After the May 22 tornado that ripped apart Joplin Missouri I became curious  as to the meaning of the name Joplin and how the town was so named . . . which led me to several different places. Here basically are my notes with some intermingled thoughts of mine to share . . .

The aftermath: A 198mph tornado tore a path a mile wide and six miles long straight through Joplin, Missouri devastating all in its wake.

(Almost all information is verbatim from Wikipedia)

On May 22, 2011, Joplin was struck by an extremely powerful EF-5 tornado, resulting in at least 142 deaths and over 900 injuries, along with major damage to numerous houses and businesses, St. John’s Medical Center, and multiple school buildings.

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. Joplin is the center of what is regionally known as the Four State Area: Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas.

Although often believed to have been named for the ragtime composer Scott Joplin, who lived in Sedalia, Missouri, Joplin is named for Reverend Harris Joplin, the founder of the area’s first Methodist congregation.

Let’s look at Scott Joplin none the less . . .

“When Scott Joplin syncopated his way into the hearts of millions of Americans at the turn of the century, he helped revolutionize American music and culture. His ragged rhythms and lilting melodies made people want to tap their feet, slap their thighs, or dance with happy abandon. As Americans embraced his music, they participated in a dramatic transformation of American popular culture – their Victorian restraint gave way to modern exuberance. And whether in the elegant parlors of comfortable, respectable American homes or in the honky-tonks and cafes of America’s sporting districts, ragtime music accompanied a reorientation of cultural values in America in the twentieth century. The excellence and appeal of his compositions earned for Joplin the generally accepted title “King of Ragtime”.

His first hit was Mable Leaf Rag . . . the composition in 1899 brought him fame and had a profound influence on subsequent writers of ragtime. In 1902 he wrote “The Entertainer” which became popular in 1973 as the theme music for the Oscar-winning film The Sting. Remember the sting? Cons conning cons . . .  crooked government officials taking bribes. I like what Lenard Ravenhill once said, “Entertainment is the devil’s counterfeit for joy,” a statement I am persuaded is absolutely true.

Joplin eventually moved to Sedalia, Missouri in 1894 and began working as a pianist in the Maple Leaf Club and the Black 400, social clubs for “respectable [black] gentlemen” . . . a brothel.  In the 19th century, Sedalia was well known as a center of vice, especially prostitution . . . In 1877 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch called Sedalia “the Sodom and Gomorrah of the nineteenth century.”

Just three days after the historic violent tornado struck Joplin, Missouri another tornado ripped through Sedalia, Missouri causing significant damage to much of the southern side of the city.

Scott Joplins birth, like many others, represented the first post-slavery generation of African-Americans. Although for many years his birth date was accepted as November 24, 1868, research has revealed that this is almost certainly inaccurate . . .

By 1916, Joplin was suffering from tertiary syphilis and in January 1917 he was admitted to Manhattan State Hospital, a mental institution where he died on April 1, 1917 of dementia. After Joplin’s death at the age of just 49 from advanced syphilis he was buried in a pauper’s grave that remained unmarked for 57 years. His grave at Saint Michaels Cemetery, in East Elmhurst, was finally honored in 1974.

Scott Joplin wrote 44 ragtime tunes . . .  we’re on our 44th president who has introduced a new rag-time for many Americans.

Some perhaps completely irrelevant comparisons to Scott Joplin and his life, he was born in Texas . . . a place of continuing drought and recent fires rendering Texas a state of disaster.

In the late 1880’s Joblin moved to the southern states . . .  which are now experiencing as one news caster reported flooding of “biblical proportion.”

In 1893 Joplin went to Chicago for the world’s fair where he became popular . . . 100 years later Obama begins his community organizer career there.

Later, Joplin moved to Missouri . . .  which as we well know has recently experienced a record breaking tornado season in regards to quantity, size and deaths. One reporter standing amidst the debris referred to the devastation as an “apocalyptic disaster” whiles the newscaster in the Fox studio repeatedly asked “Does anyone understand what is happening? What is going on with the weather? Why are we having such severe storms in the heartland?” Then the very next segment on the news is about Obama, Netanyahu, Israel and the 1967 borders dispute . . .

As we move towards the end of Joplin’s life he eventually moved to New York City, It was here that Joplin wrote his one and only opera, Treemonisha.

The opera’s theme is that education is the salvation of the Negro race, represented by the heroine and symbolic educator Treemonisha, who runs into trouble with a local band of magicians who eventually kidnap her. Treemonisha is a young, educated black woman who refuses to accept the superstitions of the community. When the local conjurers try to sell Treemonisha’s adoptive mother a “bag of luck”, she denounces the conjurers, who retaliate by kidnapping her, and attempt to throw her into a wasp nest. Her beau, Remus, rescues her at the last moment and they return to the community. Accepted by her peers, she leads a campaign to educate the people around her. Treemonisha takes place in September 1884 on a plantation between Texarkana and the Red River in Arkansas.

The opera was never fully staged during his lifetime, and its sole performance was a concert read-through with piano in 1915 at the Lincoln Theater in Harlem, New York City, funded by Joplin himself. One of Joplin’s friends, Sam Patterson, described this performance as “thin and unconvincing, little better than a rehearsal… its special quality (would have been) lost on the typical Harlem audience (that was) sophisticated enough to reject their folk past but not sufficiently so to relish a return to it.

Reflecting on the plot of  Treemonisha in regards to the ignorance of the people, I was mindful of the following passage from scripture –

Hosea 4:5 Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother. 6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. 7 As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame. 8 They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity. 9 And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings. 10 For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the LORD. 11 Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart.

In 1917, Joplin died in New York bankrupt, discouraged, and worn out . . . I wonder what still remains for the fate of New York City?

Origin of Joplin: English surname related to Job, “the afflicted”

Again . . . virtually all this information is almost verbatim  from Wikipedia,_Missouri

  1. cindybythesea says:

    Hi Wiilliam, Very interesting and proves once again that God has the long view of things. I especially liked the phrase “entertainment is the devils counterfeit for joy”, that’s one I will remember for a very long time. Great post William! Cindy


    • Jeane says:

      These are the first actual pictures of the damage that I have seen. I do not get Youtube and all the pictures that I ran across have been on video!

      The only word that comes to mind is “FURY!” I find a comparison between the devastation in Joplin and the huge hurricane that hit southern Florida. I worked for a major insurance company during that hurricane. I would listen to adjusters’ stories about how hard it was working that catastrophe – no street signs – nothing left to use as a compass to use to find their homes. People sitting on their rubble with guns trying to chase looters off their property. The deep dispair that set in as time went by as they began to try to reconstruct their lives.

      Thanks for this post. It is very enlightening.


  2. Syphilis and STD’s need to be controlled


    • William E. Males says:

      They are.

      Those living in the guidelines of God’s wisdom are virtually excluded from contracting the disease . . . unless they have contact with with a spouse who has been unfaithful to those guidelines.

      Seems pretty controlled to me.


  3. Rene says:

    I visited family in Joplin after the tornado. While I was there, I noticed in the Joplin Globe one day a list of hundreds of street addresses of destroyed properties that were targeted as nuisances to be removed unless the owners responded. Since many of Joplin’s streets are named after U.S. States, it was like a roll call of the U.S. If you look at the Google map below and follow the path of the tornado along 20th Avenue from Main St. to Range Line (71), you will see that it passes through Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Montana, Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Kansas, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Arizona. If you are inclined to find anything prophetic in this terrible tragedy, it could be seen as a warning to the entire country. (I certainly hope not.) I have not been able to find that list of addresses on-line (it was in the print edition) but here are links below to the map and article.


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