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A Brief History of Fairview Cemetery

May is Preservation Month! As such, we’re sharing brief histories of Joplin, Missouri’s four city-owned cemeteries; this is part four of four in the series.

Fairview Cemetery was in use as Joplin Cemetery as early as 1832, prior to the incorporation of the City of Joplin. In September 1873, about six months after the city’s incorporation, Mayor E.R. Moffet, Joplin’s first mayor, drafted and signed a notarized document stating that the cemetery would henceforth be released to the public for public use, thus creating Joplin’s first municipal cemetery. It is not yet known when or why the name of the cemetery changed from Joplin Cemetery to Fairview Cemetery, but it’s evident that ‘Fairview’ was in common use by 1914 and likely earlier.

Some sources indicate the land for Fairview Cemetery was donated by Patrick Murphy, the founder of Murphysburg, which, in March 1873, incorporated with Joplin City (now known as Joplin’s East Town neighborhood) to become the City of Joplin.

For 60 years, it was Joplin’s only municipal cemetery. Fairview Cemetery is associated with numerous city-founders and other persons of note. Some of them include the Murphy, Picher, and Zelleken families; Percy Wenrich; Harry and Jennings Young; Joel Livingston; Jessie F. Osborne; John B. Sergeant; Gilbert Barbee; John Reding; Thomas Gilyard; and Thomas Bellas.

Veterans from the American Civil War, the Spanish-American War, both World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam are interred at Fairview. As are Masons, members of the Order of the Eastern Star, Oddfellows, Shriners, and Woodsman. Fairview also contains a Potter’s Field.

In 2018-19, a subcommittee of the Joplin Historic Preservation Commission conducted an architectural survey of all four of Joplin’s city-owned cemeteries. Also, they researched and wrote nominations for the cemeteries to be included on the city’s Local Landmark/Historic Sites list. Although the nominations were submitted in summer 2019, the commission awaits a fresh survey of one of the cemetery sites before the nominations can move to the next phase of the Local Landmark nomination process. Click HERE to view the nomination in its entirety, including supporting documentation.

Volunteer Fire Department section in Joplin’s Fairview Cemetery. Photo: Paula Callihan

Contributed by Jill Sullivan, Post Art Library Director, Joplin Historic Preservation Commission Chairperson, and Missouri Preservation Board Member

A Brief History of Forest Park Cemetery

May is Preservation Month! As such, we’re sharing brief histories of Joplin, Missouri’s four city-owned cemeteries; this is part three of four in the series.

Forest Park Cemetery is unique among Joplin’s municipal cemeteries in that it has a long history of changed ownership and is the most recently acquired city cemetery. Jeremiah Turk, an early citizen of what would become Joplin, donated land to Shoal Creek Baptist Church (No. 1) to establish a church and develop a cemetery. The church had recently split into two factions (No.1 and No.2), with the Joplin faction acquiring the land at Central Street and Range Line Road in 1884. Jeremiah Turk himself laid out Forest Park cemetery in 1888. Prior to that time, the church cemetery was referred to as Old Baptist Cemetery, Turk Cemetery, or, as in one newspaper account, Kirk Cemetery.

About 1913, another early citizen, T.C. Clary, laid out cemetery tracts alongside the Forest Park tract. Unfortunately, Clary made a bad deal with some “promotors” from Chicago in 1917 and, after going to court, his cemetery tract was put into foreclosure and purchased by the Forest Park Cemetery Association to become one Forest Park Cemetery.

Due to rapid growth, the Forest Park congregation moved to another location in 1948. Since that time, Forest Park Cemetery has changed ownership over the years, with the City of Joplin acquiring it in 1988.

In 2018-19, a subcommittee of the Joplin Historic Preservation Commission conducted an architectural survey of all four of Joplin’s city-owned cemeteries. Also, they researched and wrote nominations for the cemeteries to be included on the city’s Local Landmark/Historic Sites list. Although the nominations were submitted in summer 2019, the commission awaits a fresh survey of one of the cemetery sites before the nominations can move to the next phase of the Local Landmark nomination process. Click HERE to view the nomination in its entirety, including supporting documentation.

Mausoleum in Joplin’s Forest Park Cemetery. Photo: Paula Callihan

Contributed by Jill Sullivan, Post Art Library Director, Joplin Historic Preservation Commission Chairperson, and Missouri Preservation Board Member

A Brief History of Osborne Cemetery

May is Preservation Month! As such, we’re sharing brief histories of Joplin, Missouri’s four city-owned cemeteries; this is part two of four in the series.

Contrary to popular belief, the Jesse F. Osborne Memorial Cemetery, henceforth referred to simply as Osborne Cemetery, was not open to the public any earlier than 1938. Osborne Cemetery became the City of Joplin’s third public, city-owned cemetery, with Fairview Cemetery being its first (1873) and Parkway Cemetery being its second (1933).

In 1931, Joe H. Myers, then Commissioner of Public Property and Public Utilities, realized that Fairview Cemetery would soon be full and considered plans for establishing a new cemetery on the new cemetery tract that ran along the east and west sides of McClelland park road. This cemetery tract eventually became two cemeteries—Parkway (east) and Osborne (west). Although this tract of land is commonly thought to have been donated to the city by the Osborne family, it was, in fact, purchased by the city during one of former Mayor Jesse F. Osborne’s administrations, around 1922.

In the early 1930s, the city began developing the McClelland park road cemetery tracts, with Parkway Cemetery opening in 1933. Although preparations were being made as early as 1935 to open Osborne Cemetery, it wasn’t until 1937 that Council began seeking a name for the new cemetery. In 1938, Council announced that the new city cemetery was named the Jesse F. Osborne Memorial Cemetery in his honor because “the tract of land converted into the cemetery was purchased by the city while Osborne was mayor and he promoted the project.” They announced, too, that the newly-named, city-owned Osborne Cemetery was now, finally, open for public use.

In early 1939, soldiers’ plots were dedicated for the American Legion, the United Spanish War Veterans, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. By mid-1939, the WPA (formerly FERA) was still working on the cemetery’s stone wall and entrance. In 1940, The Robert S. Thurman American Legion Post and George Klingman donated a 75-foot flagpole to be placed in the cemetery.

Osborne Cemetery has an extensive military section, with veterans of varying ranks who served in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Additionally, members of the Masons, Oddfellows, the Order of the Eastern Star, Shriners, and Woodsman are interred at Osborne. Uniquely, Osborne has a “Babyland” monument.

Interestingly, Osborne Cemetery records list the earliest burials in 1852, 1854, 1857, 1875, and 1877, prior to the time the tract was developed as a cemetery. All other burials in the cemetery, however, took place from 1938—the year which Osborne was, in fact, established as a city-owned cemetery—onward. It’s not uncommon for cemeteries to be developed in an area where older burials took place, which could explain the existence of gravesites dated prior to the time Osborne was developed.  

In 2018-19, a subcommittee of the Joplin Historic Preservation Commission conducted an architectural survey of all four of Joplin’s city-owned cemeteries. Also, they researched and wrote nominations for the cemeteries to be included on the city’s Local Landmark/Historic Sites list. Although the nominations were submitted in summer 2019, the commission awaits a fresh survey of one of the cemetery sites before the nominations can move to the next phase of the Local Landmark nomination process. Click HERE to view the nomination in its entirety, including supporting documentation.

“BABYLAND” monument in Joplin’s Osborne Cemetery. Photo: Paula Callihan

Contributed by Jill Sullivan, Post Art Library Director, Joplin Historic Preservation Commission Chairperson, and Missouri Preservation Board Member

A Brief History of Parkway Cemetery

May is Preservation Month! As such, we’re sharing brief histories of Joplin, Missouri’s four city-owned cemeteries; this is part one of four in the series.

Prior to the establishment of Parkway Cemetery, Joplin’s citizens – black, white, and others – were buried in the only city-owned cemetery, Fairview Cemetery. In 1931, Joe H. Myers, then Commissioner of Public Property and Public Utilities, realized that Fairview Cemetery would soon be full and considered plans for establishing a new cemetery on the new cemetery tract that ran along the east and west sides of McClelland park road. This cemetery tract eventually became two cemeteries—Parkway (east) and Osborne (west). Although this tract of land is commonly thought to have been donated to the city by the Osborne family, it was, in fact, purchased by the city during one of former Mayor Jesse F. Osborne’s administrations, around 1922.

In May 1932, a committee of Joplin’s Colored Citizens’ Club requested that Commissioner Myers set aside a portion of the newly considered city cemetery exclusively for use by Joplin’s black citizens. Myers agreed and, in 1933, announced plans to develop the east side of the McClelland park road cemetery tract solely for use by Joplin’s black citizens. Also at that time, Myers let it be known that the black plot in Fairview Cemetery was full and the city was no longer able to accommodate the burial of black persons in that cemetery (though accommodations were still being made for white persons in a new addition).

In April 1933, work began to clear the east side of the McClelland park road cemetery tract for exclusive use by Joplin’s black community. Later that same year, in August, the city commission (i.e. Council) chose ‘Parkway Cemetery’ as the official name for the new all-black cemetery. It is not known why, exactly, the Council chose the name ‘Parkway’ for the new cemetery. While the east side of the McClelland park road tract was developed as an all-black cemetery, the tract on the west side was reserved for later development for use by white persons.

Although the city-owned Parkway Cemetery opened to Joplin’s black citizens in 1933, the earliest tombstone burial date reads 1932. According to the city’s cemetery records, Joseph Stover was initially interred at Fairview Cemetery in 1932, where he was then disinterred and reinterred at Parkway Cemetery upon Parkway’s opening, in 1933. Parkway Cemetery has been in use since 1933 and continues to be in use today.

In addition to serving as a burial ground for Joplin’s black citizens, Parkway Cemetery historically served as a gathering place for black families during a time when black people had very few choices for gathering spaces. According to local oral histories from those within Joplin’s black community, funerals and celebrations of life were all-day events. Family and friends traveled from afar and used the lawn to the south of the cemetery as camping and picnic grounds. Thus, Parkway Cemetery offered an integral space for fellowship among black people and African-Americans during unfortunate times of segregation in America.

Among those interred at Parkway are veterans from World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and Vietnam; former law enforcement officers; members of the Masons and the Order of the Eastern Star; and others who contributed significantly to the development of our community.

In 2018-19, a subcommittee of the Joplin Historic Preservation Commission conducted an architectural survey of all four of Joplin’s city-owned cemeteries. Also, they researched and wrote nominations for the cemeteries to be included on the city’s Local Landmark/Historic Sites list. Although the nominations were submitted in summer 2019, the commission awaits a fresh survey of one of the cemetery sites before the nominations can move to the next phase of the Local Landmark nomination process. Click HERE to view the nomination in its entirety, including supporting documentation.

Mr. and Mrs. Cuther are thought to be the first persons to purchase a burial plot in Joplin’s Parkway Cemetery. Photo: Jill Sullivan
The bridge leading to one of the picnic tables in Joplin’s Parkway Cemetery. Photo: Jill Sullivan

Contributed by Jill Sullivan, Post Art Library Director, Joplin Historic Preservation Commission Chairperson, and Missouri Preservation Board Member