Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


In my last couple of posts, I've mentioned Blende City, a former mining camp in Jasper County that grew into a fledgling town during the 1880s but that no longer exists. This idea of communities that once flourished but no longer exist (or barely exist) is a subject I've mentioned in a couple of my other previous posts as well, because the history behind such places seems to hold a certain fascination for me.
Another such community is Splitlog, located in northwest McDonald County near Goodman. Although Splitlog still exists, few reminders of its days as a booming little town remain.
The town began when Mathias Splitlog, a Wyandotte Indian, moved to McDonald County from neighboring Indian territory during the late 1800s. The enterprising Splitlog, called the "millionaire Indian," was already a wealthy man from his previous entrepreneurial pursuits, like mining; and he decided to build a railroad, which would connect his new home to Goodman, Neosho, and Joplin, to support those activities. The first section of the railroad was completed in August of 1887, and the entire "Splitlog line" from Joplin to Splitlog was finished a couple of years afterwards. Later, the line was extended into Arkansas, but it was not a financial success and Splitlog sold out in 1892. The Goodman-to-Splitlog branch of the railroad line soon fell into disuse, and the town gradually dwindled to a mere wide place in the road with only a small road sign, a few houses, and a couple of churches to mark its location.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mea Culpa

In my last post, I expressed my disappointment that the websites of both the Springfield-Greene County Library and the Western Historical Manuscript Collection perpetuate the idea that Blende City and Blendville (two early Jasper County mining camps) were one in the same when, in fact, they were two distinct and separate locations. After the post, I received an email from a librarian at the Springfield-Greene County Library suggesting, in essence, that libraries should not be held responsible for the content on their websites any more than they are held accountable for the content of the books that they stock on their shelves. The librarian also pointed out that in a monumental work like Moser's Directory of Towns, Villages, and Hamlets Past and Present of Missouri (which is the source of the website information I cited) occasional mistakes are bound to occur. I have to agree. Libraries are merely repositories of information. It's not up to them to diligently screen every book they acquire or every bit of information they post on the Internet. So, I guess this is my official retraction. The lesson here, then, is that you can't believe everything you read, on the Internet or elsewhere. We need to be critical readers. For the record, though, Blende City and Blendville were definitely two different places.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Blendville and Blende City

Everybody makes mistakes. If I see a historical date listed as July 13, 1888, for instance, when I know that the event in question actually happened on July 12, 1888, I don't get particularly upset, and I hope people don't hold me to such a high standard that I'm not allowed an occasional slip-up (although I do try to limit such errors to a minimum). The Internet, in particular, seems to be the source of a lot of misinformation; so much of what you read online needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
However, some mistakes are so obvious that they are hard to overlook. This is especially true when the information is being disseminated by otherwise reputable organizations or institutions. Recently, for instance, I found two different websites on the Internet listing Jasper County place names, one site maintained by the University of Missouri's Western Historical Manuscript Collection and the other maintained by the Springfield-Greene County Library's local history section, that both contain the same mistake. Both say that Blende City and Blendville were synonymous--that Blendville was a later name for Blende City. In fact, they were two separate communities, both of which arose during the lead and zinc mining boom of the late nineteenth century in the Jasper County area.
Blende City was a mining camp that sprang up in the early 1880s a mile or two southwest of Carl Junction and about ten miles or so northwest of Joplin. It grew to a population of over a thousand people during its heyday, but today it is not part of a populated area and almost nothing remains to suggest that it ever existed.
Blendville, on the other hand, arose a few years after Blende City and was located a mile or two southwest of Joplin. Today it is part of Joplin, and the Blendville Christian Church is still located in the neighborhood.
The websites' explanation of how the two communities got their name is also incorrect, or at least incomplete. The websites suggest that the derivation of the names had to do with the blending of ores. In fact, blende is another name for sphalerite, which is the chief ore of zinc, just as galena is the chief ore of lead.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Quantrill's Lamar Attacks

There's one other episode pertaining to Quantrill's activities in the Ozarks that I want to mention, and then I'll move on to other topics besides Quantrill. Actually, though, the episode I'm talking about is two related episodes--the guerrilla leader's attacks on Lamar in the fall of 1862 and spring of 1864.
In early November of 1862, after a successful summer of raiding in the Kansas City area, Quantrill and his men were on the march south to spend the winter in Texas when they fell in with Colonel Warner Lewis of the Missouri State Guard. When Lewis proposed a coordinated attack on Lamar, Quantrill agreed and charged into the town, but Lewis failed to appear on schedule, leaving the guerrillas to blast away by themselves at the Federal troops ensconced in the Barton County courthouse. After a heated exchange in which each side lost only a handful of men in killed and injured, Quantrill set fire to the town and rode off in anger and frustration over Warner's failure to appear.
In the May of 1864, after spending the winter in Texas as they had the previous year, Quantrill and his men were headed back to northern Missouri. When they passed through Lamar, Quantrill decided to try to exact some revenge for the failed attack a year and a half earlier. The guerrillas charged the courthouse, which was now just a burned-out shell , but the small detachment of Union militia guarding the fortress repelled the assault with a well-aimed volley of fire. The guerrillas dropped back to regroup and then launched another attack. It, too, was turned away, but Quantrill and his men weren't easily dissuaded. In short order, they launched yet a third assault. When it, too, was repelled, the guerrillas finally gave up and continued their journey north, minus a few men that they had sacrified to their stubbornness.

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