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 Missing History of Fourth and Main Street

The four buildings of Fourth and Main Street

More than a century ago, a visitor to the bustling growing city of Joplin could have stood on any of the four corners of the intersection of Fourth and Main and viewed the history of the former mining camp writ large in the buildings about him or her. The ability to taken in the “epochs” of Joplin’s history with a glance was not missed by Joplinites of the era, and one reporter of a city papers wrote,

“The noonday shadow of the old frame landmark of the early seventies almost brushes the base of the half million dollar edifice that represents the highest achievements in building construction of the twentieth century. The monument to the days of Joplin’s earliest settlement seems to crouch lower and more insignificant than ever, now that a colossal hotel has been erected within less than a stone’s throw of it.”

The “old frame landmark” was the Club Saloon owned by John Ferguson until his death on the Lusitania (learn more about that here) and the “half million dollar edifice” was none other than the Connor Hotel, completed in 1908 and considered by many the finest hotel of the Southwest. Unmentioned above were the Worth Block and the Keystone Hotel. A visit to the intersection today, however, would find none of these buildings remaining.

A step back in time, when these four buildings still stood, would let the visitor see Joplin’s history as built by man. For reference by today’s geography, imagine that you are standing on the northwest corner of Fourth and Main Street with the Joplin Public Library at your back. Behind you in the past would be the towering eight story Connor, across the street to your right was the two story, wood-framed Club Saloon, where the current Liberty Building stands, to your left was the three story Worth Block, now home to Spiva Park, and directly diagonal from you would be the six story red-bricked Keystone Hotel, gone for the one story brick building today. The same reporter from above offered descriptions of how each of these four buildings revealed the chapters of Joplin’s past. The history that the Club Saloon represented was one of a camp fighting to become a city.

“When the frame structure at the southwest corner was the leading structure of the city, the site of the present Connor Hotel was a frog pond and the deep booming of the inhabitants of the swampy places echoed over the sweeping stretch of open prairie land.”

The Club Saloon shortly before it was razed.

At the same time, the land where the Keystone Hotel eventually grew, was a mining operation owned by Louis Peters. The reporter is quick to allay fears of sink holes and noted that the drifts and shaft of the mining were filled before the property was sold. The Club Saloon’s home was bought from its owners in Baxter Springs, Kansas, by Oliver Moffett (E.R. Moffett’s son), Galen Spencer, and L.P. Cunningham, among others, and brought to the young mining camp to become the town’s early center. It was first used as a grocery store and flanked on either side of it were “shacks of disreputable apperance.” In the frame building, reportedly, one of Joplin’s early grocers and councilmen, E.J. Guthrie was killed. It was not the only frame building to be brought to Joplin, but those failed to survive for long. The Club Saloon was immuned perhaps because of the temperament of its owner, the ill-fated John Ferguson. Often, he turned down offers to buy it and once Ferguson allegedly declared, “If you would cover the entire lot with twenty dollar gold pieces, it would not be enough. I think I shall keep it.”

Across the street, so to speak, the old frog pond was shortly developed into a three story brick building, the original Joplin Hotel. Described as a “palace” amongst the other contemporary buildings of Joplin, it was given credit for shifting the center of the new city from East Joplin to the area formerly known as Murphysburg. The presence of the brick building spurred the construction of others, particularly on the east side of Main Street. Among those building was Louis Peters, who continued his mining, but also built a two-story building at a cost of approximately $4,600 on the northeast corner. The new building replaced one that had burned to the ground and was built in less than two months, completed in the December of 1877. Later, a third story was added to what was then called the Peters Building, but became better known as the Worth Block when James “Jimmy” Worth became the owner (precipitated by Worth marrying a co-owner of the property).

Worth Block - Joplin, Missouri

The Worth Block circa 1902

As slowly a recognizable Fourth and Main Street began to emerge, Joplin was still a young city that had more in common with a mining camp than a growing metropolis. Saloons proliferated, gambling was common, and other vices not spoken of in good company. This period of Joplin’s past was described as so:

A crimson light hung high over Joplin, shedding its rays over a great portion of the town, would have been an appropriate emblem of the nature of the community. Pastimes were entered into with a wantoness that brought to the town a class of citizenship not welcome in the higher circles of society. But if, in those days there was a higher circle, its membership was limited. Society existed but it was in true mining town style. There was in evidence the dance hall, the wine room and the poker table. The merry laugh of carefree women mingled with the clatter of the ivory chips on the tables “upstairs” and the incessant music of the festival places sounded late into the night, every night of the week, and every week of the year. No city ordinance prevented citizens from expectorating tobacco saliva upon the sidewalks; in fact, the sidewalks were almost as limited as was the membership of the exclusive upper circles.

In 1875, a flood swept through Joplin, and washed away homes, flooded mines, and even killed some Joplinites. The damage, in 1875 dollars, was almost $200,000. For all that was lost, the city continued to gain in wealth, growth and citizens. Ordinances and laws were put in place and a more determined citizenship to see their enforcement. The lawlessness that had persisted in the open air withdrew, the “secrets of the underworld of the Joplin…” were not “broadcast as they were…” The surge of mineral wealth saw more bricked buildings rise and the new owner of the southeast corner of Fourth and Main, E.Z. Wallower, saw more to gain in building than in mining. In 1892, construction of the turreted Keystone Hotel began. Not long after, the intersection was just short of the Connor Hotel in its appearance. This was remedied, as noted above, in 1908, just sixteen years later. In that span of time, “many fine edifices were erected.”

Until the demolition of the Club Saloon, at a glance, one could have seen the history of the city. From the very first days when a wood frame building was a sign of progress, up from shanties and tents; and then the brick constructions of the Peters Building that became the Worth Block, as the first inclinations of wealth from mining began to show progress; and finally, the raising of the Keystone and the Connor, when millionaires brushed elbows as they walked the sidewalks from the House of Lords, and Joplin was in the thick of its first renaissance. A visit to the intersection today leaves nothing of this history to be learned at a glance. The Liberty Building, which now stands where the Club Saloon once stood, is a bridge back however, witness to all of the former inhabitants of Fourth and Main Street but the Club that it eventually replaced. As are all the historic buildings of downtown Joplin, so while some of old Joplin is gone, much thankfully, can still be enjoyed and that history known with a glance.

The Saloon at 402 Main Street

In our last post, we brought you the unfortunate fate of the owner of 402 Main Street, John Ferguson. Today we bring you the unfortunate fate of Ferguson’s Club Saloon located at 402 Main Street.

The Club Saloon shortly before it was razed.

In the years that followed Ferguson’s death, the heirs to his estate, had promised to tear down the old saloon. It was an old saloon indeed, likely one of the oldest commercial buildings that remained in Joplin by 1916. Though considered by locals as the “Joplin Eyesore,” its history went back to the very founding years of the city when it was brought wholesale from nearby Baxter, Kansas, to the fledgling mining town. For over forty years, the saloon was the home to a bar on the first floor and a gambling hall on the second. As one old timer commented, “There’s where I used to play poker, myself, until I learned I didn’t know anything about the game.” The Club Saloon, a relic of the city’s wilder days, was finally razed in January, 1916, at the order of the city. It was, after all, worth thousands of dollars per square foot. The lot thereafter remained empty, but was used as a place to sell Liberty bonds during the First World War. It was this usage that gave the property the nickname, “The Liberty Lot.” Later, the building which was built and still stands today retained the liberty moniker, “The Liberty Building.”

The Newberry Law

In 1889, a law commonly known as the “Newberry Law” was passed by the Missouri General Assembly and was signed into law by Governor David Francis. The man behind the law, Dr. Frank R. Newberry, was a physician and Democratic legislator from Fredericktown, Missouri. Concerned by the “moral status” of the liquor trade, Newberry came up with a law that he felt would clean up the saloons of Missouri.
 
The text of the law is as follows:
 
“An ACT to prevent any dramshop-keeper from keeping or permitting to be kept in or about his dramshop certain musical instruments, any billiard, pool, or other gaming table, bowling or ten-pin alley, cards, dice, or other device for gaming or amusement.
 
A dramshop-keeper shall not keep, exhibit, use, or suffer to be kept, exhibited, or used, in his dramshop, any piano, organ or other musical instrument whatever, for the purpose of performing upon or having the same performed upon in such dramshop, nor shall he permit any sparring, boxing, wrestling or other exhibition or contest or cock fight in his dram shop; and it shall be unlawful for any dramshop-keeper to set up, keep, use, or permit to be kept or used in or about the premises of his dramshop by any other person, or run or to be run in connection with such dramshop, in any manner, or form whatever, any billiard table, pool table or other gaming table, bowling or ten-pin aley, cards, dice, or other device for gaming or playing any game of chance;

and the keeper of such dramshop shall not permit any person in or about his dramshop to play upon any such table or alley, or with cards, dice, or any gaming device of any kind. Every person violating the provisions of this act shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction, shall be punished by a fine not less than ten nor more than fifty dollars, and in addition to such fine shall forfeit his license, and shall not again be allowed to obtain a license to keep a dramshop for the term of two years next thereafter.
 
Approved June 17, 1889.
”
 
Legal jargon aside, the Newberry Law prohibited saloon keepers from operating pool and billiard tables, card and dice games, or any other device that might be used to gamble. Even musical instruments were prohibited and the only furniture a dram shop could have were “bar fixtures and chairs.”
 
Joplin, like many cities during this time period, had more than its fair share of saloons. A bold News-Herald reporter set off to interview some of the bar owners and saloon keepers about their opinion of the new law (and no doubt imbibe a few drinks).
 
At Chester Parker’s saloon, the reporter found that Chester was out, but his employee was of the opinion that the law “would not cut any great figure” of business. Ol Boucher, who was standing outside his saloon at 518 Main Street when the reporter ambled up, felt that “the enforcement of the law would make no material difference to the saloon difference.”
 
Major John D. Mefford of the Mefford and Klotz Saloon, however, was fighting mad. He declared the law “was a gross disregard of the rights of property.” Mefford allegedly had a $1,000 invested in new billiard tables and moaned that they would be a “total loss.” To him, the law was “unjust and a further prosecution of saloon keepers.” John Ferguson of the J. Ferguson & Co. Saloon agreed he would lose money on billard tables, but was happy to see craps and other dice games go, as they “did not belong to the saloon business.” William Teets, of Teets and Company Saloon at 318 Main Street, proclaimed he had always obeyed the law and would not grumble, but noted he would have replace many of the fixtures and furniture in his business in order to be in compliance.
 
Henry Sapp, whose business was located at 214 Main Street, was furious at Newberry and the new law. The reporter had to use multiple dashes to indicate the numerous expletives that Sapp hurled at Newberry. Sapp then said of Missouri Govenor David Francis, “Dave, he promised he wouldn’t sign that —— —— bill. He slaughters the rest of us to get revenge on the —– —– —— St. Louis saloon men. Dave is trying to cater to the —- —– country element. He wants to be United States Senator, but he is a dead rabbit now, henceforth and forever.” Sapp continued on his tirade, but the reporter must have felt it unnecessary to record the rest of his statement, due to the numer of unprintable words Sapp used.
 
Incidentally, Governor Francis became the US Secretary of the Interior shortly after he left office as governor, and then later served as US Ambassador to Russia, but he never served as a U.S. Senator.
 
Sources: p. 104 Laws of Missouri, passed at the Session of the 35th General Assembly, 1889; History of Southeast Missouri by Douglass; Joplin News Herald; 1889-1890 Missouri State Gazeteer.
 
For more on Sapp, see our blog article on Honest John McCloskey.