James Sharp, commonly known as cult leader “Adam God,” once called Joplin home.
Born in Lebanon, Missouri, in 1857, Sharp styled himself as a “traveling evangelist.” He was never very successful, however, and in 1908 was living in Kansas City, Missouri, on a houseboat with less than thirty followers. The group, which included several children, was out proselytizing on the streets of Kansas City when a police officer (some accounts say probation officer) questioned one of the adults why the children were not in school. James Sharp, angered by the officer’s questions, bellowed “I am Adam God, father of Jesus Christ,” demanded the officer to leave, then struck him on the head with the butt of a revolver. The officer, sensing trouble and outnumbered, went to a nearby police station.
Sharp, enraged by the altercation, marched his band of followers to the police station where they sang. Crowds began to gather and watch the curious proceedings. Sharp waved a revolver and a knife while yelling, “We’ll show these sheep thieves. We’ll sing in front of the station. Let them dare to stop the father of Jesus Christ.”
A police officer, Albert Dalbow, was sent out to quieten the unruly group. He ordered Sharp in to the station to meet with a police sergeant. When ordered to drop his knife and revolver, Sharp went nuts. The street fight that ensued would become known as the “Adam God Riot.” Officer Dalbow, Officer Michael Mullane, two of Sharp’s followers, and an innocent bystander paying his utility bill were killed when Sharp’s group opened fire.
Sharp and his remaining followers fled. One woman was killed as she and others tried to escape in a rowboat on the half-frozen Missouri River. Sharp was found a few days later hiding in a haystack by a farmer who called the police. Sharp’s hands had been pierced by bullets. Disturbingly, one of the children, when questioned by police remarked, “When a policeman tried to stop us our religion teaches us that we have the right to shoot and kill.”
Sharp was arrested, tried, and convicted of second degree murder with a 25 year sentence. Sharp was paroled 14 years and 7 months later in 1924 and it was at that time that he and his wife, Melissa, moved to Joplin.
A few years later, in 1926, he was arrested in Joplin for “chasing and frightening children at the Alcott School.” Sharp was described as 70 years old, with a long flowing white beard. He claimed he chased the children because they called him “Santa Claus.”
James Sharp lived in Joplin until 1946, when he died from dancing a vigorous jig at the corner of Seventh and Main streets, despite his constant claim that he would “live forever.” He would jig in an attempt to draw a crowd to listen to his street preaching. He lived at 2430 Adele Street in Joplin, and referred to himself as “Reverend” although the paper noted that he did not have following.
When he died in 1946, Melissa Sharp told the Globe that “We’ll just quietly put him away.” Which she did. He was buried “without a prayer or religious service and without music or flowers” in Osborne Memorial Cemetery. A small group of 18 friends of the Sharps witnessed the burial and then Mrs. Sharp was driven home. Thus came the end to James Sharp.
Source: Joplin Globe