The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

June 7, 2013

History buffs take Galena bordello promoter to task on accuracy

GALENA, Kan. — The seedier side of Galena’s past — a past involving prostitutes and murders — has come back to life with the resurrection of an historic bordello-turned-tourist destination, and questions are being raised about just what happened in days gone by.

On Monday, the Discovery Channel’s Ghost Lab, with paranormal investigators Brad and Barry Klinge, will be in town to capture interviews with old-timers as well as re-enactments for B-roll using local actors and actresses, said Russ Keeler.

His Siloam Springs, Ark.-based business, After Midnight Paranormal Investigations, now dovetails with what was once a crumbling, two-story home at 206 N. Main St. on historic Route 66.

“We’re going to get video clips of miners and prostitutes, and some of the events that may or may not have taken place,” he said last week.

Keeler said he has recorded what he claims is “a lot of paranormal evidence.” He has plans to offer paid tours and overnight accommodations in what he referred to for a time as “Galena’s Murder Bordello.”

“I think because of its location on Route 66 and national appeal to paranormal enthusiasts, it will attract tourists from all over,” he said.

But two researchers say Keeler had better get the details straight first: Accuracy as to where murders actually took place and who owned the bordello is vital to the historical record of the town.

“I’ve been researching this ever since I retired 10 years ago,” said Carolyn McLean, a native of the area. “I want the record straight.”

And Marilyn Schmidt, president of the Cherokee County Genealogical-Historical Society in Columbus, does too.

They say there is no evidence of a murder having taken place there, and the bordello was never linked to the city’s notorious Steffleback family, some of whose members in 1897 were linked to at least one, and possibly other murders. According to historical records, members of the Steffleback family and their accomplices killed and robbed residents and travelers in the Galena area during its mining heyday.

The Steffleback family was described by The Joplin News in 1897 “as ignorant, ornery and mean a combination as exists and are capable of stooping to anything. They have lived in jails in this vicinity for years.”

The Stefflebacks’ actual house was little more than a primitive log-and-board miner’s cabin that burned down in 1897, McLean said.

Keeler initially referred to the bordello on Main Street in print, on the Internet and in media accounts as “The Steffleback Bordello,” but agreed after McLean’s and Schmidt’s research that there is no evidence linking the bordello and the Steffleback family.

“She is correct in that regard,” Keeler acknowledged this week. “Three years ago, we were called into Galena and were under the assumption this is the house where all the murders took place.”

It’s been a learning experience for him, he said.

McLean said there was never any evidence that the Stefflebacks ever owned or were associated with the bordello.

Keeler said that after digging through additional research, he, too, was unable to make a solid connection, and on his company’s website concluded: “Although many claim this is the Steffleback Bordello, not to be confused with their home, which was a old run down log house on the edge of Galena, Kan., we have not been able to tie Nancy (Steffleback) or her family to the location by historical records.”

He added: “However, lots of paranormal evidence has led us to believe they are here.”

The nefarious Stefflebacks in 1897 were charged with and convicted of one murder.

Schmidt, president of the Historical Society, said: “In this notebook from our genealogy library, we have all the newspaper articles that appeared in the Galena and Columbus newspapers from 1897-1901, that includes information the Stefflebacks lived in a shanty on the west edge of Galena on Owl Creek. That shanty was burned down after the Stefflebacks were sent to prison and anything left was carted off as souvenirs.”

The Stefflebacks continue to be a part of the town’s unfolding history, however. Last month, Keeler brought descendants of the Stefflebacks to town to give them a tour. He obtained from them family history that he passed on to Michael Wallis, Route 66 historian and author, for purposes of creating a “little booklet.”

“I’ve agreed with her, she’s right — the Stefflebacks didn’t live there,” Keeler said of McLean. “But their history is fascinating.

“We’re trying to promote to tourists, not trying to misrepresent this was owned by them or even for certain where the murders took place.

“We have an old organ coming in, will be adding old-time furnishings later this month. We’re trying to bring back some of the old times.”

A century ago

Reportedly a house of ill repute a century ago, and condemned to the wrecking ball, developers saved the Galena bordello in January and it has recently undergone some restoration.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Pseudoephedrine sales in Pittsburg to require prescription

    Starting Friday, those who purchase pseudoephedrine and related products in Pittsburg will need a prescription to do so.

    July 22, 2014

  • Cherokee County Commission accepts general counsel's resignation

    Kevin Cure, who has served as general counsel for the Cherokee County Commission since 2005, submitted a handwritten resignation to the board on Monday in the aftermath of a landfill controversy.

    July 22, 2014

  • Mike Pound 2010.jpg Mike Pound: Parents can get help with school supplies

    I don’t know much about demographics other than the fact that I no longer belong to a “targeted demographic.” When I was younger, I was bombarded by commercials and ads from companies that were trying to sell me things that I not only needed but wanted.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jasper County Commission reviews traffic plans

    The Jasper County Commission will hold public hearings today and Thursday on a number of traffic changes proposed in the county. No one spoke when the first hearing was held Tuesday as part of the regular commission meeting, according to Jim Honey, Eastern District associate commissioner.

    July 22, 2014

  • Joplin school board reviews audit procedures

    A team from the Missouri State Auditor’s Office has begun requesting documents in its task to audit the operations and management of the Joplin School District, the audit manager told the Board of Education on Tuesday.

    July 22, 2014

  • Joplin man to stand trial in accident case

    A passenger accused of causing an accident on Interstate 44 in Joplin that injured three others as well as himself was ordered bound over for trial Tuesday on three felony counts.

    July 22, 2014

  • r072214soroptimist3.jpg Volunteers spend week providing camp experience to foster youths

    Karen McGlamery is a massage therapist. Terri Falis-Cochran is a finance manager. Jane McCaulley is a retired art teacher. But for a week each summer, the three are among dozens of area residents who become camp counselors.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Neosho school board hires company to manage substitutes

    Citing its hopes of shifting health care costs and utilizing more time from retired teachers, the Neosho Board of Education granted a contract Monday to a temporary employee company to manage its substitute teacher program.

    July 22, 2014

  • Main Street TIF district study to begin

    A measure that allows the city to charge its $15,000 in administrative costs for studying a proposal to create a tax increment financing district on South Main Street was approved Monday by the Joplin City Council.

    July 21, 2014

  • Carthage man pleads guilty in sexual abuse case

    A Carthage man pleaded guilty Monday to sexual abuse of a 12-year-old girl in a plea agreement that would cap the length of his prison term at no more than 15 years.

    July 21, 2014

Must Read
Sports
Photos


Facebook
Poll

A state lawmaker who is one of two doctors in the Oklahoma Legislature is insisting that unaccompanied immigrant minors being housed at Fort Sill be quarantined. Do you think those kinds of measures should be taken?

A. Yes.
B. No.
     View Results
Opinion
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter