Sunday, May 26, 2024

Medoc, Missouri

I've lived in Joplin, Missouri, since the mid-1970s, but there are still a few places in the area I've never been. Take Medoc, for example. Located about 18 miles north of Joplin on Baseline Road, Medoc is a community I'd never visited in my life--until today.

I guess there's a good reason I'd never been to Medoc. There's not much there. Even the old Cowboy Church of Medoc sits empty, as the accompanying photo suggests.

But it hasn't always been so. Medoc was once a thriving little community in the years right after the Civil War. In fact, it was probably the third or fourth largest town in Jasper County at the time, trailing only Carthage, Sarcoxie, and possibly Minersville (i.e. Oronogo). 

Medoc started as a mere trading post in the 1840s, and the place did a lot of business with Native Americans, including the Medoc Indians, which is how the community got its name. A post office was established at Medoc in 1854. A town called Medoc was laid out in 1856 about a quarter mile west of the old trading post, and the post office was moved.

By the time the Civil War came on, Medoc was already a booming little town, but it was virtually destroyed during the war. The town was rebuilt and once again became a thriving community. Livingston's History of Jasper County says the estimated population of Medoc in 1869 was 225. 

In 1870, a correspondent to the Carthage Banner visited Medoc and described the town in a letter to the newspaper. He said the land around Medoc had some of the richest soil around, and he claimed the population of the town was almost 500 people. Among the business at Medoc were three dry goods stores, two copper shops, one bakery, two hotels, a boot and shoe shop, one harness shop, three blacksmith shops, two plow and wagon shops, one machine shop, and "one of the best flouring and saw mills in the west." (The flour mill and the saw mill were separate operations but not separate businesses.) Medoc boasted five doctors, one lawyer, four churches, and one school with over 70 students. The correspondent thought Medoc had the most inviting location in Jasper County, and he predicted that the town "will sooner or later rank among the very first for mercantile, manufacturing, and agriculture pursuits." 

Alas, it was not to be. The discovery of lead and the rapid growth of mining towns like Joplin and Webb City during the 1870s and 1880s probably hastened Medoc's decline, because some merchants did, in fact, relocate from Medoc after the mining towns sprang up. For whatever combination of reasons, Medoc experienced a slow decline in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and the Medoc Post Office was discontinued in 1927. Today, little remains to suggest that Medoc was ever even a village, much less a thriving one. 

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