The Estimable Mr. Worth

Jimmy Worth

Joplin’s flamboyant James “Jimmy” H. Worth, who was known to periodically advertise for a wife, announced to the Joplin News-Herald that he was returning to his farm in Franklin County, Indiana, to solve a mystery. Worth, in addition to his property in Indiana, was the eccentric owner of the Worth Block which is now the site of Spiva Park at the northeast corner of Fourth and Main streets.

Worth’s one hundred and fifty acre farm was planted in cherry, apple, peach, and pear trees. Perhaps more notable was the large cave located on the farm which, according to Worth, “ticks, ticks, ticks, just like a monster clock, day after day, year after year.” Previous attempts to explore the cave beyond three hundred yards ended prematurely due to bad air which Worth said made “one’s breath come in painful gasps.” But the bad air was not enough to stop at least one brave creature from calling the cave home.

Worth claimed “a big bear that escaped from a wrecked train ten miles from my farm once took refuge in the cavern and for weeks the natives of Franklin County enjoyed daily bear hunts that netted them nothing, for the big brute was successfully concealed in the far corners of the cave, the ominous clock-like ticking, apparently, holding no horrors for his bearship.” It was later discovered and removed from the cave.

Jimmy asserted his belief that the ticking noise was not the result of dripping water as the cave was reportedly dry. Instead, he claimed that the cave was the artificial construction of “cave-dwellers centuries ago” based on broken flint projectiles, bones of animals, and what Jimmy thought was a “deformed human skull.” He declared he would find out what types of bones were in the cave and discover the source of constant ticking.

If Jimmy did find out what caused the ticking noise, the News-Herald must have found his explanation dull, as it failed to report Worth’s findings.


Source: Joplin News Herald

The Reminiscences of G.O. Boucher — Part IV

Historic Joplin believes in allowing the people of the past to speak for themselves.  As a result, the language they use may offend those sensitive to harmful words that are no longer acceptable in today’s present society.

The Story of Bear Fighting Blackwell

“The First dry goods store in West Joplin was started next to ‘Big Nigger’ Lee’s grocery store by a man the name of D.M.  Brazill, in the fall of 1871.

One old timer who arrived in Joplin about this time and who furnished considerable amusement was a man known as ‘Bear Fighting’ Blackwell.  He brought four big bears with him and for some time after he arrived he kept his business to himself.  Finally, after he had things ready, he advertised a dog and bear fight.  After all was ready he stretched a large canvas around a space which was filled on the day of the fight by the village sports.  In the center of the space he had a big grizzly chained to a stake and surrounding him were five or six youngsters holding their dogs.

Betting was at a high pitch and as well as I can remember it was about 2 to 3 to one on the bear.  When all was ready for the fight, Blackwell gave the bear a big plate of honey and after it had the plate he yelled, ‘Turn your dogs loose!’ The fur flew and it looked as if the dogs would soon use up the bear.  When it was all over the bear was uninjured while there were several dogs limping around.

The bears were turned over to the butcher and Mr.  Blackwell used the money which he had accumulated to build a nice brick building at the corner of Second and Main streets.  This was the first opera house in West Joplin, but the dog and bear fight or something else brought ‘Bear Fighting’ Blackwell bad luck, and the old man got into trouble and was sent to the penitentiary.  Several years after that he was turned out and went to Oklahoma, where he married a squaw who had a large tract of land and plenty of money.  He laid out the land in town lots and was the founder of the present city of Blackwell.”

Drawing of A.J. "Bear Fighting" Blackwell

Drawing of Henry "Bear Fighting" Blackwell in his later years.

This concludes G.O.  Boucher’s memories of early Joplin.

Source: Joplin Globe.