To Build A Railroad: Photos from the Katy Line’s Construction to the Union Depot.

As part of our recent discovery of a photograph of the Joplin Union Depot under construction, we also uncovered photographs of the construction of the new Missouri-Kansas-Texas (“Katy”) railroad line by the Walsh-List-Gifford Construction Company. Once again, we are happy and proud to share a few glimpses of Joplin’s history that we believed was otherwise left to the imagination to envision. To learn some about the men featured in the photographs below and the life they lived, just read our earlier entry here about life in a railroad camp.

First, we have a photograph of a steam engine with the name of the company painted along the side of the accompanying coal car. The fellow resting on the front of the engine is one of our favorite elements of the photograph.

Click on the photo to find larger versions.

Next, we have a photograph of the railroad building at work.  Here, the company appears to be building up an earthen support to the trestle bridge that the line is built upon.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Finally, our favorite photograph shows some of the men at work (or spectating) on the side of the line while a steam engine puffs its way toward the photographer.

To view a larger version of the photograph, just click on the image.



House of a Thousand Shines

A fortune in zinc ore.

In the fall of 1924, South Joplin became home to the “House of a Thousand Shines.” Paul W. Freeman, of the John W. Freeman Trust Company, built a unique residence at 3215 Wall. The Globe reported, “As one drives past it on a sunny afternoon, little beams of light twinkle first here, then there in the walls, until the spectator is led to believe the house is studded with diamonds.” While his stucco house was under construction, Freeman found out that gravel typically used in stucco house construction cost $40 to $80 a ton and had to be transported from Michigan or Ohio. He then decided to use lead and zinc ore “instead of gravel as a splash for the walls.” After the “cracked ore was screened to eliminate the finer particles” the entire six room bungalow was covered in a ton and a half of zinc ore. Five hundred pounds of lead was used on the porch columns. Apparently pleased with the results, Freeman told the Globe that lead and zinc ore could be used as economically as out-of-state gravel, although it is unknown if other local residents chose to use it instead of other alternatives.

While Wall Avenue no longer extends into the 32nd block, it is possible the house still survives on Oak Ridge Drive.

Joplin High, Class of 1897

In 1897, 25 young men and women received their diplomas and exited as the largest class yet to graduate from Joplin High School.  While today’s graduating seniors dwarf this number, here are the names of Joplin’s proud students over a hundred and ten years ago.

Joplin High School graduates 1897

Beginning from the boys standing along the top row: Roy Calvin (moved to Long Beach, California after graduation), Ed Shepherd (moved to Miami, Florida after graduation, but who’s “brilliant engineering career was cut short by an accident in South America”), Elmer Williams, James Broadbent (became a teacher in Martinsville, Missouri), Superintendent W.B. Brown (moved to Chicago), Principal J.D. Elliff (became faculty member at University of Missouri), Oscar Nelson (cartoonist for the Joplin Globe, died in Pueblo, Colorado, while employed in “newspaper work.”), Ben Lutman (moved to Burlington, Vermont), Hugh Claycomb, Miss Nellie Fenn (teacher).

Beginning with the top row of girls: Miss Laura Adams (became Mrs. A.C. Thompson of Seattle, Washington), Miss Imogene Price, Miss Susie Simmons (became a teacher in Wichita, Kansas), Miss Etha Taylor (teacher in Joplin), Miss Louis Ogburn (became Mrs. W.A. Clark of Biloxi, Mississippi), Miss Gertrude Creller (became Mrs. J.F. Harbour of Oklahoma City), Miss Grace Fones (became Mrs. W. S. Goddard of Joplin), Miss Luna Yale (became Mrs. C.M.S. Martz of Hollywood).

Beginning with the girl whose picture appears in the lower left hand corner and including two lower rows: Miss Myrtle Foster, Miss Bertha Pertuche (became Mrs. C.M. Carter, deceased), Sam Thornton, Miss Ovella Gardner (became Mrs. Pontius, teacher in Joplin), Miss Ethel Davidson (became Mrs. W.H. Walker of Joplin), Miss Pearl Campbell (deceased), Miss Lillian Foster (became Mrs. Haggard of Miami, Oklahoma), Cleva Freye (moved to St. Louis).

Not pictured was Miss Edith Donnan, who became Mrs. T.S. Slivers of Tacoma, Washington.

(If no location is given after a name, then the individual remained in Joplin at the time of captioning.  The information provided came from the accompanying article.)

Video Page Added!

Many months back, we created video slideshows from old photography books of Joplin and posted them on Youtube. Now they are accessible on our site without hunting them down elsewhere. Just click on the “Video” tab at the top of the site on the right. Enjoy!

Dutch Pete

Peter R. “Dutch Pete” Ensminger was one of the many colorful figures who walked the streets of Joplin. He roamed the mining district between Joplin and the Kansas state line during the early 1870s until 1890. One person recalled, “His feats of strength were proverbial, and not to know of ‘Dutch Pete’ was to expose one’s ignorance of the traditions of the locality.” Unfortunately, like many of the individuals who called the Tri-State mining district home, Dutch Pete left little in the historical record, save for one account left by someone who apparently witnessed his exploits.
He was described as, “not a large man, weight about 175 pounds and being about five feet eight or nine inches in height. In his street clothes he would only attract attention by his breadth of shoulder, but no one would suspect his strength. He was very heavy boned, had long arms and unusually large and shapely hands and feet. His features were pleasing and intelligent…sparkling black eyes, dark hair, and complexion.”
It was only when he was at work at a smelter that one realized just how powerful Pete was. It was recalled that “The sinews then reminded one of the tendons in the leg of a horse, and muscles played about under the skin like live things.”
Among the feats of strength Pete could perform were taking a pig of lead in each hand, (each pig of lead reportedly weighed 90 pounds), holding them out, and then bring them together over his head; lift a 500 pound barrel of white lead into a wagon; and once “wheeled 24 pigs of lead 18 feet in an iron wheelbarrow on a dirt floor.”
About every six months, it was said, Pete would “drink enough to submerge his natural good nature and consideration for the proprieties.” Given his strength and size, he presented a challenge to local law enforcement, and it “was as entertaining as a circus to see the ‘law’ perspire in landing Pete in the lock-up, and the task was never finished without the force being badly ‘messed up.’”
Apparently the only way that Joplin’s police force could get Pete to jail was to tie him up and drag him, but it often took officers an hour to exhaust Pete, and only then could he be bound and hauled off. Given that Pete was a good natured fellow, officers seemingly chose not to billy club him into submission, as “there was not a man on the force who would strike him with a mace or see him struck.” Pete, for his part, was never known to hit or strike an officer.
Pete put the Joplin police force to the test one summer day in the 1870s “between Second and Third on the west side of the street.” Joplin’s beloved L.C. “Cass” Hamilton was city marshal. Together Hamilton and two of his deputies, one of whom was Joe Reeder, went after Pete for a minor offense. Hamilton and his men were described as “large men” with Hamilton roughly 250 pounds and the deputies roughly 200 pounds each. The three officers tackled Pete and the fight was on, but not for long.
“Before the dust had a chance to settle, it was seen that Hamilton was down, Reeder down beside him, and the other deputy lying across the two. Someone in the crowd yelled, ‘Dogfall! Try it over!’ and the fun continued until justice was vindicated.”
Pete was also known for the odd habit of “taking the conceit out of bulldogs barehanded.” He would “aggravate such an animal until it attacked him, when he would slap the dog and spin him around until he was exhausted or quit.” On one occasion, he tormented a bulldog until he grew tired, then viciously struck the animal, knocking it back against a wagon axle where it lay, unable to get up. Joplin attorney W.B. McAntire remembered that on at least one occasion Pete had suffered a few dog bites during one such occasion.
It was said that Pete eventually married, bought a farm, and moved to a Kansas county on the state line. He was reportedly killed in a train wreck between Joplin and Springfield.

The Stars and Stripes

Englishman B.E. Dover and Irishman Harry Flynn began talking during a Salvation Army service held at the corner of Fourth and Main streets when Dover gestured to the American flag and remarked, “That’s a damned pretty flag but it’s a dirty rag and represents a dirty class of people.”

Flynn, who had met Dover for the first time during the service, was enraged. Flynn asked Dover to walk up the street with him, rather than disturb the Salvation Army service, and the two men began walking toward Fifth Street. Flynn asked, “What did you say back there?” Dover repeated what he had said, then fell to the street as Flynn punched him in the face.

“Take that, and that, you dog!” Flynn shouted, striking the Englishman as a crowd gathered to watch, cheering the miner on. After he decided Dover had taken enough punishment, Flynn walked off, but not before he declared, “You may be able to talk about the American flag as you please in England, but begorrah, when you come to the United States of America, you will have to be guarded in your speech.”

Dover picked himself up off the street in search of a police officer. By the time he found one, Flynn could not be found, and the newspaper remarked, “even if he had been on the spot, the crowd of spectators would never have allowed him to be taken to jail.”

Joplin’s Managers of Baseball

Recently, Joplin Museum Director Brad Belk chose to write briefly about Harry Francis Craft for the Joplin Globe. Craft was not the first nor last baseball manager to pass through Joplin either on the way to the Major Leagues or on their way after. Perhaps one of the earliest baseball managers was “Honest John” McCloskey.

McCloskey rolled into Joplin in 1887. 1887 was the year that the News Herald declared that Joplin finally decided to become serious about baseball. This resolve was put into effort by the construction of a baseball field at the end of a mule drawn trolley line on west 9th Street. The city advertised for players, apparently finding none at home who met their own criteria, and ended up hiring a number of players from the “Kerry Patch” area of St. Louis. At the same time, the paper noted, a boom in some eastern Kansas towns had led John McCloskey to managing in Arkansas City.

Successfully defeating the Kansas towns, McCloskey brought his team to Joplin and thrashed the hometown heroes. Henry Sapp, who had made money mining lead and later zinc, and had been a driving force behind the St. Louis hiring, quickly fired the team and promptly bought out McCloskey and his Arkansas City team. Victory followed for Joplin until summer came to an end and fall grew closer to winter. Eager to keep playing, McCloskey raised enough support among Joplin businessmen to fund a tour of Texas. Purportedly, the Joplin players may have been among the first to assume the title of “Joplin Miners” with the team name stitched on the front of their uniforms. In the process, the Joplin team defeated two national league teams traveling through the state, one from New York and the other from Cincinnati, and may have also contributed to the establishment of a Texas baseball league.

In the late 1890’s, McCloskey returned several times to Joplin to field a team. One team, the Giants, competed against the Bloomer Girls in 1898. A few years later, McCloskey found himself the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals from 1906 to 1908. By his later years, the manager found himself without the success that had brought him a job in Joplin. Friends helped out McCloskey by contributing money to purchase the on and off again Joplin manager a home in Louisville, Kentucky.

Perhaps Joplin’s most successful baseball manager was Charles “Gabby” Street. Street was a son of Alabama and had a baseball career cut short by what Joplin newspaper man, Robert Hutchison called, “overindulgence in the bottled stuff.” Hutchison counted Street a friend and met with him and others every weekday morning during the off season to share their passion for the sport. One of the other regulars was Joe Becker, namesake of Joplin’s Joe Becker Stadium. Hutchison noted that Street earned the most fame as a player for catching a ball “thrown” from the top of the Washington Monument and as the catcher for Walter Johnson, a fellow teammate on the Washington Senators.

Street managed the Joplin Miners from 1922 to 1923, the former season being the one where the Miners won the Western Association championship. The success in Joplin lead him away from the city, but he later returned to make a home and to invest in real estate. He kept this home, according to Hutchison, before his major league appointment as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. At the Cards, Street managed from 1929 to 1933, taking the team to the World Series twice. Hutchison aptly described the two trips, “His Redbirds lost the 1930 World Series to Sly Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics, four games to two. They met again the next year and the famed Gas House Gang ripped up the basepaths for a victory in seven hard fought contests.”

The World Series pennant was the highlight of Street’s career. Soon after he was let go from the Cardinals and only returned to the show one last time to manage a losing St. Louis Browns. As Hutchison then recalls, “Gabby came home to stay.” Later on, Street did return to St. Louis, but to provide color commentary for the Cardinals instead of coaching. At this time, a future radio commentator worked with him, Harry Caray. When Street passed away, he was buried in Mount Hope cemetery along with many of the other notable names in Joplin’s past. West 26th Street is named after the baseball coach, who likely will be remembered as the most successful of the baseball managers to find their way to Joplin.

Sources: Joplin News Herald, Robert L. Hutchison’s “Deadlines, Doxies & Demagogues,” and

August Michaelis House – Before and After

Yes, another before and after photograph!  (There will be written content again – we promise!)

In this example, we have the home of August Michaelis.  Michaelis, who deserves and will get his own post, is responsible for many of Joplin’s beautiful buildings, such as the Carnegie Public Library and Memorial Hall.  He also designed the Miners’ Bank Building (which is no longer with us).   For coverage of the library, see here and here.  For coverage of Miners’ Bank, see here.  Needless to say, there are only a few other architects who can claim to have left such a stamp on the legacy of Joplin’s architecture.

The home of an architect, it obviously was designed with care and consideration.  At the moment, it is in the process of wasting away and currently for sale, and thus at risk of being bought and bull dozed.   Below are two photographs that show the past of a home more than a century old and its present state.

August Michaelis' home in 1902.

August Michaelis' home about 1902. Note the lack of the business development that eventually would surround it.

And now the present state of the Michaelis home.

August Michaelis' home in 2010

August Michaelis' home today and in need of preservation.

Roy Always Gets His Man

After stealing coal from the House of Lords, fourteen-year-old Roy Smith began serving a four month sentence at the Joplin city jail. What was notable about the young African American’s stint at the city jail was that no one filed a complaint against him and he was not tried for theft in police court. Instead, Smith’s guilty conscience led him to serve a self-imposed sentence. Deputy Chief Frank Sowder remarked it was the, “strangest case on record.”

Roy’s friends tried to convince him to “shake” the police after a few days, but he stubbornly stayed at the jail. He busied himself sweeping the police courtroom, building fires in the station in the morning, and running errands for the officers. When asked, Roy told a reporter that he planned to follow the law and serve his sentence.

Officers who may have thought Roy was good at keeping the jail tidy found out that he had even more to offer. Two small paperboys arrived at the jail and reported they had been assaulted by two black boys who pelted them with rocks and struck them with their firsts. Roy, whom officers had nicknamed “Cooney,” listened to their story. He then volunteered that he could identify and find the two black boys. Chief McManamy granted Roy permission to go apprehend the suspects, laughing at the boy as he headed out the jail. But the chief found himself surprised when ten minutes later he heard a “terrible commotion” in front of the jail. Looking outside, McManamy saw Roy dragging two “much larger negro lads by the coat collars.”

Roy proudly announced, “Here they are.” He then proceeded to drag the two boys into the jail. According to Roy, he used the power of verbal and physical persuasion to get the two boys to accompany him to the jail. Roy, who had observed officers over the last few weeks, took every precaution: He searched his prisoners before he handed them off to Chief McManamy, who performed the duties of desk sergeant. A few minutes later, Roy announced he “had scared them into making a complete confession.”

Roy formed a close friendship with Bosco Busick, the assistant deputy poundmaster and patrol wagon driver. The two of them would fall asleep in the big cushy armchairs in the jail at night after talking for hours. Despite fleeting moments of relaxation, Roy continued to serve as Joplin’s junior Sherlock Holmes.

A few weeks later, Roy was called to service once more. When the police needed to question a young African American girl about the whereabouts of some suspected criminals, the officers brought her to the station, put her in the sweatbox, and pressed her for information for over thirty minutes. She professed ignorance. Roy, who had been out buying tobacco for one of the officers, arrived and observed the interrogation. He winked at Night Captain Loughlin and began to talk to the girl. Soon he had obtained the information the officers sought. His task finished, Roy grabbed a broom and started sweeping the jail, which was now decorated with pictures and cartoons he had drawn for the officers.

Like many of Joplin’s other characters, we’re not sure what happened to Roy Smith, but it’s clear he made quite the impression on the Joplin police. One can only hope he stayed on the straight and narrow.

Pay Day

Joplin zinc miners

Undoubtedly, not a few miners dreamed of pay day while in the mines.

In Joplin, miners lined up for their weekly wages on Saturday. At the turn of the century, one paper reported that many of the leading mining companies were reluctant to pay workers on Saturday, but “the average miner will quit his job unless he is paid on Saturday and miners are scarce in this district.”

Paychecks were the primary method of payment. The ground boss kept track of his men’s hours and then the mine superintendent approved the final time statement. The statement was then delivered to the bookkeeper who then wrote out the checks. The mine superintendent then handed out the checks. Most mining companies reportedly employed fifteen to thirty men and their checks averaged $10 to $13 with each company shelling out anywhere between $300 to $700 for labor. As soon as they were paid, most miners went to the nearest bank to cash their checks, so Joplin bankers had to be sure to have enough money on hand on Saturdays, with many miners preferring to be paid in silver. Miners who had cashed their check were said to have “busted up.”

Banks were not the only ones who cashed checks. The saloon keepers of Chitwood and Smelter Hill may have cashed more checks than the banks. The paper observed, “The saloon man is accommodating; he always is.” One bank teller stated, “It used to be that we were obliged to keep open until 9 o’clock every Saturday night to transact the run of business, but now we finish and close by 8 o’clock. We do not cash near as many checks over the bank counter as a few years ago. The saloons and business houses are doing that part.”

The Joplin chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) tried to convince local mine superintendents to refrain from “settling their men in saloons” but failed to sway a majority, thus leaving the saloons an inviting place for miners to cash their checks and have a drink. Thus the streets of Joplin remained a lively, bustling place to be on a hot Saturday night.

Source: Joplin newspaper