Fifty Days of Sunday: The Fireworks Begin

Fifty Days of Sunday:

The Fireworks Begin

The dedication of the Sunday tabernacle began with five hundred strong choir voices shaking the rafters of the structure with “Wake the Song” and “Crown Him King of Kings.”  On Sunday night, November 21st, the tabernacle was filled with six thousand “earnest, enthusiastic listeners,” who were eager to touch upon the excitement of the impending revival.  After an invocation by Rev. J.R. Blunt of the South Joplin Christian church, and a few other introductory speakers, the guest-speaker of the night, Judge H.E. Burgess, of Aledo, Illinois, took to the podium that stood before the vast assemblage with the choir to his back.

Judge Burgess addressed the Joplinites as a man redeemed by a previous Sunday Revival four years earlier and rose to speak to them of what to expect from imminent arrival of the Reverend Sunday.  He began with a tantalizing disclaimer, “I will attempt to tell you something of Mr. Sunday and his wonderful meetings.  But it is impossible ever to attempt describing a real Sunday meeting.  The only way such a meeting can be comprehended is for it to be seen…”

Burgess described the opinion of the evangelist by the citizens of Aledo, prior to Sunday’s arrival.  They had “the same idea of Mr. Sunday – that those of any other city had – ideas merely gotten from rumor and hearsay that Mr. Sunday was simply an erratic grafter, who had discovered his wonderful gift of eloquence and personal magnetism, and was using this gift in a religious way merely because of the money he might thus gain.”  It was an idea that was likely shared in Joplin by those less eager for Sunday’s presence, and a skepticism that had originally painted others like Burgess in Aledo.  But, Aledo stated that as Sunday began to preach and he witnessed the effect on others, “…we unregenerated people began to sit up and notice.”  For the power that Burgess ascribed to Sunday was one of indifference to appearance of proper church membership and an unflinching readiness to call out anyone that “a sinner is a sinner, no matter what kind of a front” the individual might put up.

Billy Sunday

Rev. Billy Sunday

The challenge that hypocrites would be spotlighted by Sunday undoubtedly was an exciting one for those who believed themselves immune and a nerve wracking one for those who feared public humiliation at the hands of the Evangelist.  However, a desire to call out hypocrites was not limited to Sunday nor reserved for his arrival.  The Democratic newspaper, the Joplin Daily Globe, opted to beat Reverend Sunday to the punch with a front page column in its morning edition, published the day of Sunday’s expected arrival, which repeated the findings of a Grand Jury on the recent crackdown of prostitution.  The report stated that contrary to published reports, the crackdown that netted two madams and their ‘sinful sirens’ had been the order of the police judge, Fred W. Kelsey, not Mayor Guy Humes, and in fact the arrest had “astonished the mayor, chief of police, city attorney and other city officials…”  The report concluded that prior to the arrests and thereafter [Editor’s emphasis] that “..bawdy houses, have been, and are now, running wide open to the public.”  Finally, the Globe alleged that the same women were now hidden away in the countryside by the actions of the Republican city officials, as part of an attempt to create an appearance of cutting down on crime.  Of note, the Grand Jury Report declared it had found no appearance of an agreement or contract between the city officials and the criminal offenders.

At the same time as the Globe pointed fingers at Mayor Humes, police chief John A. McManamy continued the civic crusade against crime with a crackdown on turkey raffles (the day before Thanksgiving).  Described as a dice involved ‘wheel and paddle’ method to turkey distribution, and a corruption of a more charitable means of giving, the police chief declared that the turkey raffle was too close to real gambling for his liking.  As a result, the fowl affair was shut down.  It was only a few hours later in the afternoon, when a train pulled into Joplin and the Reverend Billy Sunday disembarked.

Around 6:30 pm, the excited crowds filled the tabernacle located on Virginia Avenue between Fifth and Sixth Streets and took whatever seats they found open and not reserved.  The reserved sections were set aside for boys and girls, families of the ushers, and the deaf and hard of hearing.  In addition, a telephone-like apparatus was setup with a microphone by the podium to handsets in the back, for those who failed to reach the hard of hearing section to hold to their ears.

“Billy Sunday Starts Fireworks…” was the headline the next day of Sunday’s first sermon.  True to the words of Judge Burgess, the papers offered little to describe how the reverend began his sermon, instead relying on his words to convey the explosion of fervor and energy that the former ball player brought to the stage in front of likely more than 6,000 spectators.  What was noted was that Sunday was “small and wiry and as active as a cat.  He is constantly on the move and his every gesture indicates the vast reserve endurance which has helped to make him conspicuous…”   Additionally, Sunday, was described as being, “…no bigger than the proverbial cake of soap after a hards day’s washing…” Sunday, as he began, “…dramatically hooked his clinched fist through the ozone and declared he was in position to defend himself and his policies.”  Like Mayor Humes, against whom the paper compared Sunday, Sunday was a fast talker who said, “…as much in an hour as would an ordinary speaker in two hours.”  Before he began in earnest, Sunday admonished the young people to silence, requested that mothers leave their newborns with caretakers by the doors, and then started his challenge to the people of Joplin.  “There are liars everywhere…and no doubt there are plenty of them here.”

Sunday launched into a session of brutal honesty, at least from his perspective, “You must remember we did not beg the privilege of coming to Joplin; we were sought.  We turned down one hundred other cities in order to come here.  I presume I will say a whole lot that you won’t like.  I’m not like the local ministers.  They couldn’t be like me.  If they said some of the things I will they wouldn’t hold their jobs three weeks.”  The reverend then explained his plans, “My aim is to create a kind of evangelism that will reform drunkards and prostitutes; to restore happiness to the homes.  Those who have friends they want to see led away from hell will give me their support.  Those who don’t care where they or their friends go or what they do are opposed to me.”

The reverend also addressed the issue of collections.  “In one day a circus will take $20,000 out of the city and it won’t leave one incentive for anyone to lead a better life.  We surely ought to be able to get one-third as much in three weeks as the circus does in one day.  God’s hardest job is to convert a stingy man.”  The money, Sunday explained, went purely to the operation of the meeting and saving souls.

More to the point, Sunday fearlessly scolded the crowd, “We need more people right with God, in almost every church there are two classes; the ruts and the anti-ruts.  A revival comes naturally in its proper place.  A revival of religious interest is a necessity.  It is a predominance of the material over the spiritual that is facing us.  This is the busy age; It is the age of ‘isms and ‘cisms; there is more today to turn people away from God than ever before.   When I see the street loafer standing on the corner discussing the greatest questions of the day and propounding a solution for everything, when I see him arguing and chewing, spitting and cursing, I k now it won’t be long before  the sheriff gets him; and there are too many of his class, his type is seen in other forms…”  Sunday continued that in the present day, everyone shifted the blame from themselves to something else, but the reverend refuted this fiercely decrying, “When things go wrong, the people, not God, are to blame.  Citizens of Joplin, you are to blame. Citizens of Joplin you are to blame.”

Sunday asked the question, was a revival worth it?  Was even an improvement of six months’ work worth it? The reverend answered in the affirmative, “It is worth all a person owns to have peace and contentment brought to the home for six months.  It is worth much to a woman to have her home made bright and to have her husband come home sober instead of having him brought  in drunk to curse and damn her.” Even if the husband fell off the wagon, Sunday proclaimed, “It will be appreciated, you can’t tell me it won’t.”

Billy Sunday

Sunday, as he began, “…dramatically hooked his clinched fist through the ozone and declared he was in position to defend himself and his policies.”

The reverend then directly addressed the work ahead for the city, “Joplin has an enviable reputation throughout the country.  It is recognized as a hustling, bustling city.  It is looked upon as a place of money.  But there are knockers here as elsewhere.  They are always busy with their hammers and they don’t observe union hours.  When our lives are pure and there are those who are interested in the moral betterment of the municipality, a city takes to a revival just as water seeks its own level.  There are experts in all lines, in medicine, in law.  This is the day of specialists, and the evangelist is one of them; his work is different from that of a minister.”  Sunday then explained that, “…a revival is the conviction of sin.  Inside the church there must be a spiritual revival before it gets outside.”  The problem, Sunday continued was that,”…the average church worker’s faith is almost ready to snap; the average citizen spends too much of his time in his commercial interests.  In Joplin there are many people devoting all their time to zinc mines and zinc mining stocks and letting their kids go to hell.”  Sunday then condemned, “You can walk down the street with a basket of nickels and lead four-fifths of the people to hell.”

Sunday also addressed the subject of the local minister.  He accused preachers of being unforgiving and so caught up in factionalism with other reverends that they were just as quickly find themselves on the way to hell as any other sinner.  Some of the biggest devils, Sunday growled, were baptized.  For Sunday, salvation was found through faith in Jesus Christ, not in organized religion. Churches were fine so far as they were “in the world, but all wrong when the world is in [them]…”  Sunday then proclaimed, “You can go to hell just as fast from the church door as from the grog shop or bawdy house.”

As the clock neared 9:30 pm, Sunday concluded with a catalog of those who would fight against the revival.  They were the blackleg gamblers, the bartenders and saloon proprietors, and prostitutes, as well nefarious and slinking politicians.  None the less, Sunday declared, “But I’ll give the devil and his gang the best run for their money they have ever had.”

Thus, Sunday had established the battleground upon which he intended to fight.  Like many of the pre-Prohibition evangelist of the day, alcohol existed as one of the chief evils of society.  Remove it and those who supported its distribution and a society would be down the path to peace and happiness.  It was one of the chief pillars of vice that Sunday fought against and would become an even wider electoral battleground in only a number of weeks.

Fifty Days of Sunday: The Preparations for Sunday

The Preparations for Sunday

 

While the ministers of Joplin were busy raising the tabernacle in advance of the arrival of Reverend Billy Sunday, other preparations were also underway.  Among those was the organization of women to help reinforce the religious teaching of Sunday’s great revival through “cottage prayer meetings.”  112 districts were created which encompassed the city with at least one woman per district.  While several meetings were expected to happen before Sunday arrived, thereafter, thirty-minute meetings would be held every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday after the Sunday services to follow up on the sermons.

Preparations also were afoot in the office of the mayor, Guy Humes.  At his behest, the chief of the Joplin Police Department, John A. McManamy, issued a notice to the department which read:

“To members of the police department: Gentlemen, I desire to call to your attention to the fact that boys are being allowed to shake dice in pool and billiard halls and saloons.  This must be stopped.  Second, that gambling houses are running in Joplin.  These must be closed or the proprietors put in jail.”

Five days later, under the order of Mayor Humes, the Joplin Police under the cover of night, swept through the district of the city between Eighth and Ninth Streets.  Their orders were to investigate “suspicious houses,” where a newspaper claimed “questionable resorts were being maintained in buildings” on the block.   The investigation netted two women, Bessie Cook and Anna Grimes, arrested on the charge of “lewd conduct.” (Both pled not guilty)  Before the specter of Reverend Sunday’s pending arrival, another raid was executed this time on “joints” on Main Street at nine in the morning on the 15th of November.  Three squads of Joplin Police officers worked their way through suspected locations and by noon had arrested over 68 women (similar arrests resulted in $10 fines and a charge of disturbing the peace).

Guy Humes, the crusading mayor of Joplin.

Since his election, Humes had struggled to rein in the vices of Joplin, but often had met with resistance.  One Joplin daily newspaper (which threw its political support to the party of Humes’ opposition) even made a habit of ridiculing Humes’ morality crusade.  Regardless, the fact that Billy Sunday was coming to Joplin had provided the mayor with a new well of support to achieve his goals.  It was with no surprise that with such a groundswell of backing that Humes selected the most (in)famous saloon in Joplin to personally raid, the House of Lords.

By law, alcohol was not to be sold on Sunday, a Joplin blue law.  It was also a law that newspaper articles implied was routinely flouted.  In his effort to ensure that he could catch the proprietor of the House of Lords in the act of breaking the law, Humes made the controversial decision to hire private investigators to go undercover to alert him of the time and practice of the violation.  Thus armed with said information, Humes personally lead a raid into the famed saloon accompanied by not just police officers, but also a newspaper reporter.  The result was outrage by some and congratulations by others and space on the front page of a Joplin daily.

The city’s crusade was not without violence and bloodshed, either.  In the midst of the prior raid on suspicious women, one police officer was killed and another wounded by William Schmulbach, when an attempt was made to arrest his wife.  Schmulbach escaped and became one of Joplin’s most notorious and wanted men.  High rewards failed to turn others against him and Joplinites claimed to have spotted him at one time or another across the breadth of the nation.  Chief McManamy blamed the municipal judge, Fred W. Kelsey, who had ordered the raid for the officer’s death.  Judge Kelsey, likewise accepted responsibility, but fired back that “No officer should shirk the responsibility of a raid made in an effort to enforce the law…”  The severity of the conflict by Humes against the vices of Joplin soon garnered the attention of the Kansas City Star, which sent a reporter to Joplin to report on crackdown.

In the outsider peering in perspective offered by the article that ensued, the true state of the recent events took on the incredible air of a city government divided.  In one corner was the mayor, whom the article referred to as supported by “those who desire to see the laws enforced.”  In another, the long time and often re-elected chief of police, McManamy, who purportedly was lobbied by the ne’er do wells to simply allow the city to be policed as it had before the pre-Sunday enforcement push.  In the third corner, the municipal court judge Kelsey, who in contrast to Humes, wanted an even stricter crackdown on criminals.  Additionally, the city council of sixteen was also divided along even lines of support for and against the law enforcement effort.

Police Chief John A. McManamy, the target of lobbying by the “open town” supporters.

It all, the paper claimed, was due to the eventual arrival of the Rev. Billy Sunday.  His arrival, “caused a shiver to run through the camp of the lawbreakers.”  Purportedly, such was the concern of those on the wrong side of the law that a meeting was held at the House of Lords where a temporary agreement was made “…The gamblers agreed to leave town for a while and the saloon keepers decided to close their places on Sunday while the revival was in progress.”  Thereafter, as soon as the revival and the excitement it generated ended, the gamblers would “slip back again.”

The House of Lords was, the paper described, “The central point of attack of the law enforcement contingent and the place around which the defenders of an open town are rallying…[It is]…the pioneer saloon, café, pool hall and rooming house in Joplin.  It is the headquarters of many of the politicians, and the stronghold of those who do not like to see old conditions disturbed…”  The House of Lords was a place of “red paint and expensive furnishings” which separated and distinguished the saloon from any similar business in Joplin.  Humes, after the raid, refused to sign the liquor license and vehemently swore the House of Lords would be permanently closed.

Joplin Main Street

On the left, the House of Lords, located at the very heart of Joplin’s financial district and the alleged heart of those who supported an “open town” policy for Joplin.

Rev. Sunday also brought fear to those who indirectly supported unlawful activity.  “Some of those “church goers” who had been renting their buildings for rooming houses of questionable character and for dens of vice, took fright and demanded that their tenants vacate.  The Rev. Mr. Sunday has a way of collecting local information and announcing publicly the names of offending church members.  There was a general stampede for righteousness among that class of church members…”

The Reverend Frank Neff, formerly assistant pastor at the Independence Avenue Methodist Episcopal church in Kansas City, and then president of the Ministers Alliance of Joplin, stated to the reporter, “We expect a great clean up in the city, but it will be in the nature of a religious awakening which will result in a permanent clean up and will come from a sincere desire of the people.”  Neff went on to offer his support for Mayor Humes’ activity and granted him credit for attempting to clean up Joplin since he was elected.

The pending arrival of Billy Sunday shook Joplin to its core.  For some, it was the opportunity to save the city from vice once and for all through an up swell of religious fervor.  For others, it was a direct attack on the customs and habits, if not livelihoods, of a city that had persisted since the birth of Joplin as a rough mining camp in the old Southwest.  While factions fought, compromised and fought even more, all sides waited in one form of anticipation or another for the reverend to arrive.

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

Joplinites in El Reno, Oklahoma

Joplinites were not the type to idly sit by when opportunity knocked. In 1901, El Reno, Oklahoma, served as the site of the last land lottery in Indian Territory. The small settlement was flooded by thousands of hopeful settlers who sought to obtain free government land and forge a better future. Several Joplin residents were present to take part.

Some, like Captain Marion Staples, were there to engage in business. Money was to be made off of those who came ill-prepared for the rush. Carl Dufflemeyer went to El Reno to sell insurance to new arrivals in the territory. African-Americans Aaron Fuller and Allen Hardy were making “a veritable mint” by running a black barber shop and boot black stand. Ed Riseling was there for the thrill and spent much of his time entertaining his friends from Joplin in style in “one of the best rooms in the place.”

Joplin resident Matt George was in El Reno “protecting a roll of Uncle Sam’s currency, all of which he has made” since arriving there two weeks earlier. Joplin’s “Big Luke” was also there, though for reasons known only to himself. Even Joplin’s city collector, W.A. Kirkpatrick, was there, as well as future Joplin mayor Guy Humes.

For most, the opportunity to make money and watch as thousands of fellow Americans made a desperate run for land was enough, and after the dust had settled, they returned home to Joplin.

Source: Joplin News Herald