Our Man in Havana

Joplin’s dapper James H. “Jimmy” Worth, owner of Joplin’s famed Worth Block, traveled to Havana, Cuba, and wrote the following letter to his friend E.R. McCullum that was published in a Joplin newspaper:

“Friend Mack: I am well at the time and hope this will find you the same, although I am tired of seeing the prettiest country in the world. I have been most favorably impressed with the cleanliness of the city and the salubrity of its climate. Having visited nearly all the cities in the United States and Canada, I believe I am conversant with municipal conditions in all of them, but I have never see any place that would compare with Havana. I have been in every direction and found the sanitary conditions excellent. It has surprised because of its novelty.

The courteous conduct of the people is another eye-opener. I do not speak Spanish very well and expected to be embarrassed most of the time while I was here, but the innate helpfulness of the native population put me at my ease whenever a difficulty arose. I was dining at a Spanish restaurant the other night and would have had difficulty in ordering my meal had not a Cuban sitting at another table noticed my predicament and voluntarily came to my assistance.

The modern equipment of the financial institutions here are a revelation to all visitors from the states. They have a bright future. I went out and saw the old Spanish forts and visited the negro schools and attended the courts, and was greatly amazed at the thoroughness with which everything is being done here. I haven’t time to write more now, but will follow this with another. My regards to the boys.

JH Worth.”

Jimmy Worth

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

Jimmy Worth Wants a Wife (Number Two)

The ever colorful Colonel James “Jimmy” H. Worth left Joplin to look for a bride. His first wife, the late Gertrude Berz, had passed away in 1901. She was the widow of a wealthy German immigrant who made a small fortune before he passed away in the 1870s. After Gertrude died, Jimmy was left to a life of leisure, relying upon his late wife’s properties to provide a steady stream of income.

Worth Block - Joplin, Missouri

The Worth Block, inherited from his first wife, provided Jimmy a comfortable lifestyle.

So where did Jimmy go to look for a wife? The summer resorts of the Adirondacks? The mountains of Colorado? No. He simply hopped a train to El Dorado Springs, Missouri, where he put on a surprisingly entertaining show. The Eldorado Springs Sun remarked of Jimmy’s antics:

“As a place for beautiful women, Eldorado holds undisputed sway over a vast amount of territory, and it seems remarkable that a man seeking a wife could come here and stay four long weeks and go away without accomplishing his purpose, but such is the case.” Jimmy, the “Joplin millionaire,” had announced his intent to find a wife in Eldorado Springs upon his arrival. He was certainly attractive, having just arrived from a vacation in Mexico, and was reportedly decked out in diamonds. It was remarked, “He had money to throw at the birds and he threw it.” As a result, he was “not slow to form the acquaintance of the many visiting ladies, and no small amount of attention was paid to the local candidates for a place next to the millionaire’s heart.”

Although a millionaire announcing his intent to find a bride was enough to get a large amount of attention, Jimmy was ever the showman. He “disguised himself as a farmer, and as he walked about the streets of the city, he threw nickels to the large crowd  of boys who followed him. He hired horses for the ladies to ride, paid for their turns at bowling, bought ice cream sodas, and took them for drives.” Sadly, Jimmy was unable to procure a bride, but had announced he had not given up hope. He declared he would return to Eldorado in a few weeks to continue his search for a new wife.

Jimmy, for what it’s worth, never remarried. He was a heck of a tease and had far too much fun to allow himself to be tied down once again. In the future, we’ll try to cover more of Jimmy’s exploits, including the story of the flashing light blubs in his shoes.

Source: Joplin Daily Globe

The Worth Block – Before and After

Named for the flamboyant James H. “Jimmy” Worth, the Worth Block was originally the property of the widow, Gertrude Bertz. Ms. Bertz’s ownership extended back to the earlier days of Joplin. We’ll go more into the fascinating background of how Jimmy and Gertrude at a later date. For now, we’ll leave you with this depressing example of the effect of Joplin’s urban renewal. The economic heart of Joplin’s downtown, 4th and Main, which hosted the Connor Hotel, the Keystone, and the Worth Block, will never be the same again. One more reason why it’s so important to preserve what still remains from Joplin’s glorious past for its future.

Worth Block - Joplin, Missouri

The Worth Block circa 1902

And now the present appearance of the northeast corner at 4th and Main.

The park at 4th and Main Street

Little remains that offers evidence of the once busy intersection.

On the right side of the above photograph is the home of the Joplin Globe, which has been at this location since it took over the city’s original YMCA building (the YMCA moved to its present downtown building at that point).  The original building should still be under the modern facade and perhaps someday, it will see the light of day again.