Joplin: The Origins


Joplin, just like the many other cities and towns in the area, has a rich history that is remembered by the many generations that have lived here. One of these residents, Mrs. Irma Gerd, shares the memories and stories of historic Joplin with us.

Born in 1936, Mrs. Irma Gerd grew up in a family of four. Her father, Robert Johnson, used to work in the mines. She recalls him telling her of the beginning of Joplin and how at first, this city used to be only a few mining camps. Soon, those small camps joined together and decided to establish a town in the area. They decided to name the town after Reverend Harris G. Joplin. Consequently, our great city was born.

Not long after this, the extensive mining in the area attracted railroads. Following these railway systems, all sorts of different people started showing up in Joplin. Mrs. Gerd remembers her father telling her of how Joplin started growing rapidly, with new stores and inns being built and more and more settlers moving in. Not long after, funds were raised to build Joplin’s first library, known today as the Carnegie Library. Then, just six years before Mrs. Gerd was born, the grand commercial Electrical Theater was built.

“But after the golden age of Joplin came some troubling times,” Mrs. Gerd told me. The Great Depression took its toll on Joplin, and along with it came the infamous Bonnie and Clyde. “I remember my father’s friend, Mr. Hammond, as we knew him, was robbed by those two. They stayed in our town for a few weeks, well, at least that’s what we heard. No one really saw Bonnie and Clyde until right before they left.” They didn’t leave peacefully, either. The law was on their tail, but they made a narrow escape, killing a Newton County constable and a Joplin Police detective.

Soon after that, Joplin seemed to settle down a bit more. After World War II the mines started to close, and there weren’t a lot of people coming or going from the city. The main road through Joplin was designated as part of Route 66, which Mrs. Gerd remembers as a good time for Joplin.

Mrs. Irma Gerd met her husband, Richard Gerd, in 1972. They had two children, who now have families of their own. They live in Illinois and Michigan. Mr. and Mrs. Gerd plan to move soon in order to be with their children’s families. They will no doubt miss the great town that they are proud to call home.

“Through the years, I’d say Joplin has seen a fair share of interesting things,” Mrs. Irma Gerd told me. Joplin has had a rich history. It has been the home of numerous people, and most likely will be the home of many more in the future.

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