To Cure Evils: The Joplin Automobile Club

The founding members of the Joplin Auto Club met at the meeting room of the Joplin Commercial Club located at the Club Theatre.


“To cure evils,” was the purpose of the establishment of the Joplin Automobile Club, a branch of the Southwest Missouri Association. In the February of 1911, the city of Joplin was faced with the new problems and dangers of a populace that increasingly turned toward motorized travel in the streets. In response, the city attorney, W.M. Andrews, oversaw a crack down on motor vehicle violations with a veritable flood of arrests and fines. Outrage was immediate. In the quarters of the city’s Commercial Club “bankers, doctors, lawyers and businessmen,” the elite who could afford automobile ownership, demanded answers from Andrews. Andrews, in turn, was blunt. Fourth Street, the city prosecutor decried, had turned into a race track and “only miracles have prevented deaths as a result of fast and reckless driving.”

At issue was a city ordinance which required illuminated numbers on cars to help Joplin’s police department identify and arrest offenders. A number of owners complained that the length of their car identification numbers made adherence an impracticality. Andrews, however, was undeterred and argued of the dangerous driving, “This must be stopped. If there are no numbers on the machines how can an office detect the guilty parties? Within the past two weeks there have been several people injured by autos, and in one instance a woman and two children were thrown from a buggy.” In compromise, Andrews stated that adherence within ten days would result in a dismissal of charges and fines. Unsurprisingly, this was well received.

Taken sometime after 1908, this photo reveals that at least 3 years before the creation of the Joplin Automobile Club, Main Street was still mainly a place of horse and buggy.


The car owners were not without a sense of responsibility for their machines of a new century. The Joplin Automobile Club was only part of a series of clubs created throughout Jasper County, with additional clubs associated with the other towns of the county. Approximately 100 men joined that February with the expectation that membership would grow as word and knowledge of its existence spread.

Two weeks later, the men gathered again to elect officers. Taylor Snapp was voted president, Fred Basom and Victor Young, vice-presidents, A.H. Waite treasurer and W.M. Pye, secretary. At the same meeting, the club voted to create reward money for the arrest and conviction of individuals who sought to ruin the enjoyment and lives of car owners. $100 for a car thief, $25 for someone stealing a part of a car, $10 for anyone who cut a tire or threw rocks at a car or its occupants. Interestingly, the club also voted to encourage a crack down on teamsters, who “persist in taking the entire road and who refuse to permit automobiles to pass” in violation of state law. It was Snapp, in this capacity as president who later spoke for the club after a car accident resulted in the creation of Joplin’s first motorcycle police officer. In short, however, the Joplin Automobile Club came into existence as a means for mostly wealthy men to protect their interests in the new and expensive world of car ownership. The distinction of car ownership would fade eventually with the production of cars affordable by all, such as the Ford Model T.

A History of the Joplin Union Depot – Part V

Catch up on the previous installments of the history of the Joplin Union Depot here: Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.

Despite the progress made in December of 1910, work came to a sudden stop in the first week of January 1911 due to a snap of extreme cold weather.  The approximate forty men at work on the depot building had to lay down their tools and watch the skies for better weather.  The stop was short, however, and by the end of the month work was well on its way.  1/6th of the grading was left to be completed with only an estimated 25,000 yards of dirt remaining to be used to flatten the depot yards.  Already 125,000 yards of fill dirt had been brought to the depot, mainly from cuts made by the Kansas City Southern between Joplin and Saginaw.

The hills and hollows of the Kansas City Bottoms were filled in or leveled off to create the needed flat surface for the depot's many tracks.

By the end of February, it was believed that the permanent track would soon be laid.  At the start of March, the Joplin Daily Globe offered a glowing update on the Depot and at the same time, offered insight into how much the Depot meant to the people of Joplin.  The paper elaborated on how a depot represents a city to the growing number of rail travelers, that in effect, the depot was the face of the community.  The paper went on to describe the depot nearing completion:

“Few residents of Joplin fully appreciate the magnitude of the new union passenger depot, now rapidly nearing completion at the corner of First and Main Streets. Its location at the foot of a gently sloping hill, some 100 yards from the intersection of the streets, combines with the style of its architecture to make it appear smaller than it really is.

The building is 300 feet long and 80 feet wide. These dimensions are more significant when it is remembered that 300 feet is the length of a city block….Built of reinforced concrete throughout, the depot is absolutely fireproof, and its walls are thick enough to bear the weight of several additional stories if they should be desired.

The interior of the building is provided with every convenience that has yet been devised for the benefit of the traveling public. The structure is divided into three general parts, north and south wings, each 60 feet long, and the central section, 180 feet long. The wings are of one story only, while the central part, in which will be located the ticket office, general waiting rooms and other apartments, is of two stories, with a rectangular opening in the second floor. The general arrangement of the depot is very much similar to that of the union depot in St. Louis, although the interior is more beautifully decorated than its larger counterpart.”

The article also noted the presence of more waiting rooms, lavatories, check rooms, ticket offices, and even a “great dining hall, 30 by 60 feet in extreme dimensions…”  More so the paper proudly stated, “Nowhere in the country can there be found a depot site that offers greater opportunities for artistic effort.”  The Globe wrapped up its article, “It is simply this – that when seven great railroads decide to spend a million dollars improving their facilities in a city, there must be something decidedly attractive about the city’s future…And Joplin will soon have an entirely new “face” to show strangers who ride the trains past her gates.”

At the same time, high ranking officials from the Santa Fe Railroad visited the depot site.  A vice president of the company was quoted, “I have heard so much regarding the Joplin depot that I was anxious to see it…”  The article noted that the vice-president was pleased with the depot, its progress, and its location, which would serve as a stop for the railroad on its way south to Arkansas.

The depot nearing completion in March, 1911.

The end of March raised expectations that the depot would be finished early.  The filling of yards had been practically completed and work was underway for the installation of a round house approximately 100 yards northeast of the depot.  The house would have three or four stalls, a “small affair” the Joplin News Herald noted before describing the turn table to be installed with it.  The turn table, the paper described, “will bear up the largest engine that travels on any road in the United States.”  Technologically advanced, the table would be turned by machinery, not by hand.  Inside the depot building, meanwhile, carpenters were busy with wood work that was to have a “mission finish” and, “like the rest of the building, is artistic.”

“Let the eagle scream in Joplin,” announced a member of the City’s council in April, upon a motion to hold a celebration to recognize the completion of the Depot on the Fourth of July.  In connection to the decision of the City Council, Mayor Jesse F. Osborne appointed a committee to work with the city’s Commercial Club on planning the gala.  A ball, it was believed, should be held that night inside the depot with officials from every railroad invited to attend while a celebration at Cunningham Park earlier in the day to celebrate the nation’s anniversary.  Curiously, an article on the matter refers that it was not the custom of the city, but surrounding cities, to hold such celebrations on the Fourth.

April did not pass without some mishap on the depot construction site.  The first problem arose at the moment when the construction company believed the depot building virtually finished.  It was then that they realized that either their construction or the design of the depot had failed to include space for the extremely important telegraph operators.  As a result, two rooms were quickly added to either side of the ticket offices which required, “workmen…tearing out big slices from the side of the concrete structure…”  These slices were not the last.  It was not until this moment that it was discovered that the two big doors for the large baggage room had been built on the wrong side of the depot building.  As a result, new doors had to be built into the building lest “teamsters would have been forced to risk their lives in driving over the railroad tracks at the east side of the depot.”

Hastily, doors had to be relocated from the south side of the depot to the north.

With construction otherwise subsiding, thought was finally given to the preparations of the grounds of the depot.  The churned soil, “a sea of red clay, sticky as fish glue,” would soon be transformed into flower beds and grass plots.  The excavation of the hill upon which Main Street was to the west and Broadway to the south had resulted in an area described as “great amphitheater” and an article bragged, “This land…will probably be used for a depot park…” and believed that no other depot in the country compared for its potential to be developed.

The depot otherwise constructed, the News Herald took time to praise the unique application of local materials in its building, primarily “flint and limestone tailings secured from waste piles of several Joplin zinc and lead producers.”  Described as a “fitting monument to the successful efforts of the pioneers,” the concrete was deemed as hardy as a granite wall.  The paper noted that while concrete had been used to great effect for sidewalks, curbs, retaining walls, dams, and culverts, it had never in Joplin’s history been used to such an extent in a building before the depot.  Perhaps as motivation for future use, the article offered a recipe:

“Of the 22 parts in the concrete mixture used in constructing the station, 15 parts came from the Joplin mines, the exact formula being as follows: Mine tailings, 10 parts; Chitwood sand, 5 parts; River sand, 3 parts; Portland cement, 4 parts. Chitwood sand is the term used to describe the fine tailings from the sand jigs. In the mixture of the preparation for finishing the interior, the following formula is used: Portland cement, 2 parts; Chitwood sand, 2 parts; River sand, 1 part.”

The article noted that the best tailings for the project came from mines stratified with steel blue flint.  The paper also reminded the reader of how much the Kansas City Bottoms had been transformed by the depot’s construction, “The new station is built on filled in ground in a district which was a waste of sluggish waters, dotted with dense growths of willows.  For years this tract, of which 30 acres have been taken over by the Union Depot Co., was the city’s dumping ground.  A sickly stream, carrying filth of every kind, crawled through the swamp.  The Depot Co. has changed the course of this stream so that it no longer touches the station grounds.  Hundreds of carloads of boulders and dirt have been used as filler.”  Another, later article also extolled the depot which, “occupies a strip of filled in land that was an eyesore to the community for years.  The building of the station and the filling in of the old swamp has converted a weed-grown bottom land into a beautiful valley, level as the floor of a dance hall.  All the old swamps and marshes have been filled in, the course of Joplin creek changed so that it flows on the east side instead of the west side of the Kansas City Southern tracks, and when the grounds are finally finished and planted in blue grass, flowers and trees, they will be picturesque.” The landscape was forever changed and in the opinion of the people of Joplin, for the better.

By the end of construction of the Union Depot, much of the Kansas City Bottoms had been physically erased from the landscape of Jopin.

Then later in the month of May, the 19th, the first train was switched into the yards of the Depot, a string of work cars.  Despite the presence of the cars, the Depot’s yards were not yet ready to receive passenger cars, and as officials quickly pointed out, the honor of “first train” is given to the first passenger train.  The depot building was considered virtually complete, but contractors declared that the station would not be ready for a formal opening before July 1.  The main work left to complete was the laying of permanent rails, and amazingly, still more grading work.  Amongst the five railroads a growing rivalry had emerged to have the honor of the “first train” into the depot.  A week later, the depot building itself was considered completed.  By June 3, even the windows had been washed and the floors scrubbed and prepared for use.  The woodwork had been completed and “the walls have received their last coat and the brass and iron railings fitted in position.”  Depot officials bravely declared that the station would open on June 15.  Four days before the set date, an announcement was made, “Unforeseen delays have been met in the track construction work,” stated the President of the Kansas City Southern, J.A. Edson, and that, “It would be impossible to properly complete the tracks and station before July 1.” Unsurprisingly, it was also mentioned that the depot building itself still awaited its furnishings and fixtures that were on order.  Some furnishings had arrived in the form of furniture for the lunch room, such as kitchen cabinets, tables, and a “huge gas range of the regular restaurant type.”

Regardless of the delay, fifteen officials from the various railroads behind the depot met at the Connor Hotel.  The meeting was for the purpose of discussing the various contracts between the railroads and to discuss the details of the depot’s opening.  Station appointees had been made in the previous two weeks.  Shortly thereafter, it was reaffirmed that July 1st would be the opening day of the depot.  Comically, over a week later, it was realized that the Santa Fe railroad would not have a train available to enter the depot until July 15.  Accordingly, the official opening was postponed yet again to July 20.  However, the depot would accept trains before then.  In preparation for the celebration, former Missouri Governor David R. Francis was invited to be the guest speaker. And, like the continually shifting opening day, the invitation fell through when a telegram alerted the organizers of the celebration that Governor Francis had departed from St. Louis for the summer and would not return until fall.

Meanwhile, the Depot construction had spurred construction elsewhere.  Across the street from the depot on Main Street three buildings were under various states of construction.  J.C. Jackson was the owner of one and had erected a three story building at a cost of $20,000.  It was hoped the lower two floors would be home to a restaurant and the third a hotel.  On the north side of Jackson’s site, Charles W. Edwards owned a lot and planned to build a four story building.  The excitement of new buildings was quickly to be overshadowed by an even more exciting event back across the street.

One of many ads placed by the railroads in the Joplin newspapers to alert travelers of the pending opening of the depot.

On the night of July 1, 1911, and under the “fiery salute” of “skyrockets and torpedoes,” the headlight of Missouri, Kansas & Texas railroad train No. 83 “flashed around the curve at the north end of the depot” and pulled into the Union Depot at 10:30 pm (“exactly on schedule time”).  An engineer, perhaps P.J. Nagle, responded with a tug on the steam whistle which shrilled to the cheers of over 2,500 spectators.  The Katy Railroad had secured the honor of being the first train into the union depot.  Crowds of railroad officials mingled together and shared welcomes and congratulations, while Joplinites “extended cordial greetings to the crew and passengers of the epoch-making train.”  An article conveyed the sensation of all present, “Everyone seemed to feel that he was personally concerned in the event and took a part in the celebration.”

The honor of the first tickets sold went to Mrs. A. McNabb, a wife of one of the depot telegraph operators, and then immediately after to H.A. Adams, a traveling salesman from Kanas City.  The event of the first tickets, which began approximately at 11 o’clock on Friday night, was retold a day later by the News Herald, “Both were anxious to secure the first ticket, but Dave Joseph, ticket agent, with the wisdom of old King Solomon, divided the honors by passing out the two tickets at the same instant.  He shoved one over the counter with his right hand, the other with his left.”

The day before the arrival the Depot had been a scene of organized chaos as depot employees and officials had moved into offices and set to work preparing for business.  Amongst them were most likely employees of Brown Hotel & News Company, such as F.P. Leigh, the general manager, who was in charge of running the dining room and lunch counter.  Leigh was also assisted by a “corps of pretty girls.”  Meanwhile, the formal opening was currently set for July 20, still.  The highly anticipated Fourth of July celebration had also failed to coalesce.  Officials in charge of Cunningham Park had protested the planned use of the park and the City Council immediately had surrendered.  Perhaps from unreported blow back, the park officials changed their minds, but the City Council’s chief proponent of the celebration, Councilman Phil Arnold, had resigned his place on the city’s planning committee and the idea of a Fourth of July celebration was unceremoniously set aside.

An important arrival at the Depot a week later was a new clock.  The Globe described the Chicago made timepiece: “The clock is seven feet high and will be run by compressed air, which will be made by a motor power.  It is said to be one of the finest clocks in any station in the west.”  Surprisingly, the location of the clock had yet to be decided and so the “enormous timepiece” was left crated for at least a day until the question of its location was decided.  The main furniture had arrived a week before the arrival of the first train.  A visitor to the Depot would have cast their gaze on beautiful Mission furniture described as such:

“…consignments of massive oak have already arrived and more is coming. This will be the heaviest and most attractive furniture in any depot in the Southwest…The lunch room has been furnished and is now waiting for the opening to begin work. It is fitted with an elliptical counter, at which can be seated nearly 200 persons. The table is covered with a heavy granite face, and the chairs are fitted with backs, and swing on a pivot…

In the office rooms desks of the mission style in dark oak are being placed in position…The furniture in the general waiting room is the first to attract attention. It is composed principally of heavy double settees, with high backs and heavy arms. These are also of the prevailing dark oak mission style, with the designating little double keystone which is in evidence in the architecture of the depot in all appropriate places.”

While preparations continued for the formal opening, such as the Missouri & Northern Arkansas planning special excursion trains to Joplin from as far as Seligman for the opening, other events were afoot.  One such event was the visit to the Depot of the president of the Missouri Pacific Railroad.  Dutifully impressed, the president implied that his railroad may abandon their old Joplin depot in lieu of the impressive Union Depot Station.

Finally, at 2:30 pm on July 20, 1911, a parade of Joplin’s finest began under a drizzling rain from the intersection of 20th and Main Street.  The procession was led by a vanguard of twenty mounted members of the Joplin Police Department with Joplin Police Chief Joe Myers and his assistant chief, Edward Portley at the front.  Planned to follow, though not noted in an article printed afterward, were members of Joplin’s labor unions, secret societies, and civic societies.  Among the noted was a procession of the city’s “fire automobiles” and more than thirty other automobiles set to carrying officials from the railroads.  Members of the Commercial Club were present, as were four cars with members of the South Joplin Business Men’s Club and another with officers of the Villa Heights Booster Club.

At the depot, many sought shelter from the rain inside and around the depot, Mayor Jesse Osborne and Frank L. Yale, president of the Commercial Club, made speeches.  Despite the wet summer day, Osborne spoke with enthusiasm of the depot’s construction, “The people of Joplin should congratulate themselves on securing even at this late day, a beautiful structure of this type.  It is not only a monument to the progressiveness of the railroads entering this city, but it is a striking example of the uses to which a waste product may be put…”  Yale followed Osborne and declared the depot impressive and the fulfillment of a “long felt want.”

From July 1, 1911 to November 4, 1969, the Union Depot served the city of Joplin.  Over the fifty-eight year span, it was at the depot that Joplin saw her fathers, brothers and sons depart and hopefully return from two world wars.  It was in the shade of the depot’s awnings that families bid farewell to friends and fellow family members who were departing for the wider world beyond Joplin’s city limits, and it was where they stood in eager anticipation for their return.  For a city that foresaw Joplin as a great metropolis positioned at the intersection of the Great American Plains, the Southern Ozarks, and the Southwest, it was one more proud achievement to count among its others.  It was one more step down a road to a brighter future.

In the March of 1949, the Kansas City Southern showed off its latest liner, the Southern Belle at the depot.  Just over twenty years later, it was the Southern Belle which pulled away, the final train to leave the Joplin Union Depot.  The following decades of the Twentieth Century were turbulent for the former pride of Joplin.  Only three years after its closing, the Depot’s first chance to become relevant again in the daily life of Joplin was lost when the City Council refused to renovate the building as a home to the Joplin Museum Complex in honor of the city’s 100th birthday.  Not long after, the depot was added to the National Register of Historic Places, an honor, but not a safeguard against demolition.

The depot next was passed from one speculative buyer to another, each espousing plans to put the building to use which inevitably always failed to materialize.  In the mid-1980’s, an attempt was made once again to renovate it, but it dissolved into lawsuits and accusations.  Finally, in the late 1990’s, the Department of Natural Resources bought the site.  It was not until approximately 2009 that for the first time the depot became the subject of serious discussion regarding renovation and restoration.  In 2010, City Manager, Mark Rohr, proposed a plan to use the depot as part of a north Main Street development, possibly as a new home to the Joplin Museum Complex (JMC).  Despite resistance from the boards overseeing the JMC, steps were taken toward this ultimate goal.  However, at the start of 2012, such talk has been replaced by more important and pressing matters that arose in the aftermath of May, 2011.  Until the time that they resume, the depot remains enclosed behind a chain link fence, waiting for a chance to once again become the pride of Joplin.

 

Twisters, Cyclones, and Tornadoes of Joplin’s Past: Part I

The tornado of May 22 was the worst to strike Joplin, but it was not the first.

In May, 1883, a tornado swept through Joplin and the news accounts of the event appear to echo recent events. Just this past week, a story about Laverne the cat, who was rescued after being trapped in the rubble after sixteen days aired on local news stations. In 1883, Charley Elliott’s dog was “in his store building when it fell. He was dug out next morning pretty badly bruised, but after a few hours he was alright. There were acts of generosity. E.R. Moffett, who would later die impoverished, walked up to an “old friend who he had worked with before he became a millionaire. ‘Crit, I’m damned sorry, I’m sorry $500,” and then gave a five hundred dollar check to the relief fund. Citizens scrambled to help each other. Judge Byers was “constantly busy distributing supplies to the needy who lost their all by the wild winds.” Doctors Fannie Williams and Mrs. Creech did “good work for the suffering ladies who were injured” during the storm. Miss Fannie Hall of Carthage gave her all to assist the suffering at the hospital. Oronogo, also hard hit by the storm, was the focus of a relief committee made up of some of Joplin’s leading socialites: Mrs. L.P. Cunningham, Mrs. J.B. Sergeant, Mrs. J.C. Gaston, and Mrs. Thomas Heathwood. Together these women sought to collect food, clothing, and bedding for those effected by the storm.

For others, the tornado brought excitement and curiosity. The Daily Herald remarked, “Some of the visitors Monday night seemed to regard the occasion in the light of a picnic. Frivolities and flirtations were engaged in that would have been regarded impudent at a circus. No apparent sympathy was exhibited for the crippled, bereaved, and homeless, while silly children took the place of sober sense.” Sightseers came to stare at a “bushel basket that lodged in the top of a large tree near the railroad track.” Telegraph poles at the train depot reportedly looked like “they had passed through a storm of musketry.”

And then there were those that lost their lives. Preliminary reports reported that the bodies of a Mr. Goodwin and his daughter were killed by the tornado. It is unknown how many others lost their lives.

The next significant tornado to hit Joplin was in April, 1902. The News-Herald proclaimed it was, “[The] Worst That Joplin Has Known.” A wind, hail, and rain storm converged upon Joplin around 4:25 p.m. in the afternoon in an area described as covering “Seventh Street on the north and as far as Seventeenth Street on the south” with the worst areas at Moffett and Bird streets from Thirteenth to Sixteenth streets and at Moonshine Hill. Property along Main and Ninth streets received substantial damage.

The News-Herald reporter must have not known about the Tornado of 1883 as they declared, “As Joplin has never experienced a real tornado, the people were unprepared and as it came upon them so unexpectedly, it as a wonder that more fatalities are not recorded.” Telephone and trolley poles were twisted beyond recognition making communication with neighboring communities impossible. Streetcars were unable to run due to the lack of electricity and piles of debris covering the tracks. One car caught at Twelfth and Main, Car Number 41, was struck by a telephone pole. Passengers inside were “thoroughly frightened and several actually said their prayers.” Strong wind was not the only threat to human lives. The pole was described as having fifteen double cross arms with three large cables and several hundred telephone wires. Workers roped off the street to prevent traffic and pedestrians from going near the car. Passengers shakily disembarked and walked home on foot.

Illustration of the damage from the tornado.

A “solid sheet of water, besides some hail” fell, causing people to hide inside their homes. Willow Branch, the Tenth Street branch, and other small streams in and around Joplin began to flood, leaving many to seek dry ground as the streams became “turbulent torrent[s] of water, mud, and wreckage.”

The storm indiscriminately took human lives and property. It was reported that the two room house of William Hunter, who lived on the east side of Moonshine Hill, was carried for a long distance before it shattered. Mrs. Hunter, holding her baby Esther in her arms, was about to flee the house when the storm hit. A plank of wood flew past and hit her child in the head, mortally wounding it, while Mrs. Hunter sustained serious injuries. Her husband, a miner, was at work at the Dividend Mine when the storm rolled through Joplin. A neighbor, Charley Whitehead, came to Mrs. Hunter’s rescue. Other residents of Moonshine Hill suffered the same fate. Will Douglass’ home was obliterated. Lee Whitehead [perhaps related to Charley] and family also lost their home. The Methodist church on Moonshine Hill was a complete loss.

Arthur Cox, owner of Cox Baseball Park, was one of the “heaviest losers.” The storm destroyed the baseball park’s fence, the grand stand’s roof ripped off, and sustained overall heavy damage. The losses were estimated at $1,000. Cox, however, was not one to stand idly by. Within a day, W.J. Wagy was hired to rebuild the park in time for a game just a day after the tornado struck.

The Joplin Miners

The Joplin Miners of 1902 who temporarily lost their home.

At the corner of West Ninth and Tenth streets, several homes were damaged, if not utterly ruined. An African-American family named Smith lost their house and P.B. Moser’s home was demolished. A.J. Stockton was fortunate – he only lost his kitchen.

For the impoverished residents who lived in “shanties” north of the Missouri Pacific roundhouse between Grand Avenue and the Frisco and Kansas City Southern tracks, their impermanent residences were blown away.

White and black churches were not left untouched. The First Baptist Church was “badly wrecked.” The Methodist Episcopal Church’s South Mission location at Tenth and Grand was “completely wiped away.” The African Methodist Episcopal Church on East Seventh street was also destroyed. Despite being a substantial frame structure, the roof was torn off and the walls subsequently caved in.

St. John's Hospital

The nuns at St. John’s Hospital were “buffeted and blown about by the wind as they strove in vain to keep out the sheets of water thrown against the west end south of the building which stands high and unprotected.”

Property damage was estimated at $50,000 and an estimated fifty to sixty houses destroyed. As soon as the storm passed, “ambulances and relief crews found work to do for many hours.” Mayor John C. Trigg released a proclamation that read:

“To the Citizens of Joplin – Authentic information having been received that the cyclone which visited the city of Joplin on yesterday, caused incalculable damage to many of our citizens and has been especially destructive to the poorer classes of our citizens in many instances to the extent of destroying everything they owned, leaving them destitute, houseless and homeless.

Therefore, for the purpose of alleviating the distress which prevails in the city and vicinity and to devise ways and means by the organization of relief corps, or by such practicable methods as may be suggested and agreed upon at a meeting of the citizens is hereby called to be held at the Commercial Club rooms, on the 25 inst., at the hour of 3 o’clock p.m. to consider the premises and take such appropriate action as may be deemed necessary therein.”

Mayor John C. Trigg

Joplin has always taken care of its own in times of need. When the committee met, it was agreed that many of those effected by the storm were impoverished miners who were in badly need of assistance, and a relief fund was created. Thomas W. Cunningham reported that when he checked on his rental properties in the damaged section of town he found that one of the families renting from him had been forced to cut their way out of the house. He decided that they “deserved the house” and “made them a deed for it.” His act of kindness was heartily applauded. It was thought that the family was that of I.W. Reynolds who lived at Thirteenth and Ivy. Mr. Wolfarth of Junge Baking Company pledged free bread to those in need. Arthur Cox and Don Stuart pledged the proceeds of the next baseball game to the relief fund. The Wilbur-Kirwin Opera Company decided to give a benefit performance for Joplin’s tornado victims.

Joplin rebuilt only to face another tornado six years later in 1908. That story and more in our next installment.

[Conclusion of Part I]

A History of the Joplin Union Depot – Part II

Our first installment of a history of the Joplin Union Depot covered the contentious debate between those for and against a franchise agreement offered by the Joplin Union Depot Company. Now we return to Mayor Jesse Osborne’s approval of the franchise and the long wait between approval and the start of construction.

On October 26, 1908, Mayor Osborne signed the franchise agreement after the City Council passed it with nearly a unanimous vote.  Osborne’s approval was definitely made more likely when City Engineer J.B. Hodgdon returned from a trip to Kansas City two days before with a contract signed by the president of the Kansas City Southern, J.A. Edson, promising to supply material for 324 feet of a viaduct.  As the Joplin Daily Globe noted, a viaduct was “Joplin’s dream,” for it would connect East Joplin with West Joplin.  Despite the union of the two towns of Murphysburg and Joplin into one town over thirty years before, there still existed a recognizable separation of the neighborhoods that lay on the west side of the Kansas City Bottoms and those which resided on the east side.  The viaduct would help erase these separate identities.  Thus, the assistance of the Kansas City Southern provided a great impetus for Osborne to sign the franchise agreement.

Guy Humes, later mayor of Joplin, but fierce opponent to the depot franchise passed by the City Council.

After the council had voted, but before Osborne had signed, the Joplin News Herald, one of the opponents to the franchise, went so far as to dedicate multiple columns to local attorney, Arthur E. Spencer, who claimed that the reaction of the Commercial Club (also an opponent to the franchise) was a reasonable one.  Among the arguments Spencer relied upon was an existing franchise agreement which did not have such a contested “reasonable facilities” clause. (See our prior post for more information on that clause).  For all the noise that the opponents of the franchise created, it was not enough.

“Every such accession makes for bigger values within the city of today, and makes for a bigger city of tomorrow,” stated Mayor Osborne upon signing the franchise.  The signing occurred despite a planned mass rally by Clay Gregory, the secretary of the Commercial Club.  The rally, reported the Globe, was called off when Gregory was chastised by two other members of the club.  It was the end of the opposition to the depot franchise.  What followed may be construed as a big wait.

This Joplin Globe article noted the exasperation that many felt with the opposition to the depot franchise, including that from the much maligned Clay Gregory, Secretary of the Commercial Club.

News of the Union Depot virtually fell out of the headlines of both Joplin newspapers until a front page headline nearly five months after Osborne’s approval of the franchise.  “WILL BEGIN WORK UPON UNION DEPOT WITHIN 30 DAYS, DECLARES EDSON,” announced the Globe.  The news came from Gilbert Barbee, a Democratic political power in Joplin, as well editor and owner of the Joplin Globe, who had traveled to Kansas City and claimed to have spoken with the Kansas City Southern president, Edson.  The claim initiated a brief spat between the Globe and the News Herald, which immediately set out to prove its rival wrong.

An editorial, published in the Globe, on April 4, 1909, summed up the dispute, which involved the News Herald sending its city editor to Kansas City to find contrary evidence to the news brought by Barbee.  The Globe then charged that the News Herald was and had remained opposed to the Union Depot for two damning reasons.  The first, that the newspaper wanted to “get on the roll” of James Campbell, whom the Globe labeled Joplin’s largest landowner and perhaps, Missouri’s richest man (and a large shareholder of the St. Louis & San Francisco “Frisco” Railroad).  Campbell had been labeled an opponent to the Union Depot project because he wanted to establish a new Frisco depot, which would be in competition with the other depot.  The second charge was that the individual who controlled the News Herald, unnamed by the Globe, but perhaps P.E. Burton, was actually a resident of Springfield and purposely used the “evening paper” as a means to vocalize against any improvement to Joplin.  More so then than today, Springfield and Joplin were rivals, each competing to become the larger metropolis in Southwest Missouri.  It was not beyond the vitriol of either populace to accuse the other of undermining their interests.

For all that the Globe had knocked its competitor for trying to undermine its claim, construction of the actual depot was still very far off.  However, preliminary work to prepare the Kansas City Bottoms was underway by late April.  One of the tasks deemed essential to a successful construction was the taming of the branch of the Joplin Creek which ran back and forth along the Bottoms.  The creek, one of the barriers that separated the east and west parts of the town, had a reputation for flooding the Bottoms after intense rains.  A representative from the Kansas City Southern was assigned the task of getting the permission of those who owned land (not owned by the Union Depot company) upon which the creek ran to change its course.  The plan was to straighten the creek along the bluff near Main Street.  By the time the representative departed, permission had been secured.  As a trip to the former Kansas City Bottoms today will attest, the plan was well carried out.

It was a belief, at least of the editors of the Joplin Globe, that Springfield actively sought to keep its rival Joplin from benefiting from any improvement which might make it more of a competitor.

The anticipation continued, however, as Joplin awaited news of the start of construction.  In May, 1909, former Missouri governor, David R. Francis, an investor in the depot, along with other investors, visited Joplin.  The former governor reassured the locals, and commented, “Plans for the depot are well in hand and arrangements are practically completed for work to begin soon.”  News on the depot, however, was scarce until August, when it was announced that the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad, also known as the “Katy,” had agreed to join the Union Depot company.  This brought the number of railroads affiliated through the company to four: Kansas City Southern, Santa Fe, and Missouri & Northern Arkansas railroads, in addition to the Katy.

Additional news was the appropriation by the company of $200,000 for the construction of the station.  The appropriation came as engineers from the Kansas City Southern, directed by William H. Bush, completed surveys of the depot and station site.  The depot, Bush stated, was planned to be located near Broadway and Main, “situated 200 feet east of Main Street and the south line 150 feet north of Broadway.”  When quizzed on the status of the depot, Bush confirmed that the plans and specifications were completed, as well the architectural plans drawn up.  In a short time, assured Bush, the company would begin accepting bids from contractors.  As part of the preparation process, the Kansas City Bottoms would be filled in to make a proper rail yard.  As the engineer departed, it seemed that the building of the depot was not far behind.  Indeed, not long after, on August 17, engineers from the Katy railroad arrived to survey a spur that would take their railroad to the future depot.

Despite the build up, developments of the depot again drifted out of the newspapers.  In October, a fifth railroad, the Missouri Pacific railroad, expressed interest in joining the Union Depot company.  Then, for the next three months, news about the depot, its impending construction, vanished from the headlines.

The citizens of Joplin, as the months passed, grew anxious for news about their expected Union Depot, as depicted in this Joplin Globe cartoon.

The silence broke on the first day of February, with the News Herald taking its turn to offer a reported start time from a traveler to Kansas City.  The news came from a former Joplin resident, H.H. Haven, who passed on “reliable information” that work would begin soon.  The paper, which noted the long wait by beginning its article, “After months of inactivity…,”  brought forward the news that the cost of the depot construction had grown to anywhere from half a million to 700,000 dollars.  The station, itself, the paper noted was still expected to be about $40,000.  This figure was quickly upended by a report a few days later, based on information from the city engineer, Hodgdon, who was being tasked with overseeing the depot construction.

Hodgdon, in early February, was tasked with completing more survey work, specifically for the station itself.  The reported plans he worked from described a station that at some points was three stories high.  More incredibly, the estimated cost of the station had more than tripled to $150,000.  In terms of immediate work, the city engineer expected that a great number of men would be hired to grade the Kansas City Bottoms, filling in places that needed filling in, and other places required lowing.  A retaining wall was expected for the area near Main Street, as well.  In all, Hodgdon explained to a News Herald reporter, “there remains a big amount of engineering work to be accomplished before actual work on the station can commence.”

“$750,000 OF UNION DEPOT BONDS ARE SOLD,” loudly announced the Daily Globe, on February 12.  The bonds, issued at thirty-five years and 4.5% gold backed bond, had been sold to the George C. White, Jr. & Co., located in New York, as well the Pennsylvania Trust, Sate Deposit and Insurance Company.  Of the $750,000, $500,000 was to be put to immediate use in the construction of the depot.  The Globe also raised the figure for the station upward again to $280,000 and noted that plans for the station were complete.  The paper described the station as such, “the building proper will be constructed from brick and that it will contain ample waiting rooms,  adequate facilities for handling baggage, railroad and other offices.”

The signing of the depot franchise was considered a major victory for the administration of Mayor Jesse Osborne. Furthermore, it was viewed as victory for democracy. Note that Joplin here, unlike other political cartoons, is depicted as a miner.

Perhaps the most accurate timeline yet for depot construction was presented with the grading alone, which was to cost at least $50,000, to take at least eight months to complete.  The magnitude of the grading problem was made evident with the expectation that in some places, depths of as much six feet would need to be filled in.  Again, the overall cost of the depot was raised, now to an estimated million dollars.  The actual station and train sheds were expected to be finished by January 1, 1911.  While the million dollar price tag was impressive, the Connor Hotel, completed only a couple years earlier, had also a hefty expense.  The metropolitan Joplinites were growing use to expensive additions to their city.

Valentine’s Day in Joplin brought confirmation from Kansas City Southern president, Edson, that the project was assured with the successful sale of bonds.  Jesse Osborne, now former mayor (replaced ironically by the opposition councilman Guy Humes), declared, “The definite announcement that Joplin is to have the handsomest new union depot in the state in spite of the efforts of a narrow-minded faction to oppose the plan, marks an epoch in the history of this city.”

The day before, the Globe offered an editorial entitled, “Victory and Vindication.”  The opinion piece began, “This Union Depot is a betterment of such big and splendid utility, and a project of such substantial promise in many ways, that the people have endured delay and disappointment in a cheerful spirit.  Of the ultimate realization of the undertaking there has never been any honest doubt, though the influences which for political purposes, attempted to defeat the ordinance known as the Union Depot franchise have periodically striven to poison the public mind into thinking that this great public improvement was only a hazy, distant dream.”

The achievement of the union depot was seen as one of the top achievements by Joplin democracy, whereas the will of the people triumphed over the opposition of a well-funded minority opposition. It's presence was ranked with the Connor Hotel, the fantastic automotive fire department, and other improvements.

The piece was divided between praise for the reassurance brought by the sale of the bonds, and in typical inter-paper rivalry, prods at those who opposed the depot franchise, such as the News Herald.  In an earlier piece, the Globe had noted of James Campbell, the Frisco owner, that it would support Campbell in any quest to build a new Frisco depot in Joplin (rumors of which were plenty).  However, as victory was indeed within grasp, the paper took time to lambaste the current Frisco depot located at 6th Street in scathing terms, “One of the very prompt results of this Union Depot will be the passing of the imposition at Sixth street which the Frisco still presumes to call a depot.  We have been told with the pathetic trembling of lips that grieved at the confession of helplessness, that the sodden, barbarous inadequacy at Sixth street was permitted to remain because the Frisco didn’t have the money to build a better depot.”  More over, the Globe refused to accept “manifestly false absurdities,” and pointed to the millions spent by the railroad on its facilities in nearby Springfield.  In the haze of victory, with no little forgiveness for those who opposed the depot, the newspaper helped voice the frustration of a city impatient to continue its climb to greatness.

Two days later, the man who had helped to personally usher the franchise which bore his name, John Scullin, arrived in Joplin.  The agent of the Joplin Union Depot company recounted the delays which the company had encountered due to the opposition of what Scullin described as a “faction who handicapped the initial steps for the erection of a station.”  None the less, Scullin acknowledged that wiser heads prevailed, and promised the station would be completed by January 1, 1911.

The first view of the Union Depot which greeted the readers of the Joplin News Herald on March 1st

On March 1, 1910, the people of Joplin were offered their first glimpse of their future union depot.  Printed prominently across the top of the front page of the News Herald was an architect’s rendering of the front of the station.  Kansas City Southern chief engineer, A.F. Rust, introduced the building, “Louis Curtiss of Kansas City is the architect of the depot and we believe he has done well.  As you may notice, the middle section of the building is two stories high and on the second floor will be the offices.  At the right will be the baggage and express offices, while the east end will be occupied by the restaurant.”  Rust went on to add of the station, “The construction will be of concrete faced with stone.  Title will play a prominent part in the interior decorations, the mission effect being carried out in a happy fashion.  Entrance to the station from the rear will be from Main by a driveway that will circle at the back away from the trains.”  Rust finished his appraisal of the station with yet one more proposed cost for the station at $75,000.

The city now knew what to dream of, when it waited in anticipation for construction to begin and for what it hoped to be a boastful addition to their home at the start of the next year.  Between then and the station’s opening, a long road yet remained to be traveled.

Sources: Joplin News Herald, Joplin Daily Globe

The Club Theater – Architectural Drawing

Almost a year ago, we brought you the history of the Club Theater which once stood at the intersection of 4th and Joplin Street.  Recent research has uncovered what we believe may be the only surviving exterior side view, or Joplin Street view of the Club Theater.  Of course, we have to share!  The image appears to be an architectural drawing for the building, which was constructed in 1891.  Note the drawing appears to be the work of a Kansas City firm.

The Joplin Street view or side exterior view of the Club Theater

Most images of the theater that do exist show the building either looking at it from the entrance presented above on the right side of the drawing, or of its Fourth Street exterior.  Below is an example of the former.

Photograph of the Club Theater taken some time before 1902.

By all appearances, it seems there was no real deviation at first glance from the drawing to the building.    As noted in our prior post, the last remnant of the Club Theater vanished after a fire in 2003.

Source: Historic Joplin Collection

A History of the Joplin Union Depot – Part I

In the middle of October, 1908, the union depot franchise was up for debate before the Joplin City Council.  The hope of John Scullin, a president of the Missouri and North Arkansas railroad, along with representatives of the Santa Fe railroad, was to bring the franchise to the City Council meeting on the night of Tuesday, October 13th. The intent was to have the franchise quickly passed.  The Council, likewise, was prepared to request a clause be included in the contract which would force the Joplin Depot Company, which Scullin represented, to allow any railroad access to the depot so long as the facilities were available to accommodate such.  The Council also hoped to convince the builders of the depot to help pay the costs of constructing viaducts for Broadway, Third Street, and “C” Street.

As the time for the arrival of Scullin and the Santa Fe representatives neared, the word was that the Joplin Depot Company officials had claimed that any provision in the franchisee that forced the company to admit other railroad companies would be unacceptable.  Likewise, the franchise agreement said nothing about viaducts.  A number of the city councilman also were not keen to the idea of one night of deliberation and passage of the franchise.

Joplin Union Depot East Facade

The afternoon of the meeting, Clay Gregory, a secretary of the Commercial Club, an organization composed of Joplin’s leading businessmen who worked to promote Joplin’s business interests, warned that one night would not be enough time to examine the details of the franchise.  Especially, Gregory claimed, if the city allowed the Joplin Depot Company to retain the right to deny any other railroad access.  The Joplin News Herald, unabashedly supported his position and wrote in accompanying bold lettering, “THE COUNCIL MAY BE GIVING AWAY THE LIBERTY OF THE CITY IF IT PASSES IT.”  Gregory went on to doubt the certainty that if the franchise was given to the Missouri and North Arkansas and the Santa Fe, that it would mean that both railroads would build lines into Joplin.  The article noted that a few months earlier, the Joplin and Eastern Kansas, a local branch of the proposed St. Louis and Oklahoma Southern, had been denied a franchise that had requested the same and likely for the purpose of cutting off Joplin from the Missouri and Northern Arkansas.

The franchise was not passed that night, instead the evening was composed mainly of agreements between representatives of the Missouri and Northern Arkansas, the Kansas City Southern, and Santa Fe, and the city council members on a franchise committee.  The meeting was held at the Connor hotel and seemed at first to achieve everything that the city wanted before the earlier proposed vote on the franchise.  The agreements consisted of the Joplin Depot Company paying for one third of the costs of the Broadway viaduct, as well any costs incurred from changing the plans of the Third street viaduct, and right to build over any ground owned by the company to construct the “C” street viaduct.

Also gained was a promise to allow other railroads into the depot and inserted into the franchise agreement an arbitration clause, considered a “liberal” contract element to the agreement.  In exchange, the city was given the rights over the streets and alleyways that ran through the property it had already purchased two years earlier in advance of pushing for the passage of the franchise.  The Santa Fe additionally promised that construction would begin shortly on extending the railroad’s tracks from nearby Pittsburg to Joplin.  Likewise, the Missouri and Northern Arkansas noted that only eight miles remained to complete the line to Joplin.  All together, the completion of the tracks promised to allow trains passage from New Orleans to as far as the great Northwest.

The franchise committee, headed by councilman N.H. Kelso, initially had some worries, though later he remained quiet upon the final vote.  Kelso also participated in the discussion of the franchise committee of Joplin’s Commercial Club.  Of immediate concern of the franchise was language in the franchise agreement, “…and provided the reasonable facilities of said depot company shall admit thereof.”

Joplin Union Depot South Facade

Chief among those worried was councilman Guy T. Humes, a future mayor of Joplin, who actively sought to prevent a vote from being taken, despite Scullin arguments.  “I came to Joplin two years ago,” stated Scullin to the franchise committee, “and made the land purchases we now hold.  We bought them to be ready when we needed terminals…Now we want the terminals.”  The president of the Missouri and Northern Arkansas went on to sourly grumble, “I think I made a mistake in not asking you for something when I came here.  You would have appreciated us better.  We think we have presented a fair ordinance and we don’t think we should be asked for anything more.  The railroads are hard up.  Money is difficult to get.”  Scullin then threatened, “As far as we are concerned, though, I can tell you we’re not going to be held up.”

The clause, detractors argued, could be used by the operators of the depot to prevent the admittance of other railroads into the depot.  Thus, one railroad company, as a member of the Joplin Depot Company, might possibly use the excuse that the depot’s facilities could not reasonable sustain any new railroads as a means to keep out its competitor.  Another element that worried some was the use of the word “continuously” in a clause stating that construction, once it began, should continue until completion.  At the time, the fear was that if the company building the depot paused for a few weeks, the franchise would be lost.  The City Council opted to discuss the matter on Tuesday, October 20th, while the Commercial Club chose to discuss the matter on Sunday, the 18th.

Humes, meanwhile, argued, “The wording contains to me a danger to the city’s future.  We all know how the city is encircled by railroad tracks, and how the granting of this franchise means the giving away of practically all the remaining terminal grounds in the city.”  Humes was worried that the franchise might give the Joplin Depot Company a terminal trust, “I may be wrong, but as I see it, it gives the railroad company absolute dictation as to what roads shall or shall not use the depot yards.”  The councilman went on to loudly question, “Who is to determine what constitutes the ‘reasonable facilities’ of the depot and yards?  Who is to interfere when the company says to a road that wants to come in here that the full facilities of the depot and yards are taken up, and that they can’t come in?”

Joplin Union Depot West Facade

As the time neared for the Commercial Club to meet and discuss the nicknamed Scullin Franchise, the reported local sentiment was that the council intended to vote for passage of the franchise regardless of the Commercial Club’s opinion.  Other issues rose to join the controversy of the so-called “Joker” clause, which concerned the depot company allowing other railroads access to the depot.  One issue was whether the clause in question clause would be available to be discussed under the “liberal” arbitration clause.  Another issue was the potential cost of the depot and the worry that the depot would not be built large enough to keep up with the city’s progress. Scullin assured the city council the depot would be “$40,000,” to which the city’s response was, “If he really expects to spend that much money it won’t hurt him, and the city will be protected.”  The actual cost of the depot would be much higher.

After a meeting dedicated to examining the Scullin franchise, the Commercial Club, led by its secretary, Clay Gregory, voiced strong disapproval for any rushed vote on the franchise.  Most of the worrisome issues raised by Humes and other detractors to immediate passage, was voiced by the Commercial Club.  The meeting, described as a rapid cross-fire between the proponents and detractors, consisted of points raised, refuted or confirmed one after another.  In lead of the passage was Councilman Kelso whose concerns from before were satisfied and voiced the opinion that immediate affirmation was necessary, since the railroads “mean business” and warranted less than “mature” examination of the franchise.

The two sides argued back and forth.  Proponents argued the city had received everything it desired from the Joplin Union Depot Company without giving anything.  Detractors quickly pointed out that the city had conceded approximately $100,000 in vacated land and any other means to access the center of town would otherwise come at a much higher price.  Likewise, detractors worried that the Kansas City Bottoms, the proposed location of the depot, was too small and would inhabit future growth.  Proponents pointed out the railyards of Kansas City, which while small, were plenty large enough.  Humes, who was present, worried about the absence of language controlling the regulation of switching and terminal charges at the depot and later introduced an amendment that would allow the city oversight.

By the end of the meeting between the city franchise committee and the Commercial Club’s franchise committee, only three strong points of contention existed.  First was the existence of a perpetual life clause for the franchise, which the club wanted reduced to 99 years.  Second, the addition of a clause demanding that construction of the depot commence within 2 years, which the city council committee refused to consider.  Third, the injection of a forfeiture clause to penalize the union depot company for failure to carry out the contract, another clause the city council refused to consider.

Joplin Union Depot

As the city council moved to consider the Scullin franchise, the amount of vacated land was considerable.  The value was estimated between $50,000 to $100,000 and consisted of three hundred and thirty-two thousand square feet of land, or more than 50 lots at 120 by 60 feet.  The land, which would be transferred to the Joplin Union Depot company was at the time purportedly growing in value as factory land with individual lots selling between $2,000 and $3,000.  In addition were sections of streets and alleyways that ranged from 1st to 4th streets, and Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Broadway.

Despite the protestations of Councilman Humes and the Commercial Club, the city council quickly moved to accept the franchise at their meeting on the 20th of October.  As divided the Commercial Club and the city council were, so were the two city newspapers.  The Joplin News Herald presented the city council vote as one forced by intimidation via a telegram from the railroads, and where the city “forgot” its promise to protect the business interests of the city.  In contrast, the Joplin Globe trumpeted the passage of the franchise and dismissed as unimportant the concerns that had worried the franchise detractors.  More so, the Globe ridiculed Humes and noted that the true detractor were not the News Herald, Humes, and the Commercial Club, but the St. Louis and San Francisco railroad, also known as the Frisco, headquarted in St. Louis, which used the councilman, the newspaper, and club, as mouthpieces to voice opposition against the passage of the franchise to the railroad’s rivals.

The passage of the franchise was done quickly by the city council.  Presented by Kelso, the franchise was read three times, and then voted upon.  Prior to the vote, Humes, joined by councilman Hennessy, refused to vote.  Hennessy claimed he favored the franchise, just not the speed by which it was being processed.  Hennessy, however, did not join Humes in the final vote, with Humes finding himself the odd man out of a 13 member vote. The Globe referred to Humes as “Honk! Honk! Humes” and described his reaction to the addition of minor changes to the franchise, “These miner changes were not enough to satisfy Honk! Honk! Honk! Humes, and he sprang out of his chair, and for several minutes waved his Commercial Club big stick over the head of the council.  This amused the other twelve men who also represent the people of Joplin, but who do not represent the Commercial Club.”

The Globe continued, “They laughed at Humes, and the great reformer became angry, offered amendments, and made objections to he proceedings.  The council and Mayor Osborne were in a good humor, and for once in his life, Humes was permitted to mangle all of the language with which he was familiar and kill all the time he wished.”  The paper noted Humes was forced to beg for a second to his motion to propose an amendment, which was voted down.  After which, the Globe stated, “Humes again made a noise like an auto horn,” where upon the council opted to continue its business “without paying further attention to the uplifter of morals of the entire world, and official representative of the Commercial Club.”

The News Herald offered a far more respectful review of Humes’ cautionary words (as well more of a blow for blow report of the meeting), presenting the councilman as offering a rational argument in opposition to an approving vote by the council.  Humes, after the second reading of the franchise, reportedly arose and said, “It seems to me that the haste being displayed in pushing this franchise through is unseemly.”  The News Herald described his words, “Mr. Humes continued, outlining his objections in the form of the franchise, calling the attention of the council to the absence of a forfeiture clause, the defective construction of certain sections, and the danger lurking in others.”

The paper also noted the behavior of the proponents amongst the council, particularly Councilman Molloy, whom the paper described as the master of ceremonies.  “While Humes was speaking Councilman Molloy…sat glancing about, reassuring with a glance or giving an order by a sign.  As Humes was about to close he turned to Councilmen King and Wells, and with an authoritative wave of his hands said, “Don’t answer him.  Let it come to vote.” The councilmen obeyed.”

It was at this point in the discussion that Humes had proposed an amendment to attempt to fix the faults he and the Commercial Club perceived in the franchise.  It was voted down.  Hennessy, who eventually caved to the pro-franchise faction of the council, stood up to point out this was a rerun of another proposed franchise vote that had happened earlier in the year and had been voted down.  Next to speak was Councilman Brown who firmly stated, “I have listened carefully to the reading of the ordinance and do not see anything wrong with it.”

The aforementioned Councilman King spoke next to explain away why no further attempt was being made with regard to the factors that concerned Humes and the Commercial Club, “We telegraphed to Kansas City this afternoon and asked them if they would accept the franchise without it [the contested clauses].  They answered positively no, so we reported the france with it in.”  King went on to claim that the franchise had been before a city council committee for six months, to which Humes immediately interjected, “The franchise has not been before the committee but a week!”

The chairman of the Commercial Club, C. Newberger, also attempted to reason with the City Council and pointed out that St. Louis had made such a mistake.  Newberger expounded on the problems with the franchise and declared, “You need not be afraid Mr. Scullin will not come here.  He is a past master in the art of bluffing through franchises.”  At this statement, it seemed Newberger had worn out his welcome, as Councilman Brown leapt to his feet and exclaimed, “Is the Commercial club running this city or is it the council doing it?”  Newberger quickly responded he appeared only as a private citizen interested in Joplin.  Tired yet of Newberger, Brown called for a point of order and had Mayor Jesse Osborne order Newberger from the floor.

In the wake of Newberger’s ejection from the floor, Councilman Hennessy inquired if a written contract existed yet between the Kansas City Southern and a promise to assist in the construction of the Third Street Viaduct.  To this question, the city engineer, J. B. Hodgdon, piped up, “We have Mr. Rusk’s word for it.”  The engineer continued, “If we vacate Third street to the depot company the Kansas City Southern will not be afraid of us.”  Mayor Osborne chimed in, “That’s a point I want to know about.”

Finally, Councilman Molloy rose and spoke, “I’ll personally guarantee that the Kansas City Southern will take care of 338 feet of the viaduct.”  The question of the aid for the viaduct caused a brief stir until the mayor promised, “I will veto the measure unless I get from the Kansas City Southern and the other two railroads in the union depot company, a written agreement that they will take care of 338 feet of the Third street viaduct.”  The mayor continued, “An agreement to this effect must reach me within ten days.”

The council then voted for the franchise and the News Herald scathingly noted, “It is quite probable that not more than half of the councilmen  who enacted the franchise ever read it.  There was an evidence of ignorance concerning its provisions and its import last night that indicated this.”  The paper, in contrast to the Globe, summarized the council vote not by what it had achieved, but how it had failed.

The next day the Commercial Club began what resulted in an extremely short lived campaign to persuade Mayor Osborne not to sign the franchise as passed by the City Council the night before.  The Club expressed the same reasons which had been pushed by Humes and Newberger in the council meeting.  Clay Gregory, already accustom to speaking out in the newspaper against the deal pointed out, “The Kansas City bottoms are the only feasible route of entry to Joplin.”  Gregory then warned, “The franchise gives the union depot company control of this choice site,” the Commercial Club secretary then added, “As the franchise stands the city is helpless to enforce its provisions upon the company.”

The hopes of the club were dashed when city engineer Hodgdon reported a telephone call from Kansas City which assured the mayor that two of the railroads behind the depot company, the Kansas City Southern and Missouri & Northern Arkansas would help build the Third street viaduct.  The Globe mocked the Commercial Club, “No-More-Railroads-for-Joplin organization,” and stated that prior to the telephone call, the Mayor had “listened with patience and courtesy” to it, something that most Joplin citizens would not bother doing.  In fact, the paper claimed, “Many of the biggest property owners in the city have either laughed at the ridiculous objections preferred or have denounced them with indignation.”

Perhaps with the taste of immediate victory in the future, the Globe launched into a refutation of the worries of the naysayers.  In addressing the question of the length of the franchise, be it perpetual or 99 years, the paper presciently wrote, “By the time another century, minus one year, has rolled around, the conditions in and about this city will have been transformed beyond the recognition of any of us alive today.  This franchisee will have become an obsolete instrument, a yellow, faded document in the city’s archives.”

Refutations done, the Globe saved the last of its ink for what it perceived to be the power behind the main objectors, “James Campbell, esquire, king, crown prince, and owner of most of the kingdom acquired by the St. Louis Big Cinch.”  Campbell, the Globe noted, contemplated building a depot for the Frisco to enhance his own land in the city, as well the railroad.  The paper declared Campbell a “forceful personality” who exerted a “private car opulence” over certain citizens of Joplin.  One such citizen was Clay Gregory.

“And yet Clay Gregory, secretary of the Commercial Club, who never did anything for Joplin until he got on the Commercial Club’s payroll, and has never done anything since excepting to draw his salary, who is now getting $150 a month from the Commercial Club for playing chess at the Elks Club, the money used to pay his salary being drawn from a trust fund which the Commercial Club directors have no moral right or expressed privileges to use for that purpose.”  The Globe continued its scathing attack, “Gregory who was given the job of secretary because he was hard up and needed the salary, whose only achievement publicly has been to hang onto the job.”  Of Gregory, the paper declared, “this fellow has the effrontery and gall to attempt to dictate to the city council and the mayor.”  The Globe concluded of the Commercial Club, “has degenerated into the fat fatuousness of Clay Gregory…”

The paper finished with a declaration against the interests of the Frisco, “There are some things which this paper hopes to compel the Frisco to do.  There is one thing that the citizens of Joplin don’t propose to allow the Frisco to do, and that is to keep other railroads out of Joplin and to tear down parts of this city which years of effort have built up in order to build up Jim Campbell’s individual interests.”

On October 26, 1908, Mayor Osborne signed the ordinance confirming the City Council’s passage of the franchise.  Joplin was to have a Union Depot.

Source: Joplin Daily Globe, Joplin News Herald

Coming soon will be the next installment of a history of the Joplin Union Depot, beginning with the events surrounding Mayor Osborne’s signing of the ordinance and the long wait to the start of construction.  Stay tuned!



The Joplin Fireman’s Tournament and Farewell To Old Friends

In our earlier coverage of the origin of the Joplin Fire Department, we concluded with the transition by the department from horse drawn fighting apparatus to fire fighting equipment mounted on automobiles.  This transition did not occur without fanfare or no little publicity.

The Joplin Fire Department received many responses to the Southwest Firemen's Association tournament

The Joplin Fire Department received an overwhelming response to the tournament invitation.

Instead, the Joplin Fire Department opted to showcase their new fire trucks by hosting the Southwest Firemen’s Association annual tourney.  The tournament, which was to run for three days, was expected to draw the biggest crowd yet in the history of the tournament.  At least 30 teams were expected to come from the four state region to compete in multiple events in teams of 17.  The main attraction, however, was the Joplin Fire Department’s new fire engines, which claimed to be among the first in the nation to harness the power of the automobile engine to power the attached fire fighting apparatus. (Previously, the apparatus was merely attached).  Also of note, Joplin believed itself the first to attach a chemical tank to an automobile, which combined two of the most modern fire fighting technologies.  Highlighting the exhibition would be a race between the 75 horse power fire engines around Barbee racetrack, a first ever in the United States.  The News Herald excitedly predicted the experience:

“At Barbee park they will see the big machines on the line, hear the starter’s revolver fired, then with a chug the red devils will be off, sailing around the track, only a mass of bright colors in which the blue of the fire laddies mingles with the gaudy red and gold of the machines, and they will see the machines, only a streak of red, as their drivers send them down the home stretch faster than 75 miles an hour, with the gong of the big fire bells sounding as the winner shoots over the tape.”

Cartoon of a fire engine racing on a race track

A cartoon depiction of fire engines racing around the Barbee track!

Not to be forgotten were the fire horses, who had there own races as well.  The horses, still retained by the Joplin department, would have a chance to race against those from other departments before literally being put out to pasture.  The big horses which had the hard task of pulling the fire wagons through the streets of Joplin at breakneck speeds, had one last opportunity to demonstrate their ability.

On September 8, 1908, the first day of meeting of the Southwest Fire Association began on a Tuesday morning with the business meeting of the association at the Commercial Club.  Mayor Jesse Osborne enthusiastically greeted the firemen, “Joplin wants you to have a good time.  The city is thrown wide open to you and if you see anything which you want that is tied down, tear it loose.” Speakers included an invocation by Reverend W.F. Turner, the president of the Commercial Club Col. H.B. Marchbank, as well as two past presidents of the association, and the current president from Neosho, Missouri, Jonathon M. Sherwood.  Present at the meeting were 25 delegations from the four states, who opted to adjourn at 10 am.

Jonathan M. Sherwood, President of Southwest Firemen's Association in 1908

Jonathan M. Sherwood, President of Southwest Firemen's Association in 1908

The afternoon must have been a delight to small boys and girls who crowded Main Street and the other streets along the parade route to witness a mile long parade of firemen and their fire fighting apparatuses.  It began at approximately 2:30 pm at the central fire fighting station with the vanguard composed of a handpicked squad of 18 mounted police officers lead by Joplin Police Chief, Joe Meyers and his Assistant Police Chief Cofer.  Behind them marched a band, and behind this musical introduction, companies of firemen from Galena, Weir City, Scammon, Gas City, Neosho, Carterville.  Veteran firemen of the association followed with veteran Joplin firemen right behind them.  These veterans pulled a cart with them, the first piece of fire fighting equipment ever employed by the department. Behind them rode city officials in carriages who were trailed by the four automobile engines of the department, as well four horse drawn engines.  Over a thousand visitors, it was estimated, had arrived in Joplin for the tournament.
After the parade, crowds gathered at the central fire station to examine the “big machines” which demonstrated their capability and even raced down Main Street in a demonstration and “the speed of the automobiles and the dexterity with which they were handled elicited much applause.”  However, the appreciative crowds had to wait until 1pm the next day to see the machines on the race track.

Joplin fire engines on race track

Photograph from 1909 Popular Mechanics of Joplin's fire engines on the racetrack.

Wednesday saw the main attractions of the tournament with fire engines raced around Barbee racetrack.  Nor were the fire departments ready to forget their fire horses with an exciting race between the Joplin departments taking place.  Before an estimated crowd of 3,500, the victor of that narrow contest was Station No. 3 of South Joplin.  The firemen of South Joplin were pulled to victory by the beloved bay and iron gray fire horses, King and John.  They defeated the other Joplin pair of fire horses, Tom and Dan.

“ The horses started on the word “go,” and with a bound were off, throwing dust.  With the bells of the wagons clanging, the horses tore around the track, coming down the home stretch with remarkable speed.”

Other competitions involved laying out 150 feet of hose and then “water thrown” to stop the clock.  Specifically, teams had to race to a line, then attach a hose to a hydrant and put a nozzle on the hose.  It was the firemen from Carterville who ended up excelling at this contest.  Numerous other competitions occurred which revolved around other skills essential to the task of fighting fires.

Highlights from the Southwest Firemen's Association tournament

A depiction of moments from mainly Wednesday's activities at the tournament.

The final day of the tournament was expected to draw even more to Barbee’s racetrack than the 3,500 from the day before.  The main attraction was a real demonstration of firefighting by the Joplin stations.  A two story wood structure, doused in oil, was built upon the race grounds and set aflame.  It was decided before hand that the structure would “be allowed to get well under way before the automobiles leave their stations.”  Before a crowd of thousands, the Joplin firemen arrived, bells ringing, and extinguished the flames.

It was a seminal moment for not just Joplin’s fire department, of which the city and its residents intensely proud, but also for fire fighting across the nation.  It represented the beginning of the end of the fire horse and the introduction of the modern fire engine.  Though, as one editorial cartoon depicted about a week after the tournament, the fire horses, while replaced, were loved and would be missed.

Joplin fireman saying goodbye to his fire horse.

A Joplin fireman bids a tearful farewell.

Source: Joplin News Herald