Missouri and Ozarks History

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

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Joplin's Notorious Dead

I've mentioned previously Joplin's reputation as a wide-open town during its mining heyday in the late 1800s and early 1900s. When I lived in the Springfield area as a teenager and young adult, I would occasionally hear mention of Joplin's notorious past, and I took the stories with a grain of salt. My skepticism continued after I first moved to Joplin almost 35 years ago, because Joplin seemed about as tame as anywhere else when I arrived in the 1970s. I suspected that residents exaggerated the tales of its wild past out of some sort of perverted pride the same way that some people will brag about being related to Jesse James, even when such is not the case.
What I have learned over the years, though, is that most of the stories were true and Joplin's reputation as a rough town was well deserved. I could cite numerous cases in point, but one visible sign of the town's shady past is the number of notorious characters who are buried in Joplin.
For openers, there's Roy "Arkansas Tom" Daugherty, who started out during the Old West era as a member of the Doolin gang, later became a bank robber during the gangster era, and died in a shootout with Joplin police in the 1920s. He's buried in an unmarked grave at Fairview Cemetery on the town's west side. Another notorious duo who are buried at Fairview are Harry and Jennings Young, who killed six police officers during an infamous shootout near Brookline in Greene County in the early 1930s. A few days later, they themselves died during a face-off with Houston (Texas) police, and their bodies were brought back to Missouri for burial. Springfield and Greene County authorities turned them away, though; so the bodies were brought to Joplin. Just the fact that Greene County wouldn't accept them but Joplin would says something about the latter place. The Young brothers, like Daugherty, were buried in unmarked graves at first, but their sister Vinita later placed a headstone.
I'll mention some more of Joplin's notorious corpses in my next post.

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