Pay Day

Joplin zinc miners

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Joplin newspaper

The Banishment of Seers

A few posts ago, we mentioned that Victorian Americans participated in palmistry, spiritualism, and séances.  Throughout the years Joplin was home to numerous psychics, seers, and fortune tellers. An issue of the Joplin Morning Herald from 1895 announced, “Madame Zita LaRoux, the famous trance medium, may be consulted on all affairs of life for a short time only at 619 Joplin Street. She gives valuable advice on all subjects – love, marriage, divorce, lawsuits, business transactions, etc. Names and dates given.”  But by 1913, the city fathers were tired of palmists, seers, and mediums, and subsequently prohibited them from practicing within city limits.

Ad for traveling fortune teller

An ad for a traveling fortune teller visiting Joplin with testimonials

Unsurprisingly, clairvoyants and their followers were upset by the city council’s decision. Joplin City Attorney Grover James, who “took charge of an aggressive fight to drive from the city ‘seers’ and ‘mediums’ that have remained since the passage of an ordinance barring them from practicing in Joplin” received threatening letters. In one week’s time, James received half a  dozen letters after his successful conviction of Mrs. T.J. Sheridan.

One letter read,
Mr. City Attorney,

City Hall

You think you are awful smart to prosecute a pore woman becauz she ain’t of your religion, doan’t you? Your talk at the trile was rite funny. Ha, ha. We’ll git you yet. Watch out.”

Another letter said,

Grover James

Joplin, Mo.

I write this to let you know that you may have misjudged the character of the people you are fighting. In persecuting worshipers you show an ignorance that is amazing. Many men have been shot for less than what you have done.”

Some people mailed Mr. James spiritualist publications while others stopped by his office to urge him to drop his campaign against fortune tellers and palmists. James, however, just smiled in response. He told the Joplin News-Herald, “I have found that many Joplin society girls attend séances and believe the stuff told them by mediums. When I started to gather evidence I supposed that I would have to obtain it from ignorant and superstitious persons. I found, however, that the elite of Joplin society are some of the best patrons of the mediums. Daughters of the most prominent Joplin citizens can tell me all I want to know about the ‘seers’ I am prosecuting. It may be that I will have half a dozen of the younger social set at the next fortune teller’s trial in police court.”

James confided he had gathered evidence against a local clairvoyant that “should be an eye opener to mining men that have the curtained rooms of mystics for their base of operations.”

According to James, “A woman ‘seer’ told a mining man just where to drill in order to strike ore. She said, however, that there was but one drill man that could find the stuff. She then described the man very closely. Half a dozen bids were made on the work. All of them were very low and reasonable but the mine operator was not satisfied. Finally a man came to him that fitted the woman’s description. His bid was thirty cents higher than any other but it was accepted.” The city attorney then claimed, “It has been shown that this drillman was kept in lucrative employment by the fortune teller who doubtless got a rakeoff for throwing him the work.”

Within a week, the “Reverend” Mary E. Anderson was arrested in Joplin for violating the clairvoyant ordinance. A few days prior to her arrest, Police Matron Vernie Goff visited Anderson in the psychic’s home at 731 Joplin Street and asked Anderson to read her fortune.  Anderson informed Goff that she would first have to buy facial cream and then she would read Goff’s fortune. Goff complied. She purchased a tube of facial cream that normally cost nine cents in a drugstore from Anderson for one dollar. The purchase completed, Anderson read Goff’s fortune.

According the Joplin News-Herald, Goff learned many “interesting things about herself and family that she had never known.”  Anderson claimed Goff had a long lost “Uncle Jim” and told her that her investments in an Arizona gold mine were a smart choice. The only problem was, according to Vernie Goff, is that she did not have an Uncle Jim, nor did she have any investments in gold mines.

Goff told the News-Herald that “the only money she has sunk in stocks was down on her father’s farm near Springfield, where she owns a little stock – that is some cows, calves, and such.”

At around the same time, two young boys had visited Mary Anderson and asked to have their fortunes read. She told them that her fee was one dollar. Unable to pay, the boys decided instead to testify against her in court. There was no need, however, as Police Matron Goff, Mrs. F.B. Cannon, and Miss Wathena Hamilton testified for the prosecution two weeks later. Like Goff, Cannon and Hamilton had both visited Anderson to have their fortunes read for one dollar. Anderson did not help her cause when she took to the stand, only to be caught “contradicting herself on many things.”

Ad for a Joplin Palm reader

An ad for a Joplin palm reader before the prohibition was put in place.

After a three hour trial, Mary Anderson was found guilty and fined one dollar and costs, as it was her first offense. She balked at paying the fine, but when told she would be taken to jail, Anderson borrowed a dollar from her attorney to pay the fine. She remarked, “I won’t have that News-Herald telling about me being behind the bars. I’ll pay the fine first.”

James’ campaign against palmists, mediums, and clairvoyants drove members of Joplin’s spiritualist community to Webb City. The News-Herald remarked, “One of the most notorious ‘seers’ of Joplin purchased property in Webb City and makes the city his home. He is doing a rushing business, it is understood.” But just as in Joplin, spiritualists were not welcome. The News-Herald reported that, “It was when a man came here from Columbus, Kan., for a ‘reading’ and became insane because of things told him by a ‘seer’ that Webb City businessmen began to wonder what became of the much talked of clairvoyant ordinance which was to have prohibited fortune telling in Webb City.”

Source: Joplin News-Herald, Joplin Morning Herald

A story from an earlier Joplinite

W.S. Gray, a machinery dealer located at 718 Jackson Avenue in Joplin, regaled a News-Herald reporter with stories of working for Moffet and Sergeant in the early 1870s.

Gray told the reporter, “I saw an article about the Cave Creek, Ark., zinc district in your Sunday issue,” he said. “it reminds me of the good days; it reminded me of the longest hike I ever undertook – a nice little 300-mile jaunt, all the way from Cave back to Joplin; and say, my friend, I always liked fish, but let me tell you I ate so many fish on that hike that I couldn’t even look a bottle of fish scale glue in the face for two years; and I snubbed one of my best old friends, John Finn, because the son of his name made me sick – but I’ve since recovered and can eat as many fish today as ever.”

He continued, “I was in the employ of the Moffet and Sergeant smelter here when I received an offer to be superintendent of construction at an air furnace that was to be built in the Cave Creek, Ark., district. It was my first job as supe and I was so proud of it. I broke the sweat band in my hat. It was about ’76 when we lined up for duty in the Arkansas wilds and began work on the new smeltery. Some time later things were running fine and we shipped a couple of carloads of lead – the pigs being carried overland in wagons to Russellville, Ark. When we came back to work again at the furnace the head bookkeeper drove over to a little place to get some drafts cashed. He sold the team and never came back – and not a cent of money did I get for my first job as superintendent. So the smelter closed down, and Lem Cassidy and myself – Cassidy is long since dead – started back afoot for Joplin. We knew the houses would be few and far between and that our grub must largely consist of fish. We laid in enough tackle to carry us through and started. Grasshoppers made the best bait imaginable and we had no trouble keeping our larder well stocked. We carried a little skillet, a coffee pot, and blankets with us. It was in the fall of the year, and walking was delightful. I have aways looked upon this jaunt as one long vacation. We took our time and enjoyed the beauties of the country. Sometimes we were fortunate in getting bread and vegetables from farmers, but such occasions were rare.”

According to the annual Report of the Geological Survey of Arkansas for 1905, lead mining began in the Cave Creek, Arkansas, mining district in 1876. “The pig lead was hauled by wagon to Russellville on the Little Rock and Fort Smith Railway and thence shipped to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.”

Source: Joplin News-Herald

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Miner’s Wife Scorned

Saloons were not the only places that jealous lovers sought revenge.

On a sunny afternoon in 1899, a dozen miners sat at the entrance to the Boston mine just east of Joplin.  After spending their morning below ground, the sunshine must have provided a welcome relief, but their boisterous talk was soon interrupted when a well dressed woman stormed up to them.  She demanded to know if her husband, Ralph Market, was at the mine.  The miners replied that he was not and that they did not know him.

Mrs.  Market, however, was no fool.  She insisted her husband worked at the mine and demanded to see him.  Once again the miners replied they had never heard of Ralph Market.  Mrs.  Market, frustrated, demanded to be hoisted down into the mine because she knew he must be hiding somewhere in the mine shaft.  The miners tried to tell her that it would be awhile before they descended back into the mine, but Mrs.  Market replied she, “did not care for company on the way down,” assured the men she was not afraid of mine, and wanted to be the first one down so her husband could not escape.

Interior of a Joplin Mine

The interior of a Joplin mine, which might have looked like the mine where Mrs. Market unsuccessfully searched for her husband.

The hoisterman finished his lunch and told Mrs.  Market to step into the tub.  It was probably best that he did.  When she gathered her skirts about her as she prepared to enter the tub, the miners spotted a loaded six-shooter strapped to her waist.  It was then that the “boys then believed that she meant business and they respected her wishes.” Mrs.  Market went down into the shaft without a light, but one was sent down when requested.  She searched the mine but failed to find her husband.  She asked to be returned to the surface and asked for the superintendent’s office to find out if her husband was employed at the mine.  The miners speculated the woman’s actions were the result of jealousy.  Ralph certainly must have had a heck of a welcome when and if he returned home to his wife.

Source: Joplin Globe

The 1902 Collapse of Easth Seventh Street

In the spring of 1902, just before noon, East Seventh Street collapsed.  The debris from the street plunged downward into the gaping maw of an old mine drift from the defunct Zola mine.  The dark chasm sprawled 50 feet.  The Joplin News-Herald remarked that the street was “the main thoroughfare east and there is scarcely a moment that if it is not traveled at every point along the route.” Fortunately no one was on the street when it collapsed.  Traffic was diverted onto Fifth and Fourteenth Streets until the vast hole could be filled in.

As we have noted before, there are numerous mine shafts all over the Joplin metro area.  For now, it seems that most shafts are filled up with water, and are holding steady.  In the future, though, with some speculating that the water table in the Four State area could drop, it seems plausible that shafts may open up as the water disappears.  While we here at Historic Joplin are not hydrologists, geologists, or any other type of “-ologist,” we find the idea of the underground honeycombs of mining shafts and drifts in and around Joplin intriguing.

Source: Joplin Daily News Herald, 1902

In the spring of 1902, just before noon, East Seventh Street collapsed. The debris from the street plunged downward into the gaping maw of an old mine drift from the defunct Zola mine. The chasm sprawled 50 feet. The Joplin News-Herald remarked that the street was “the main thoroughfare east and there is scarcely a moment that if it is not traveled at every point along the route.” Fortunately no one was on the street when it collapsed. Traffic was diverted onto Fifth and Fourteenth Streets.

As we have noted before, there are numerous mine shafts all over the Joplin metro area. For now, it seems that most shafts are filled up with water, and are holding steady. In the future, though, with some speculating that the water table in the Four State area could drop, it seems plausible that shafts may open up as the water disappears. While we here at Historic Joplin are not hydrologists, geologists, or any other type of “-ologist,” we find the idea of the underground honeycombs of mining shafts and drifts in and around Joplin intriguing.

Source: Joplin Daily News Herald, 1902

General Coxey Comes to Joplin

In 1899, General Jacob S. Coxey rolled into Joplin to try his luck in the mines. General Coxey was not a hero of the Civil War; instead, he was a hero of the working class who twice led a rabble of unemployed workers dubbed “Coxey’s Army” on quixotic marches on Washington, D.C.

Coxey, a native of Pennsylvania, who despite his status as a prosperous businessman, believed that business monopolies brutally crushed the common man. One year after the nation descended into financial panic during the economic crisis of 1893, Coxey led a ragtag group of unemployed workers to Washington, D.C. to protest unemployment and to ask the federal government to create public works projects to provide jobs for the unemployed. His plan anticipated the economic recovery programs of Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Although unsuccessful, Coxey and his followers captured the country’s attention. He would later launch a second march in 1914 that also failed to achieve lasting results.

General Jacob S. Coxey

General Jacob S. Coxey, leader of "Coxey's Army" in his later years via Library of Congress

In between marches Coxey continued his successful business pursuits, but remained open to new ventures. The year 1899 found Coxey in Joplin, Missouri. He brought with him a sixty foot long railroad car that had once been outfitted for traveling in luxury, including his personal office on wheels, but had since been converted into a car that carried machinery. On board was a boiler and engine, mining timbers, mine cars, and other equipment brought from an Ohio coal mine.

Coxey announced his intent to mine according to his style, but the Joplin Daily News remarked, “what use he has for a dozen coal cars experienced miners here cannot explain.” Coxey’s mine was made up of two lots on the Shoal Creek Company’s lease located at Redding’s Mill south of Joplin. Coxey’s railroad car and its contents attracted “unusual attention” among onlookers at the Frisco Depot.

One week after his arrival Coxey departed Joplin to return home to Massillon, Ohio, and announced his intent to return in the following weeks to check on his mining operations. He was described as a “business like man and has plenty of ready cash” who “merely smiles and says but little when politics is broached. He is a good storyteller and never fails to tell jokes on himself.” In looks he was a “plain business appearing man, middle aged and wears the latest style tailor made clothes and tan shoes.”

While in Joplin, he reportedly became good friends with Thomas Connor, who would later build the New Joplin/Connor Hotel, and expressed his interest in “the story of Mr. Connor’s success.”

It is unknown just how much money Coxey made from his mines, but he certainly livened up Joplin for at least one week in 1899.

Source: Joplin Daily News, Library of Congress

Mining – Progress and Prosperity

An illustration from the Joplin Globe invoking the spirit of progress that pervaded much of Joplin’s history.

Mining - Progress and Prosperity

Source: Joplin Globe