He Knew the West As It Was – Lovell McCown

Lovell McCown - 1836 - 1911

Lovell McCown, He knew the West as it was.

Around the turn of the 20th Century and for a few decades after, a particular type of obituary could be found in the Joplin papers.  They were articles that noted the passing of one of the city’s pioneer citizens.  The pioneers were the men and women who first settled the area that became modern day Joplin and the eulogies often played up the hard conditions and hard pasts of these individuals.  In September, 1911, one such pioneer was Lovell McCown.

McCown’s pioneering past began approximately in 1838, when as a 2 year old, his parents moved their family across the Cumberland mountains to the Ohio River.  There they floated down the river to the Mississippi, where they then took a wagon to Independence, Missouri.  At age 17, the young pioneer set off seek his fortunes across the Western Plains to eventually participate in the California Gold Rush.  He later found success as a gold producer.  Sometime not long after on a freighting trip, McCown purportedly participated in a battle with Cheyenne Indians in the vicinity of the Big Sandy river.  The battle arose when Cheyenne warriors spot McCown and his fellow travelers and quickly amassed a number of over 500.  Thus outnumbering the “pale faces” by a margin of 5 to 1, the fight commenced.

In the battle, which McCown received a Indian lance to the leg, and at one point he was close to being brained by Indian clubs before rescued by his fellow travelers.  They eventually managed to fight off the attackers through superior firepower.  It was a battle, the obituary noted, that lasted for hours with an untold number of Cheyenne warriors slain.  Even after, the defeated Indians trailed the survivors for days.  More than half of the obituary concerned itself with the battle with the Cheyenne and offered little to McCown’s life in Joplin, which amounted to the last 27 years of his life.  It may well be that it was a story that McCown loved to tell and thus was essentially known for.

He succeeded in wrapping himself in the stories of the Old West, as for when the 75 year old passed away, the newspaper obituary began so:

“Death came unexpectedly to Lovell McCown of 710 Hill street, East Joplin, and in his taking away Joplin lost a pioneer citizen, who knew the West as it was in the early days, when buffalo and Indians roamed the plains and when the life of the frontiersman was fraught with continuous perils.”

Source: Joplin News Herald

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