The first settler in the Joplin area was the Reverend Harris G. Joplin in 1839. The minister held church services in his home for other area pioneers long before the city of Joplin was ever formed. Before the Civil War, lead was discovered in the Joplin Creek Valley but mining operations were interrupted by the war.
In 1870, a large strike occurred which brought many miners to the area and numerous mining camps sprang up. Soon, a man named John C. Cox filed a town site plan on the east side of the valley which was quickly populated by many businesses. In 1873, the city was incorporated. Nearby Carthage resident, Patrick Murphy filed another town plan on the west side of the valley, calling it Murphysburg. Before long, a fierce rivalry sprang up between the two towns, but before it could get out of hand, the Missouri State General Assembly combined the municipalities in 1873.
What was once a simple mining town became a more complete mining town that built smelters, dynamite, and all sorts of mining necessities. With the large influx of miners, Joplin was a wild town, filled with saloons, dance halls, gambling establishments, and brothels. Joplin's House of Lords was its most famous saloon. The first floor was a bar and restaurant, the second was gambling, the third was female companionship.
By the turn of the century Joplin was quick becoming the center of the mining activity for the Tri-State Mining District, which consisted of Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. Lead, and specifically zinc, mining created and sustained Joplin's economy for more than seven decades. Citizens of the Tri-State District shopped, socialized and banked in Joplin. The mining industry defined Joplin's role and provided the city with a viable reason to exist and prosper. Trolley and rail lines made transportation in and around Joplin easy.
New construction by the thriving businessmen centered around Main Street, with many bars, hotels, parks, gardens and fine homes scattered about replacing many of these more bawdy establishments. Dance clubs became extremely popular. The Conner Hotel's top floor ballroom provided that perfect setting for hundreds of dances, graduations, receptions and reunions.
The Joplin parks system was created in 1898, providing for leisure and recreation. One of the most spectacular parks was the Schifferdecker Electric Park built by the local electric company. It boasted beautiful gardens and an amusement park that would light up the sky with it's bounty of lights. The parks roller coaster would rival any of the era.
Among other parks were Mineral Park and Cunningham Park
One could spend a lazy afternoon boating or swimming at Lakeside Park,
or bask in the sun on the rocks at the nearby Grand Falls on Shoal Creek.
The Crystal Cave was an interesting tourist spot, but has since flooded and is no longer accessible. The entrance to the cave was located at W. 4th St and Gray Avenue.
There were theaters and movie houses.
There was no lack of places to shop.
After World War II, most of the mines were closed, population growth leveled off, and in the sixties and seventies nearly 40 acres of the city's downtown were razed in the name of urban renewal, taking with it several of its landmarks. However, many historic views still exist in Joplin including the House of Lords, a one time popular gambling club at 407 Main Street., the Newman Mercantile Store building, a landmark since 1910, and now called home to Joplinís City Hall, the Frisco Depot, a one time Harvey House and Railroad office building that has been converted to apartments, as well as the Union Depot, and the Fox Theater.
Please note that the header graphic is a composite photo made expressly for
this website and not an actual photo of the gang in front of the apartment.