Elliot Raines Moffett

On a fall day six years after the end of the Civil War, two men began digging a shaft on a hill near Joplin Creek in southern Jasper County, Missouri. Lured to the location by stories of lead lying as shallow as the roots of the prairie grasses, the two men, Elliot Raines Moffett and John B. Sergeant struck figurative gold and from those first few spadefuls of dirt the city of Joplin was established, as well their riches.

A native Iowan, Moffett was forty-three years old when his prospecting brought him to Jasper County. He and Sergeant had initially setup in the area of Oronogo, then known as Minersville, and acquired a mining interest in the vicinity of land owned by John C. Cox, a Tennessean who had arrived in the area years earlier. The lead strike, forty feet down, quickly led Moffett and Sergeant to build the first lead smelting furnace north of present day Broadway and on the banks of Joplin Creek. The smelter was not the only “first” that Moffett and his partner brought to the mining camp and later the city. In 1873, when the cities of Joplin and Murphysburg joined together to form Joplin, Moffett was the first mayor. In addition to building stores in the fledgling camp, he and Sergeant also opened one of the first banks at 315 Main Street and founded the Joplin & Girard Railroad completed in 1876 to connect the growing lead furnaces of the city to the Kansas coal fields. A second railroad to Pittsburg, Kansas, was completed and celebrated on July 4, 1876 with a golden spike driven into the earth at the Joplin depot. Later, Moffett sold his interest in the railroad and its right-away southward to the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway, also known as the Frisco, for a hefty $350,000. Not long after, Sergeant and Moffett opened up the White Lead Works which later became known as the Picher Lead Works.

It was prospecting which brought Moffett to the Joplin area, it was also that which led him to leave for Northwest Arkansas. In the belief that more incredible lead veins were waiting to be discovered in Arkansas, he prospected the hills around Bear Mountain. He found some lead, but not enough to make a second fortune. Instead, Moffett purchased hundreds of acres of land and went into the business of fruits and grapes. It was as a shepherd of orchards that Moffett spent the last years of his life until he passed away in February, 1904, in Crystal Springs, Arkansas.

Upon his death, one Joplin newspaper wrote of him:

“The announcement of his death spread rapidly over the city yesterday evening and many sincere expressions of regret were voiced, and the utterances were of that sincere character that indicate true regret – the regret that is always felt at the demise of a truly good citizen. The reason of this is very apparent when it is known that he was instrumental in building the first schools and the first churches, and was a willing contributor to many movements for the city’s welfare.”

A Glimpse of the Miners Bank in 1911

Above is a glimpse of Fourth Street looking west, and in the foreground, the Miners Bank Building. You can find a short history of the Miners Bank Building (and the bank, itself) here. It was home to the offices of one of Joplin’s finest architects, August Michaelis and his brother. Fourth Street, in turn, was one of the more attractive locales in the Joplin business district, home not only to the Connor Hotel, but also to the Club Theater and Elks Club.

The Architectural Legacy of Garstang & Rea: The Arthur H. Waite House in Joplin

Arthur H. Waite House in Joplin Missouri

The subject of today’s post in the Alfred W. Rea portfolio series is still found at 616 S. Sergeant Avenue, the Arthur H. Waite house. Waite arrived in Joplin in 1880 at the age of 27. He grew up splitting rails in Nebraska and at the age of 21, applied and received a job at the country bank in Brownville, Nebraska. Thus began a lifetime career in the banking industry. Eventually he rode a “hog train” to St. Joseph, Missouri, and worked as a book keeper at the Merchant State Bank for Thomas Tootle. Tootle, meanwhile, was a partner of Joplin founding father, Patrick Murphy, in the ownership of the Miner’s Bank. It was a job at Miner’s Bank, located in the same building as the old Joplin Hotel, that brought Waite to Joplin.

Miners Bank in Joplin Hotel

Magnified here is the corner of the Old Joplin Hotel, displaying the Miners Bank sign, where Waite first worked in Joplin.

Joplin National Bank at Keystone Hotel

The Joplin National Bank at the Keystone Hotel where Waite worked.

Arthur H. Waite of Joplin MIssouri

Arthur H. Waite

Later on, Waite took a job as cashier at the Joplin National Bank, which for a time was located in the Keystone Hotel building. Eventually, Waite rose to the position of president of the bank. Established as a major figure in the Joplin banking community, he was the president of the Joplin National Bank and Trust Company, the Missouri Bankers Association, Jasper County Bankers’ Association and was a member of the Elks Lodge in Joplin.

Waite remained involved in banking and in the house that Garstang & Rea designed until his death in April, 1934.

Arthur H. Waite House in Joplin Present Day

The Arthur H. Waite House present day.

The Miners Bank

As the riches of the mining fields of Jasper County drew investors, miners, and speculators in the 1870s, the need for a banking institution was obvious. One of the first men to step into this void was one of the fathers of modern day Joplin, Patrick Murphy, originally of Carthage. He and an associate established the town of Murphysburg, which later merged to form Joplin in 1873, and two years later, Murphy opened the Banking House of Patrick Murphy. A two story brick building, it was located on Main Street between Second and Third Streets. Murphy’s endeavor was a success.

A sketch of Patrick Murphy in his prime.

A sketch of Patrick Murphy in his prime.

Such was the success that the financial institution attracted investors and in 1877, the Banking House of Patrick Murphy was re-chartered and organized as the Miners Bank of Joplin. Murphy served as the first president of the bank, and was followed by Thomas E. Tootle. The first head cashier was Frank Kershaw. Kershaw’s successor was A.H. Waite. Most customers would have more likely known and recognized C.H. Spencer, who served as head cashier for at least sixteen years leading up to 1906. Local magnate Thomas Connor had served two terms as bank president. In fact, the board of directors included many of the wealthier citizens of the city, such as Connor, Howard C. Murphy, Edward Zelleken, C.W. Glover, and H.O. Bartlett.

Miners Bank in Joplin Hotel

Magnified here is the corner of the Joplin Hotel, displaying the Miners Bank sign.

Miners Bank’s success was also reflected in its financial holdings. At its inception the bank held $25,000, by 1890 this was increased to $50,000 and a year later doubled to $100,000. Due to growth of its assets and the increasing number of depositors, Miners Bank moved from its location between Second and Third to take up residence to offices in the Joplin Hotel, and there remained from about 1885 to 1905. Over a slightly longer period of time than its stay at the Joplin Hotel, reported deposits at the bank grew from $35,700 to $949,000. Loans increased from $6,500 to $425,000. Cash on hand went from $15,000 to a bank robber’s dream of $97,000. Figures from 1905 listed the six most successful banks by deposits, and the Miners Bank was first and foremost, besting its nearest competition by more than $55,000. Until the bank’s move in 1905 from the Joplin Hotel, its chief competitor and runner up in the 1905 figures was the Joplin National Bank, located just across the intersection situated on the bottom floor of the Keystone Hotel.

Miners Bank opening

The Miners Bank building as featured in an article announcing its opening.

The move in 1905 may have been prompted by the plans of Thomas Connor to raze the three story Joplin Hotel with plans to build a larger, grander establishment, or may simply have been due to the banking institution’s success. The bank’s new home was just a block away from Main Street, where Fourth Street intersected with Joplin Street. The new building was described by one of Joplin’s paper as a “beautiful modern building, with elevators and all modern conveniences.” The offices were equally beautiful and constructed of marble, tile and steel. Designed by August Michaelis, one of Joplin’s most prolific and talented architects, the building was designed to accommodate an additional four more stories should the need arise. It was built at a cost of $125,000 by the firm of C.A. Dieter who later oversaw the construction the Connor Hotel.

The Miners Bank building sometime after its opening, but before a prominent sign

Another photograph of Miners Bank not long after it opened.

From July 1st of 1905, Miners Bank inhabited the ground floor, leaving the upper floors open to paying tenants, architect Michaelis included, and remained there until 1930 when it merged with Conqueror First National Bank. After the merger, the bank moved back to Main Street for the first time in twenty-five years, and with its departure ended an illustrious history that began in 1877. The last home of Miners Bank remained in use until a disastrous fire prompted its demolition in 1982.

Miners bank a few years after its opening.

The Miners Bank building a few years after its opening.

Miners Bank on corner of Fourth and Joplin Streets

A view of the Miners Bank building in context at the intersection of Fourth and Joplin Streets.

Sources: Missouri Digital History, Joplin News Herald, and the Story of Joplin by Dolph Shaner.

Growth of a City – Northwest Joplin

Sometimes it’s worth letting photographs speak for themselves.   Below are three photos taken from what is likely the Keystone Hotel of northwest Joplin, essentially a view of Fourth Street heading west.

1902 or earlier view of Northwest Joplin centered on Fourth Street

A photo of northwest Joplin, particularly Fourth Street from at least as early as 1902.

In the first photo we can see the Club Theater, which is on the left with the steeple at the intersection of Joplin and Fourth Street.  On the immediate right, we have the old Joplin Hotel which was constructed like the Club Theater prior to 1900.  What is missing  is the Miners Bank building which has not yet been built across the street from the Club Theater, as well the new Joplin post office building that was completed the same year as the aforementioned bank in 1905.

1905 - 1906 view of northwest Joplin featuring Fourth Street

1905 - 1906 view of northwest Joplin featuring Fourth Street

A few years later and there’s a recognizable change in Fourth street and the northwest view of Joplin.  Now across the street from the Club Theater is the Miners Bank building and to the right of it on Joplin Street is the brand new Joplin post office.  The vacant lot across the street from the Club Theater (the other side of Joplin Street) now has a two story building and laid down the center of Fourth Street are trolley rails.  The old Joplin Hotel is still in the right hand corner, but by this time Thomas Connor is likely already planning to tear it down to build a brand new hotel that one day would bear his name.  It was demolished at some point in 1906, which helps date this view.  Thus, sometime after 1905 and before a point in 1906.

1906 to 1907 view of northwest Joplin featuring Fourth Street

1906 to 1907 view of northwest Joplin featuring Fourth Street

If only this photograph was not torn, we might have had a better view of the Joplin of 1906 or 1907.  Not much has changed from the last photograph except the absence of the old Joplin Hotel in the lower right hand corner.  Instead, we have the beginning excavations for the foundation of the future Connor Hotel.   Constant in all three photos are two narrow buildings in the center bottom or left, one with a flat roof and the other with a peak.  In a few short years, a seven story building would take their place and might have contributed to the decline of the Keystone Hotel as a popular spot to take a northwest view of Joplin.

Thus, in three photos that likely cover a time span of less than a decade, you can get an inclination of the rapid growth of Joplin.

Sources: Historic Joplin’s private collection.