S.B. Corn Returns to Joplin

After having left Joplin 35 years earlier, S.B. Corn returned to the city in 1910, amazed by the city that had replaced the small hamlet he once knew. Upon his arrival, he inquired after several old-timers, including attorneys Clark Claycroft and Leonidas “Lon” P. Cunningham. Corn was saddened to find that both men had passed away. The only men still alive in Joplin that he knew from the 1870s were D.K. Wenrich and E.B. McCollum.
 
Corn was also disappointed to find that the spot where his smelting plant once stood in East Joplin could not longer be ascertained. He did, however, find the old building that once housed the Senate saloon. Unfortunately, the reporter accompanying Corn failed to report its location.
 
At one time, Corn allegedly owned several hundreds, if not thousands of acres in the Joplin area that extended south into Newton County. Over the years he sold the land off, most of it purchased by Joplin capitalist John H. Taylor. He built his first lead smelting plant in 1870 near the village of Cornwall (now called Saginaw). He built his next smelter closer to Joplin. It used air furnance fueled by wood. As Corn described it, “Hot blast, rushing over the ore, converted it into a molten mass which drained off into kettles. From these kettles it was ladeled out into moulds, and pigs, ranging in weight from 8/0 to 100 pounds, were formed. The metal was hauled over land to Baxter [Springs], Kansas, and shipped by railroad to St. Louis.”
 
According to the reporter, “Much of the ore smelted was produced from Mr. Corn’s land in the Kansas City Bottoms and was purchased from the lessees. The story is told that the smelting company sometimes paid for one load of lead five or six times, the operators being clever enough to have the same product weighed any number of times.” When this was discovered, duplicate sales were “abolished.” Corn eventually left Joplin and headed east to Pennsylvania where he engaged in the gas and coal business, but on a return trip west felt the urge to see Joplin once more.
 
He exclaimed, “When I was in there the seventies, there was no west Joplin. This part of the city was nothing but prairie. I feel like Rip Van Winkle, and can ahrdly realize that a city could have  grown so rapidly as this one.”

Source: Joplin News Herald, 1910.

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