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.

The Bars and Buffets of Joplin – The Working Man’s Preferred

Joplin was a city that at times was known for the number of its bars versus the number of its churches. The Missouri Trade Unionist, a weekly paper published in Joplin, opted to review the bars in Joplin in 1914, concerning where the “leading buffets” were located. In regard to the bars, the Missouri Trade Unionist, adamantly stated, “every liquor dealer in this Review Edition today conducts an absolutely orderly place, free from rowdyism or disgraceful scenes, and even though the boy under age escapes parental authority; and attempts to purchase a drink, he is not only denied the privilege by the saloon man, but often receives a moral lecture of more value to him than any emanating from any other source.” That the bars be virtuous was an important selling point, if not practice, due to a growing atmosphere of prohibition that had only a few years earlier sought to make Joplin a dry town, and had succeeded in drying up many neighboring counties and communities.

Indeed, the weekly paper referred to a Liquor Dealers Association of Joplin, an organization which had the three stated goals: “1) To protect the legitimate liquor dealer from unjust and fanatical persecution by the enemies of the liquor business. 2) To educate its members in an honest endeavor to elevate the business to a higher standard and to divorce the saloon from all unlawful and criminal associations. 3) To protect the respectable, law abiding, saloonkeeper from law defying competitors and from the influence of the dive and disorderly saloon, which breed opposition to all saloons and lead to prohibition…” With an intent to hold up the finer examples of Joplin’s saloons, which also agreed with the paper’s political perspective, the weekly listed some of the following:

Brockman & Turner Buffet
“Messrs. Brockman & Turner enjoy a most excellent patronage of some of the very best people of our city. And they are friends of our cause in every sense of the word. Their place is stocked with every leading brand of imported and domestic wines, whiskies, brandies, beers and cigars. Their buffet is a very popular one with the people…Brockman & Turner are broad-minded, liberal men, who have aided the cause on more than one occasion, and they number a host of friends and patrons among the working people of Joplin.”

Clarketon Hotel Bar
“This saloon is located in the Hotel Building at 722 Main Street, and is one of the most popular and best equipped thirst parlors in the city….Mr. Mike Lawton, the proprietor, is highly respected and very popular…he carries a full line of choice cigars…”

Bartenders’ Union, No. 827
“Joplin Bartenders union, No. 827 was originally organized as a Cooks and Waiters’ local union, according to the charter on the wall at 417 Main Street…” It was affiliated with the “Hotel and Restaurant Employees’ International Alliance and Bartenders’ International League of America, with headquarters in Cincinnati. The bartenders soon became the majority members of the organization and the local now has a membership of about sixty, composed of many of the best bartenders of the city…the Union has a bar car card called the “Blue Label Bar Card” and those who desire to help the Bartenders elevate themselves re requested to patronize saloons where cards are displayed.”

The Galena Bar
“The Galena Bar is one of the extremely popular buffets in our city, owned and operated by Mr. Ross Adams, and located at 709 Main street….[he] is a friend of the cause of labor, and has always been first to aid any movement for the betterment of Joplin and her working people.”

Denton Saloon
Located at Sixth and Joplin, “Their place is patronized by the best class of people…It is our duty to patronize business men who are our friends, and we will make no mistake in giving our liberal cooperation to Messrs. Denton(s), who are public spirited, enterprising citizens and business men.”

Fehrenbach Wine and Liquor Company
Located at 111 West Sixth Street, “Among the progressive and well known business establishments mentioned in our columns of friends of labor, none are more worthy of attention…having been in business in Joplin at the same location for about eight years, during which time they have forged steadily to the foremost rank in business circles…This house is one of the largest of its kind in this section of the state, and they conduct a large business throughout the surrounding territory….they are distributors for the famous “Miller’s High Life Beer,” also other noted brands of products…Mr. Wm. Fehrenbach has been a Joplin resident for many years and bears the good will and esteem of the people.”

The Club Saloon shortly before it was razed.

The Club Saloon
Located at 402 Main Street, “Mr. John Ferguson, the proprietor, is a warm friend of the cause of labor, and on many occasions has responded most liberally to our cause.

The Keystone Bar
Located at 107 East Fourth, “This buffet is conducted in such a manner that it is a pleasure to visit there…”

The Two Bills Bar
“We wish to direct special attention to the above named bar, which is located at 1056 Main Street…The place is always kept clean and orderly, and the most fastidious need feel no hesitation is making this their place…”

Hub Bar
Located at the “northeast corner of Fourth and Main streets…Stalwart men drink beer. The great middle class of intelligent, industrious workmen in the millions of workshops of the world find its cheer makes their work a pleasure and its strength feeds their muscles for the tasks they have to perform. You will find no better place to trade than the above named buffet. Their draught beer is always kept in good condition…”

Miners Exchange Bar
“Every wage earner and citizen of Joplin knows the Miners Exchange Bar as one of the most popular bars of the city. The proprietor, Andrew Fritach, is a popular host…at the establishment located at 610 Main Street, and is patronized by those who want the best wines, liquors and cigars.”

Brewery Workers, No. 193
“Brewery and Ice Workers’ Local union, No. 193, one of the strongest unions in the district, with a membership at present of seventy, was organized May 9, 1900….The Joplin local is affiliated with the International Union of United Brewery Workmen, affiliated with the American Federation of Labor, and all employees in breweries, agencies and ice plants are eligible to membership, with the exception of foremen who do not perform manual labor and hire and fire workmen. Those employed in the offices of a brewery are not entitled to membership.”

Stationary Engineers, No. 3
“Zinc Belt Local Lodge, No. 3, association of Engineers, entitled Engineers and Enlightened Mechanics, was formed May 31, 1900. The organization devotes a large part of its time to discussing problems which confront engineers, and pays no attention to strikes or boycotts, but has maintained a good organization the city for the last eleven years.”

House of Lords Bar in Joplin Missouri

House of Lords
“Peregoy & McCullough, Proprietors…These gentlemen conduct the well-known café and buffet at 319 Main street….These gentlemen have the hearty good will of hundreds of working people, a sincere advocate of good and intelligent organization and well-wishers to the wage earners….They are the type of men who believe in the motto of “Live and let live.”

Exchange Bar
“One of the extremely popular buffets of the city is that conducted by Mr. Wm. Fahrman and located at 112 West Fifth street….This is one of the really pleasant and well conducted bars of our city, and everything known in an up to date bar will be found there. The stock of goods include the best of imported goods, besides the domestic makes of the recognized manufacturers, and a fine supply of the best of bottled and keg beers…”

The Palace Bar
Located at 828 Main street,”[Warner Rowe] carries a finely selected stock of whiskies, beers and union-made cigars….Our working people are always sure of a cordial welcome when they pay a visit to this popular buffet…”

Home Brewing and Ice Co.
“Nothing in the history of American enterprise is more remarkable than the perfection to which brewing has been brought. The Home Brewing and Ice Company is producing beer quite the equal in purity, flavor and quality to the best brews of the old countries. The bottles beer, known as the “Middle West” is the most popular of any beer sold throughout this section, and for which absolute purity and nourishing qualities are unsurpassed.

The plant of this company is one of the most important enterprises of Joplin and furnishes steady employment to a large force of workmen, who are treated with the most fairness and consideration…the choicest hops and malt alone are handled in such a scientific manner as to result in a perfect beer, which for purity, flavor and uniform excellence is unequaled by few American breweries. The sanitary features of this brewery are above the average. All bottles, kegs and casks receive a thorough sterilizing and the bottling of the products is immediate after this sanitary precaution…. The beer of the Home Brewing and Ice Company is a standard of purity, much desired by the families of Joplin people….”

The Turf Bar
“Mr. Pete Braden, the proprietor of the Turf Bar, whose location is 123 Main Street, is a gentleman…He conducts one of our first class buffets and has always transacted all business on fair and just principles…”

The Irish Village
Located at 931 Main Street, “One may rest assured of getting the best when patronizing this place. The manager, Mr. R.G. Fordham, is broad-minded and liberal on the view of the labor question…”

The Ninth Street Bar
“Among the business men of our city, none have shown a more friendly feeling for the wage earners than Mr. Henry Paulson, proprietor of the Ninth Street Bar, located at 901 Main Street. There is no establishment in this section which holds a more esteemed and popular position…”

The Mayflower Bar
Located at 832, owned by Oscar Pfotenhauer, “This gentleman strives at all times to give his patrons the best of treatment and service, and he has always manifested a friendly attitude toward the men who toil, in fact, he numbers many of our members among his customers…”

Joplin Ice and Cold Storage Company
“No industry in Joplin has grown to be a more important factor in the growth and prosperity of the city, nor caters more directly to the comfort and happiness of the people than has the Joplin Ice and Cold Storage Company, with office and plant located at Tenth street and Byers avenue….The wide practical experience of the management enables this company to handle all business with dispatch and accuracy, and the ice manufactured is absolutely pure and wholesome, and most carefully and hygienically made from the purest of distilled water, and is not touched by human hands until places in the refrigerator…

This company are sole agents and distributers in Joplin for the famous “Falstaff Bottled Beer” made in the brewery of Lemp, is known the world over as the choicest product of the brewer’s art, which is known to every union man throughout this district as a product made by a brewery that is true to union labor. The gentlemen composing this company are representative business men, and they have the highest standing in the business world. The management is fair and just with labor, and they well merit our hearty co-operation and patronage.”

The Broadway Street Bar
“Among the popular saloon men of Joplin who have built up a large business in their line and who are known to be friendly toward the working men is Mr. Frank McCammon, proprietor [of the bar]…which is located at 101 Main street….”

Mascott Bar
“Among the popular and successful business men in Joplin in their particular line is Mr. E.H. Faulstich…His success can be counted in no small measure to the fact that he has treated labor with a fair consideration at all times and we have every reason to wish him continued success…”

Michael A. Donahue Bar
Located at 1802 Main street, “Mr. Donahue handles none but the best in his line of merchandize and his place of business is always kept neat, clean and sanitary…”

The WoodBine Bar
Located at 417 Main Street, “Here you will find a large and select stock of choice wines, liquors and cigars….The management of this buffet is progressive and public spirited, and has always manifested a friendly feeling toward the cause of labor, and we would ask our members and readers to give this buffet their liberal and hearty cooperation at all times…”

The House of Lords: The Place of Quality

House of Lords Bar in Joplin Missouri

For the early shining decades of Joplin’s history, there was one place to have a drink and a meal. It was the House of Lords. It was an attitude cultivated by the establishment, as shown in the advertisement below from the first decade of the 1900′s. Also below is a glimpse inside the famed locale, a view of the cafe area and above, the bar.

House of Lords advertisement
House of Lords Restaurant in Joplin

House of Lords

This photograph comes to Historic Joplin courtesy the great-grandson of Joseph “Joe” Dorizzi. Dorizzi is the man standing in the center of the photo flanked by two unknown men. He was one of the last to own the famed House of Lords. Notice the large, vertical House of Lords Budweiser sign – it replaced a smaller sign that hung outside the establishment years earlier. Although we’ve come to know the Budweiser Clydesdales and even the Budweiser frogs, you’ll see that in this case it’s a Budweiser mule team in front of the House of Lords. Perhaps it was a tip of the hat to the noble Missouri mule. We thank the owner of the photo for sharing this incredible treasure.

Dining in the House of Lords

Made dinner plans yet?  If you happened to be strolling along Main Street north of Fourth and Main one hundred and twelve years ago, you might decide to find a bite to eat inside one of Joplin’s most famous (or infamous) dining places, the House of Lords.  Below are two menus from August, 1899, which undoubtedly satisfied some Joplinite’s hungry stomach. At the time, the House of Lords was operated by Louis N. Rahn, hence, “Rahn’s House of Lords.”

 

The Lady in the Window

If you have ever lived in  Joplin, you have undoubtedly heard about the House of Lords.  Usually one hears a story that goes like this: Bar on the bottom floor, gambling on the second floor, and a brothel on the third floor.  After reading years of Joplin newspapers, we can honestly say that yes, there is truth in the story. There were slot machines, there were countless rounds served at the bar, and yes, there were prostitutes working the building. This excerpt from a letter describes what one resident saw one day while working downtown:

Joplin Main Street

On the left, the House of Lords, on the right, the Joplin Hotel. Neither quite shared the same clientele.

“Two weeks ago last Saturday night, I, stood in front of the Joplin Hotel, and such a sight as was seen on the opposite side of the street cannot be forgotten.  A drunken, brazen, disgusting prostitute stood in front of a window in the third story of the House of Lords as naked as when she came into the world, in plain view of the hundreds of people walking up and down the street, and not an officer with the courage or decency to prevent it.  Ladies were obliged to turn their faces or leave the street; and I am told that the proprietor of the hotel cannot assign a lady a front room because of the character of the occupants in the building across the street.  Sodom and Gomorrah were never sunk as deep in the depths of infamy and vice as this, and the prayers of the wives and mothers of Joplin will be answered.”

Update on Gryphon Building and Dedication of Joplin High School

There are two articles concerning history in the Joplin Globe this weekend.  The first is a further update on the recently renovated Gryphon Building.  Last week we referred to an article on the present status of the building and its progress in finding tenants.  In that article, it was mentioned that a restaurant would be entering the building.  This weekend brought more news along that front.

Richard and Amy Sanell, owners of the successful Cafe on the Route over in Baxter Springs, will be the ones behind the Gryphon building restaurant.   Of interest, Richard Sanell suggests that the menu might be based upon previous menus of downtown’s former great dining locations, the Connor hotel and the House of Lords.  More info on the Sanells and their plans can be found in the article.

The other article is a short write up by Joplin Museum Director, Brad Belk, on the dedication of Joplin High School in 1958.  The article briefly covers the decisions behind building the new school, the funding measures that succeeded and failed, and the final result with some specifics, such as the number of bricks used in the school’s construction.

We hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend.   Now back to the trenches!

Carthage Points Out Joplin’s Wrongs

In years past, Carthage and Joplin have had an unspoken rivalry. Sometimes this rivalry would manifest itself in spirited jibes published in the papers, but more often than not it was the Carthage Evening Press that took swipes at Joplin, rather than the Globe or News-Herald that tried to besmirch Carthage’s reputation. The following article is one of hundreds of news items that the Evening Press ran over the years about incompetent, lawless, wicked Joplin.

“Lawless at Joplin. Many Robberies Occur Between the two towns – Police Protection Needed.

‘Kid’ Holden, who runs a gambling device in the Barbee building [Note to Readers: House of Lords] and lives on the corner of north Mineral and Hill streets, East Joplin, was robbed on Broadway, between East and West Joplin, Saturday night, while on his way home. The robbers were secreted behind the bill-boards on Broadway, between Virginia and Pennsylvania avenues, and as Holden approached he was clubbed into unconsciousness – the robbers taking a gold watch and pocketbook which contained $7. It is reliably reported that an attempt was made to ‘hold-up’ Holden some time ago, but he ran his assailants away with a revolver.

This audacious robbery has occasioned much talk in East Joplin, and has brought out the fact that there have been upward of a dozen attempts at ‘hold-up’ and robbery between the two towns within the past two or three weeks. A citizen of East Joplin says: ‘Crooks are to be seen almost nightly between Main street, on the west side and the bridge and its vicinity on the east side, where they are either skulking about the lumberyard, railway crossing, hiding about freight cars, the dives or shanties in the vicinity, or the bill boards.

‘Not long since,’ he continued, ‘an east town lady, while purchasing groceries on the west side, displayed a rather full pocket book in her rounds, she had not gone far on her way home before a robber approached her. But just then a car came gliding down the hill. She at once ran toward it, and the thief made a hurried break in the opposite direction, and was almost instantly out of sight.’

‘It would be a very easy job to ‘pull’ these ‘crooks’ and break up the robbers roost between the two towns, but no attempt has yet been made to afford any relief whatever. The crooks are actually safer between the two towns than any other part of the city.[Editor's Note: The area between the two towns probably refers to the area known as the Kansas City Bottoms.] The police, or its chief, evidently consider it the duty of the force to remain about the crowded streets, and protect the saloons, and ‘pull’ those who patronize those institutions ‘too freely,’ and thus swell the city’s funds while leaving the various outlying thoroughfares of the city of Joplin utterly unprotected.’

‘It is claimed that if three picked men were taken off the police force, the remainder would not be worth a snap of the fingers. The force is the most incompetent in the history of the city. The recent east town shooting affair – when two policemen in attempting the arrest of an unarmed crippled boy over a twenty-five cent game of cards in a saloon, shot him down at close range – is an illustration.”

Source: Carthage Evening Press

A Bed In Joplin

Curious to know how much it would have cost to stay in some of Joplin’s hotels?

In 1914, Joplin had an estimated population of 32,073 and had 21 hotels.

Here’s what it would have cost you to stay at some of Joplin’s finer establishments:

Blende Hotel

D.H. McHeeman, Proprietor

Rates: 50 cents and $1.00 per day

Clarendon Hotel

L.S. Branum, Proprietor

Rates: $1.00 per day

Connor Hotel

T.B. Baker, Proprietor

Rates: $1.00 per day and up

An illustration of the Hotel Forney from an advertisement.

Hotel Forney

I.P. Forney, Proprietor

Rates: $1.50 and up

Keystone Hotel

W.P. Walton, Proprietor

Rates: 75 cents and up

South Joplin Hotel

Gus Searr, Proprietor

Rates: $1.00 and up

Turner Hotel

William D. Turner, Proprietor

Rates: $1.25 per day

Yates Hotel

C.E. Yates, Proprietor

Rates: 1.75 per day

Robert Avett, proprietor of the House of Lords, did not respond to the questionnaire and thus while the hotel was listed in the directory, the cost of a room was not listed. The same went for many other Joplin hotels, including the following: Roosevelt Hotel, La Grand Hotel, Clarkton Hotel, Cliff House, Southern Hotel, Crescent Hotel, and Crystal Hotel.

Hotels in Springfield, hailed as the Queen City of the Ozarks and Joplin’s rival, had similar rates. The finer hotels, such as the Colonial, charged $2.50 and up per day in comparison to Joplin’s Connor Hotel, which charged $1.00 and up.

Source: Official Hotel Directory of Missouri

A Rainstorm Floods Joplin – The Flood of 1916

The last few weeks have been scorching hot in southwest Missouri.  In 1916, however, a sudden cloudburst wreaked havoc upon Joplin that seems almost unreal.

A “severe electrical storm” began at 10:30 at night with a host of giant storm clouds that hovered over the city until they burst and flooded the city below.

The deluge began with 5 and ¾ inches of rain during the night, followed by 5 and ½ inches within a two hour period in the morning.  The rain was accompanied by a savage hailstorm that forced pedestrians to run for shelter.  The downpour continued throughout the afternoon and in just a few minutes more than an inch of rain had fallen.  Total rainfall was estimated at 6 9/10 to 7 inches.  Long time Joplin residents remarked that it was the most severe storm the city had experienced.

According to C.W.  Glover of 216 North Wall Street, the rainstorm was nothing compared to one that ravaged Joplin in July, 1875.  According to Glover, it rained for three days and three nights.  Joplin Creek, which divided East Joplin from West Joplin, became a raging torrent that no one dared cross.  Professor William Hartman, a musician, and his wife were drowned, and several others were almost lost when seeking shelter or attempting to rescue those endangered by the flood waters.  Joplin’s horse drawn trolley was unable to travel to Baxter Springs due to the washed out roads and streets.

The 1916 storm was so sudden that it caught many people off guard.  John Moore, Edward Poe, and Peter Adamson, miners working in the Coralbut  (formerly the Quaker) mine west of Chitwood, were drowned when rainwater swept down into the mine at such a furious rate that they were unable to escape in time.  Unfortunately for the three miners, the water had pooled at the top of the mine behind piles of debris that had formed an old mine pond when the debris gave way and a torrent of water flooded the mine shaft.

Zinc mine in Joplin

A retaining pond like this one doomed 3 miners when it burst during the storm.

Altogether there were twelve men in the mine and they scrambled on top of some boulders as the water began to rise.  The hoisterman at the surface lowered a tub to rescue them, but the water was so high and the current so strong that the men were reluctant to jump across the water into the tub.  Nine of the miners were able to escape before the water overtook them.  Moore, Poe, and Adamson said they could not swim and thought they would be safe on top of the boulders.  It was not before long, though, that the hoisterman heard them call for help.   One of them yelled, “For God’s sake, get a boat before we drown!” It was too late.  They were unwilling to jump to the tub across the raging water and were drowned despite the efforts of their fellow miners to go down in the tub and try to reach them.  The bodies of three men were not immediately located by rescuers.

One of the miners who escaped, Roy Clark, had been a sailor on a tramp steam freighter out of Queenstown.  He declared after his harrowing experience that he was “through with mining.” Clark, who claimed he had developed strong swimming skills as a sailor, said he would not have dared to swim through the water that had flooded the mine.  Another miner who had been in the mine, C.E.  Evans, said he had warned his fellow workers about the storm.  He said he had picked up hailstones as big as his thumb that had fallen into the mine and knew that trouble was not far off.  By the time they saw the water pour in and ran for the boulders, he said, the water was up to their waists and rising.  The tub, he said, was slow in coming.  Evans’s fellow miner, Lowery, was standing on a boulder with water up to his chin when he was able to get to the tub.

Even those who were in the safety of their own home were not shielded from the storm.  William Langley, a 70 year old gardener, drowned in his home at Second and Ozark streets when it was submerged by water due to the home being situated next to a steep draw that funneled water down into the house.

William Langley's Death Certificate

William Langley's Death Certificate only notes an accidental drowning

When rescuers broke into Langley’s home, they found that the water had been only six inches from the ceiling.  Some families in Chitwood sought refuge on top of their homes as the water began to rise, while others remained in storm shelters, still afraid to venture out due to the lightning and hail of the past few hours.

Mines suffered damage.  The Grace Mine mill, located a mile north of Chitwood, and the Longfellow school building were both hit by lightning.  Mine owner W.H.  Gross of 318 West Eighth Street estimated damages at $15,000.  Several other mine buildings were struck by lightning but did not burn.  Many more were filled with water and required large pumps to remove the water.  Total damages for mines across the Joplin area were estimated at $200,000.

The storm of 1916 caused severe damage to downtown Joplin.  Main Street from Fourth to Sixth streets was a “white-capped torrent for more than two hours” with a depth of two to five feet deep in some places.  Businesses along this section of downtown reported losses of $100,000.  Fleischaker Dry Goods, Christman’s, and Ramsay’s suffered severe flood damage.  Ramsay’s lost all of the merchandise stored in the building’s basement which was filled with six feet of water at one point.  Christman’s reported $10,000 in losses.  Merchandise located on the lower shelves of the stores was thoroughly soaked.

Ramsay's Department Store

Ramsay's Department Store suffered damage from the storm.

Christman's Department Store

Christman's, another victim of the flood damage.

One odd occurrence was when a bolt of lightning struck two wax figures in the Menard Store located at 423 Main Street.  One of the figures was completely melted while the other was only scorched on the arm.

At the Commercial billiard parlor at 521 Main Street, seven billiards tables were ruined.  Not far down the street the Priscilla Dress Shop at 513 Main lost several expensive Parisian gowns valued at $3,000, artwork estimated to be worth $2,000, and $300 of electrical fixtures destroyed.

It seemed as if no business escaped the wrath of the storm.  The Farrar-Stephens Auto Tire Company at 520 Joplin Street reported damages of $5,000 while Kresge 5 and 10 Store lost merchandise valued at $5,000.  The Joplin Pittsburg Railway Company suffered $2,500 in losses.  The Burke Cigar and Candy Store and the Electric Theater building only had $2,000 in damages.  Even the vaunted House of Lords suffered $500 of damage.

Joplin’s Hello Girls found that the storm caused $10,000 worth of losses.  Nearly 4,000 telephones were out of service after the rain stopped, almost half of Joplin’s total number of phones.  Poles were down, wires severed, circuits dead, and fuses blown all over town.  Long distance lines, however, received very little damage.  Phone company officials considered it a miracle.

Bridges and roads were hit hard.  At least two large bridges were washed out, including the Joplin and Pittsburg Railway Company bridge over Turkey Creek.  Track was twisted and torn up and down the line.  A “masonry bridge over Turkey Creek at Range Line” was supposed to have been totaled at a cost of $1,000.  Trains from the Kansas City Southern, Frisco, and Missouri & North Arkansas railroads were unable to roll into Joplin.

One enterprising young man captured a bathtub that floated out of a plumbing shop and used it as a canoe to paddle through downtown.  Others joined him in boats and canoes (undoubtedly those who enjoyed fishing on the Spring River) while others just waded into the torrential streams of water.  Barrels, boards, and all sorts of other debris clogged the streets and alleys.  Citizens worked to grab the debris before it smashed out store windows and created more damage.

Giant potholes waited to twist ankles for those who dared to walk through the muddy water.  Motorists were asked by city officials to drive slowly lest they hit a pothole and total their cars.  Sidewalks were washed out as were sections of wood block pavement from Main Street to the Frisco rail tracks.  City parks were ravaged.  A sewer main burst at the North Main street viaduct and created a health hazard.

Joplin was battered, but not broken.   In time, debris was removed, mud swept away, and the ravages of nature relegated to memory.