The National Register and Joplin

In the most recent copy of Preservation magazine, a publication of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is a good article on the National Register of Historic Places.

The article outlines how the process to place a building or landmark onto the Register works, as well what benefits such a placement can provide or cannot. Below is a summary of the process laid out:

Step One: Anyone can nominate a place to be registered. To do so, one fills out a form (located here) and submits it to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). In Missouri, the SHPO is located within the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Also, through the law which created the SHPO in Missouri, the nominations are reviewed by the Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation – a council of individuals appointed by the governor that meets four times a year.

Step Two: The SHPO reviews the nomination. In that process, if it believes the nomination worthy, it will contact the owners of the landmarks, places, or buildings to inform them of the nomination. If the owner objects, then the nomination is ended. No owner (or majority of owners in a situation where multiples properties are involved) can be forced to have their property placed on the Register. However, benefits can be had if one’s property is registered!

First, being on the register opens up the property to receive grants or funding, some that are exclusive to registered properties. Second, the property then can become eligible for tax credits to fund restorations or renovations. Third, the owners get to receive the honor of having their property recognized as something of special importance to our nation’s and or the community’s history.

Step Three: The SHPO submits the nomination to the National Register for consideratation. The National Register and the SHPO both review nominees for the same criteria, significance and integrity. Significance on the local or national level, and within that category, either historically or architecturally (or both). With regard to integrity, Preservation states it best:

“The issue of integrity involves determining whether the features that contribute to the property’s significance–its location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, and the like–remain largely intact. A house may be notable because it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, for example, but has Wright’s original design been radically altered through years of remodeling? Similarly, a building may be significant because a history-making event took place there, but has it been moved from the site where the event occurred? If the answer to either question is “yes,” the property’s integrity could be considered destroyed or compromised, potentially making it ineligible for Register listing.”

If the property appears to meet the above criteria, then it has a good chance of being accepted. However, a property usually needs to be at least 50 years old. Another aspect of a property being on the Register is that it does not restrict the owner from doing anything with their property (including tearing it down – as the Connor and other Joplin properties that made the register ended up suffering). The only restrictions are those which local or state laws or regulations might place on such historic properties.

Joplin is home to more than a few registered places and landmarks, most recently the Historic Districts located along Main Street and such buildings as the Olivia, Carnegie Library, and the Union Depot. For more buildings and places, just check out this link. The forms are wonderful sources for the history of a place, building, or landmark, as well photographs or illustrations.

Sources: Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Preservation magazine.

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

105th Anniversary of Springfield’s “Easter Offering”

Editorial Cartoon from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as a statue of freedom was placed at the top of Gottfried Tower where the three men were lynched.

One hundred and five years ago, on the night before Easter, a mob in Springfield, Missouri broke into the Greene County jail, carried three prisoners to the city square, and lynched them for the alleged assault of a white woman. The murder of the three men quickly became known as the “Easter Offering.” The lynchings made the front page of newspapers across the nation and faded only with news of a terrible earthquake which leveled the west coast city of San Francisco. Below is an excerpt from Kimberly Harper’s White Man’s Heaven, which in addition to covering the Joplin lynching of Thomas Gilyard, tells the story of the Easter Offering.

The following takes place after two men had already been lynched, Horace Duncan and Fred Coker.

“Resistance was nonexistent at the jail. Sheriff Horner and his men, absent since Duncan and Coker were seized, were nowhere to be found. Members of the mob strolled through the door of the jail unopposed. Men, armed with hammers, chisels, and other tools, walked through holding cells looking for Bus Cain and Will Allen. Bus Cain, however, was nowhere to be found. Apparently his cell was damaged during the first assault on the jail and Cain was able to slip away without being noticed. Cain, in his eagerness to escape, left Will Allen behind. When Cain’s absence was discovered by the mob, a litany of curses filled the air. Infuriated by his escape, men began to shout, “Take any negro and hang him!”

Allen, trapped in his cell, watched from his cot as a rough assortment of men began to coolly and methodically remove the lock from the cell door. Despite the cool night air, the men were drenched in sweat from their exertion. As men tired, they were relieved by fresh replacements. After almost two hours, sledgehammers were brought forth, and men began to steadily pound at the cell door with as much force as they could muster in the middle of the night. Just before two o’clock in the morning, the door to the cell was torn open, leaving nothing between Allen and his attackers. The emptiness between the men was momentary, as the mob rushed forward and seized the man who had been tortured by hours of violent screams and the prospect of the inevitable fate that awaited him.

Allen was blinded as a lantern was shoved in his face, as the mob, with a skewed sense of justice, sought to ensure they had the right man. Unwilling to meekly accept his fate, the 5’5” tall Allen wrested himself free from the hands of his attackers, and seized a nearby wooden club. He ferociously lashed out at the men around him, but “blows rained on his face and body like hail from a score of arms, and he was quickly subdued.” Allen’s bold attempt to defend himself enraged the mob. While curses and clubs flew freely at Allen’s obstinance, his hands were jerked forward and tightly bound together before he was dragged out of the jail. Once outside the jail’s battered brick walls, Allen insisted on walking, rather than be carried by the mob.

Screams and yells eerily echoed through the air as men fired their pistols in anticipation of a third lynching. In the midst of the chaos, Will Allen walked steadily forward with his head held high, determined not to show fear. The mob guided Allen toward the campus of Drury College where only months before he, together with Bus Cain, allegedly murdered O. P. Ruark. Hoarse voices cried out, “Hang him where he killed old man Ruark!”

Several Drury students who were in the crowd, fearful that a lynching on Drury’s campus would sully the college’s reputation, hurriedly held an impromptu meeting. It was decided that they would try to head off the mob and quickly spread out through the crowd yelling, “Take him to the square! Hang him with the other two! Take him back so the others can see!” The plan worked as the mob suddenly shifted direction and with one voice bellowed, “To the square!”

The city square with Gottfried tower in the forefront. Note the Statue of Freedom at the top of the tower. Beneath her, Will Allen, Horace Duncan and Fred Coker were lynched.

As the mob streamed toward the scene of Coker’s and Duncan’s grisly end, “Men talked to themselves and each other, swore fluently at nothing at all, and shouted all sorts of bloodcurdling things into the air without regard of their significance. Grown men shrieked and howled like demons, shouting to the leaders to hang the negro, to burn him.” It was on the corner of the square, as the howling processional began to arrive that Hollet H. Snow spotted Chief John McNutt and Officers John Wimberly, Henry Waddle, A. R. Sampey, E. T. W. Trantham, and Martin Keener, “laughing and talking and making no effort to stop the mob.” As Allen and the mob approached the square, it was shrouded in darkness, save for the harsh light that came from the bonfire built over the bodies of Fred Coker and Horace Duncan.

As Gottfried Tower loomed before him, Allen trembled almost imperceptibly, but regained his composure. He walked unaided up the steps that led to the tower’s bandstand. In front of Allen was a sea of faces, dimly illuminated by the flames of the bonfire, tense with anticipation. Those who stood on the fringes of the mob were shrouded in darkness. Allen, as he stood on the tower’s bandstand, may have recognized familiar faces. If he did, he did not cry out for help. Instead, he stood silently as an unknown man shoved a lantern into his face for those below, which caused the mob to call out, “Hang him!”

The man motioned for silence and then spoke, “Ladies and gentle – men, here before you is Will Allen, the man who cruelly murdered old man Ruark on the corner of Benton Avenue and Center Street. What will you do with him?” Over a thousand voices thundered in unison, “HANG HIM!” The man turned to Allen and asked, “Are you Will Allen?” Allen replied, “I am.” The unknown man then asked Allen if he had anything to say. Allen looked out at the crowd, straightened, and said, “Only that I did not kill Ruark.” Several men from the crowd howled, “Make him tell who did!” Allen, his hands still bound, declared, “Bus Cain killed Ruark. I had nothing to do with it.” The mob, unsatisfied with his answer, roared, “HANG HIM!”

Source: Reprinted with permission from the author, White Man’s Heaven: The Lynching and Expulsion of Blacks in the Southern Ozarks by Kimberly Harper.

A Man From the Lead Diggin’s – A letter from Boston

The Joplin that Martin Left Behind for Cultured Boston

In the spring of 1908, a Joplinite ventured far from home and landed in “cultured Boston.” The gentleman, E.F. Martin, sent a letter back to his friend, John P. Frank in Joplin, and offered in colorful terms his feelings on visiting the historic town. In the process, we’re offered a glimpse not only in the words Joplinites chose to represent their feelings, but also what they felt was proper from low heel shoes on women to modern day Yankees.

“Boston, Mass, April 28, 1908.

I have had so little to do today that I am awfully lonesome and thought possibly I might work some of it off on you. Boston is an older town than Joplin. You can tell that by the dates on the head-stones at the burying grounds.

I went in to the ‘Arm and Bella,’ an old hold-out and had a drink of real musty ale sitting in the same place where Nathaniel Hawthorne used to sit and tell stories. Sunday I visited the Old South Burying Ground and while walking about in there found the grave of Paul Revere. You remember Paul. He became excited one night when he saw a light in the old South meeting house and got on his horse and rode out into the country giving the alarm that the Britishers were about to get them. If the average Yankee was then as he is now it is a durned pity that the Britishers didn’t get them all.

Boston is a real nice place, though, for a day or two — not for a whole month. I would much rather be down in Stone county, Missouri, catching speckled bass. Talk about fish, they sure have it here in plenty. I have sampled everything in the fish line since coming, except an octopus. I think I shall order planked octopus net. I spend some of my leisure time on the Commons. This is the place spoken of in Saint Matthew where the British soldiers broke the ice in the ponds and the school boys went and told on them for it. Served them right, eh? I was in New Haven, Conn., the first of the month and tried to buy some wooden nutmegs, but could find none. I will try and get you some postals showing pieces of interest — ancient interest. The old state house is still here and is used for a depot for the subway. Faneuil Hall — the Cradle of Liberty — is here down on State street. Armour Packing company have the first floor rented and there is a large sign out telling the people that Armour’s dressed lambs are the best. I think that is simply awful.

I wish I had someone with me to walk around with and kill time. I am stopping at the “Tavern.” Tolerably good place. There are no large department stores, but many shops. There are no Jews here here that I have seen and but very few negroes.

I was down on the wharf last week and saw an ocean vessel come in from the South loaded with bananas. I was there again this morning and they are still unloading bananas. The vessel will carry about 100 car loads.

From things here in general I don’t wonder that our forefathers wanted to go west. I have that same feeling, and it makes me glad to think that I can start Saturday noon. Doggone me if I hadn’t rather live in Carl Junction, Saginaw or Carthage, than in cultured Boston. The ladies here all wear low heel shoes like a man. The men all smoke pipes. I wonder why until I tried some of their cigars.

Of course there are plenty of places of interest, but one grows tired of looking at sights highly valuable because of their age and historic surroundings.

Well I will be down this summer when bass are ripe and we will make up for all this tomfoolery. By the way, I saw a sturgeon brought in that weighed more than 300 pounds. It was caught in a net far out at sea.”

Homes for Joplinites, 1904.

For those Joplinites who wanted the latest in housing in 1904, they needed only to turn to the local paper for pre-designed house plans.  Below are a few of the options the people of Joplin could choose from along with their price tag.

Death Escaped, But Not Avoided

Jesse Laster, circa 1910.

On a May day in 1910, Joplin nearly lost a councilman.  Jesse Laster, not a stranger to the zinc and lead fields of Southwest Missouri, listed zinc mining as his profession in the 1910 Federal Census.  It was that same year that Laster had been elected on the Democratic ticket to represent the Seventh Ward of Joplin.  A father to three, later to add one more son to the son and two daughters he already had, Laster had ventured out with a mine superintendent, Harry Williams, to a mine in Duenweg.

The afternoon sun high above, the 28 year old councilman and Williams made the decision to board a tub to descend to the mine 200 feet below.  Both had years of mining experience and undoubtedly the act of being lowered in the metal container into the dark depths of the mine shaft was a familiar one.  Inside the tub, one or both of the men likely signaled the mine’s hoisterman to lower them down.

The hoisterman was new at his job and the equipment purported to be in good shape.  However, as the tub with the councilman and the superintendent began to lower, the hoisterman released the brake and to his horror, watched the tub with the two men plummet to the bottom of the shaft.  Nothing the hoisterman did slowed or stopped the tumbling tub.  In a sickening sight and loud crash, it smashed into a bucket full of dirt.  Laster and Williams were thrown out and into an adjacent drift, both men knocked unconscious.

It was not uncommon for miners to die in such accidents, but both Laster and Williams survived that day.  When astonished and fearful miners reached the men, they found Williams with severe wounds to the head and a broken arm.  The councilman suffered a cut to the face, an injured shoulder, and a broken right femur.  Williams was taken to his home to recover, Laster was rushed to St. John’s hospital.  At the time of the reporting of the incident, it was believed both men would recover.  Laster did, though only to live for another sixteen years.

The dark eyed and dark haired councilman, perhaps wary of the mining profession, had by 1918 joined the Joplin Police force and achieved the rank of detective.  By 1926, Laster had been promoted and wore the title Chief of Detectives.  On a hot August evening, the chief with his family were heading home when Laster spotted an armed man by the side of the road.  Unknown to the former councilman, the man was engaged in bootlegging and mistakenly believed Laster and his family to be rival bootleggers.  When Laster identified himself, the man shot and killed the 46 year old father of four.  Laster was the tenth Joplin police officer to fall in the line of duty.


Sources: 1910 Federal Census, 1920 Federal Census, Joplin Police Department website, and Joplin Daily Globe.

Opium Den Bust

In the past, Historic Joplin covered the story of “Cocaine Jimmy” Shannon, an unfortunate Joplin resident who succumbed to his love of the drug after repeated attempts to quit. Cocaine was not the only drug accessible to Joplinites. Opium, a drug that many often associated with Chinese immigrants, was also available in Joplin.

On a chilly morning in 1907, after week of surveillance confirmed their suspicions, Joplin Constable Dan Turnbull and Deputies Frank English, Lou Drane, Charles McDonald, and other officers burst into an opium den located at 102 North Main Street. Despite their belief that they would meet with opposition after breaching the door, no one inside the purported den attempted to resist the sudden intrusion.

 The first individual the officers saw was an African American woman lying on a bunk in a “comatose condition” with an African American man passed out beside her. A pipe and pills were located next to them, further confirming the belief that drugs were being used by the building’s inhabitants. It was not long before opium fumes began to overwhelm the officers. Moving quickly, Deputy Constable English questioned the woman nearest to him, asking, “Where is that pipe?” The woman replied, “Oh, there ain’t no pipe here. That’s just the smell of some liniment we were rubbing on the sick woman over there.” With her hand, she indicated the “sick woman” was the African American woman passed out on the bunk. Satisfied they had enough evidence, the officers arrested everyone in the room, and then went through the rest of the building and arrested ever “suspicious character found therein.”

 Altogether, fourteen African Americans were arrested and taken to jail. Charlie Jones, one of the men arrested, claimed he had arrived just a few days earlier from Texas. This bit of information led officers to believe that the opium may have been smuggled across the Mexican border and that Jones was possibly a member of a gang responsible for distributing the drug in the United States. Officers also seized a two foot long opium pipe, other miscellaneous smoking devices, and a large amount of opium that would have lasted the smokers “for weeks.” Harry Paskett, a man who allegedly “spent several years among the Chinese,” declared the pipe very valuable. Charlie Jones and Bertha Morris, two of the individuals arrested, were charged with operating an opium joint while the others would be charged with lewd conduct and disturbance.

Source: Joplin News-Herald

JMC Board Approves Next Step in Depot Plan, April 13, 2011

In a pleasantly surprising move, the Joplin Globe reports this morning that the boards which control the Joplin Museum Complex voted to approve a move forward to the next phase of the plan to restore the Union Depot as a new home for the museum. It was not without some concerns, however, as the boards did manage to find something to worry over; that being the cost of moving to a restored depot building and then, bafflingly, the cost of staffing it. Apparently, the new expected operating budget must be higher than the present one for the museum, or at least the Boards assume such.

None the less, we applaud the JMC boards for voting to go forward and hope that they continue to be bold and engage the future of Joplin and the museum.  The final result will only be beneficial to both.

JMC Board Discusses Union Depot Plan, April 12, 2011

Tonight the combined boards that oversee the Joplin Museum Complex will meet to discuss and vote on the plan presented by City Manager, Mark Rohr, on moving the JMC to a restored Union Depot building.  While we believe the vote will be only to push for further investigation and feasibility, it’s an important step in the future of the JMC and for Joplin.

It is at this point that the JMC can reject the plan, and if the City Council refuses to throw its considerable heft into the question, thus will end the chance to bring history to history.  The SPARK program, outlined by Mr. Rohr in his recent guest column in the Joplin Globe is a dynamic and bold vision for the future of the city.  The transfer of the JMC to the Union  Depot is likely not a make or break element of SPARK, it should and will move on without the JMC if the Board chooses to vote against the plan.  However, to do so will result in the JMC failing to keep abreast with the future of the city and her people.  The museum, relegated to Schifferdecker Park, will remain out of sight and out of mind of most Joplin citizens.

This is a chance for the members of the Board to recognize the same spirit of Joplin that they charge themselves with protecting, the boldness of miners and merchants, and a people who saw only a bright future for the city at the edge of the great Southwest.  We urge the Board members to vote in favor the of the plan or be left behind as the rest of Joplin moves forward into the future.


The Curious Fate of Harry Roach

Miners of the Tri-State Mining District

Harry Roach was a young Hoosier who traveled to the Tri-State Mining District to seek his fortune. He found employment with the superintendent of the Troup Mining Company located outside of Carterville. In 1892 Troup, along with two other men, were in the company’s Daisy Mine when the roof collapsed on top of them. The three men were beyond rescue and Harry Roach’s dreams died with him.


Three years later, the mine experienced a cave-in, and the remains of Harry Roach were discovered. Miners removed the remains and recovered $3.50 in silver from his clothing. A month later, miners working a drift in the Daisy Mine found several more of Roach’s belongings buried in the rubble. Among the items that were found were a gold pocket watch “in splendid condition” stopped at 2:20; a pocketbook with $45 and some still legible newspaper clippings in good condition; and part of a vest and a shirt. At the time Roach was killed, he was reportedly wearing a “very costly diamond ring” which was not located, as only part of his skeleton had thus been recovered. It was not until another month had passed that miners came across the bones of a foot in a “congress shoe,” a piece of collar bone, a shoulder blade, and two ribs.

Thus was the fate of Harry Roach.