A History Nugget: The Sinful Siren of Joplin

Who says reading old newspapers is a bore? Here’s an interesting quote from a 1882 Joplin paper:

“The first name on the register of the new calaboose was Jennie Hanford, a savagerous siren of sin, who in winding up a night’s debauch made a raid on the News office early Wednesday morning, having taken it for a saloon, and was about to jerk the hind sight off the [printer’s] devil because he was unable to furnish a whisky straight on order. There is no telling what would have been the fate of the innocent young rooster had not Officer Sackett interposed and placed the wandering wanton under lock and key.”

Guest Piece: Leslie Simpson – Route 66: A Method to the Madness

I have always wondered why Route 66 took such a circuitous path through Joplin.  Coming in on West Seventh, it made a sharp turn left onto Main, then headed east on First over the viaduct.  It continued on Broadway, turning north on St. Louis; after crossing Turkey Creek, it took off at a 45-degree angle on Euclid.  It went a couple of blocks on Florida, then right on Zora and left on Range Line.  If it were not for the fact that Route 66 was built during Prohibition, one might wonder if the cartographers had been a little tipsy!


Route 66 through Joplin

Recently I was looking at some old plat maps of Joplin, and I noticed something.  The Southwest Missouri Electric Railway, an electric streetcar that was established in 1893 by Alfred H. Rogers, took an identical 45-degree angle after crossing Turkey Creek in its route from Joplin to Webb City, Carterville, Lakeside Park, Carthage and other points east.  The trolley line angled through Royal Heights, a separate village that had incorporated in 1907.  Eureka!  This information may be common knowledge, but since I did not know about it, I was excited to figure it out on my own.

Plat map showing the Electric Railway line north of Turkey Creek

At its peak, the railway company operated a huge fleet of streetcars and 94 miles of tracks in three states. But its days were numbered. As private ownership of motor vehicles increased, railway patronage dwindled. In 1925, the company began running passenger buses and phasing out its streetcars.  The Joplin stretch of Route 66 was under construction from 1927 through 1932.  After Royal Heights was annexed into the city of Joplin in 1929, the railway company removed the tracks through Royal Heights. The old track-bed was paved as Euclid and became part of the historic “Mother Road.”

Vote for Cunningham Park in Coca-Cola’s Live Positively Park Contest!

Joplin is currently engaged in a fierce voting contest. If you haven’t heard yet, Coca-Cola is presently running a contest under the banner of Live Positively, in which one park can win $100,000 grant toward improvements. To win in this contest, supporters must go to the Coca-Cola website (Here’s a link) and vote for the park of choice. You can vote as many times as you wish, the more the better! Presently, Cunningham Park is in 3rd place. Coca-Cola has had a long relationship with Joplin, as it opened a bottling factory in Joplin more than a century ago and still calls the original building home. It’d be fantastic to see this partnership continued by Cunningham Park winning the $100,000 grant.

A photograph of Coca-Cola's home in Joplin not long after it opened.

If you have a minute, an hour, or a whole day, please visit this link and vote away for Cunningham Park! The contest ends September 6, so time is quickly counting down. For those facebook fans, here’s a facebook page promoting the vote for Cunningham Park.

The Missouri Mule

By 1911, the Missouri Mule was uniquely identified with mining as much as a miner, as seen in this illustration from a Joplin paper.


One of the most valuable sources of labor in the early days of the Tri-State Mining District was provided by mules. University of Missouri Professor Dr. Melvin Bradley partnered with the Missouri Mule Skinners Society to produce the Missouri Mule History Project. The project itself was a multi-volume collection of transcribed oral histories regarding the history of Missouri mules. Bradley sought individuals who had experience raising, selling, trading, and working with Missouri mules. One of the individuals he found was Lee Dagley, a native of Joplin, Missouri. The interview is illuminating for several reasons. First, it provides a look at how mules were used in the Tri-State Mining District, but it also allows one to understand life in early Joplin as seen through the eyes of one who lived it.

Lee Dagley was born in Joplin on July 23, 1888, in a small house on what is now today 1817 Michigan Avenue. He was one of thirteen children. Dagley’s parents came to Joplin in the early 1870s and soon found that the “best thing they had was a pick and a shovel and a wheel barrow.”  His father bought an acre of land near Sixth and Pearl where the First Presbyterian Church stands. But Dagley’s mother protested and they moved near a large spring on what is today Campbell Boulevard. Growing up, Dagley recalled that Joplin was “all prairie…I herded cattle all over this country.”

According to Dagley, folks in Joplin did not eat much beef when he was growing up. He said, “There’d always be some man in the neighborhood that’d kill a beef and he’d take it around and we’d have beef for a little while. But pork was the main thing.” The family owned one milk cow which provided their milk. Dagley said he pretty much existed on “good milk and bread and butter.” To supplement their income, his family raised and sold chickens and turkeys. Turkeys brought fifteen cents. One turkey that they kept grew to weigh 65 pounds. It was so big and aggressive that Dagley would have to carry a stick to fend it off because of its propensity to attack anyone who came in through their front gate.

At first his father did not know how to mine, but quickly learned, and gained a reputation as “one of the best miners in the country.” But his father was not successful at mining. Still, Dagley recalled that in the early days of mining, miners could only dig 16-18 feet down into the ground before they hit limestone, and water would flood the shaft. Dagley’s father created a sluice trough that washed the lead ore that miners dug out of shallow mines. After washing the ore, someone would pick up the ore and deliver it to the smelter at Granby. Dagley’s father charged miners by the piece and usually made $1 a day. To make additional money, Dagley’s father rented out horses and worked as a “powder monkey.”

Dagley attended school, but quit when he was a sophomore because his father was ill. Dagley took a job at Junge’s Bakery for $3 a week and later $6 a week. He later worked a brickyard, but when the Thomas Mine Royalty Company came to town and offered $1.50 per day to drive a wagon, Dagley left the bakery and began driving a team.

Mining methods in the Tri-State region slowly advanced. Mules would pull cars full of lead ore on the surface, but they also worked below ground. Mules were lowered into the mines, sometimes in a sitting position. According to Dagley, the mines did not use big mules: “They were not big mules. They used small mules. The biggest one would probably weigh 900 lbs.” One particular mule barn that he remembered was “about 60 feet wide and 200 feet long.” The mine operators put “hundreds of tons of hay” in the barn. Dagley boasted, “Oh, this whole country out here was prairie hay, and the best prairie hay that ever was.”

At work, a muleskinner sat “on the front of the car and drive the mule. They’d pull ’em in and they had a track down there…up towards the mill.”

After the turn of the century, however, mines became less reliant on mules. Mines began using steam engines and motors. Mules were relegated to surface work, mainly pulling cars full of ore. The heyday of the mule in the mines of the Tri-State Mining District was over. Mechanization and advancements in mining methods had made them obsolete, but to the men who worked with them in the mines, there would always be fond memories.

* It is worth noting that although this fact was not mentioned in the oral history, Lee Dagley, according to contemporary press reports, was one of the few white men in 1903 who attempted to save Thomas Gilyard’s life from a lynch mob in Joplin.

Twisters, Cyclones, and Tornadoes of Joplin’s Past: Part II

This is the second half of our brief history on the cyclones, tornadoes and twisters that Mother Nature has visited upon Joplin in the past.   You can find the first part by clicking here.

In the summer of 1908, a small “funnel-shaped cloud dipped down out of the sky” just southwest of Joplin in the early morning. The tornado swept across an area estimated at a quarter of a mile in diameter and destroyed four mining plants: the Ruth, Eden, and Haggerty plants, plus one unnamed plant. Mrs. Jack Armil, who lived in Joplin Heights, told a reporter that she thought she was going to lose her house to the tornado. Although she and her home escaped unscathed, her landscaping was badly damaged. The twister did not raise much alarm in Joplin proper as the Globe failed to report on the event, leaving the News-Herald to publish a brief article noting the tornado’s brief appearance.

The next few years were quiet until the spring of 1911. On a fine spring evening a powerful rainstorm with heavy winds hit the area between north Joplin and south Webb City. The storm, prior to its arrival in Joplin, had already left a trail of devastation across Oklahoma and Kansas. Fortunately, casualties were light. Mrs. Almedia Shelley was killed when her home on Smelter Hill was destroyed by what was described as a “high wind.” Others were injured, including: T.J. Walten, Charles Vancourt, Claude Hankins, and a man named Adkins.

Several decades passed before Joplin was once again in the path of a tornado. On the evening of May 5, 1971, Joplin experienced its first significant tornado. Tornado sirens reportedly did not go off in time until the funnel was on the ground, catching many residents by surprise. The twister tore through the city causing damage along thirty-seven city blocks and took the life of Missouri Southern student Rick Johnson. Johnson was killed at his residence at the Anderson Mobile Trailer Court on Newman Road. His wife miraculously survived. The event was memorialized in a booklet succinctly titled, The Joplin Tornado. You can view the entire booklet online courtesy of the Joplin Public Library here:  http://www.joplinpubliclibrary.org/digitized/joplin_tornado_booklet.php

Two years later, on the morning of May 11, 1973, another tornado hit Joplin with winds roared through the city at an estimated 70 to 100 miles an hour. Mrs. Lea Kungle, head of Jasper County’s civil defense, told a Globe reporter, “They say you can’t have a hurricane here, but it was like a hurricane.”

Three residents were killed, over one hundred were injured, an estimated one thousand trees blown over, and at least $20 million in property damage. The West Side Trailer Court on West Seventh Street sustained heavy losses. Mrs. Roger Wisdom, who lived at the trailer court, remarked that “The sky was so black, and it seemed to come to a point and looked like it was coming in on you…it was so big.” A ten year old girl, Chris Day, woke up flying through the air on her mattress. She survived without any serious injuries.

Just as sudden as it had arrived, the tornado quickly moved eastward, not to be surpassed in the history of the city until May 22, 2011.


Sources: Joplin Daily Globe, Joplin News Herald, The Joplin Tornado.

A Brush with History

Senator Thomas Hennings via Biographical Directory of Congress

In 1952, as the machinery of war wound down after World War II, the status of Fort Crowder was uncertain. Area residents were anxious that Crowder’s closure would have a negative effect on the health of the local economy. Joplin businessmen and laborers were no exception. Herb Riddle, president of the Central Trades and Labor Assembly of Joplin, wrote to U.S. Senator Thomas C. Hennings regarding any possible plans the federal government might have in store for the city, as well as an idea of his own.

Riddle suggested to Hennings, “I note in the Joplin Sunday Globe, April 13, 1952, that the government had been looking over various sites in the United States to establish another atomic bomb plant. I believe that we have some very fine possibilities for such a plant in this area which I talked to you of when I was in Washington, D.C., especially near the Du Pont Powder Plant, just north of Joplin.”

Senator Hennings, like most members of Congress, sent a brief response. After thanking Riddle for his letter, Hennings stated, “For your information, I have requested Chairman [Gordon] Dean of the Atomic Energy Commission to give every possible consideration of Joplin as a site for the construction of an atom bomb plant. As you no doubt know, there are certain very definite requirements which a site must have before it can be seriously considered. As soon as I receive a report from the Commission I will let you hear from me.”

There was no follow-up letter.

1893 World’s Fair: Joplin By the Numbers

In 1893, the World’s Columbian Exposition (commonly referred to as the World’s Fair) was held in Chicago, Illinois. As was common at the time, the state of Missouri sent exhibits to demonstrate its agricultural and geological wealth for the masses. An official catalogue, Missouri at the World’s Fair, was distributed to fairgoers.

One of the entries in the catalogue was sent by the Joplin Club in an effort to promote the city to new audience outside of what was then commonly referred to as the “The history of the lead and zinc mining industry of Southwest Missouri is the history of Joplin,” the entry declared, noting that although the city had once been a “straggling mining camp” it was now “a well-built city of 18,000 souls.” Joplin, it boasted, would not only remain the “commercial metropolis of the ore fields, but become the great gateway…of the regions lying south and southwest.”

Should one be interested in relocating to Joplin, the club bragged that, “Joplin is essentially a mining town, but it has none of the disagreeable characteristics which Western mining camps possess, nor is it cursed with pauper labor. The people are Americans.”

The Joplin Club provided the following statistics:
Population of the city of Joplin, 1891: 17, 389
Corporate area of the city in square miles: 12.5
Number of miles of macadamized streets in city: 45
Number of miles of sidewalks: 35
Number of miles of electric street railway: 8
Number of water mains: 26
Number of gas mains: 13
Number of miles of electric light wire: 135
Number of telephone subscribers: 153
Number of wholesale houses (businesses): 14
Number of retail houses (businesses): 314
Number of manufactories: 22
Number of flour mills (475 barrels per day): 2
Number of high schools (cost $40,000): 2
Number of ward schools: 11
Number of school children in city: 5,263
Number of churches: 12 — 3 Methodist, 3 Presbyterian, 2 Baptist, 1 Congregational, 1 Episcopal, 1 Christian, 1 German Lutheran, 1 Catholic.
Number of opera houses: 2
Number of daily papers: 3
Number of railways: 6 — 2 divisions of the St. Louis & San Francisco, the Joplin division of the Missouri Pacific, the Joplin division of the Kansas City, Fort Scott, & Memphis, and the Kansas City, Pittsburg, and Gulf.
Number of rail cars unloaded at Joplin in 1891 (15 tons each): 17,159

History Day Returns to Joplin

As the snows continue to melt away and we can begin to envision warmer days and the return of leaves on trees, flowers on the ground, and birds from southern lands, we also have the return of the annual National History Day event. On March 4, students in Joplin will be participating in the event that will culminate in competition on the state level in Columbia in April.

To learn more about History Day, we contacted Dr. Paul Teverow, a professor of History at Missouri Southern State University since 1982, and the National History Day Coordinator for Missouri Region 6. Dr. Teverow was kind enough to answer some questions we had about the event.

Dr. Paul Teverow

Historic Joplin: What is National History Day?

Dr. Teverow: It is an academic program for students grades 8-12. Students present their research and analysis — in the form of papers, exhibits, performances, documentaries, or websites — on historical topics of their choosing related to the annual theme. The 2011 theme is “Debate and Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences.”

Historic Joplin: When did it come to Joplin?

Dr. Teverow: I believe 1979 was the first year at MSSU, where the Social Sciences Department has always sponsored the contest for this part of Missouri.

Historic Joplin: How did you become involved with History Day?

Dr. Teverow: When I came to MSSU in 1982, I joined colleagues in the Social Sciences Department who served as judges. In 1989, the Department Head asked if I would serve as contest coordinator. And that’s the way it’s been.

Historic Joplin: What has surprised you most about the students participating in National History Day?

Dr. Teverow: I am first of all surprised by the high quality of so many entries. Stories about education and student achievement today tend to focus on the low motivation and achievement of American youth. But in most of the entries, I see a depth of research not so common “in my day.” Some of them have found primary sources in archives & online that even judges familiar with the topic had not known about. On the few occasions when I have judged in recent years, I have also been impressed by quality of presentation in the exhibits, performances, and documentaries. Many students show a real talent for presenting their research in an engaging manner. If you saw the best of these entries in a museum or on PBS, you’d believe that they were created by professionals. Plus who would not be surprised to be an in auditorium full of 12-18 year olds who are genuinely excited to be participating in an academic contest?

Historic Joplin: We’ve had science fairs for decades, why do you think it took so long to have an event for history established?

Dr. Teverow: It’s true that History Day has not been around as long as Science Fair, but at 37 years [the first contest was in 1974], it’s hardly the new kid on the block. You’re right; it is still not as well known as Science Fair, but each year, about 500,000 students nationwide participate. That’s not chopped liver!

Historic Joplin: What are the benefits of History Day for students? For teachers?

Dr. Teverow: First and foremost, History Day gets students excited about history. Researching a History Day project has to be among the best way for students to learn that history matters: that events in the past have shaped their world; that what people choose to do and how they choose to do it have consequences; that for almost everything they take for granted, the past presents alternatives, some disastrous, some surprisingly viable. I have also had several History Day alumni and their parents tell me that History Day played a very valuable role in preparing them for college, because in the course of creating a History Day entry, they develop:

● critical thinking and problem-solving skills
● research and reading skills
● oral and written communication and presentation skills

Teachers also testify to the educational benefits. They have shared with me examples of how History Day motivates students and brings out hitherto hidden talents.

Historic Joplin: Is participation growing every year?

Dr. Teverow: During my almost 30-year involvement, it has fluctuated quite a bit, with about 200 total entries in a “normal” year. This year, because many schools are cutting back on anything that requires transportation off-campus, I expect participation to be down a bit.

Historic Joplin: Do students cover Joplin/Southwest Missouri personalities and topics? Have any stuck out in your mind as memorable?

Dr. Teverow: So long as it can be connected with the annual theme, ANY topic in world, US, or local history is fair game. I do find that for some students, a topic with a local connection makes history seem more immediate. It may also lead them to unusual primary sources and help them better understand how historians use primary sources to reconstruct the past. Of course, with entries on local history, it is especially important to place the developments in the context of broader developments during the period in question. Here is a sampling of award-winning entries from the past few years with local connections:

2006 Sarah Mouton, Carthage High School, Carthage, Teacher/s: Caroline Tubbs; A Talking Campaign: Emily Newell Blair Takes a Stand for Social Justice and Political Equality.



2009 Julia Lewis Annie Baxter: Woman, Wife, and County Clerk Annie Baxter: Woman, Wife, and County Clerk Joplin, MO, Joplin High School, Andy

2010 Eric Peer, Hoisting Joplin to Fame: The Freeman Hoist
Carthage, MO, Home School TEACHER(s) Julie Peer

Historic Joplin: How can individuals who aren’t teachers and students be involved? Can people donate money to support National History Day?

Dr. Teverow: I’m always on the lookout for judges. History Day could not work without qualified judges. In the end, what most students take away from History Day is feedback from the judges. Having someone show an interest in the project they have put hours into researching and developing, being able to be the expert when someone asks them questions, hearing and reading praise for what they have done right and constructive comments on what could have made the project even better — all of these things make students feel that their efforts were worthwhile and keep students coming back. Over the years, I have been fortunate to have a great corps of judges. They include my colleagues in the Social Sciences Department, MSSU faculty from several other departments, professionals from area museums and archives, retired teachers, and people in various walks of life with a love of history.

Yes, national History Day welcomes donations. See http://nhd.org/WhySupport.htm I am embarrassed to say that until I read your question, I had not thought of establishing a special History Day fund at MSSU, but I will definitely look into it.

Thank you for your time and answers, Dr. Teverow!

In addition to the information provided to us by Dr. Teverow, an independent evaluation of the program just released findings that support the benefit of National History Day to students.  The evaluation discovered that students who participated in National History Day performed better on standardized tests than non-participating students, and not just in history, but other subjects like mathematics, reading and science.

Understandably, History Day is something we can definitely get behind here at Historic Joplin!  For information on National History Day, just click on this link.

Joplinites in Kansas City

Joplinites, as residents of Joplin were referred to at the turn of the century, were a restless bunch. Throughout the last half of the nineteenth century, Joplin miners were not afraid to work as scabs in the copper and silver mines of the west, while others left in the hopes of striking it rich in the Klondike Gold Rush. Some, however, sought wealth in the metropolisies of the Midwest. Kansas City was among the burgeoning cities that beckoned to Joplinites.

One article from the News-Herald discussed a number of former Joplin residents who had since made Kansas City their home. James A. “Jim” Bolen, an early Joplin resident who served as a Jasper County deputy sheriff and as county recorder, owned the Bolen Lead and Zinc Company. He also served as president of the Zenith Mining Company. In 1879, he moved to Kansas City and founded the Bolen Coal Company. He made a large fortune and was once mentioned as a candidate for mayor.

Another former Joplinite in Kansas City was Thomas A. McClelland, who, like Jim Bolen, was an early resident. He served as Joplin’s city collector. After becoming wealthy from investing in land and mines, he moved to Kansas City. He did not forget Joplin, as he gave the city the land for what is now known as McClelland Park.

M.D. Darnall, who was associated with the white lead works in Joplin, moved to Kansas City where he became involved in the real estate business. B.T. Webb, who was once Joplin’s city clerk, also moved to Kansas City. He, too, went into the real estate business. W.F. Snyder, who once worked for the News-Herald, owned a cigar stand on West Ninth Street. John Cotton was working as a dentist. Harry Brundidge, a sign-painter, was kept constantly busy as a sign-painter for the numerous businesses in Kansas City. Pat and Tom Clifford, who struck it rich from diggings on Parr Hill, were considered to be long time residents of Kansas City. Numerous others, including musicians, porters, train conductors, and lawyers had since moved from Joplin to Kansas City, but clearly they were fondly remembered and not forgotten, despite having left the city that gave them their start.

Sources: Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri, Joplin News-Herald, Joplin City Code of 1917

The Stars and Stripes

Englishman B.E. Dover and Irishman Harry Flynn began talking during a Salvation Army service held at the corner of Fourth and Main streets when Dover gestured to the American flag and remarked, “That’s a damned pretty flag but it’s a dirty rag and represents a dirty class of people.”

Flynn, who had met Dover for the first time during the service, was enraged. Flynn asked Dover to walk up the street with him, rather than disturb the Salvation Army service, and the two men began walking toward Fifth Street. Flynn asked, “What did you say back there?” Dover repeated what he had said, then fell to the street as Flynn punched him in the face.

“Take that, and that, you dog!” Flynn shouted, striking the Englishman as a crowd gathered to watch, cheering the miner on. After he decided Dover had taken enough punishment, Flynn walked off, but not before he declared, “You may be able to talk about the American flag as you please in England, but begorrah, when you come to the United States of America, you will have to be guarded in your speech.”

Dover picked himself up off the street in search of a police officer. By the time he found one, Flynn could not be found, and the newspaper remarked, “even if he had been on the spot, the crowd of spectators would never have allowed him to be taken to jail.”