Tag Archives: mining

The Importance of Cows

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By Casera

When people first moved to Joplin to mine, they brought with them animals. Many of these animals were cows. The cows were used for milk and meat. The farmers were in charge of keeping track of the animals and getting meat and dairy products to the miners. The farmers  would have to find a water source, a barn, and a field for their cows.

The average day for a Joplin farmer would begin bright and early when he would milk the cow. He had to sit on a stool and place a pail under the cow to catch the milk. Then he would grab and pull the cow’s udder. The milk would squirt out, and once he had emptied out the cow’s milk sac, he would move on to the next cow. The milk would then be taken back to his house and used for making cheese, making butter, cooking, and for drinking.

Next, the farmer had to take the cows down to the water. Sometimes they would drink out of a trough and sometimes from a spring or another body of water. “My job was to lead all the cows down to the spring after school,” said Delores Johnson, a longtime area resident who grew up on a Joplin farm.  She explained her daily chores to me. “After I did that, my parents would take them to the field and let them graze. The cows would stay there for the whole day. At night my parents would take the cows back to their barn.” This process was repeated daily.

Cows were an important part of a Joplin resident’s life. They were vital for milk and meat. Even though Joplin started as a mining town, the city may not have been as successful without cows and farmers. They provided the necessary food to the miners and their families helping Joplin to become the boom town it was and the city it is.

Joplin: The Origins

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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.

Southwest Missouri Mines

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Joplin, Missouri and the surrounding towns were founded on mining. Don Hunter grew up on the outskirts of Joplin, where he still resides today. Mr. Hunter visited the mines often as a child because both his father and uncle were miners.

The mines were very dangerous places shared Hunter. “My uncle died in the mines. He was drunk when he got off of his shift one night. When he got off of the shaft elevator, he tripped and fell back down the shaft. Somebody caught him by his boots, but he fell out of them.”

Not only was mining dangerous, the process was also very extensive and labor intensive. Holes for dynamite were drilled with spud bars. One miner would hold the spud bar while the other forced it deeper into the wall. Then dynamite would be stuck in the hole, and ignited. The dynamite blew the rocks and minerals into pieces. The rocks and dirt were separated by sludge tables. Sludge tables consisted of a wooden table with pegs that progressively became closer and closer. Flowing water would carry the dirt and mineral mixture through the pegs, which would separate the minerals from the dirt. There were usually fifteen or more sludge tables working at a time in one mine. Mr. Hunter’s father was the ground boss at one of the mines. His job was to run the cables that moved the dirt and minerals out of the shafts.The machine consisted of a pulley with cups attached to it. The cups would scoop up the dirt or minerals and then take it to the exterior of the shaft, where it would be dumped on the ground through a funnel. This is how all the tailing piles around here were made.

Once the minerals such as zinc, lead, and ore were mined, they would be taken to factories in ore trucks. Mr. Hunter recalls wanting to be an ore truck driver when he was younger. According to him, there was a man at Wilder’s restaurant in downtown Joplin who actually bought ore. Ore dust would slip through the cracks in the office floorboards. After awhile he would lift the floorboards up and gather all the loose ore dust. The mines in the area were so extensive that miners were able to drive from Webb City, Missouri all the way to Quapaw, Oklahoma underground. There are roads in Joplin that are built over the old mines. Special mine cars were used to get from shaft to shaft underground. The cars were miniature size with special water filters to extract the exhaust.

Mr. Hunter provided great insight into our past mining world. The mines played a large role in the history of Joplin and its surrounding areas. Our ancestors worked hard  to create the place we live in now, and we can still see the effects of their hard work today.

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