Powers Museum Needs Your Help

The Powers Museum of Carthage needs your help. Recently, the museum’s air condition system had a near catastrophic failure. The result is that only the main gallery and library are receiving air conditioning, while the storage area of the museum, home to many of the museum’s most valuable and climate sensitive items, is not.

As noted in the above linked Joplin Globe article, never in the museum’s 24 years has it requested public help, but the cost of replacing the faltering system is more than the museum’s usual sources of funding can support. Repairs are not an option, unfortunately, as the company which makes the needed parts is now out of business.

The Director of the Powers Museum, Michelle Hansford, stated in the Globe article, “Powers Museum has never solicited the community for operational or maintenance support before, but now we need their help to make this repair possible. Any gift, no matter what size, will be used for this purpose. At this point, anything would be appreciated.”

If you have never been to the Powers Museum, it is definitely worth a visit and a fine example of what a local history museum should be. Please show your support for local history and make whatever donation you can to help preserve Jasper County’s history.

The Interurban

Only relics, rusting pieces of steel, and the rare preserved object remain of the great interurban railway that once connected the cities and towns of the Tri-State area. While we intend to go much further into depth on the railway, for now we’re going to provide a glimpse of it. Below is a map from 1911 showing the steel web of connections of the Southwest Missouri Railway.

Click on Image for Larger Image

An article from the Joplin News Herald proudly boasted that the railway was one of the first of its kind, beginning service in 1893 with a 10 mile long connection between Joplin, Cartersville, Webb City and Prosperity. Nearly two decades later, the railway had accumulated 75 miles of track and was accessible to over a 100,000 residents of the area. In 1894, the railway was used by 400,000 travelers, a number that grew to an astronomical 8,000,000 by 1910.

Initially served by small cars, like the one pictured below, by 1911, larger trolleys were in service powered by four 50 horsepower engines. Cars ran every half hour between the towns with the exception of Joplin to Carterville, 15 minutes, and Joplin to Webb City, every 10 minutes. The costs ran anywhere from 1 penny to 1 1/2 cents per mile. A very low and reasonable rate, the article in the News Herald added.

Car No. 3 was powered by two 25 horsepower engines.

Source: Joplin News Herald, 1911

Carthage Points Out Joplin’s Wrongs

In years past, Carthage and Joplin have had an unspoken rivalry. Sometimes this rivalry would manifest itself in spirited jibes published in the papers, but more often than not it was the Carthage Evening Press that took swipes at Joplin, rather than the Globe or News-Herald that tried to besmirch Carthage’s reputation. The following article is one of hundreds of news items that the Evening Press ran over the years about incompetent, lawless, wicked Joplin.

“Lawless at Joplin. Many Robberies Occur Between the two towns – Police Protection Needed.

‘Kid’ Holden, who runs a gambling device in the Barbee building [Note to Readers: House of Lords] and lives on the corner of north Mineral and Hill streets, East Joplin, was robbed on Broadway, between East and West Joplin, Saturday night, while on his way home. The robbers were secreted behind the bill-boards on Broadway, between Virginia and Pennsylvania avenues, and as Holden approached he was clubbed into unconsciousness – the robbers taking a gold watch and pocketbook which contained $7. It is reliably reported that an attempt was made to ‘hold-up’ Holden some time ago, but he ran his assailants away with a revolver.

This audacious robbery has occasioned much talk in East Joplin, and has brought out the fact that there have been upward of a dozen attempts at ‘hold-up’ and robbery between the two towns within the past two or three weeks. A citizen of East Joplin says: ‘Crooks are to be seen almost nightly between Main street, on the west side and the bridge and its vicinity on the east side, where they are either skulking about the lumberyard, railway crossing, hiding about freight cars, the dives or shanties in the vicinity, or the bill boards.

‘Not long since,’ he continued, ‘an east town lady, while purchasing groceries on the west side, displayed a rather full pocket book in her rounds, she had not gone far on her way home before a robber approached her. But just then a car came gliding down the hill. She at once ran toward it, and the thief made a hurried break in the opposite direction, and was almost instantly out of sight.’

‘It would be a very easy job to ‘pull’ these ‘crooks’ and break up the robbers roost between the two towns, but no attempt has yet been made to afford any relief whatever. The crooks are actually safer between the two towns than any other part of the city.[Editor's Note: The area between the two towns probably refers to the area known as the Kansas City Bottoms.] The police, or its chief, evidently consider it the duty of the force to remain about the crowded streets, and protect the saloons, and ‘pull’ those who patronize those institutions ‘too freely,’ and thus swell the city’s funds while leaving the various outlying thoroughfares of the city of Joplin utterly unprotected.’

‘It is claimed that if three picked men were taken off the police force, the remainder would not be worth a snap of the fingers. The force is the most incompetent in the history of the city. The recent east town shooting affair – when two policemen in attempting the arrest of an unarmed crippled boy over a twenty-five cent game of cards in a saloon, shot him down at close range – is an illustration.”

Source: Carthage Evening Press

White Man’s Heaven Website Live

A couple weeks ago, we announced the publication of White Man’s Heaven: The Lynching and Expulsion of Blacks in the Southern Ozarks, 1894 – 1906, by Kimberly Harper.  Since that time, the official website for White Man’s Heaven has gone live.  In the future, you can check there for all the latest news and developments concerning the book.  Check it out at the following address: www.whitemansheaven.com .

White Man’s Heaven

Cover to White Man's Heaven by Kimberly Harper

White Man's Heaven by Kimberly Harper

Interested in reading about local history? A new book this fall will offer the first comprehensive examination of five interconnected episodes of racial violence in the Ozarks.  We like it already because its cover art features the work of Joplin’s famed resident, Thomas Hart Benton.  Here are the details:

“Drawing on court records, newspaper accounts, penitentiary records, letters, and diaries, “White Man’s Heaven” is the first book to investigate the lynching and expulsion of African Americans in the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Kimberly Harper explores events in the towns of Monett, Pierce City, Joplin, and Springfield, Missouri, and Harrison, Arkansas, to show how post–Civil War vigilantism, an established tradition of extralegal violence, and the rapid political, economic, and social change of the New South era combined to create an environment that resulted in interracial violence. Even though some whites, especially in Joplin and Springfield, tried to stop the violence and bring the lynchers to justice, many African Americans fled the Ozarks, leaving only a resilient few behind and forever changing the racial composition of the region.”

The book has received high praise from noted scholars Edward Ayers, Fitzhugh Brundage, and Brooks Blevins.

“Kimberly Harper has written a powerful, deeply researched, and persuasive account of the driving of entire communities of African Americans from their homes. These stories of the Ozarks speak of a larger tale of violence and subjugation we must understand if we are to understand the history of this country.”
Edward L. Ayers, President, University of Richmond, and author of The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction

“An uncommonly sophisticated piece of local history that demonstrates why local / micro history is so valuable.”
W. Fitzhugh Brundage, William B. Umstead Professor, University of North Carolina, and author of Lynching in the New South: Georgia and Virginia, 1880–1930

“A valuable contribution to the study of American race relations and the Ozarks.”
Brooks Blevins, Noel Boyd Associate Professor of Ozarks Studies, Missouri State University, and author of Arkansas / Arkansaw: How Bear Hunters, Hillbillies, and Good Ol’ Boys Defined a State

Keep an eye out for it in the fall. If you want to pre-order, you can purchase it on Amazon.com or through the University of Arkansas Press.   At the time of the book’s release, we’ll offer  more comprehensive coverage.

UPDATE:  Check out the White Man’s Heaven website at www.WhiteMansHeaven.com.

Matt Miller’s Treasure

In the early spring of 1897, Matt Miller of Joplin was the recipient of what may have been the first armadillo in Southwest Missouri.  Miller’s friend F.D.  Bancroft of Von Ormy, Texas, sent Miller the armadillo as a gift.

Armadillo

Image of an armadillo via the Library of Congress

The Globe reported that the armadillo was, “eighteen inches long and a foot tall.  It is covered with a shell something like a turtle, has four legs long enough to reach to the ground, at the bottom of which are four feet that look something like a cross between a hoof and a cat’s paw.”

Miller described it as a, “land bird, strictly omnivorous and carnivorous.  It eats mice, snakes, lizards, ants, and other beasts and vermin.” He added, “The ladies are invited to call at my office and see it.  Sleeps by day and runs around hunting something to eat at night.” Miller, already proud of his gift, boasted, “It will dig into the ground faster than a man can with a spade, and when he gets in he spreads his armor out against the sides of the hole s o that a team of mules can’t haul him out.  All are urged to come and see him and it won’t cost anyone a cent.”

Source: Joplin Globe, Library of Congress

Carthage Attorney Charles Wild: Defying the Odds

Although he was a citizen of Carthage, Charles Wild’s story is worth mentioning on Historic Joplin.  As a young boy growing up in Sarcoxie, Wild suffered a bout of scarlet fever.  He was left crippled and unable to walk.  Wild, however, was undeterred.

Although he could not play baseball or swim in a country stream, Charles Wild focused on his studies.  It was said that as a mere boy he took over as the bookkeeper and business assistant in his father’s nursery in Sarcoxie.  Later, when he was older, Charles attended St.  Louis Law School (now called St.  Louis University).  After graduation he opened a successful law practice in St.  Louis before he returned to Sarcoxie in 1906 and became the law partner of H.T.  Harrison of Carthage.

What made Charles Wild unique was that although he was unable to walk, he still managed to travel all over town with the aid of a cart that was described as a, “small box-like affair hung between two large rubber-tired wheels resembling those of a bicycle.  The box of the cart is just large enough to admit his body and in this, when he desires to move around, he is strapped.  Then, leaning forward, he propels himself by pulling himself along with his hands.  He carries wooden blocks which he uses to preserve his hands.”

Charles Wild, Carthage Attorney in his cart and at desk

A sketch of Mr. Wild in his cart, as well seated at a table.

Wild could travel faster than the average pedestrian unless there was snow on the ground when “it is almost impossible for him to make any progress.” In addition, “rough roads and in wet and muddy weather” were a hindrance.

Despite his physical challenges, he was an accomplished author and attorney, with some of his work published in contemporary publications such as Harper’s and Century Magazine.  He was noted as “an advocate of great ability before a jury.  His physical condition is no handicap to his prowess as a speaker.” Wild would often ask to be taken from his cart and seated in a chair, “his head barely showing above the edge of the table” when he delivered “some of the most highly polished arguments and addresses ever hard in a tribunal of justice in this county.”

Wild, it was noted, “was respected by everyone, a friend to whom one can go in time of need, he is not only one of the most able but one of the most beloved men in Carthage.” He depended “upon his own abilities for making his way in the world” and he certainly did.

Source: Joplin Globe

Vada Corbus, Almost a Trailblazer

When it comes to women in baseball, many are likely familiar with the hit movie, A League of Their Own, which focused on the brief life of the All American Girl’s Professional Baseball League from the Second World War into the early 1950’s.   Few, however, may know about Vada Corbus.
In the spring of 1931, Vada Corbus lived with her widowed mother, brother Luke (or Lewis), and two sisters.   The family was supported by Luke’s work at a lead smelter and Vada’s two sisters employment at a pasta factory.   Luke was a catcher for the Joplin Miners, and in April, 1931, was moved to play right field.   This opened up competition for the catcher position and Vada Corbus tried out for the position.

Not much is known about Vada, the newspapers were surprisingly reticent on the subject of a girl playing for the city’s minor league team.   There were a few articles, a photo of Vada in uniform, but little else about her.  Prior to an exhibition game against the nearby Pierce City team, Vada served as a warm-up catcher.   Word was that Vada was going to be signed or was signed with the team to vie for the catcher position and was expected to play in the Miners’ season opener against Springfield.

The game was held on the evening of April 30, 1931.   The bright electric lights of Childress Field illuminated the Joplin skyline.   The bleachers were full with fans filled with hope for a winning start to the season.  Vendors walked the aisles hawking refreshments.  Yet when the time came for the home team to take the field for the first inning, Vada was not among them.  Her absence was explained by an article that appeared in the New York Times.

On April 18th, the New York Times picked up the story and the news of Vada’s hopeful experiment in the Western Association League.   This in turn alerted league officials who stubbornly insisted that there was no place for women in men’s minor league ball.   It seems that Vada Corbus fell from the attention of the newspapers and was forced to bid farewell to a dream of playing ball.   Her brother never made it out of Joplin.  Instead of playing in the big leagues, he remained in his hometown where he worked as welder for Eagle-Picher, before he died in 1952 at the age of 48 from kidney failure.

Vada Corbus, female baseball player.

Vada Corbus in her Joplin Miners uniform.

If anything can be said of Vada, it is that she was courageous for attempting to break into minor league baseball, following in the footsteps of the Bloomer baseball girls that barnstormed the country.   She had certainly proven she could play at their level, if unfortunately denied the chance to do it before a grandstand full of cheering fans, men, women, and little girls.   While the Joplin Miners may be best remembered for fielding a young Mickey Mantle on his way to the Yankees, Vada Corbus deserves a spot in the limelight of the club’s and city’s history as a pioneer of women’s baseball.

If you have any information on Vada, let us know.  We’d love to hear from you.

Sources: The Joplin Globe, Missouri Digital History, 1930 Federal Census, “Baseball: The People’s Game” by Harold Seymour, “Women Players in Organized Baseball” by Society for American Baseball Research.

Letters to the Joplin Police Chief

In 1907, the Joplin Police Chief Myers shared some of the letters he received on a daily basis with the Joplin Globe.  The letters offer a glimpse of life in Joplin and the surrounding areas.  Some the letters he received were mundane, such as the following letter:

“Cherryvale, Kan., Oct., 21, 1907.
Joplin City Marshal, Joplin, Mo.

Will you please see and inform me if there are any girls wanted to attend to lunch counters.  If so, I can send an experienced one, and please give me the number and the price of wages.  Let me hear soon.  Respectfully,

S.A.T.”

The Globe jauntily remarked, “The chief of police has not answered the above letter because of the fact that he is not running an employment agency.  In fact, if the chief answered all of the letters of this nature he receives he would have to hire a private secretary.”

Another letter that Chief Myers received read,

“Cassville, Mo.  Oct.  22, 1907.
Chief of Police, Joplin, Mo.

Dear Sir – Will you please inform me by enclosed card if a woman by the name of Ella Hailey is in your city.  She may be working in one of your hotels.  Please phone hotels and see if she is there.  Oblige, A.C.H.”

The Globe noted that the “last letter is somewhat out of the ordinary as he addresses  the chief as ‘dear sir’ and actually says ‘oblige’ in ending his letter.  The majority of the letters simply tell the chief of what they desire him to do and let the matter pass.”

Other letters were in response to an earlier missive from a Joplin man, C.T.  Plimer, who was hunting a wife.  One woman from Platt City, Missouri, declared, “Now please understand I am not a man hunter, for I never gave this subject much thought.  I think that I will fill the bill and the description, except having the several thousand dollars.  I have some nice property here.  I have visited in Joplin and like your city very much.”

The “most amusing letter” that Chief Meyers received, according to the Globe was one from an African American man in Fort Scott, Kansas, who wrote,

City marshal, be on the lookout for a young colored woman by the name of Leatha B—-.  She is a brown skin, good looker, good hair, a pair of earrings with blue sets, and a finger ring with a blue set in it.  She might go by the name of Leatha C.  She wears a long black coat, a black hat turned up on the side with a band with a red stripe in it, a nice black dress, and a changeable silk underskirt.  I just bought them for her.  There is a young brown skin man by the name of Will Julien.  If you catch them arrest them both and lock them up until you hear from Butler or Mr.  George Julien.  If she is there and ain’t working and running the streets, make her leave town.  Yours truly, Andy B.

P.S.  – Make her come home; she ain’t got no business down there.  I have got a good home for her and she don’t want for nothing.  Make her leave town.  She left this afternoon at 3 o’clock.  Telephone back at my expense.” – Andy B.

We’re not sure if Leatha returned to Andy B.  in Fort Scott or not, but it was probably not the last time that Chief Myers received a letter from the hopeful and the lovelorn.

Source: The Joplin Globe

Joplin, Phone Home

Alexander Graham Bell filed his patent for the telephone in 1876.  Six years later, telephones were considered a rare luxury and this list reveals some of the wealthier citizens of Joplin, as well the most successful businesses.   Even with a population in the thousands and businesses in at least the dozens, only about 51 telephones are listed.  Times have changed.

Jopin Telephone Exchange list for 1882

Jopin Telephone Exchange List for 1882.

Source: Joplin Daily Herald