Louis Curtiss and the Politics of Architectural Reputation

Today’s post is a link to an in-depth article on the architect of the Joplin Union Depot, Louis Curtiss. The article comes from the Places: the online journal of The Design Observer Group and is written by University of Missouri Professor of Architectural History and American Art, Dr. Keith Eggener. The article offers an insightful biography of Curtiss and explores how and why Curtiss and his works, such as the Joplin Union Depot, slipped into obscurity when contemporaries later became nationally renown.

You can find the article here, “Louis Curtiss and the Politics of Architectural Reputation”.

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 Cult Leader Who Called Joplin Home

James Sharp, commonly known as cult leader “Adam God,” once called Joplin home.
Born in Lebanon, Missouri, in 1857, Sharp styled himself as a “traveling evangelist.” He was never very successful, however, and in 1908 was living in Kansas City, Missouri, on a houseboat with less than thirty followers. The group, which included several children, was out proselytizing on the streets of Kansas City when a police officer (some accounts say probation officer) questioned one of the adults why the children were not in school. James Sharp, angered by the officer’s questions, bellowed “I am Adam God, father of Jesus Christ,” demanded the officer to leave, then struck him on the head with the butt of a revolver. The officer, sensing trouble and outnumbered, went to a nearby police station.

Sharp, enraged by the altercation, marched his band of followers to the police station where they sang. Crowds began to gather and watch the curious proceedings. Sharp waved a revolver and a knife while yelling, “We’ll show these sheep thieves. We’ll sing in front of the station. Let them dare to stop the father of Jesus Christ.”
A police officer, Albert Dalbow, was sent out to quieten the unruly group. He ordered Sharp in to the station to meet with a police sergeant. When ordered to drop his knife and revolver, Sharp went nuts. The street fight that ensued would become known as the “Adam God Riot.” Officer Dalbow, Officer Michael Mullane, two of Sharp’s followers, and an innocent bystander paying his utility bill were killed when Sharp’s group opened fire.
Sharp and his remaining followers fled. One woman was killed as she and others tried to escape in a rowboat on the half-frozen Missouri River. Sharp was found a few days later hiding in a haystack by a farmer who called the police. Sharp’s hands had been pierced by bullets. Disturbingly, one of the children, when questioned by police remarked, “When a policeman tried to stop us our religion teaches us that we have the right to shoot and kill.”
Sharp was arrested, tried, and convicted of second degree murder with a 25 year sentence. Sharp was paroled 14 years and 7 months later in 1924 and it was at that time that he and his wife, Melissa, moved to Joplin.
A few years later, in 1926, he was arrested in Joplin for “chasing and frightening children at the Alcott School.” Sharp was described as 70 years old, with a long flowing white beard. He claimed he chased the children because they called him “Santa Claus.”
James Sharp lived in Joplin until 1946, when he died from dancing a vigorous jig at the corner of Seventh and Main streets, despite his constant claim that he would “live forever.” He would jig in an attempt to draw a crowd to listen to his street preaching. He lived at 2430 Adele Street in Joplin, and referred to himself as “Reverend” although the paper noted that he did not have following.
When he died in 1946, Melissa Sharp told the Globe that “We’ll just quietly put him away.” Which she did. He was buried “without a prayer or religious service and without music or flowers” in Osborne Memorial Cemetery. A small group of 18 friends of the Sharps witnessed the burial and then Mrs. Sharp was driven home. Thus came the end to James Sharp.

Source: Joplin Globe