Our Community in 100 Objects


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MULTI-FACETED • BRILLIANT • PRICELESS Joplin's figurative building blocks are constructed with lead and zinc. Mining made the town, grew the town and put Joplin on the map. The first settlers to Jasper County were Judge John Cox and the Rev. Harris Joplin, both arriving in the late 1830's. In 1948, a young boy found a very heavy, bluish-colored rock while digging for fishing worms on Cox's property. He showed the peculiar rock to Cox, who recognized it as lead. Judge Cox subsequently dug to discover a large quantity of shallow lead. He alerted his neighbors to the true value of their land, and the area soon became a mining camp. Mining was halted during the Civil War and didn't start again until 1870. By 1872, miners searching for lead were throwing away an abundance of what they called "black jack." Jack was slang for zinc, which was a resin-like substance stuck to pieces of lead ore in ample amounts. Jack was considered a nuisance until mineralogists discovered that it was valuable, high-grade zinc. The small mining camp of 800 rapidly grew to thousands as word of the riches beneath the surface spread. Miners or not, people poured into the area, looking to get rich quick. Among the first settlers are familiar names such as E.R. Moffet, Patrick Murphy and J.B. Sergeant. The men, along with C.E. Elliott and W.P. Davis, formed Murphysburg, which was eventually united with Joplin in 1873. Joplin was officially a boomtown, the bustling metropolis of Southwest Missouri. However, unlike many boomtowns that became ghost towns, miners stayed and settled in Joplin as they realized the potential for the new town. Growth and industry was thriving, especially in machine shops, foundries, mills and factories. The late 1890s saw Joplin as a railroad center, with four lines reaching Joplin. An electric railway connecting Joplin with Carthage, Webb City, Carterville and Galena solidified Joplin as the commercial center for the outlying communities. In The Globe's annual Mining Edition in February of 1905, it was printed, "On top of the ground are productive fields and orchards; underneath are the richest zinc mines in the world. On the surface the plow and harrow are busy at work, while a hundred feet below them the pick and shovel and the steam drill are digging out fortunes from nature's bountiful storehouses of zinc and lead." Joplin: The town that 'jack' built

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