A.J. Blackwell Strikes Again!

Drawing of A.J. "Bear Fighting" Blackwell

Drawing of A.J. "Bear Fighting" Blackwell in his later years.

In one of our previous posts, A.J. “Bear Fighting” Blackwell was mentioned. Blackwell, one of the earliest residents of Joplin, built the first opera house in Joplin. After serving a sentence for counterfeiting in the Missouri State Penitentiary, he left Missouri and founded the town of Blackwell, Oklahoma. He became a wealthy and well known figure who lived an interesting life.

According to an article from a Blackwell newspaper, Blackwell was accused of “periodical insanity and one of these spells is upon him.” For the last few days “he has been terrorizing the entire city and community with his threats, and being heavily armed continuously, it is a question as to what he might do.” Prior to his illness, he had Miss Effie Widick, a Blackwell school teacher, arrested for punishing one of his children. She was acquitted, but Blackwell was not satisfied. He traveled to Wichita, Kansas, in an attempt to have her indicted in U.S. federal court.

The news report claimed, “He once stood off a mob of negro haters with a Winchester and incurred the enmity of nearly the entire citizenship, which finally succeeded in ridding the town of the black race.”

Blackwell proclaimed that he was a member of every church in town and “has been dead twice and returned to life to warn the people to join as many churches as possible.” In the meantime, “he drives up and down the streets, hooting and yelling like an Indian, waving firearms and even defying the officers.”

Despite his insanity, Blackwell had somehow managed to invest in a coal company and direct coal to be shipped from Chelsea, Indian Territory to Blackwell.

When he died in 1903, his obituary failed to mention his bouts of “insanity.”

Source: Joplin News Herald


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