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.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Springfield and Joplin Street Names

Joplin has a pretty simple system of street names. The main east-west thoroughfare in the very early days of the town was Broadway, which connected East Joplin and West Joplin. All the east-west streets south of Broadway were numbered: First Street, Second Street, Third Street, etc. All the east-west streets north of Broadway were designated by letters of the alphabet: A Street, B Street, C Street, etc. You can't get much simpler than that. The main north-south street in Joplin is Main Street, or at least it was in the early days. Most of the north-south streets east of Main were named after states: Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, etc. Many of the north-south streets west of Main, at least in the beginning, were named after founding fathers of the town: Byers, Murphy, Sergeant, etc. Again, it's a fairly simple system. As the town got bigger over the years, the people who name the streets varied from the original system, of course, especially when naming the north-sourth streets, because they soon ran out of founding fathers, but the basic plan is still easily discernible.
Springfield, too, had a pretty simple system for naming its streets, at least in the very early days. Many of the main streets were named after the principal town to which they led. For instance, St. Louis, which ran east off the square (and still does) was so named because the road ultimately led to St. Louis. Boonville was so named because it led to Boonville. Jefferson, I think, was named Jefferson not after the president but because it was the road one usually took out of Springfield to go to Jefferson City. South Avenue was so named for an obvious reason: it ran south off the square. Mt. Vernon Street led to the town of Mt. Vernon, the county seat of Lawrence County. State Street was given its name because it was a main state road that one took out of Springfield to go to Cassville and eventually to Fayetteville, Arkansas (which became known as the Wire Road). Then there is College Street, the fourth street leading off the square, which got its name because an early academy or college was located on it. No fancy explanation for how the streets got their names, at least not if you know a little about the history of the town.
When I visit a town I've never been to before, I appreciate simple systems for naming streets. New York City, for instance, is very easy to know you're way around in. All the main east-west roads are numbered streets, and most of the principal north-south roads are numbered avenues. Tulsa, Oklahoma, is another city that comes readily to mind as a place that has a simple system of street names.

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