The Reminiscences of G.O. Boucher – Part IV

Historic Joplin believes in allowing the people of the past to speak for themselves.  As a result, the language they use may offend those sensitive to harmful words that are no longer acceptable in today’s present society.

The Story of Bear Fighting Blackwell

“The First dry goods store in West Joplin was started next to ‘Big Nigger’ Lee’s grocery store by a man the name of D.M.  Brazill, in the fall of 1871.

One old timer who arrived in Joplin about this time and who furnished considerable amusement was a man known as ‘Bear Fighting’ Blackwell.  He brought four big bears with him and for some time after he arrived he kept his business to himself.  Finally, after he had things ready, he advertised a dog and bear fight.  After all was ready he stretched a large canvas around a space which was filled on the day of the fight by the village sports.  In the center of the space he had a big grizzly chained to a stake and surrounding him were five or six youngsters holding their dogs.

Betting was at a high pitch and as well as I can remember it was about 2 to 3 to one on the bear.  When all was ready for the fight, Blackwell gave the bear a big plate of honey and after it had the plate he yelled, ‘Turn your dogs loose!’ The fur flew and it looked as if the dogs would soon use up the bear.  When it was all over the bear was uninjured while there were several dogs limping around.

The bears were turned over to the butcher and Mr.  Blackwell used the money which he had accumulated to build a nice brick building at the corner of Second and Main streets.  This was the first opera house in West Joplin, but the dog and bear fight or something else brought ‘Bear Fighting’ Blackwell bad luck, and the old man got into trouble and was sent to the penitentiary.  Several years after that he was turned out and went to Oklahoma, where he married a squaw who had a large tract of land and plenty of money.  He laid out the land in town lots and was the founder of the present city of Blackwell.”

Drawing of A.J. "Bear Fighting" Blackwell

Drawing of Henry "Bear Fighting" Blackwell in his later years.

This concludes G.O.  Boucher’s memories of early Joplin.

Source: Joplin Globe.

The Reminiscences of G.O. Boucher: Part III

Boucher opens Joplin’s first saloon

“The price of town lots in Joplin in those days would hardly compare with the prices of today.  On the northwest corner of Main and Second streets were two vacant lots an through advice of Pat Murphy I bought them for $25.  I built a small building and September 1, 1871, J.C.  McCurdy and myself opened up the first regular saloon in Joplin.  At this time this was the tenth building finished in West Joplin.  It was later moved to the alley where it now fronts the police station.  It was used for some time as the Herald office.  As well as I remember, the saloon had been running about three weeks, business was good, and the miners crowded the place from opening until closing time.  One day a miner wandered in and asked: ‘When do you scrub out here?’ Now I had never given the scrubbing proposition a thought and I said, ‘Well, I expect it does need scrubbing, but where is a fellow to get the water?’ ‘Well,’ said the miner, ‘I will go hitch up old Nell and haul a barrel of water from down on the corner.’  We went to work and this is the way the first saloon in Joplin received its first scrubbing.

1872 Street Scene of Joplin, Missouri

A street scene from Joplin in 1872.

Sources: Joplin Globe, Joel T. Livingston’s “A History of Jasper County, Missouri, and her people.”

The Reminiscences of G.O. Boucher: Part II

The Story of Goldmacher

“One of the old time business men who must not be neglected is an old German by the name of Goldmacher.  He was known to everybody as ‘Moneymaker.’  He erected a building next to Martin’s store. ‘Moneymaker’ built a bake oven and sold bread to the miners.  They were camped up and down Joplin creek.  He also had a supply of cheese, crackers, bologna, and sausage.  He kept a keg of beer on tap at all times.  He brought the beer from Baxter Springs. ‘Moneymaker’ attended strictly to business and paid particular attention to what his name signified.  The town grew rapidly, the miners kept drifting in and he as successful in business.

Everything went well until a gang of miners got into ‘Moneymaker’s’ place one night and got pretty well ‘stewed up.’  ‘Moneymaker’ had a dog which he valued highly.  A part of the bunch stayed inside and kept him interested, while the others got the old man’s dog and strung him to Murphy and Davis’ awning.  All was lovely until the next morning when ‘Moneymaker’ discovered his dog hanged by the neck until dead.  The old man threatened vengeance and posted the following notice in his place of business:

‘I vill gif ten dollars to eny tam rascal vat will dell me vat chentlemens hung my tog mit Murphy’s porch on.’

Boucher did not say whether or not Goldmacher caught the men who killed his dog.

Source: Joplin 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.