A History of the Joplin Union Depot – Part IV

Catch up on the previous installments of a History of the Joplin Union Depot with Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Joplin Union Depot

By mid-August a concrete mixer had been put to work at the site of the depot. The concrete it produced was immediately used to build piers sunk into the earth upon which the rest of the foundation and depot structure was to be supported. The workers, twenty teams in all, enjoyed unsually cool weather and as a result, progress delayed by earlier heat, pushed forward rapidly. Placed about the construction area were multiple piles of gravel, lumber and other construction material. Despite the mostly finished job of leveling the Kansas City Bottoms, the actual depot site was still undergoing a lowering of high places and a raising of low places.

Officials were optimistic over the progress being made throughout the month of August and “expressed every confidence of its [the depot] completion before midwinter.” Indeed, as smooth as the work had become, the depot was expected to be completed by the spring of 1911. All seemed to be in place, the material, and ever more men, Joplin men, the papers noted, were being hired. The laying of the corner stone was estimated to happen at the start of October.

At the same time, not far from the construction site, a Kansas City Southern engine and flat car were put to use in laying down tracks for the new rail yard. The track laying continued elsewhere with spurs built that extended to Broadway, as well to the electric railway that linked to the trolley systems of Joplin and Southwest Missouri. Another train put to work in the construction phase was made up of ten “dump cars” pulled by “the latest types of heavy locomotives.” A newspaper described the process, “Train, engines and all were put to work at once hauling dirt from the steam shovel, working southeast of town to the site of the yards.” At the yards, the soil was used to permanently flatten out the area of the tracks. As with the depot, itself, everything was progressing quickly.

The process continued into September. The location southeast of town, identified now as Saginaw, continued to supply dirt for the yards in trip after trip by the dump cars. The supplied dirt was then driven over by an engine leveler to flatten it further. The yards also demanded other sacrifices of the land, as a bluff just south of a North Main Street bridge was dynamited on a daily basis to make room for further yard space. By the 6th of September, the bluff was gone, as well numerous trees, shrubs, and odd pieces of trash, cleaned from the Bottom space between Main Street and the Kansas City Southern tracks. Thus, it was a surprise a few days later when at 8 AM on a Friday morning, the entirety of the carpentry crew, twenty-eight men in all, walked off the job.

The strike was in reaction to the failure of the contractors to hire union hod carriers. Hod carriers had the specific task of carrying supplies to bricklayers, plasterers, and other similar jobs around a construction site. Prior to the start of construction, an agreement, likely informal, had been made to use only union men on the building of the depot, itself. The carpenters, who had “quietly laid down their hammers and tools and quit the building,” were members of the Building Trades Council. Rumors were gossiped that the contractors intended to have an “open” shop at the depot site, the intention to hire non-union men, and therefore, avoid having to follow the regulations and rules that local unions demanded. The contractors, meanwhile, claimed that there were simply not enough union hod carriers available due to other construction efforts in Joplin.

A photograph of a hod carrier from the Library of Congress. These men played the important role of transporting required building materials to the craftsmen.

The head of the union’s local chapter, Albert H. Monteith, stated, “When the carpenters went to work on the depot it was their understanding that the whole job would be unionized…we went to work on this job a little over two weeks ago, well aware of the fact that some non-union labor was being used, but we were under the impression that our contentions would be met without delay and we would have as fellow workmen nothing but union men.” Monteith went on to add of the superintendent of the build, “[he] knew what action would take if he failed to take steps toward unionizing the whole job, and we gave him nearly three weeks in which to do his part, but when it became evident today that he would not recognize the union hod-carriers and other union building laborers, we quit.”

Monteith noted that union men were used at other construction sites of the Manhattan Construction Company, and if needed, they would undoubtedly strike in support of their Joplin brethren. The seriousness of the strike was great enough to stir rumors that the president of the company himself, President Looman, was on a train for Joplin to speak with the union men. If the president of the company visited Joplin, the papers failed to note his coming and going, but the strike did end approximately a week after it began. The resolution arrived when both parties came together and agreed that the conflict was in essence, a misunderstanding. The work reserved for union men would be reserved for union men, and the work done by non-union men would be done by non-union men. The clock was turned back pre-strike and all efforts once again pushed toward the completion of the depot.

A sense of urgency to complete the depot before the partnership of railroads laid the last of their tracks into the depot area became stronger as September came to a conclusion. An article published at the time looked ahead to its completion and touched upon its future beauty, “The architecture is of the mission style, and when completed the depot undoubtedly will be one of the handsomest, as well as one of the most unique structures of the kind in the country.” Flower beds and grass were to be noted improvements for the space between the depot and the nearest street. Its construction, reinforced concrete, the paper claimed, “is considered better building material than steel.” By the end of October it was hoped that the carpenters who had recently gone on strike would be at work on the interior.

Tower of Union Depot

The depot since it's construction has always had one apparent tower, featured here. It may be the two towers described were upon completion formed into one larger tower.

October was also a time of great focus on the innovative use of reinforced concrete. The work of building with the new material had been virtually completed in the basement, as well the exterior walls of the ground and second floors. 30 to 40 days, it was claimed, would be all it would take to finish the cement work at the depot. 40 days later, the focus was no longer on the cement, but two “massive towers” being erected above the depot. The work, described as, “exceedingly dangerous” involved the raising of huge frameworks of scaffolding to ensure success. The construction of the depot at that point in November 1910 involved the labor of over 300 men.

Work continued uninterrupted through November and December until bitter winter weather brought construction to a sudden halt in the first week of 1911. In addition to cold weather, that January brought the annual special edition from the Joplin News Herald, which took time to extoll the construction of the depot. “Erection of $90,000 Union Depot Transforms Topography of Dreary Sweep of Land in Kansas City Bottoms,” read the headline along with a copy of the architect’s rendering of the depot from the year before. In its braggadocio of the depot’s transformation, the article offers a glimpse of how Joplin saw the Kansas City Bottoms:

The architectural drawing of the Depot.

“Union Depot construction in Joplin has brought great change to the topographical appearance of a big acreage that for years was a dreary waste of abandoned mining gouges and slimy flat lands, the mire of the swamps growing rank with weeds and vines. One of the first steps in the grading of the union depot grounds, consisting of about 30 acres, was to change the course of Joplin Creek, an ill-smelling drainage channel, that twisted through the rank undergrowth, marking a zone of desolation through the very heart of the big tract which since has been filled in hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of earth and rock…”

“…Here, in the early days – and even later – twinkled the crimson lights of a mining camp’s tenderloin. For years and years this portion of the city was notorious, but with the coming of the union depot, every house, every shack – dilapidated on the exterior, but gorgeously furnished on the inside – every landmark that would remind one of the free and easy epoch of Joplin’s “North End” have been eradicated.”

The article also offered a description of the new area and what it meant to Joplin:

“Today the lower portion of the union depot grounds, where the station, the sheds, the turntable and the shops will be located, is as level as a checker board and as red as an orange, the fresh red clay, when viewed from a distance, resembling a soft velvet rug of mammoth dimensions. The ground slopes upward to Main street on the west and to Broadway on the south…”

“Joplin can hardly realize that the union depot is at last a reality. For years the city had dreamed of a union depot, but it seemed an endless period before the first spadeful of earth was turned. Since work started, however, progress has been swift and a big force of workmen has been employed steadily. The ring of the hammer has been constant.”

And finally, a full description of the depot’s beauty and attributes:

“ The station proper, which is of old Roman type, antedating the classic style, is constructed of plain and re-enforced concrete throughout, with oak finish. The floors are of concrete, with plain and Terrazo finish. The walls and roof are of concrete, the exterior being finished with white Portland cement, stippled, which produces a very pleasing effect.

The main part of the building is occupied by the general waiting room, women’s and men’s, waiting room and ticket office. The structure is two stories in height. The north wing provides express and baggage room, the south wing being occupied by dining room and lunch and kitchen. All modern equipment is to be installed, and the station is to be ready for use within a few weeks, although the completion of the train sheds, the round house, and other structures and equipment will require a much longer time.”

The future of the depot was bright in the first month of 1911 and the months ahead promised its completion. At the same time, Joplin continued its advancement as a city bursting with pride and progress.

Tune in for fifth and final installment of the history of the Joplin Union Depot in the near future!

A History of the Joplin Union Depot – Part III

Catch up on the history of the Joplin Depot’s origins with part one here and part two here.

The first view of the Union Depot which greeted the readers of the Joplin News Herald on March 1st

After the exciting publication of an architect’s drawing of the Union Depot on the first day of March, 1910, a debate may have erupted over the validity of the print.  The News Heraldon the 28th of March, in one of the first updates on the depot since the beginning of the month, confirmed the accuracy with the arrival of the official plans and specifications to the city engineer’s office.  The city engineer, J.B. Hodgdon, passed on the plans to several local contractor firms.  It was the hope that a local firm would offer a satisfactory bid, such as Dieter and Wenzel, located in nearby Carthage and a company responsible for raising many of Joplin’s most well known buildings.  Notably, the city planned to divide the construction process between building the depot structure and grading the land about the building.  The land in question, the Kansas City Bottoms, located between Main Street and the Kansas City Southern tracks and between Joplin Creek and Broadway, was to be leveled.

Two days later, the papers announced the appointment of E.F. Cameron as the local attorney for the Joplin Union Depot.  The announcement was accompanied by a firm statement that construction would start April 1.  In the meanwhile, the parties behind the depot had finalized the acquisition of properties within the desired realm of the depot and exploratory drilling had been done to ensure that no abandoned mines or “drifts” threatened to destabilize the foundation of the future depot.  Indeed, the drilling had discovered solid limestone on average fifteen to twenty feet below the surface, and in some cases, even closer.  Already, some of the uneven parts of the Kansas City Bottoms had been filled by the railroads to allow future track to be on level with existing rails.

The site of the depot had once been the center of many mining attempts like the one above in the early days of Joplin, leaving many abandoned mines behind.

Six bids were submitted for the excavation, which required the removal of approximately 40,000 yards of dirt, and the Joplin firm Jennings & Jenkins was awarded the contract.   “I will begin work,” declared W. F. Jenkins on Saturday, April 2, 1910, “with a full crew on the excavation on Monday.”  Nine bids, two from Joplin area firms, were submitted for the construction of the depot structure.  However, the selection of the firm was considered more important than excavation, and demanded a meeting of the chief engineers of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas, the Santa Fe, and the Missouri and Northern Arkansas, railroads.  The architect, Louis Curtiss, available at the time of the bid announcement, promised that Joplin’s depot would be the most beautiful in construction, the most complete and convenient of any depot of the size in the United States.  Indeed, Curtis noted, specifications called for “handsome interior furnishings and the most substantial exterior known.”

On the following Monday morning, a small force of men with three to four teams of horses arrived and began the work of excavation.  The number of overall men expected to work varied from as little as fifty to four times that number, with as many four times the starting number of teams of horses.  Afterward, it was reported that before rain brought an end to the day’s labor that fifty men with fifteen teams had been brought to bear against the earth.

The delay in selecting a contractor to build the depot structure was not critical, as all reports stated that such construction could not begin until the grading was complete.  It was to be no small feat of work transforming the hilly area that offered a home to Joplin Creek into a suitable home for the new Joplin Depot.  In contrast to the 40,000 yards of dirt discussed earlier, Jennings & Jenkins instead claimed they only had to remove 30,000 yards of soil.  However, 135,000 yards of soil was required as fill, the present earth apparently being inappropriate for the task, and all of it to be hauled in by train.

The News Heraldsummarized the task ahead, “The hill along Broadway and Main street will be cut down and the dirt moved back onto the lower grounds.  These hills will be cut down to a level of the grades of the streets and the fill along the Kansas City Southern railroad will be made on level with the tracks…The hill north of the Old Joplin creek bed will also be cut down and the dirt hauled into the low places.”  Hills were not the only landmarks that needed cutting down, the paper referred almost in afterthought to, “Several buildings will have to be removed from the grounds during the next few days and a force of men will be set to work tearing them away and burning the rubbish.”  The several buildings were actually homes to “persons who have occupied houses on the site for many years who repeatedly within the past month have been ordered to move.”  No tolerance was given as the homes were to be destroyed as the excavation work approached them, not  even “if the occupants have not sought other quarters.”  The transformation of the Kansas City Bottoms was expected to take approximately two months.

Little of the old Kansas City Bottoms remains as it once was before the depot.

Only a few days after the start of the work, the excavators made a gruesome discovery three feet into the soil of the hill located along Broadway.  The Daily Globe reported, “The bones found are crumbled with age, and, although apparently whole when unearthed, fall to pieces when picked up; Their sizes are thought too large for small animals and too small for horses or cows, or other of the larger domestic beasts.”  Work came to a temporary stop as local residents were quizzed for knowledge of any remembered burials or graveyards.  None were recalled.  One such resident, who claimed to have prospected “all over the Kansas City Bottoms when a young man” had never heard of any burials.

The old prospector reminisced, “They might have been buried all right,” said he, “but it was not with the knowledge of the authorities or a permit from the coroner.  There was a killing down here almost every day in them times, and I suppose they had to bury the victims some way.”  The reporter of the Daily Globe noted that the majority of murders in the Bottoms were likely never reported, and the speculation that the excavators had discovered one unfortunate victim was very likely, an opinion shared by the Joplin police called to the scene.  However, the contractors “scoffed” at the idea, most likely out of fear of losing workers who, “showed unmistakable signs of nervousness when the discovery was made…Several declared they would not work if they were convinced they were digging up bones of human beings.”  Human remains or not, the excavation continued.

Another problem arose at approximately the same time as the excavators made their unpleasant discovery.  Nine bids had been submitted for the contract to build the depot structure and to the consternation of the railroads involved, all were considered too high.  The possibility of revising Curtiss’ design for the depot and re-opening the bidding process was proposed on April 8th.  Five days later, the decision was made to do so and bidding was opened again until the 18th.  The new bids were based on changes to the original design, contractor Fred Dieter reported, changes that “will not in any way effect the exterior nor the general plans for the building,” but rather consisted of, “a few substitutions in material.”

By the time the bidding process was closed, only six bids had been made, down three from the previous nine.  A. F. Rust, the chief engineer for the Kansas City Southern, promised that the new bids all appeared to be a much more satisfactory in estimated costs.  A week, the chief engineer promised, was as long as it would take for the winning bid to be selected.  Nearly two weeks later, on April 30th, an authoritative source promised that the winning bid would be announced in two days, in part to coincide with a meeting of the chief engineers of the four railroads which backed the union depot company.  By May 12th, James Edson, the president of the Kansas City Southern on a long distance telephone interview with a News Herald reporter, had to dismiss rumors that the depot was to be relocated to a 15th Street location.  In the same call, Edson declared that a meeting of the board of directors of the Joplin Depot Company in the later half of May would choose the winning contract.  Meanwhile, excavation continued with dynamite used to reduce a steep hill east of Main Street.
Joplin Union Depot
Finally, on June 5, a Sunday morning, it was announced that the Manhattan Construction Company of New York, with a branch office in Fort Smith, Arkansas, had been awarded the contract at an initial cost of $60,000.  Construction would begin, stated a representative for the company, no later than June 15.  The grading by the excavators was virtually completed, but the foundation of the building had not yet been begun.  The two city papers offered slightly different reports on the design of the building, the Herald claimed, “The trimmings will probably be of Carthage stone, according to the original plans,” along with brick and concrete, and the Daily Globe in turn stated, “The contract calls for the erection of a modern building, of reinforced concrete construction.”

Six days later, Rust visited the site of the future depot and promised again that the depot would be completed by the end of the year.  The chief engineer noted that already enough steel for four miles of track was at the site and that, “We intend to push operations as fast as possible,” and bragged, “only material of the highest grade will be put in the depot.  The station will be built with a view of accommodating Joplin when it is considerable larger than it is now.  In my opinion, and according to officers of the depot company, Joplin is one of the coming cities of the Southwest.”

By mid June, excavation work uncovered yet another discovery, zinc.  Within a week of the find, nearly a ton of the ore had been sold at a price of $23 a ton.  While the contractors considered applying the new found source of wealth toward the cost of construction, two men from the excavation crew were assigned to sort the soil. The quality of the ore was shortly considered rich enough that some of the men involved in its examination immediately organized a mining company, procured a lease to do the mining, and set upon the deposit.  The vein was found to be only a few feet beneath the soil, at least seven feet in depth, and in lieu of building a processing plant, the miners hauled away the dirt in wagons to nearby plants for processing to separate the zinc from the soil, as well any lead.  By August 4, the entrepreneurs had sold nearly $1,900 worth of lead and zinc, and were still at work at their enterprise.

A pile of processed "Jack" valued at $100,000.

The excavated area, located “near the heart of the old shallow diggings on Joplin creek” had once been the home of St. James hotel and also the “crimson lighted district.”   Old settlers, ever present to discuss such events, recalled the days when “the valley sloping off to the northeast resembled a bee hive.  Mines and miners were constantly working there.  Before many years had elapsed the ground looked like an overgrown pepper box.”  However, due to the presence of the hotel and other sordid activities, few thought to mine the area, or so the theory went.  The News Herald quipped, “If the owners of the new property do not see fit to construct their new depot they can mine.”

“Grading of site is nearly completed,” announced the Daily Globe, on June 16.  By the efforts of the excavators, the paper reported that “the hills to the north have been leveled, while many of the lower points have been filled and the surface rolled.”  Though, it took another four weeks to complete, the impact on the local geography was significant.  In addition to the annihilation of hills, the “surface of the ground has been lowered seven feet…in the higher places, and from that to two feet in the lowest parts.”  For the low parts of the depot area, fill was used to raise the surface from two to four feet.  Extreme summer heat, contractors claimed, was the culprit for the long delay in the completion of the excavation. The teams of excavators gone, the site absent of working men and horses, for a brief time was considered to possess an “absolute quiet.”

A visit to the site at the time would have revealed a number of temporary buildings built to house the materials needed to construct the depot.  The gathering of which had been ongoing for weeks.  Another significant addition, and alteration to the geography, was the culvert built to guide the waters of the Joplin creek under the Depot site.  When completed, the culvert was expected to be 631 feet long and possess a 6 foot radius.  Through it the creek named for the Methodist preacher, Harris Joplin, would eventually disappear from sight for a stretch of more than two football fields.  Nor was it the only effort to divert water, as a “great double aqueduct” was also being put into place to convey a stream from Main Street , built of concrete, it was two tubes each four feet in diameter and two hundred yards long.  When done, it was believed the aqueducts would be able to “convey a larger amount of water than has ever been seen in the little branch.”  The exit point for the aqueducts was in the area of the Kansas City southern bridge.

Off the site, at approximately the same time as excavation work was concluding, the Kansas City Southern filed a mortgage for the value of $500,000.  The mortgage was intended to secure the $500,000 in bonds that had previously been sold by the depot company to finance construction.  Nor was the Kansas City Southern the only railroad company involved with large sums of money.  The Missouri, Kansas & Texas, or Katy, Railroad was busy with the construction of a spur from its main line to reach the Depot at a cost of around $250,000.  Much of the cost had to do with traversing hollows and areas dotted with old mines and sludge ponds, which demanded the construction of bridges or the use of fill to stabilize the ground.  One such required bridge was to be located over Possum Hollow and would be a “22-panel pile trestle bridge” that would carry trains 47 feet above the floor of the ravine, and 30 feet above an existing bridge built by the Frisco Railroad.  Along with its own expense in the cost of terminals at the depot, it was estimated the Katy would ultimately spend $500,000.

While the Katy Railroad continued its investment into the depot, another railroad decided to investigate the possibility of joining the enterprise, the Frisco Railroad.  As covered earlier, the Frisco Railroad, through its interests in Joplin, had furiously attempted to stop passage of the union depot franchise by the city’s council.  However, almost two years had passed since its failed attempt and faced with a desire to expand its freight capabilities by the cheapest means necessary, the Frisco opted to further investigate the matter.  While the Frisco had a depot in Joplin, it believed that if it could direct its passenger traffic to the union depot, it could then enlarge its freight capabilities at the existing depot.  Despite reportedly being on of the largest landowners in the city of Joplin, the Frisco was having trouble parting Ralph Muir from the property he owned at the corner of 6th and Main Street, which it felt was needed were it to expand its passenger area.  The vice-president of the railroad, Carl Gray, promised a decision would be had in a couple weeks.  Ultimately, however, the Frisco did end up building a new depot, after it did finally acquired the coveted 6th Street and Main property.

The depot the Frisco later went on to built, still standing on Main Street Joplin today.

Meanwhile, as work concluded on the main excavation, on July 24, 1910, the Joplin Daily Globe, noted in a small article, far from the headlines of the front page, that the Manhattan Construction Company “Will Start Erection of Depot Tomorrow.”  Representatives of the company were to arrive on the 25th, along with a foreman, who’s task was to oversee approximately 25 men and the start of the foundation, which included the further excavation of fifty square feet for the new home of the depot’s heating apparatus.  The depot itself was finally under construction.

A History of the Joplin Union Depot – Part I

In the middle of October, 1908, the union depot franchise was up for debate before the Joplin City Council.  The hope of John Scullin, a president of the Missouri and North Arkansas railroad, along with representatives of the Santa Fe railroad, was to bring the franchise to the City Council meeting on the night of Tuesday, October 13th. The intent was to have the franchise quickly passed.  The Council, likewise, was prepared to request a clause be included in the contract which would force the Joplin Depot Company, which Scullin represented, to allow any railroad access to the depot so long as the facilities were available to accommodate such.  The Council also hoped to convince the builders of the depot to help pay the costs of constructing viaducts for Broadway, Third Street, and “C” Street.

As the time for the arrival of Scullin and the Santa Fe representatives neared, the word was that the Joplin Depot Company officials had claimed that any provision in the franchisee that forced the company to admit other railroad companies would be unacceptable.  Likewise, the franchise agreement said nothing about viaducts.  A number of the city councilman also were not keen to the idea of one night of deliberation and passage of the franchise.

Joplin Union Depot East Facade

The afternoon of the meeting, Clay Gregory, a secretary of the Commercial Club, an organization composed of Joplin’s leading businessmen who worked to promote Joplin’s business interests, warned that one night would not be enough time to examine the details of the franchise.  Especially, Gregory claimed, if the city allowed the Joplin Depot Company to retain the right to deny any other railroad access.  The Joplin News Herald, unabashedly supported his position and wrote in accompanying bold lettering, “THE COUNCIL MAY BE GIVING AWAY THE LIBERTY OF THE CITY IF IT PASSES IT.”  Gregory went on to doubt the certainty that if the franchise was given to the Missouri and North Arkansas and the Santa Fe, that it would mean that both railroads would build lines into Joplin.  The article noted that a few months earlier, the Joplin and Eastern Kansas, a local branch of the proposed St. Louis and Oklahoma Southern, had been denied a franchise that had requested the same and likely for the purpose of cutting off Joplin from the Missouri and Northern Arkansas.

The franchise was not passed that night, instead the evening was composed mainly of agreements between representatives of the Missouri and Northern Arkansas, the Kansas City Southern, and Santa Fe, and the city council members on a franchise committee.  The meeting was held at the Connor hotel and seemed at first to achieve everything that the city wanted before the earlier proposed vote on the franchise.  The agreements consisted of the Joplin Depot Company paying for one third of the costs of the Broadway viaduct, as well any costs incurred from changing the plans of the Third street viaduct, and right to build over any ground owned by the company to construct the “C” street viaduct.

Also gained was a promise to allow other railroads into the depot and inserted into the franchise agreement an arbitration clause, considered a “liberal” contract element to the agreement.  In exchange, the city was given the rights over the streets and alleyways that ran through the property it had already purchased two years earlier in advance of pushing for the passage of the franchise.  The Santa Fe additionally promised that construction would begin shortly on extending the railroad’s tracks from nearby Pittsburg to Joplin.  Likewise, the Missouri and Northern Arkansas noted that only eight miles remained to complete the line to Joplin.  All together, the completion of the tracks promised to allow trains passage from New Orleans to as far as the great Northwest.

The franchise committee, headed by councilman N.H. Kelso, initially had some worries, though later he remained quiet upon the final vote.  Kelso also participated in the discussion of the franchise committee of Joplin’s Commercial Club.  Of immediate concern of the franchise was language in the franchise agreement, “…and provided the reasonable facilities of said depot company shall admit thereof.”

Joplin Union Depot South Facade

Chief among those worried was councilman Guy T. Humes, a future mayor of Joplin, who actively sought to prevent a vote from being taken, despite Scullin arguments.  “I came to Joplin two years ago,” stated Scullin to the franchise committee, “and made the land purchases we now hold.  We bought them to be ready when we needed terminals…Now we want the terminals.”  The president of the Missouri and Northern Arkansas went on to sourly grumble, “I think I made a mistake in not asking you for something when I came here.  You would have appreciated us better.  We think we have presented a fair ordinance and we don’t think we should be asked for anything more.  The railroads are hard up.  Money is difficult to get.”  Scullin then threatened, “As far as we are concerned, though, I can tell you we’re not going to be held up.”

The clause, detractors argued, could be used by the operators of the depot to prevent the admittance of other railroads into the depot.  Thus, one railroad company, as a member of the Joplin Depot Company, might possibly use the excuse that the depot’s facilities could not reasonable sustain any new railroads as a means to keep out its competitor.  Another element that worried some was the use of the word “continuously” in a clause stating that construction, once it began, should continue until completion.  At the time, the fear was that if the company building the depot paused for a few weeks, the franchise would be lost.  The City Council opted to discuss the matter on Tuesday, October 20th, while the Commercial Club chose to discuss the matter on Sunday, the 18th.

Humes, meanwhile, argued, “The wording contains to me a danger to the city’s future.  We all know how the city is encircled by railroad tracks, and how the granting of this franchise means the giving away of practically all the remaining terminal grounds in the city.”  Humes was worried that the franchise might give the Joplin Depot Company a terminal trust, “I may be wrong, but as I see it, it gives the railroad company absolute dictation as to what roads shall or shall not use the depot yards.”  The councilman went on to loudly question, “Who is to determine what constitutes the ‘reasonable facilities’ of the depot and yards?  Who is to interfere when the company says to a road that wants to come in here that the full facilities of the depot and yards are taken up, and that they can’t come in?”

Joplin Union Depot West Facade

As the time neared for the Commercial Club to meet and discuss the nicknamed Scullin Franchise, the reported local sentiment was that the council intended to vote for passage of the franchise regardless of the Commercial Club’s opinion.  Other issues rose to join the controversy of the so-called “Joker” clause, which concerned the depot company allowing other railroads access to the depot.  One issue was whether the clause in question clause would be available to be discussed under the “liberal” arbitration clause.  Another issue was the potential cost of the depot and the worry that the depot would not be built large enough to keep up with the city’s progress. Scullin assured the city council the depot would be “$40,000,” to which the city’s response was, “If he really expects to spend that much money it won’t hurt him, and the city will be protected.”  The actual cost of the depot would be much higher.

After a meeting dedicated to examining the Scullin franchise, the Commercial Club, led by its secretary, Clay Gregory, voiced strong disapproval for any rushed vote on the franchise.  Most of the worrisome issues raised by Humes and other detractors to immediate passage, was voiced by the Commercial Club.  The meeting, described as a rapid cross-fire between the proponents and detractors, consisted of points raised, refuted or confirmed one after another.  In lead of the passage was Councilman Kelso whose concerns from before were satisfied and voiced the opinion that immediate affirmation was necessary, since the railroads “mean business” and warranted less than “mature” examination of the franchise.

The two sides argued back and forth.  Proponents argued the city had received everything it desired from the Joplin Union Depot Company without giving anything.  Detractors quickly pointed out that the city had conceded approximately $100,000 in vacated land and any other means to access the center of town would otherwise come at a much higher price.  Likewise, detractors worried that the Kansas City Bottoms, the proposed location of the depot, was too small and would inhabit future growth.  Proponents pointed out the railyards of Kansas City, which while small, were plenty large enough.  Humes, who was present, worried about the absence of language controlling the regulation of switching and terminal charges at the depot and later introduced an amendment that would allow the city oversight.

By the end of the meeting between the city franchise committee and the Commercial Club’s franchise committee, only three strong points of contention existed.  First was the existence of a perpetual life clause for the franchise, which the club wanted reduced to 99 years.  Second, the addition of a clause demanding that construction of the depot commence within 2 years, which the city council committee refused to consider.  Third, the injection of a forfeiture clause to penalize the union depot company for failure to carry out the contract, another clause the city council refused to consider.

Joplin Union Depot

As the city council moved to consider the Scullin franchise, the amount of vacated land was considerable.  The value was estimated between $50,000 to $100,000 and consisted of three hundred and thirty-two thousand square feet of land, or more than 50 lots at 120 by 60 feet.  The land, which would be transferred to the Joplin Union Depot company was at the time purportedly growing in value as factory land with individual lots selling between $2,000 and $3,000.  In addition were sections of streets and alleyways that ranged from 1st to 4th streets, and Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Broadway.

Despite the protestations of Councilman Humes and the Commercial Club, the city council quickly moved to accept the franchise at their meeting on the 20th of October.  As divided the Commercial Club and the city council were, so were the two city newspapers.  The Joplin News Herald presented the city council vote as one forced by intimidation via a telegram from the railroads, and where the city “forgot” its promise to protect the business interests of the city.  In contrast, the Joplin Globe trumpeted the passage of the franchise and dismissed as unimportant the concerns that had worried the franchise detractors.  More so, the Globe ridiculed Humes and noted that the true detractor were not the News Herald, Humes, and the Commercial Club, but the St. Louis and San Francisco railroad, also known as the Frisco, headquarted in St. Louis, which used the councilman, the newspaper, and club, as mouthpieces to voice opposition against the passage of the franchise to the railroad’s rivals.

The passage of the franchise was done quickly by the city council.  Presented by Kelso, the franchise was read three times, and then voted upon.  Prior to the vote, Humes, joined by councilman Hennessy, refused to vote.  Hennessy claimed he favored the franchise, just not the speed by which it was being processed.  Hennessy, however, did not join Humes in the final vote, with Humes finding himself the odd man out of a 13 member vote. The Globe referred to Humes as “Honk! Honk! Humes” and described his reaction to the addition of minor changes to the franchise, “These miner changes were not enough to satisfy Honk! Honk! Honk! Humes, and he sprang out of his chair, and for several minutes waved his Commercial Club big stick over the head of the council.  This amused the other twelve men who also represent the people of Joplin, but who do not represent the Commercial Club.”

The Globe continued, “They laughed at Humes, and the great reformer became angry, offered amendments, and made objections to he proceedings.  The council and Mayor Osborne were in a good humor, and for once in his life, Humes was permitted to mangle all of the language with which he was familiar and kill all the time he wished.”  The paper noted Humes was forced to beg for a second to his motion to propose an amendment, which was voted down.  After which, the Globe stated, “Humes again made a noise like an auto horn,” where upon the council opted to continue its business “without paying further attention to the uplifter of morals of the entire world, and official representative of the Commercial Club.”

The News Herald offered a far more respectful review of Humes’ cautionary words (as well more of a blow for blow report of the meeting), presenting the councilman as offering a rational argument in opposition to an approving vote by the council.  Humes, after the second reading of the franchise, reportedly arose and said, “It seems to me that the haste being displayed in pushing this franchise through is unseemly.”  The News Herald described his words, “Mr. Humes continued, outlining his objections in the form of the franchise, calling the attention of the council to the absence of a forfeiture clause, the defective construction of certain sections, and the danger lurking in others.”

The paper also noted the behavior of the proponents amongst the council, particularly Councilman Molloy, whom the paper described as the master of ceremonies.  “While Humes was speaking Councilman Molloy…sat glancing about, reassuring with a glance or giving an order by a sign.  As Humes was about to close he turned to Councilmen King and Wells, and with an authoritative wave of his hands said, “Don’t answer him.  Let it come to vote.” The councilmen obeyed.”

It was at this point in the discussion that Humes had proposed an amendment to attempt to fix the faults he and the Commercial Club perceived in the franchise.  It was voted down.  Hennessy, who eventually caved to the pro-franchise faction of the council, stood up to point out this was a rerun of another proposed franchise vote that had happened earlier in the year and had been voted down.  Next to speak was Councilman Brown who firmly stated, “I have listened carefully to the reading of the ordinance and do not see anything wrong with it.”

The aforementioned Councilman King spoke next to explain away why no further attempt was being made with regard to the factors that concerned Humes and the Commercial Club, “We telegraphed to Kansas City this afternoon and asked them if they would accept the franchise without it [the contested clauses].  They answered positively no, so we reported the france with it in.”  King went on to claim that the franchise had been before a city council committee for six months, to which Humes immediately interjected, “The franchise has not been before the committee but a week!”

The chairman of the Commercial Club, C. Newberger, also attempted to reason with the City Council and pointed out that St. Louis had made such a mistake.  Newberger expounded on the problems with the franchise and declared, “You need not be afraid Mr. Scullin will not come here.  He is a past master in the art of bluffing through franchises.”  At this statement, it seemed Newberger had worn out his welcome, as Councilman Brown leapt to his feet and exclaimed, “Is the Commercial club running this city or is it the council doing it?”  Newberger quickly responded he appeared only as a private citizen interested in Joplin.  Tired yet of Newberger, Brown called for a point of order and had Mayor Jesse Osborne order Newberger from the floor.

In the wake of Newberger’s ejection from the floor, Councilman Hennessy inquired if a written contract existed yet between the Kansas City Southern and a promise to assist in the construction of the Third Street Viaduct.  To this question, the city engineer, J. B. Hodgdon, piped up, “We have Mr. Rusk’s word for it.”  The engineer continued, “If we vacate Third street to the depot company the Kansas City Southern will not be afraid of us.”  Mayor Osborne chimed in, “That’s a point I want to know about.”

Finally, Councilman Molloy rose and spoke, “I’ll personally guarantee that the Kansas City Southern will take care of 338 feet of the viaduct.”  The question of the aid for the viaduct caused a brief stir until the mayor promised, “I will veto the measure unless I get from the Kansas City Southern and the other two railroads in the union depot company, a written agreement that they will take care of 338 feet of the Third street viaduct.”  The mayor continued, “An agreement to this effect must reach me within ten days.”

The council then voted for the franchise and the News Herald scathingly noted, “It is quite probable that not more than half of the councilmen  who enacted the franchise ever read it.  There was an evidence of ignorance concerning its provisions and its import last night that indicated this.”  The paper, in contrast to the Globe, summarized the council vote not by what it had achieved, but how it had failed.

The next day the Commercial Club began what resulted in an extremely short lived campaign to persuade Mayor Osborne not to sign the franchise as passed by the City Council the night before.  The Club expressed the same reasons which had been pushed by Humes and Newberger in the council meeting.  Clay Gregory, already accustom to speaking out in the newspaper against the deal pointed out, “The Kansas City bottoms are the only feasible route of entry to Joplin.”  Gregory then warned, “The franchise gives the union depot company control of this choice site,” the Commercial Club secretary then added, “As the franchise stands the city is helpless to enforce its provisions upon the company.”

The hopes of the club were dashed when city engineer Hodgdon reported a telephone call from Kansas City which assured the mayor that two of the railroads behind the depot company, the Kansas City Southern and Missouri & Northern Arkansas would help build the Third street viaduct.  The Globe mocked the Commercial Club, “No-More-Railroads-for-Joplin organization,” and stated that prior to the telephone call, the Mayor had “listened with patience and courtesy” to it, something that most Joplin citizens would not bother doing.  In fact, the paper claimed, “Many of the biggest property owners in the city have either laughed at the ridiculous objections preferred or have denounced them with indignation.”

Perhaps with the taste of immediate victory in the future, the Globe launched into a refutation of the worries of the naysayers.  In addressing the question of the length of the franchise, be it perpetual or 99 years, the paper presciently wrote, “By the time another century, minus one year, has rolled around, the conditions in and about this city will have been transformed beyond the recognition of any of us alive today.  This franchisee will have become an obsolete instrument, a yellow, faded document in the city’s archives.”

Refutations done, the Globe saved the last of its ink for what it perceived to be the power behind the main objectors, “James Campbell, esquire, king, crown prince, and owner of most of the kingdom acquired by the St. Louis Big Cinch.”  Campbell, the Globe noted, contemplated building a depot for the Frisco to enhance his own land in the city, as well the railroad.  The paper declared Campbell a “forceful personality” who exerted a “private car opulence” over certain citizens of Joplin.  One such citizen was Clay Gregory.

“And yet Clay Gregory, secretary of the Commercial Club, who never did anything for Joplin until he got on the Commercial Club’s payroll, and has never done anything since excepting to draw his salary, who is now getting $150 a month from the Commercial Club for playing chess at the Elks Club, the money used to pay his salary being drawn from a trust fund which the Commercial Club directors have no moral right or expressed privileges to use for that purpose.”  The Globe continued its scathing attack, “Gregory who was given the job of secretary because he was hard up and needed the salary, whose only achievement publicly has been to hang onto the job.”  Of Gregory, the paper declared, “this fellow has the effrontery and gall to attempt to dictate to the city council and the mayor.”  The Globe concluded of the Commercial Club, “has degenerated into the fat fatuousness of Clay Gregory…”

The paper finished with a declaration against the interests of the Frisco, “There are some things which this paper hopes to compel the Frisco to do.  There is one thing that the citizens of Joplin don’t propose to allow the Frisco to do, and that is to keep other railroads out of Joplin and to tear down parts of this city which years of effort have built up in order to build up Jim Campbell’s individual interests.”

On October 26, 1908, Mayor Osborne signed the ordinance confirming the City Council’s passage of the franchise.  Joplin was to have a Union Depot.

Source: Joplin Daily Globe, Joplin News Herald

Coming soon will be the next installment of a history of the Joplin Union Depot, beginning with the events surrounding Mayor Osborne’s signing of the ordinance and the long wait to the start of construction.  Stay tuned!