History of Joplin, MO

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Our local Joplin child sexual abuse lawyer, Ryan Frazier, has sponsored this article outlining the history of the local city of Joplin. We hope that current residents and visitors will learn something new about the historic city.

Joplin History Dating Back to the 19th Century

Joplin city covers 35.69 square miles and is on the outer edge of the Ozark Mountains. Today it has become a main hub of the three-county area it sits, but it wasn't always this populous. Lead was discovered in the Joplin Creek Valley but it wasn't until after the Civil War that development started and mining camps began appearing. Due to the increase of miners, resident John Cox filed a plan to incorporate a city along the eastern valley. It was named Joplin City for the creek near by, and after the Reverend Harris Joplin who had first settled on the creek in 1840. Across the valley the city of Murphysburg was planned out and in 1873 the cities would merge permanently and become known as the City of Joplin.

Originally the mining began for lead, but zinc became the more important mineral for the miners. Most of the mining was below ground and there were many open pit mines. Most mine shafts reached over 100ft deep and today some have collapsed and created sinkholes.

20th& 21st Century History

In the early 1900s, Joplin was still growing rapidly. In 1902, the first public library was built, which was commonly seen as a symbol of a thriving city. During the Great Depression Bonnie and Clyde hid out in Joplin. They would end up robbing several businesses and the Joplin Police would attempt to apprehend the couple. Unfortunately they escaped, but the left behind many of their possessions. In 2009 the house they stayed in was nominated for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

In the years after World War II, the city saw its population growth level off. Many of the mines were closed and new highways were developed drawing residents to other cities with newer housing and shopping complexes. Route 66 was the main road that cut through Joplin.

The city has undertaken a few different revitalization projects since the 1960s. Many historic buildings were demolished or converted into apartments. Other buildings had been adapted for new use, such as the Newman Mercantile Store which was used as City Hall.


Joplin has  been the victim of a few very serious tornadoes over the years. In 1971 a severe tornado went through the city causing damage to houses and businesses, 50 injuries and one death.

In May of 2011, an EF5 tornado touched down the western edge of the city and traveled east. There were many larger and newer homes built in the touchdown area and in total about 2,400 homes were destroyed. Approximately 1,000 cars were also destroyed along with the Joplin High school. By the end of July, 161 people were reported to have died from the tornado or tornado-related injuries.


As of the 2010 census, there were 50,150 people living in Joplin, and 24% of households had children under 18 living with them. The median age was 35 years old and for every 100 women, there were 90.4 men.

Visiting Joplin

Over the years, and especially since the 2011 tornado, the city has seen an increase in revitalizing the area. The Main Street downtown district along historic Route 66 has become a prominent part of Joplin and tourism. Large development projects have also taken off after the tornado.

Joplin is close to two major highways today and hosts a number of events and conferences. A number of visitors also come to the city to drive part of Historic Route 66. Some notable attractions include:

  • Historic Route 66 Marker
  • Grand Falls
  • The Route 66 Drive In
  • Neosho National Fish Hatchery
  • Historic Murphysburg
  • Downtown Joplin

There are also many murals across the city including the Downtown Gateway, Rise of the Phoenix and the Butterfly Effect: Dreams Take Flight. After the 2011 tornado, many residents started producing murals to rebuild the city spirit and started a renaissance.

Learn more about the local city of Springfield, past and present history.

Our Local Office

If you or your child has been assaulted and you are in search of a child sexual abuse lawyer in Joplin, call our local office today. Our experienced attorneys understand the traumatic experience may not be easy to talk about, but believe that by coming forward you can help find closure and help protect future victims. Call today to speak directly with one of our attorneys in a free, confidential, consultation.

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