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.

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.

Whistles for the Police

In April, 1911, it was announced that the Joplin Police Department had adopted a “metropolitan police” scheme of equipping the police officers with whistles.  Viewed as one more step toward imitating the police departments of large cities, the whistles were thought useful:

“Although it is seldom that an occasion arises in this city when an officer cannot take care of himself, it is thought best to be on the safe side.  When an officer hears one of these whistles, which are of a peculiar tone, he is to hasten at once to the scene of conflict, or wherever the sound comes from.”

It was thought at the time that the presence of a mere whistle may have prevented some of the deaths of Joplin’s police officers up to that point.  It’s unknown if the whistle dramatically changed the safety of the police in a city with the rowdy reputation of a mining town.

Source: Joplin News Herald

A Changing of the Police Guard

An early ritual of the Joplin Police Department concerned the changing of the guard between new officers and old upon the assumption of a new police chief into office.  One of the powers of the chief was the appointment of selected officers, a relic of the days of political patronage.  In April, 1911, such a changing of the guard occurred and was described in a city paper.

“At midnight tonight the forces of the police will change from the present “bulls” to the new assignment which Chief Myers has selected.  At that time every prisoner in the city jail that is not held on a state warrant will be released so that the new force may enter with a clean slate.”

The preparation involved in this change concerned snipping brass buttons from coats and polishing the stars that the policemen wore to mark their station.  These two things, plus revolvers, were to be handed over by the old guard to the new upon the stroke of midnight.  The newspaper noted that most of the police force was to be dismissed with only a few experienced veterans retained.  Those who were about to lose their jobs were expected to go into mining, many of which who claimed they intended to prospect rather than go into the earth for others.

The dramatic signal to bring all the police to the station was to turn on every red traffic light across the city.  After the policemen had returned to the headquarters for the exchange of stars, buttons, and pistols, it was estimated 30 prisoners would be released.  The recently freed criminals would not have long to play upon the streets of Joplin without oversight, as beats were already assigned to the new officers who would immediately take them up as soon as they assumed their new duties.

Source: Joplin News Herald

Mayor Hume: “No baby raffling in this man’s town!”

Just past the bright intersection of 4th and Main streets, a Joplin police wagon pulled up under the glowing lights of the Connor Hotel.  As the police entered the hotel they were joined by the city’s mayor, Guy T. Hume, intent on arresting N.B. Peltz.  Peltz was working in cooperation with the Provident Association, the successor organization to the Charitable Union, which had been largely run by the city’s ministers.  As Peltz was led out of the Connor Hotel in handcuffs he protested, “I am doing this for charity.”  By this point a crowd had gathered and Hume replied coolly, “That makes no difference.  Raffling off babies is against the law and you know me.  Too many complaints have been made.”

In fact, the baby raffle was actually part of a charity fair to be held by the Provident Association and the Joplin Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks between May 10th and May 13th.  Among the fundraising efforts connected to a fair was a raffle for a $500 lot in Spring Park at a cost of fifty cents a ticket, as well the chance to win a pony and cart for a ten cent ticket.  The tickets were sold by a “Flying Squadron” that consisted of some of Joplin’s prettiest girls who rode around on “dreadnoughts” in the form of cars with flags and flyers which advertised the fair.  Other enticements included a $75 scholarship to the Joplin Community College and six months of free instruction at the Calhoun School of Music.  Activities included a beauty show, music, an Elks’ Museum of Unnatural Wonders, cigars, refreshments, a country store, a flower booth, a dance, and fortune telling.

Before he was placed into the paddy wagon, Peltz continued to contest his arrest, “Why, Mr. Mayor, you couldn’t arrest me if I announced ten days ahead of time that I proposed to get drunk, could you?  Then why can you arrest me because this announcement has been made?”

The announcement of a baby raffle had caused some consternation.  Rumors floated around town that the baby to be raffled off might be exhibited at the Provident Association’s headquarters at 509 Main Street.  Concern had come from within the Provident Association which was divided on the issue of the baby raffle.  The majority believed that a significant amount of money was to be made from such a raffle, while the minority grumbled that it would be well enough to just raise that amount without resorting to such a raffle.  In response to Peltz’s question, Mayor Hume shrugged and replied, “Just jump into the patrol wagon and you can explain to Judge Kelsey later.”

Seated inside the patrol wagon, Peltz was hauled off to the jail.  Although several guests at the Connor Hotel offered to help Peltz, he instead asked G.F. Newberger to post his bond.  Once freed, Peltz announced he would fight the arrest and claimed, “I am backed in this by some of the best people in Joplin.”  Never the less, Peltz pointed out, “the mayor can’t prove that I intend giving away the baby.  The parents can do that, can’t they?”  He went on to point out that the parents did not object, which would make it hard to prove he was guilty.  The mayor, Peltz declared, “is butting into some trouble.”

Told later of Peltz’s words, the mayor simply laughed, “Take it from me, there will be no baby raffling in this man’s town while I’m mayor.”

The question of the reality of a baby raffle eludes us.  Some investigation into the matter found examples of baby raffles where the baby in the end was switched out for a young piglet, while another example was noted in a January, 1912 Popular Mechanics, in Paris, where orphaned babies were actually raffled off to find them homes.  Know anything of baby raffles?  Please comment and let us know!

Sources: Popular Mechanics, “A History of Jasper County and Its People,” by Joel T. Livingston, and the Joplin News Herald, 1910.

The Shooting of Ben Collier

In previous posts we’ve covered shootouts, robberies, and prostitutes.  Sometimes, however, officers of the law made the headlines – for the wrong reasons.

On a fall evening in 1906, Joplin Patrolman Johnson was standing outside the Mascot Saloon at the corner of Tenth and Main.  It was 9:30 at night.  The sun had set and it was a cool Friday night.  Johnson may have anticipated trouble, but not until Saturday night, which was when the miners were paid their weekly wages.  Special Officer Ben Collier swiftly walked past Johnson and entered the Mascot.

Shots rang out from inside the saloon.  Johnson dashed inside and saw Police Day Captain Will J.  Cofer standing with a gun in each hand.  One gun belonged to Special Officer Ben Collier; the other, still smoking, belonged to Cofer.  Cofer laid Collier’s gun down on a beer keg and then began to holster his pistol.  Patrolman Johnson, however, demanded, “Give me those guns.” Cofer obliged.  Johnson then noticed the motionless body of Ben Collier lying on the floor of the saloon.  Johnson checked for a pulse, but found Collier was dead.

Interior of the Mascot Saloon

Sketch of the interior of the Mascot Saloon

Johnson took Cofer into custody and headed for the city jail.  On the way Johnson was met by Assistant Chief of Police Jake Cofer, who was Will Cofer’s uncle (and was commonly known around Joplin as “Uncle Jake” as he had served for several years on the police force), who took charge of his nephew.  Upon arriving at the city jail, Jake Cofer asked Will to remove his police badge, and then locked him in a jail cell.

It appears that the difficulty between Will Cofer and Ben Collier began over a woman named Rose Proctor.  She was described as a “small and pretty blonde” who lived at 1216 Main Street.  Proctor was reportedly estranged from her husband who still lived in Illinois.  She may have come to Joplin due to the fact she “had several married sisters” living in Joplin.

Will “Rabbit” Cofer was a twenty-three year old married father of five year old son.  At the age of 17, he married a woman from Pierce City who was ten years his senior.  His father, Tom Cofer, served as Joplin Chief of Police before moving to Portland, Oregon.  Will stayed in Joplin and worked as a blacksmith and in the mines before joining the police force.  He had only been on the police force for a year, but was supposedly a satisfactory officer.

Ben Collier, who, at age 55, was older than Cofer, arrived in Joplin in the mid-1880s.  He worked as a butcher for several years before became involved in mining.  Collier eventually served on the police force, but left to become a private watchman.  He was still working as a private watchman when he tangled with Cofer.  Collier’s first wife had died and was allegedly estranged from his second wife who lived in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Cofer and Collier had quarreled in the past.  A Joplin Globe reporter had been standing on the street with Cofer the previous Wednesday when Cofer reportedly pointed to Collier and remarked, “There stands a fellow who has sworn he will kill me and I am afraid that he will try to do it before long.  If he would only come to me and tell me about it, it would be a different matter and we might get things straightened up, but he always talks behind my back.”

Members of the Joplin police force knew that the two men disliked one another and did their best to keep them apart.  Upon learning the Will Cofer was in the Mascot Saloon with Rose Proctor, Uncle Jake Cofer had sent word to his nephew that if he [Will] had any respect for him, Will would leave both the saloon and Rose.  Will Cofer, however, ignored his uncle.

Later that night, around 8 o’clock, Ben Collier appeared at the boarding house room that Rose Proctor called home, but was told she was not home.  Collier then spent an hour visiting with Proctor’s next door neighbor, May Stout, who told Collier that Rose was out with Will Cofer.  When he learned that Rose was with Will, Collier allegedly remarked, “I’ll kill him if I can find him tonight.” He then stalked out of the boarding house.  May Stout tried to call the Mascot Saloon to warn Will and Rose, but failed to reach them in time.  That’s when Ben Collier strode past Patrolman Johnson, entered the saloon, and a series of shots rang out.

There were only a few witnesses: “Red” Murphy, a cook at the Sapphire restaurant; Fred Palmer, bartender at the Mascot Saloon; and Rose Proctor.  In her statement to the police, Rose said she and Will Cofer were drinking a bottle of beer when Collier came in.  Collier called out, “Rose, come to me.” Rose coyly asked, “What do I want to come to you for?” Cofer, looking at Collier, offered to take Rose home.

Collier, enraged by Cofer’s interference, growled, “I have been looking for you and I have got you now!” The two men were standing roughly six feet apart when Collier drew his .44 caliber revolver but Cofer beat him to the draw.  Cofer managed to hit Ben Collier three times above the heart with his .38 caliber revolver.  Collier fell to the floor dead.

Will Cofer

A sketch of Will Cofer

Rose Proctor’s testimony was verified by the two other witnesses.   Upon examination, Collier’s revolver was half-cocked and had not been fired before Collier fell dead.  Jasper County Sheriff John Marrs arrived and ordered Collier’s body be sent to the Joplin Undertaking Company.

At the coroner’s inquest the next day, Rose Proctor and Fred Palmer, the bartender, testified that Collier pulled his gun on Cofer the minute he entered the saloon.  Proctor also testified she had attended “the races at Carthage” earlier in the week with Cofer.  After Collier found out, he waved his revolver at her and threatened to pull the trigger.

Patrolman Henry Burns testified that Collier had told him that morning that he would “get” Cofer “before night.” Joplin Police Night Captain Ogburn testified Collier had made threats against Cofer earlier in the year.  After the coroner’s jury made a trip to the Mascot Saloon to see the scene of the crime, the members made their decision: Cofer killed Collier in self-defense and was free to go.  Cofer shook hands with his friends and then resigned from the Joplin police force.

By 1910, Will Cofer and his wife Amelia were living in Portland, Oregon, where he shoed horses for a living.  According to the federal census, their son died between 1906 and 1910.  The couple was childless.

Curiously, in 1920, Will’s wife is listed as Rose.  His first wife, Amelia, either passed away or the couple divorced.  It seems unlikely, however, that this was Rose Proctor as this Rose listed her birth place as Oregon.  What is certain, though, is that a shooting took place in a Joplin saloon on a crisp fall night and Ben Collier lost much more than his heart.

Sources: Joplin Globe; 1900, 1910, 1920 federal census