Elliot Raines Moffett

On a fall day six years after the end of the Civil War, two men began digging a shaft on a hill near Joplin Creek in southern Jasper County, Missouri. Lured to the location by stories of lead lying as shallow as the roots of the prairie grasses, the two men, Elliot Raines Moffett and John B. Sergeant struck figurative gold and from those first few spadefuls of dirt the city of Joplin was established, as well their riches.

A native Iowan, Moffett was forty-three years old when his prospecting brought him to Jasper County. He and Sergeant had initially setup in the area of Oronogo, then known as Minersville, and acquired a mining interest in the vicinity of land owned by John C. Cox, a Tennessean who had arrived in the area years earlier. The lead strike, forty feet down, quickly led Moffett and Sergeant to build the first lead smelting furnace north of present day Broadway and on the banks of Joplin Creek. The smelter was not the only “first” that Moffett and his partner brought to the mining camp and later the city. In 1873, when the cities of Joplin and Murphysburg joined together to form Joplin, Moffett was the first mayor. In addition to building stores in the fledgling camp, he and Sergeant also opened one of the first banks at 315 Main Street and founded the Joplin & Girard Railroad completed in 1876 to connect the growing lead furnaces of the city to the Kansas coal fields. A second railroad to Pittsburg, Kansas, was completed and celebrated on July 4, 1876 with a golden spike driven into the earth at the Joplin depot. Later, Moffett sold his interest in the railroad and its right-away southward to the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway, also known as the Frisco, for a hefty $350,000. Not long after, Sergeant and Moffett opened up the White Lead Works which later became known as the Picher Lead Works.

It was prospecting which brought Moffett to the Joplin area, it was also that which led him to leave for Northwest Arkansas. In the belief that more incredible lead veins were waiting to be discovered in Arkansas, he prospected the hills around Bear Mountain. He found some lead, but not enough to make a second fortune. Instead, Moffett purchased hundreds of acres of land and went into the business of fruits and grapes. It was as a shepherd of orchards that Moffett spent the last years of his life until he passed away in February, 1904, in Crystal Springs, Arkansas.

Upon his death, one Joplin newspaper wrote of him:

“The announcement of his death spread rapidly over the city yesterday evening and many sincere expressions of regret were voiced, and the utterances were of that sincere character that indicate true regret – the regret that is always felt at the demise of a truly good citizen. The reason of this is very apparent when it is known that he was instrumental in building the first schools and the first churches, and was a willing contributor to many movements for the city’s welfare.”

The Early Mayors of Joplin

The city of Joplin came into existence in 1873.  Since that time period, there have been a number of mayors.  Below is our attempt to slowly build up a convenient list of Joplin’s early leaders.  Eventually, each mayor will also have their own post which will offer more detailed information about these early leaders and the roles they played in the city’s development.

1873

Elliot R.  Moffett

1874

.

Lee Taylor

+

J.H. McCoy (finished Taylor’s Term)

1875

Patrick Murphy

 

1876

 

F.J. Thompson

 

1877 – 1878

Frank E. Williams

 

1879

 

F.M. Roberts

 

1880 – 1881

W.E. Maynard

1882 – 1883

Galen Spencer

 

1884

W.B. Halyard

 

1885 – 1886

A.B. McCarty

 

1887

 

J.L. Briggs

 

1888

 

C. Livingston

 

1889 – 1892

 

R.B. Tyler

R.B. Tyler

 

1893 – 1894

W.B. Halyard

 

1895 – 1896

E.D. Porter

 

1897 – 1898

T.W. Cunningham

1899 – 1900

J.H. Spencer

J.H. Spencer

 

1901 – 1902

J.C. Trigg

 

1903 – 1904

T.W. Cunningham

 

1905 – 1906

 

C.W.  Lyon

 

1907 – 1908

Jesse F. Osborne

 

1909 – 1910

Guy Humes

Guy T. Humes

 

1911 – 1914 (to April 20)

Jesse F. Osborne

 

If you have photographs of the above listed men or documents connected to them, we’d love to share them here on Historic 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 Joplinite Takes a Bath

Americans have always loved a good excursion and they love health fads even more. Men as varied as Robert E. Lee and Franklin Delano Roosevelt enjoyed a good soak in hot springs. E.R. Moffet, Jr., son of one of the most significant men in Joplin’s history, engaged in a soak at Hot Springs, Arkansas at the turn of the century. As his descriptive letter indicates, not everyone enjoyed their experience at the baths.

“Editor of the Joplin Daily Globe:

Hot Springs Ark. Nov. 20 –

I arrived here yesterday and thought I would give you my views of the place and express my opinion of the first bath.

I took my choice of some 15 bathhouses situated upon the U.S. reserve and, fortifying myself against surprise, I boldly opened the door and there I met a man behind a counter with a 55 cent smile and a bunch of keys with a rubber band to each key. Upon making my wants known, he returned to a row of boxes like the boxes in the safety deposit department of a bank, and drawing out a box, he pushed it toward me.

I told him I did not want it – I came for a bath. He explained that I was to put all my earthly belongings into the box, so, having had to pay for my bath in advance, I had only three coppers and a nickel left, but in they went, and he put the box back and as it locked there I thought I was fleeced. He took one of the keys corresponding to the number of the box and slipped it onto my wrist telling me to let it remain there.

Well, as I had broken the ice, I was open for everything. As each 55 cent bath is entitled to a 15 cent attention I was put in the hands of a son of Africa who knows his business. He assigned me to a certain room to disrobe and gave me a robe to don, and I shortly went forth. Going to the bath, we went through the cooling rooms where some eight or ten men were cooling off. Passing through a door, we come to the finest place I ever saw: marble floors, marble partitions between baths, tubs, all supported with brass and porcelain as clean as could be.

My attendant being a man built on the Jeffries order, I soon saw after getting into the bath I was in for it. I remonstrated, but he said I wanted my money’s worth. After rubbing about all the skin off, he took me to a wire cot, laying me out, wrapped me up, and handed me a cup of hot water saying, “Have one on me.” The water was as hot as coffee and could only be supped, the degree of heat being something near 175 degrees.

While lying there I saw a sign saying, “Ladies in the cave.” I called my attendant and said, “Let’s go to the cave,” but he made me lie still. I kept watching that sign and presently it flopped over and it was the word, “empty.” Then my attendant said, “You can now go to the cave.” I said I was not particular now, but I went.

I found a cave some five feet wide, six feet high, and about thirty feet long, and as hot as hell or hotter. This cave is used for bad cases of heart trouble – love, for instance. The heat in the cave is natural, coming from the rocks, and is a most wonderful thing. It is lighted up and one is not allowed to stay in it over eight minutes.

After returning to the bath room, I was asked if I wanted to take a sweat. As I had sweated only about 5 gallons I thought I could stand a little more so he opened an iron door and invited me to step in. I went and out I came – I thought I was done for. The water in the room was it comes from the ground and steam rises from it all the time. But I managed to get in again and stay. Talk about a Turkish bath! They are not in it. I could only stay a few minutes and then called to be released. Getting out of the sweater, as the cloister is called, I asked what next.

I was led to the shower room where I believe ten thousand small streams of water about the size of a knitting needle shot at you with about 40 pounds of pressure. They came from every conceivable direction and in striking you they sting very sharp. I concluded the thing had gone far enough and I begged for quarter, but my attendant said, “You isn’t near through yet.” I had enough, however, and after having a pound or so more skin rubbed off, I was allowed to go into the first cooling room and presently to my place of starting.

After dressing I went to the office. There the key was removed from my wrist, the box unlocked, and my money turned over to me with the remark, “Call again.” I guess not – I know when I get enough.

E.R. Moffet, Jr.”

 

Source:  Joplin Daily Globe

The Reminiscences of G.O. Boucher – Part I

In the early months of 1910, a Globe reporter stopped by the home of G.O. Boucher at the corner of Joplin and Twentieth Streets to interview him about historic Joplin.  Boucher gladly obliged him.  Here at Historic Joplin our philosophy is to allow the voices of the past speak for themselves in their own words with as little interference as possible, even if we abhor the usage of some of the language used.  For those sensitive to the use of racial slurs, it may be for the best to skip this entry as it does include some graphic language.   What follows are Boucher’s recollections in his own words as they appeared in the Joplin Globe.

“I came from Mineralville in the spring of 1871 in company with John Sergeant, at that time a partner of E.R. Moffet.  They were the first men to start the wheel rolling for the building of the present city of Joplin.  Among the men who were interested in this undertaking were Pat Murphy and W.P. Davis who laid out the first forty acres in town lots, on which the largest and most valuable buildings of the city now stand.

The first air furnace built in the Joplin mining district was constructed by Moffet and Sergeant.  T. Casady, a man from Wisconsin, handled the first pound of mineral which was smelted in this district in the mill erected by them.  The smelter was located in the Kansas City Bottoms between East and West Joplin.  A. Campbell, H. Campbell, A. McCollum, and myself were the first smelter employees in this district.  The fuel used in the smelter was cordwood and dry fence rails, which were hauled from the surrounding country.  The first men who handled rails and sold to the smelters were Warren Fine and Squire Coleman, the latter now living in Newton County.

The hotel accommodations at that time were poor and the first ‘beanery’ was a 24×16 foot shack erected by H. Campbell.  His family occupied the house and they boarded the smelter crew.  We found sleeping quarters wherever we could find room to pitch our tents. the boys would stretch their tents and then forage enough straw to make a bed and this was the only home known to them.  E.R. Moffet and myself slept in the smelter shed on a pile of straw and for some time we slept in the furnace room on the same kind of bed.  About the last of August of the same year Mr. Campbell erected what was then quite a building.  It was two stories high, four rooms on the ground floor, and two above.  This was at the southwest corner of Main and First Streets, now called Broadway.  Just about this time Davis and Murphy began the erection of a store building just across the street from the hotel.

Photograph of one of Joplin's first hotels, the Bateman Hotel

Another early hotel was the Bateman hotel, moved from Baxter, Kansas, to Joplin in 1872. It promptly burned down three years later.

Speaking of the first business building erected in Joplin, William Martin built a 16×16 box building on Main Street between First and Second Streets and put in about $125 worth of groceries and a small load of watermelons.  Soon after this, a man known as ‘Big Nigger Lee’ established a grocery store on the opposite side of the street from Martin.  He put in a larger stock but did not have as good a trade as Martin on account of having no watermelons.  Some of the older residents remember ‘Big Nigger’ Lee as he was in business here for several years.”

More to come from the reminiscences of G.O. Boucher and in the future, Historic Joplin will address the issue of racism in Joplin to provide a clearer picture of how hatred affected the city’s African American citizens.

Source: Joplin Globe, “A History of Jasper County, Missouri, and Its People,” by Joel T. Livingston.

Happy Birthday, Joplin!

On March 23, 1873, the Missouri legislature passed a bill presented by T.M. Dorsey and Judge John H. Taylor.  On that day, the City of Joplin was born.  On that day in March, Joplin counted around four thousand citizens, no paved streets or roads, and only seventeen lead furnaces.  All but a few of Joplin’s buildings were built of wood and many homes were simply tents and small box-houses.  By appointment of the governor, E.R. Moffett was made the first mayor of Joplin.  Joel T. Livingston, in his massive History of Jasper County, republished an article from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat which described the people of Joplin as full of “pluck and industry” and who overcame severe disadvantages through sheer, “abundant nerve.”

Today, Joplin turns 137 years old.  Happy Birthday, Joplin!