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.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

John David Mefford in Joplin

I knew even before I started researching my Wicked Joplin book that a couple of colorful characters from the Kansas-Missouri border region during the Civil War ended up coming to Joplin after the town got its start as a booming mining camp in the early 1870s. Namely, I was aware that Charles Fletcher "Fletch" Taylor, who was a lieutenant under Quantrill during the Civil War, came to Joplin very early on in the town's history and, in fact, served a term on the city council during the 1870s. Taylor's residence in Joplin partially explains the legend of Frank and Jesse James's connection to Joplin, because Taylor was the James brothers' immediate commander during 1864. The James boys probably did visit Taylor in Joplin at least a time or two after they became notorious, but the legend of their close connection to Joplin has probably been exaggerated. I also knew vaguely that Charles R. "Doc" Jennison, the notorious Kansas jayhawker, came to Joplin in the late 1870s and lived here into the 1880s. However, I was not aware of the prominent role he played in early-day Joplin. Despite being one of the town's biggest gamblers, he was also considered a leading citizen.
The character that I knew nothing at all about, as far as his residence in Joplin is concerned, prior to writing the book is David Mefford. He was neither a guerrilla like Taylor nor a notorious jayhawker like Jennison, but he was still a character of some note during the Civil War, operating against Tom Livingston and others along the border as a captain (later promoted to major) in a Kansas cavalry unit. He, like the other two men, came to Joplin during the 1870s. He was a saloonkeeper both in Joplin and in Galena, Kansas, and also tried his hand at mining, as did nearly every other man who came to Joplin during its early days.

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