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 seventeen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History, and Murder and Mayhem in Southeast Kansas.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Maiden Lane

Anyone who is familiar with Joplin knows that one of the main north-south streets in the town is Maiden Lane. Anyone who has lived in Joplin very long has probably also heard the legend of how the street got its name. Supposedly it was named Maiden Lane because it served as Joplin's principal red light district during the town's early mining days.
In researching my Wicked Joplin book, I turned up no evidence to support this legend. In fact, I can say almost unequivocally that there is no truth to the legend. The main area for prostitution in Joplin from the very early days of the 1870s through the 1910s (shortly before Prohibition put a damper not only on Joplin saloons but also on the town's other vices) was the downtown area, not a street almost one mile west of downtown.
It seems plausible to me to speculate that Maiden Lane probably got its name because during Joplin's early days it was the site of the town's horse racing track in what was then the extreme southwest edge of town. In the world of horse racing, of course, a "maiden" is a horse that has not yet won a race, and there often are races held especially for maidens. The road that we now know as Maiden Lane would have been the "lane" down which the "maidens" would have traveled to reach the race track.
The oval race track to which I referred in the previous paragraph was located at about 17th and Maiden Lane across from the present-day Price Cutter store, and it was built in the late 1870s. However, even in the early 1870s there was a straight one-half mile race track for horses in Joplin that ran on a diagonal from near the entrance of present-day Fairview Cemetery (then called the City Cemetery) to near present-day West Central Elementary School on 7th Street. So, almost from the town's beginning, Maiden Lane was the place for "maiden" race horses.


Blogger Betty Craker Henderson said...

Tut, tut, tut. You sure know how to put a damper on the only exciting thing folks in Joplin had to chew on, don't you? Ha. Well, keep on looking...maybe something else will turn up. (Joking, you know, don't you?)

March 13, 2011 at 7:45 PM  

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