Joplin is a city in southern Jasper County and northern Newton County in the southwestern corner of the U.S. state of Missouri. Joplin is the largest city in Jasper County, though it is not the county seat. As of the 2010 census, the city’s population was 50,150. Joplin is the main hub of the three-county Joplin-Miami, Missouri-Oklahoma Metro area.
Lead was discovered in the Joplin Creek Valley before the Civil War, but only after the war did significant development take place. By 1871, numerous mining camps sprang up in the valley and resident John C. Cox filed a plan for a city on the east side of the valley. Cox named his village Joplin City after the spring and creek nearby, which had been named for the Reverend Harris G. Joplin, who settled upon its banks circa 1840.
Carthage resident Patrick Murphy filed a plan for a city on the opposite side of the valley and named it Murphysburg. While the nearest sheriff was in Carthage, frontier lawlessness abounded in Joplin. The historic period was referred to as the “Reign of Terror”. The cities eventually merged into Union City, but when the merger was found illegal, the cities split. Murphy suggested that a combined city be named Joplin. The cities merged again on March 23, 1873, this time permanently, as the City of Joplin.
While Joplin was first settled for lead mining, zinc, often referred to as “jack”, was the most important mineral resource. As railroads were built to connect Joplin to major markets in other cities, it was on the verge of dramatic growth. By the start of the twentieth century, the city was becoming a regional metropolis. Construction centered around Main Street, with many bars, hotels, and fine homes nearby. Joplin’s three-story “House of Lords” was its most famous saloon, with a bar and restaurant on the first floor, gambling on the second, and a brothel on the third. Trolley and rail lines made Joplin the hub of southwest Missouri. As the center of the “Tri-state district”, it soon became the lead- and zinc-mining capital of the world.
As a result of extensive surface and deep mining, Joplin is dotted with open-pit mines and mine shafts. Mining left many tailings piles (small hills of ground rock), which are considered unsightly locally. The open-pit mines pose hazards, but some find them to have a kind of beauty, as well. The main part of Joplin is nearly 75% undermined, with some mine shafts well over 100 ft (30 m) deep. These mine shafts have occasionally caved in, creating sinkholes. The mining history and geology are well documented in the mineral museum in town.
Joplin began to add cultural amenities; in 1902, residents passed a tax to create a public library, and gained matching funds that enabled them to build the Carnegie Library. It was seen as the symbol of a thriving city. In 1930, the grand commercial Electric Theater was built, one of the many movie palaces of the time. It was later purchased and renamed the Fox by Fox Theatres corporation. With the Depression and post-World War II suburban development, moviegoing declined at such large venues.
In 1933 during the Great Depression, the notorious criminals Bonnie and Clyde spent some weeks in Joplin, where they robbed several area businesses. Tipped off by a neighbor, the Joplin Police Department attempted to apprehend the pair. Bonnie and Clyde escaped after killing Newton County Constable John Wesley Harryman and Joplin Police Detective Harry McGinnis; however, they were forced to leave most of their possessions behind, including a camera. The Joplin Globe developed and printed the film, which showed now-legendary photos of Bonnie holding Clyde at mock gunpoint, and of Bonnie with her foot on a car fender, posed with a pistol in her hand and cigar in her mouth. The Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation nominated the house where the couple stayed, at 34th Street and Oak Ridge Drive, for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places on February 13, 2009.
After World War II, most of the mines were closed, and population growth leveled off. The main road through Joplin running east and west was designated as part of U.S. Route 66, which became famous as more Americans took to newly constructed highways. The roads provided improved access between cities, but they also drew off population to newer housing and eventually retail centers.
In the 1960s and 1970s, nearly 40 acres (16 ha) of the city’s downtown were razed in an attempt at urban renewal, as population and businesses had moved to a suburban fringe along newly constructed highways. The Keystone Hotel and Worth Block (former home of the House of Lords) were notable historic structures that were demolished. Christman’s Department Store stands (converted into loft apartments), as does the Joplin Union Depot, since railroad restructuring and the decline in passenger traffic led to its closure. Other notable historic structures in Joplin include the Carnegie Library, Fred and Red’s Diner, the Frisco Depot, the Scottish Rite Cathedral, and the Crystal Cave (filled in and used for a parking lot). The Newman Mercantile Store has been adapted for use as City Hall. The Fox Theatre has been adapted for use as the Central Christian Center.
On November 11, 1978, Joplin’s once-stately Connor Hotel, which was slated for implosion to make way for a new public library, collapsed suddenly and prematurely. Two demolition workers were killed instantly. A third, Alfred Sommers, was trapped for four days, yet survived.
The city has two major hospitals which serve the Four States region, Freeman Health System and Mercy Hospital Joplin, the latter replacing St. John’s Regional Medical Center which was destroyed in the May 22, 2011, tornado. Freeman Hospital East and Landmark Hospital serve more specialized community health needs. The city’s park system has nearly 1,000 acres (400 ha) and includes a golf course, three swimming pools, 15 miles (24 km) of walking/biking trails, the world’s largest remaining globally unique Chert Glades and Missouri’s first Audubon Nature Center located in Wildcat Park. A waterfall, Grand Falls, the highest continuously flowing in the state, is on Shoal Creek on the southern end of the city. Included in Schifferdecker Park is the Everett J. Ritchie Tri-State Mineral Museum and Dorothea B. Hoover Historical Museum, which holds a significant collection of minerals from the era of lead and zinc mining in the region.
Numerous buildings in Joplin have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places for their historic and architectural significance. The city has undertaken Agenda 21; a major project to revitalize its Main Street downtown district, which lies on the historic Route 66. It has refurbished building facades, sidewalks, and added old-styled lamp posts, flower baskets, and benches to highlight the historic center of the city. A gasoline-powered citywide trolley system evokes images of the town’s vibrant past.
Numerous trucking lines such as CFI are headquartered in town, as the city is situated near the geographic and population centers of the nation. Eagle-Picher Industries, TAMKO Building Products, AT&T Communications, and FAG Bearings are noted employers in Joplin, and Leggett & Platt (a Fortune 500) is located in nearby Carthage. The city is served by the Joplin Regional Airport located north of town near Webb City.
Since the 2011 tornado, the city continued to expand eastward toward I-44. Large-scale development occurred along Range Line Road, particularly around Northpark Mall. Numerous suburbs adjacent to the city include Carl Junction, Webb City, Duenweg, Duquesne, Airport Drive, Oronogo, Carterville, Redings Mill, Shoal Creek Drive, Leawood, and Saginaw.
Due to its location near two major highways and its few event and sports facilities, Joplin attracts travelers and is a destination for conferences and group events. Joplin offers nearly 500 hotel rooms, the majority located within a 1/4-mile area of Range Line Road and I-44. It has the 30,000-square-foot (2,800 m2) John Q. Hammons Convention and Trade Center, which serves as the primary event facility for conventions, associations, and large events.
Each June, Joplin hosts the Boomtown Run, a half marathon, 5K, and children’s run. The event attracts runners from across the country, and features USTA certified courses which start and end in the historic downtown area. Celebrity runners featured at the prerace banquet have included Bart Yasso, Sarah Reinerston, Suzy Favor-Hamilton, and Jeff Galloway. In 2011, due to the devastating EF5 tornado that struck Joplin on May 22, just three weeks before the run, the event was transformed in the Boomtown Run Day of Service. About 270 individuals registered for the race after the tornado struck, knowing their proceeds would benefit tornado recovery. On June 11, about 270 registered runners and volunteers turned out to help clean debris and sort donations, contributing more than 1,200 hours of service. On August 7, 2012, the Village of Silver Creek and the City of Joplin voted to have Silver Creek annexed into Joplin City limits.
On May 22, 2011, an EF5 tornado touched down near the western edge of the city among large, newer homes, about 5:21 pm CDT (22:34 UTC) and tracked eastward across the city and across Interstate 44 into rural portions of Lawrence County. Its track was reported to have been about 0.75 miles (1.21 km) in width and 22.1 miles (35.6 km) long. About 2,400 houses, 1,000 cars, and businesses were flattened or blown away in Joplin, particularly in the section between 13th and 32nd Streets across the southern part of the city. The tornado narrowly missed the downtown area.
St. John’s Regional Medical Center was damaged, and demolished in 2012. The Missouri Disaster Medical Assistance Team temporarily replaced the demolished St. John’s Regional Medical Center with a mobile hospital until the permanent hospital was rebuilt. The local high school, Joplin High School, was totally destroyed, as well. A total of 161 people died from tornado-related injuries as of the end of July 2011. Communications were lost and power was knocked out to many areas. An official statement from the National Weather Service has categorized the tornado as an EF5. On Sunday, May 29, President Barack Obama, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, and Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Fugate visited and toured Joplin to see what the damage looked like and attended a memorial service for the deceased. Later that day, the city held a moment of silence at 5:41 pm, to mark the time the tornado struck. The area was declared a federal disaster area.
In July 2011, the City of Joplin entered into a contractual agreement with Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, L.P., a master developer company from Sugar Land, Texas, hired to assist in nearly $800 million in reconstruction efforts over the next five years. Priority construction projects included residential districts and senior and assisted-living facilities; 7,500 residential dwellings in the city were damaged or destroyed by storm. Not approved by the citizens, the city council began taking government funds for additional projects intended to spur expansion and economic growth included the construction of a $40 million performing and cultural arts center, a new and expanded public library and theatre facility, renovation of the historic downtown Union Depot, and a consolidated post office and state government complex, among other city amenities of trails, sidewalks, transportation, and park enhancements. A variety of additional major projects were to follow, greatly enhancing and expanding all aspects of the community’s development. City Manager Mark Rohr said, “This effort is the greatest opportunity the city has ever seen.” Among other resources and support from governmental agencies, the Economic Development Administration provided $20 million to construct a new Joplin Library and a two-year funding agreement to hire a disaster recovery coordinator to help coordinate the city’s nearly $850 million in immediate restoration and recovery efforts.
In the summer of 2012, the United States Housing and Urban Development Department awarded a $45 million community development block grant for reconstruction efforts and in 2013 awarded another $113 million. In May 2013, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources awarded Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center $500,000 to help with the restoration of the urban forest, which was passed through to the City of Joplin as a subgrant; 1,500 large-calibre trees were planted in the tornado zone and along an urban stream, Joplin Creek.
As of March 2018 the only project finished that was proposed in the recovery effort besides the hospital and schools was the new public library. Wallace-Bajjali was sued by a city they formerly contracted with and skipped town without fulfilling the contract made to refurbish Joplin.
Joplin is located at  According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 35.68 square miles (92.41 km2), of which 35.56 square miles (92.10 km2) is land and 0.12 square miles (0.31 km2) is water. The city is drained by Joplin, Turkey, Silver and Shoal Creeks. Joplin is the center of what is regionally known as the Four State Area: Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas.(37.077760, −94.511024).
Joplin is located north of I-44, its passage to the west into Oklahoma. In recent years, the residential development of Joplin has spread north to about Webb City. The now-decommissioned U.S. Route 66 once passed through Joplin, and the city is mentioned in the song “Route 66”.
Roanoke, Arbor Hills, Blendville, Gateway Drive, Iron Gates, Midway, Murphysburg, Oak Pointe, Royal Heights, Silver Creek, Sunnyvale, Sunset Ridge, Westberry Square, and Cedar Ridge are among the many neighborhoods in Joplin.
Joplin has a humid subtropical climate (Cfa), as defined by the Köppen climate classification system, with cool, dry winters and hot, humid summers; the severe weather season from April through June is the wettest time of year. The monthly daily average temperature ranges from 34.9 °F (1.6 °C) in January to 80.2 °F (26.8 °C) in July. On average, 51 days of 90 °F (32 °C)+ highs, 3.5 days of 100 °F (38 °C)+ highs, 14 days where the high fails to rise above freezing, and 1.9 nights of sub-0 °F (−18 °C) occur per year. It has an average annual precipitation of 46.5 inches (1,180 mm), including an average 11.9 inches (30 cm) of snow. Extremes in temperature range from −21 °F (−29 °C) on February 13, 1905 up to 115 °F (46 °C) on July 14, 1954; the last −10 °F (−23 °C) or below and the last 110 °F (43 °C)+ reading occurred on February 3 and August 2, 2011, respectively. The city is located in Tornado Alley. Several storms have hit the city, including an F3 tornado in 1971, a tornado in 1973, an EF1 tornado on May 8, 2009, a blizzard on February 1, 2011, and an EF5 tornado on May 22, 2011.
|Climate data for Joplin, Missouri (1981–2010 normals)|
|Record high °F (°C)||79
|Average high °F (°C)||44.9
|Average low °F (°C)||25.0
|Record low °F (°C)||−12
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||2.01
|Average snowfall inches (cm)||4.0
|Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)||7.6||7.0||9.9||10.3||12.2||11.0||8.4||7.4||7.9||8.8||8.0||8.3||106.7|
|Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)||2.2||1.6||.9||0||0||0||0||0||0||.1||.4||2.0||7.1|
|Source: NOAA (extremes 1902–present)|
|U.S. Decennial Census
As of 2000, the median income for a household in the city was $30,555, and for a family was $38,888. Males had a median income of $28,569 versus $20,665 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,738. About 10.5% of families and 14.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.8% of those under age 18 and 9.4% of those age 65 or over.
As of the census of 2010, 50,150 people, 20,860 households, and 12,212 families resided in the city. The population density was 1,448.4 people per square mile (559.2/km²). The 23,322 housing units averaged 678.9 per square mile (262.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city is 43,954 White, 1,657 African American, 911 Native American, 801 Asian, 154 Pacific Islander, 875 from other races, and 1,798 from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 2,241 of the population.
Of the 20,860 households, 24.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.1% were married couples living together, 13.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.5% were not families; 29.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 25.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.28 and the average family size was 2.89.
In the city, the population was distributed as 24.21% under the age of 19, 9.4% from 20 to 24, 25.12% from 25 to 44, 22.16% from 45 to 64, and 13.18% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 90.4 males.
According to the City’s 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
|#||Employer||# of employees|
|1||Freeman Health System||3,139|
|3||Mercy Hospital Joplin||2,480|
|4||Joplin School District||1,200|
|7||Systems & Services Technologies||751|
|8||Missouri Southern State University||733|
|10||Empire District Electric Company||568|
|13||City of Joplin||563|
|15||Tri-State Motor Transit||417|
|19||Able Manufacturing & Assembly||280|
Local government for the City of Joplin is provided through a nine-member city council, whose members are elected by voters citywide, with four seats being assigned to designated geographic zones of the city. City council members include the city’s mayor, who is responsible for serving as meeting chair and official spokesman for the city council; and the mayor pro tem, who is responsible for performing the mayor’s duties in absence. Both positions are elected every two years by their fellow council members.
Following the April 2018 city elections, the city council members included:
- Gary Shaw [Zone I] (Mayor)
- Ryan Stanley [General] (Mayor Pro Tem)
- Jim West [General]
- Phil Stinnett [Zone III]
- Melodee Colbert-Kean [Zone II]
- Taylor Brown [General]
- Diane Reid Adams [Zone IV]
- Doug Lawson [General]
- Anthony Monteleone [General] (Appointed to a 2-year term)
Law enforcement services are provided by the Joplin Police Department. On the state-level, the city is represented in the Missouri House of Representatives by Republican Bill White of the 161st District, although a small portion of the city lies within the 162nd District represented by Republican Charlie Davis, and in the Missouri Senate by Republican Ron Richard. The city also lies within Missouri’s 7th congressional district, currently represented by Billy Long (R-Springfield).
Primary and secondary education
Joplin is home to 11 public elementary schools in the Joplin R-VIII School District: Cecil Floyd, Columbia, Eastmorland, Irving, Jefferson, Kelsey Norman, McKinley, Royal Heights, Soaring Heights, Stapleton, and West Central. It has three public middle schools, East, North, and South, and one high school, Joplin High School. The first high school was founded in 1885 and was located at the intersection of West 4th Street and Byers Ave. The JHS student population was nearly 2,200 children in the 2008–2009 school year. A school bond issue for $57.4 million was passed in April 2007, allowing the district to build two new middle schools (East and South Middle Schools) to replace the old Memorial and South Middle schools, and to give a major renovation and double the size of North Middle School. Joplin also has many private schools, such as College Heights Christian School, Martin Luther School, Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School, Christ’s Community Discovery School, and more. St. Mary’s Catholic Elementary School, St. Peter’s Middle School, and McAuley Catholic High School are private Catholic schools established in 1885.
Colleges and universities
The Joplin College of Physicians and Surgeons operated from 1880 to 1884. Today, Joplin is home to Missouri Southern State University, founded in 1937 as a junior college and expanded in the following decades. The one Bible college is Ozark Christian College. Messenger College also operated in Joplin until 2012 when the Pentecostal Church of God moved the campus to Euless, Texas that year.
Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences announced in March 2015 its intention to establish a campus in Joplin with a large osteopathic medicine program, to be located in Mercy Hospital-Joplin’s former long-term temporary location near the site of the destroyed St. John’s Regional Medical Center. In 2017, KCU took in their first class of future physicians at the Farber-McIntire Campus. The campus is nearly 20,000 square feet and includes a large lecture hall, learning studio and lab dedicated to osteopathic manipulative medicine courses. The school’s simulation suite includes 24 standardized patient exam rooms and three simulation rooms featuring high-fidelity, programmable robots in fully equipped medical, surgical, obstetrical and trauma settings. Extended video conferencing capabilities connect the Joplin campus to the KC campus, allowing students, faculty and staff to share learning opportunities. KCU-Joplin also shares a partnership with Freeman Health Systems and Mercy Hospital Joplin.
Joplin is served by the Joplin Public Library. In 2013, the Economic Development Administration awarded the city $20 million to relocate the dated library to a new facility along 20th Street, in the heart of the tornado area. In June 2017, the new 48,000 square foot state-of-the art library opened to the public. Costing nearly $20,000,000, the new facility has meeting and event rooms and spaces, an outdoor plaza and courtyard, children’s, teen and adult book collection areas, and maker-spaces and equipment for creative arts and business innovators.
Joplin is served by the mainline of the Kansas City Southern (KCS) railroad, as well as by branchlines of the BNSF Railway and Missouri and Northern Arkansas Railroad (MNA). The city was once a beehive of railroad activity; however, many of the original railroad lines serving Joplin, such as the Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad, were abandoned after the demise of the mining and industrial enterprises. The Missouri and North Arkansas had connected Joplin with Helena, Arkansas. Passenger trains have not served the city since the 1960s. The Joplin Union Depot is still intact along the KCS mainline, and efforts are underway to restore it. Despite the decline in some rail lines in and around Joplin during the past five decades, many of the original lines still remain. Aside from the former Frisco Railroad route from Joplin to Webb City and the Carthage to Wichita, Kansas, lines that have since been converted into bike/hike trails, most of the original routes still remain in place under the control of the BNSF, KCS, and M&NA railroad companies.
Interstate 44 connects Joplin with Springfield and St. Louis to the east and Tulsa and Oklahoma City to the west. U.S. Route 71 runs east of the city, connecting Joplin to Kansas City to the north and Fort Smith, Arkansas, to the south. The segment from Kansas City to Joplin was designated Interstate 49 on December 12, 2012.
Previously, strong support existed for an extension of Missouri Route 66 along the current Interstate 44 alignment from St. Louis and extending along the U.S. 400 alignment to Wichita, Kansas, but, despite lobbying by both Missouri and Kansas, the project is currently stalled due to resistance farther east along the proposed extended alignment.
Joplin once boasted an extensive trolley and inter-urban rail system. Today, part of the city is served by the Sunshine Lamp Trolley, which commenced service in July 2007, and expanded to three routes in 2009.
- Tony Alamo, religious evangelist and polygamist
- John Whitby Allen, photographer and model railroading pioneer
- John Beal, actor
- Emily Newell Blair, writer, suffragist, national Democratic Party political leader, a founder of the League of Women Voters and feminist
- Betty Brewer, actress
- Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead, comic strip fictional characters (according to creator Chic Young, as cited by the Joplin Globe newspaper, August 1946)
- Norma Lee Clark, author, private secretary to Woody Allen
- Billy Cook, spree killer
- Robert Cummings, actor, star of films and television’s The Bob Cummings Show
- Pauline Donnan, opera singer
- Christofer Drew, musician
- Scott Elbert, Major League Baseball pitcher
- Jane Grant, co-founder of The New Yorker magazine
- Langston Hughes, poet and writer, for whom Langston Hughes Broadway in Joplin is named
- Hale Irwin, golfer, three-time U.S. Open champion
- H. Dale Jackson, Baptist minister and ethicist, lived in Joplin with his wife when they were newly married in 1949
- Jack Jewsbury, former player and captain of the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer
- Oliver Winfield Killam, Texas oil industrialist, former Oklahoma state legislator, lived in Joplin
- Tito Landrum, baseball player
- Jamie McMurray, NASCAR driver
- Charles McPherson, jazz musician
- Elva Miller, singer
- Victor J. Miller, 33rd Mayor of St. Louis
- Lisa Myers, broadcast journalist
- J. Eddie Peck, actor, was raised in Joplin, graduated from Parkwood High School
- Charles Plumb, cartoonist of the syndicated Ella Cinders comic strip
- Carl Pomerance, mathematician
- Darrell Porter, baseball player, World Series champion and 4-time All-Star
- Mel Purcell, tennis player
- Pattiann Rogers, poet
- Wayne Shanklin, music producer and songwriter
- Frank Shellenback, baseball pitcher in Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame
- Pauline Starke, silent-film actress
- Gabby Street, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals; adopted Joplin as his hometown
- William Tobin, journalist
- Dennis Weaver, actor, star of films and television’s Gunsmoke and McCloud
- Percy Wenrich, composer
- Grant Wistrom, former NFL defensive end, Super Bowl champion with St. Louis Rams
Joplin is twinned with:
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- “About Us”. Retrieved April 2015. Check date values in:
- “About WTI”. Retrieved April 2015. Check date values in:
- Not to be confused with the Missouri and Northern Arkansas Railroad
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- City of Joplin
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