going to patent this invention.”

He then rose to his full height and asked me to state my business. I told him I had come to collect the account. Green had a peculiar glitter in his eye. He said, “Sir, I am possessed of supa’ powers. You see this long knife with its keen blade. With this knife I am able, sir, to separate your head from your body, remove your head, place it on the floor, and replace it on your shoulders without injury to you, and sir, I am going to perform that miracle on you right now.” I don’t care if we never collect that account.’

According to Flanigan, “Tom Connor [of Connor Hotel fame] disliked Judge Malcolm G. McGregor, but said he was willing to trust McGregor to decide any case because, ‘Even though he is a damned Scotchman, he is absolutely honest.’”  He added that when McGregor arrived in Jasper County, he had walked from Ft. Scott, Kansas, to Lamar. After taking a brief rest, he walked the rest of the way from Lamar to Carthage.

Judge John C. Price, it was recalled, had a fondness for alcohol and tobacco. Flanigan said of Price, “When he was riding the circuit he would retire at night in the primitive hotels of the period, a giant ‘chaw’ of tobacco clamped in his jaw. When seized with the desire to expectorate he would spit a steam of tobacco juice straight in the air above his head and would then quickly draw the covers over his head so that they might catch the fall, thus ‘saving his face.’”

Once Al Thomas was participating in a trial at Carthage and, as usual, “shouted his argument in penetrating tones that carried far beyond the court house square.” His opponent in the courtroom that day, Lon Cunningham, stood up and replied:

“Gentlemen of the jury, I read an article in the encyclopedia which interested me very much. It stated that some scientists had gone to the upper reaches of the Amazon far into the jungles of South America to find out what sort of animal was capable of making a tremendous noise described to them by the natives who reported that when this noise was heard the cockatoos and the wild bird would fly from their perch and flit from tree to tree, hyenas would take to the deep undergrowth, and panthers would retreat to their dens. After weeks of search[ing], the source of this noise was found. It was a harmless beetle which made the noise by the tremendous beating of its wings. This noise was the beetle’s only defense against attack. Al Thomas reminds me of that beetle. He is all noise and noise is his only defense.”

Cunningham was also known for winning a court case over water pressure. One of the parties in the case was required to provide enough water pressure that a stream of water would reach the fourth floor of the Keystone Hotel. Cunningham argued that the contract was invalid because of the required water pressure was not provided. In closing arguments, Cunningham recalled that growing up on the family farm, he remembered boys would “usually gather around a large apple tree behind the barn and each in turn would attempt with Nature’s own water pressure to throw a stream to reach the big limb of the apple tree.” According to Cunningham, he knew from experience “there were boys in the family who could furnish more pressure than the defendant had furnished under its contract.”

Perhaps in 2041, we’ll be greeted with just as colorful recollections of today’s lawyers.

Joplin’s Mining Queen

“All Joplinites who remember the palmy days of ’90, ’91, and ’92 will call to mind the exciting scenes and incidents of those times, and the prominent actors then upon the stage, which made this city the talk of the country,” the Globe recalled in 1897, upon learning that Mrs. M.C. Allen was to be committed to the state insane asylum in Nevada, Missouri.

Mrs. M.C. Allen, Joplin’s “Mining Queen,” was a conspicuous figure in local society. In 1889, after divorcing her husband, she arrived in Joplin from Indiana. As part of her alimony agreement she received a one hundred acre tract of land near Blendville. In a short time, she leased the land to Frank, Harry, and John Snyder. Together, the Snyder brothers developed the land into a profitable mining operation. It was reported that in 1890, 1891, and 1892 the Snyders paid Mrs. Allen $42,000 in royalties.

Allen, however, was ambitious. In 1893, she earned the sobriquet “Mining Queen” when she “took possession of the tract herself and operated it successfully for a period of fifteen months, during which time her income from her operations was from $500 to $600 per month.” Allen bore her new nickname with “such regal extravagance as to excite both natives and visitors alike.”

Mrs. Allen began to indulge in the purchase of “blooded horses” and “imported dogs.” She paid for $50 photographic portraits of her dogs, reserved the finest lodgings at local hotels, and began dabbling in wheat speculation with Frank Snyder. But the good times came to an end when the bottom fell out of the wheat market and both Allen and Snyder were financially ruined. Her one hundred acre tract of land was mortgaged in Kansas City for $5,500 and mortgaged a second time in Crawfordsville, Indiana, for an additional $1,800. The mining land was gobbled by investors from Minnesota for a mere pittance. When the dust cleared, Mrs. Allen was left with $1,000.

Dissolute, Allen moved first to Kansas City, then later to St. Louis where she opened a boarding house. But she could not forget her glory days in Joplin and returned, determined to rebuild her fortune. “Sickness and mental troubles” took their toll on Allen, however, brought upon by “the constant brooding over her losses.” Her despair caused her to hallucinate and lash out violently, despite being cared for with “a kindness and sympathy which her unfortunate situation fully justifies.”

It was determined that she should be sent to the state insane asylum at Nevada. When she arrived in Nevada, the Nevada Mail reported the following story:

“A pathetic incident occurred when Mrs. Allen of Joplin was brought to the asylum to be confided. She had been a woman of wealth, which had been dissipated with a lavish hand. Among her acquisitions was an imported dog which had been procured and trained at great expense…When the unfortunate was brought by her friends and an officer to this house of refuge for the mentally afflicted, her faithful dog accompanied the party.

She did not want to depart from her canine companion, and the mute appeal of the dumb animal to be permitted to stay with her was touching. [Asylum] Superintendent Robinson’s kind heart was moved…he permitted the little fellow to become an inmate and it occupies the room with its mistress, as faithful in companionship, loyal in love, and devoted to his friend as in the days of her luxury and social prominence…”

Thus was the end of Joplin’s first “Mining Queen.”

Check Out Views of the Asylum here.

Creepy book of drawings by an asylum inmate here.

A Joplin Football Outing

By the 1890′s, both Joplin and Carthage had been bit by the football bug. Naturally, the two engaged in an intercity rivalry with teams from one traveling to play the other. In the above, the Joplin team has engaged a “four horse tallyho” to carry them to the proverbial battle ground, a field located on the east side of Main Street between Sixteenth and Seventeenth Streets. It was known as the Joplin Bicycle Track. It’s unknown if the local boys won the match, but we’ll just assume so. After all, their opponents WERE from CARTHAGE.

Source: Joplin Daily Globe.