Many have heard of Joplin, Missouri, due to the massive, devastating tornado that swept through there on May 22, 2011. But have you ever considered the history of the town? Did you even know Joplin existed before the news of the tornado?
I spent many years growing up about an hour and a half away from Joplin and my parents now live an hour from there. I never gave Joplin much thought until a few years ago when I reconnected with a friend who was living there. Isn’t it funny how you never “notice” something until you want or need to? Kind of like looking for that drug store you know is somewhere near you but you never needed it so never “saw” it before. If you are interested in learning a little about Joplin, the History Press’s Wicked Joplin by Larry Wood, provides a look at the town during its origins in 1870’s and 1880’s.
Larry Wood is, according to his bio, “…a retired publish school teacher and freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks region.” Wood used many sources such as court records, newspaper articles, histories of the town and county, and photographs from the time period. It is a well-researched book.
Wood presents the early history of Joplin in a serious but sometimes humorous way. Joplin grew up from its roots as a mining town in the Old West. The stories told are primarily those of rough men, the town’s beginnings, and the saloons and bawdyhouses that were always a part of Joplin’s early history. Some of the town’s characters show up in multiple stories because of their connections to saloons and bawdyhouses. Wood pointed out many times that many of the town’s madame’s worked together and separately, as did some of the saloon owners, throughout the early days.
I viewed the book as humorous in some ways because try as I might to picture the town as it was at the time, hearing the author remark in one story that a supply of beer ran out one night in Joplin and the town took steps to ensure such a calamity would never happen in the future. The men of Joplin took their drinking seriously back then. In the present I’m not sure running out of beer would be considered a calamity, but things are different now. I did learn a lot about the general nature of early southwest Missouri and Wood’s book gives me a greater appreciation of how life was lived at that time. Now as I research families from that area I can better visualize their life.
Read Wicked Joplin and learn a little of the town’s history. You will enjoy the stories told and the pictures of the town that so vividly emerge off the pages as you read. If you enjoy history, read a few other books from The History Press such as:
- Murder and Mayhem on Chicago’s West Side
- Chicago Calamities
- Haunted Springfield Illinois
- Forgotten Tales of Illinois
Disclosure: The History Press asked several genealogists if they were interested in reading and reviewing some of their publications. I accepted and the company sent me several books to read, review and keep for my library.