Old Grubstake Days

Old Grubstake Days in Joplin is one of the little books in the famous E. Haldeman-Julius collection.

The authors, William and Mabel Draper, cite no sources or references for their narrative, much of which has been written in novelized form, with 60-year-old conversations reproduced as exact quotations. Consequently, much of the content has to be regarded more or less as fictionalized non-fiction.

Regardless of the level of verifiable fact in the Drapers’ narrative, the document is a delight to read. Shorn of the puffery and self-aggrandizing promotion evident in so many early Joplin histories, this story is a thoroughly enjoyable ramble through the rags-to-riches saga of Joplin’s mining industry.

Spliced into the stories of Joplin’s movers and shakers are tales of Jesse James’s encounter with a Joplin bank and of Nellie Risley, a lady from Joplin’s red-light district who dressed in red tights and parachuted from a balloon in order to win enough money to stake a mining claim.

We hope you enjoy this light-hearted look at Joplin’s rough-and-tumble beginnings.

This project has been made possible by a Library Services and Technology Grant administered by the Missouri State Library, a division of the office of the Missouri Secretary of State.