Joplin Metro Magazine: Issue 4 Volume 2

This month’s issue of the Joplin Metro Magazine has a number of Joplin history related articles.  First is a profile of Hannah Simpson, who is selling postcards printed with images of familiar iconic and historic signs of Joplin to benefit the Trees for Joplin Fund.  Next in the issue is the cover story, photographs of a number of Joplin landmarks relating to nearly every decade of Joplin’s history with brief histories.  The topics range from the Inn at Reddings Mill to Junge Field, as well as such familiar buildings as the Scottish Rite Cathedral.  Lastly, the issue wraps up its Joplin-centric history with a piece on the Mo-Kan Dragway.

For those interested, the Joplin Metro Magazine can be found about town, published by the Globe, and online here.

Vote for Cunningham Park in Coca-Cola’s Live Positively Park Contest!

Joplin is currently engaged in a fierce voting contest. If you haven’t heard yet, Coca-Cola is presently running a contest under the banner of Live Positively, in which one park can win $100,000 grant toward improvements. To win in this contest, supporters must go to the Coca-Cola website (Here’s a link) and vote for the park of choice. You can vote as many times as you wish, the more the better! Presently, Cunningham Park is in 3rd place. Coca-Cola has had a long relationship with Joplin, as it opened a bottling factory in Joplin more than a century ago and still calls the original building home. It’d be fantastic to see this partnership continued by Cunningham Park winning the $100,000 grant.

A photograph of Coca-Cola's home in Joplin not long after it opened.

If you have a minute, an hour, or a whole day, please visit this link and vote away for Cunningham Park! The contest ends September 6, so time is quickly counting down. For those facebook fans, here’s a facebook page promoting the vote for Cunningham Park.

Hi-Ki, Joplin’s “Wild Man”

W.H. Evans

Over the years Joplin saw its share of curiosities. In her book, Tales from Joplin, Evelyn Milligan Jones recounted the story of the “Man Horse.” According to Jones, the Man Horse was an individual who believed he was a horse and could often be seen “charging down the street pulling his own buggy. He had his boots shod with horseshoes, and sometimes ate hay from the back of his wagon, or grass at the roadside.”

Just as a real horse would, the Man Horse would “shy at a blowing piece of paper and run wild for a few blocks.” Regrettably, Jones has little else to say about Man Horse, nor did she divulge his real name. Man Horse was only one of a handful of characters to roam the streets of Joplin.

Another colorful character that Jones recounted was “Nigger” Evans. Joplin composer Percy Weinrich remembered him as the “big man who used to roam the alleys and byways of Joplin in his trash wagon.” Mothers would tell their children, “If you don’t behave, Nigger Evans will get you!” Evans inspired such fear that the Joplin Elks “dressed him up in a leopard suit, and provided him with a whole haunch of meat which he flourished like a club, pausing only to gnaw at the raw meat now and then as he marched along. Children who saw this had wilder nightmares than TV can inspire.”

But there was more to “Nigger” Evans than just a crude racial caricature. His real name was W.H. Evans and he made his living in Joplin as a “city scavenger.” As he made his way through the streets of Joplin, Evans stood out due to his extreme size: He was six feet eight inches tall, weighed 350 pounds, and wore a size 15 shoe.

A native of Cairo, Illinois, Evans was born to slave parents. According to Evans, his father “stole his mother from Alabama and then ran off to sea.” As soon as he was grown, Evans joined the Ninth United States Cavalry, where he served for five years. He later worked as a railroad brakeman in Texas. It was during this time in his life that he killed a fellow African American with his fists, ending his ambition to become a prizefighter. Despite his past, Evans found employment with the Barnum and Wallace circuses as “Hi-Ki the Wild Man.”

Barnum circus barkers would cry out to curious crowds:

“Hi-Ki, the flesh-eating wild man. Species of Cuban negro. Captured forty-two miles south of Manila by a group of American soldiers. Cannot understand a word of English. The only one in captivity.” For those brave enough to view “Hi-Ki” they entered a tent and saw Evans seated in a cage chewing on a piece of raw beefsteak handed to him through the bars with a pitchfork.

When asked about his days in the circus, Evans opined, “Barnum was a little off when he said the American people like to be humbugged. It is not because they want to be humbugged that makes them pay out their money, but it is their desire to learn and see something they never saw before. The American people ain’t afraid to invest in anything if it’s new.”

After he left the circus, Evans settled in Joplin where he owned “several thousand dollars’ worth of property besides a farm of 120 acres in Texas and town lots in Palestine and Bremond.” In Joplin he was known as a “wonder of the people of his home town and the ‘bogy-man’ of the little children.”

Evans was enough of a local fixture in Joplin that in 1896, his name was put before the Republican county convention as candidate for coroner, but his name was withdrawn from voting, and he left the convention hall in disgust.

Evans claimed, “They hadn’t more’n got half way through voting when some Republican gets up and says that if they elect me as coroner and the sheriff dies, they’d have a nigger sheriff. Then he went on and talked about what he called ‘wisdom.’ and then they quit voting. Then I told them what I thought about the Republicans. There wasn’t no money in the job then anyway, just empty honors.” Evans later joined the Democratic Party.

He explained to a reporter, “If old Abraham Lincoln could come back to this country again he would say the same thing about the Republicans and would run them all out. The Republicans just use the negro as a tool to be held up and hammered and they are doing the negroes in the south more harm now than anybody else by arraying them against the best friends they’ve got down there. No, sir, I’m a Democrat, and I expect to help fight for the Democrats, even if I did go down to defeat twice with [William Jennings] Bryan.”

Evans believed “everybody ought to take part in politics. If a man is honest and his character unimpeached, he should have consideration. But it’s all a manipulating scheme, and the feller that gets elected goes off with the cream.”

At the time Evans made his statement, Democrats were considered the party of “wets,” which is to say those who were against prohibition. Curiously he declared:

“But some of these white folks around here ain’t much fitting to govern themselves. I has always been an anti-prohibitionist, though I never drank nor used tobacco, except I drank a little whisky for medicinal purposes but that don’t do much good. But I’m going to vote for the prohibitionists this time. The other night I saw thirty-six men with buckets over their shoulders drinking beer in a saloon at one time. Then they do something and blame the other feller for it. Whisky in, wit out. I wouldn’t say a word if they was the only ones hurt, but more of them fellers had wives and children at home. Yes, I’m going to vote for the prohibitionists this year.”

For a man who wore a leopard suit, Evans viewed the world with a far more serious perspective than many whites may have assumed and refused to acquiesce to the image of a mere wild man.

Joplin Live Wire: Richard Fedeli, Joplin’s Paper and Paint Man

Our next installment of the Joplin Live Wire series is Richard Fedeli. Fedeli, the son of an Italian Immigrant, was born in Indiana around 1877. He arrived in Joplin in 1909, previously from Kansas City, where he had connections with the business of Devoe and Reynolds (a paint company still in existence). In Joplin, Fedeli rose to the rank of treasurer and secretary at the Joplin Paint and Paper Company. Concerning painting, itself, Fedeli told a reporter from the Joplin Daily Globe, “We shall sell paint and let the other fellow do the painting.”

Richard Fedeli Joplin Paper and Paint Company
Although Fedeli was recognized as a rising star of Joplin’s community, he returned to Kansas City by 1920. He remained there until at least 1930, where the former corporate officer had fallen to the position of a salesman of brushes, perhaps paint brushes. The Joplin Paint and Paper Company also disappeared, but once was found at 418 Joplin Ave.

Powers Museum Needs Your Help

The Powers Museum of Carthage needs your help. Recently, the museum’s air condition system had a near catastrophic failure. The result is that only the main gallery and library are receiving air conditioning, while the storage area of the museum, home to many of the museum’s most valuable and climate sensitive items, is not.

As noted in the above linked Joplin Globe article, never in the museum’s 24 years has it requested public help, but the cost of replacing the faltering system is more than the museum’s usual sources of funding can support. Repairs are not an option, unfortunately, as the company which makes the needed parts is now out of business.

The Director of the Powers Museum, Michelle Hansford, stated in the Globe article, “Powers Museum has never solicited the community for operational or maintenance support before, but now we need their help to make this repair possible. Any gift, no matter what size, will be used for this purpose. At this point, anything would be appreciated.”

If you have never been to the Powers Museum, it is definitely worth a visit and a fine example of what a local history museum should be. Please show your support for local history and make whatever donation you can to help preserve Jasper County’s history.

First Church of Christ Scientists For Sale!

A drive past the intersection of 16th and Wall Street will take you by the First Church of Christ Scientist Church completed in 1906 and now the home of Faith Fellowship. A quick glance will also reveal a for sale sign next to the stately house of worship. It’s not often that 106 year old buildings in Joplin go up for sale, much less one that is a church. We took a few quick snapshots of the church and for those interested to learn a little more about the property, you can find the church’s listing right here.

Meet John C. Cox

Considered a “father” of Joplin, and one of its earliest settlers, John Cox, a North Carolina native, made his way to Missouri and settled near Turkey Creek around 1838. He never left and the rest is history. Below is Cox and his wife, Sarah Ann Mercer.

John Cox and wife, Sarah Mercer.

Joplin’s First Photograph

While it is debatable when the first photograph was taken in Joplin, one argument stands for a portrait taken by G.W. Phillips in his New Blue Gallery, located near to the post office in East Joplin in July, 1873.  Phillips’ studio may at least be the first photo studio opened in the newly established mining town.  Featured in the photograph are Nina and Della Chattelle and D.K. Wenrich.  In addition to the honor of being his first patrons, the girls might have even gotten a discount, as Phillips was boarding at their home at the time.


Dining at the Connor: 1923

Another in our “Where to Eat Should You Time Travel Back to Joplin” series brings a menu from the Connor hotel in June, 1923.  A little more accessible than the previous menu from the House of Lords, this time period marks the era when the Connor was the undisputed place to stay when visiting Joplin or passing through.  In her lobby passed all famous men and women and below are a few things they might have enjoined at the Connor’s restaurant.


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.