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.

Text Only
Local News
  • Embezzler from Joplin car dealerships sent to prison

    A federal judge has sentenced Kathryn M. Stayton to 13 months in prison for embezzling more than $100,000 from Frank Fletcher Ford and Credit Cars of Joplin. U.S. District Judge Greg Kays assessed the 36-year-old Joplin woman the prison term at a sentencing hearing this week in federal court in Springfield. The judge also ordered the former controller at both car dealerships to pay restitution totaling $121,249. 51.

    April 18, 2014

  • Screening of MSSU presidential applicants to wrap by end of April

    The Board of Governors at Missouri Southern State University could be in a position to name a president as early as the end of June, according to a timeline presented Friday by the co-chair of the presidential search committee.

    April 18, 2014

  • Teams from Carl Junction, Diamond advance in Destination Imagination

    Student teams from Carl Junction and Diamond will be traveling to Destination Imagination finals May 20-24 in Knoxville, Tenn., after being top finishers in competition this month at Missouri Southern State University.

    April 18, 2014

  • Neosho Dogwood Tour reset, after false start

    The 53rd annual Neosho Dogwood Tour will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, April 27. The event, presented by the Neosho Rotary Club and the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce, originally was scheduled for Sunday, April 13.

    April 18, 2014

  • r041814capbus4.jpg Funding shortfall could hinder public transportation in Southeast Kansas

    For the past two years, Pittsburg State University sophomore Travis Cook has been using public transportation to get to and from his classes. He began using the bus his freshman year, when he didn’t have a vehicle to drive even to the grocery store — which is said to be the case for many who use the service.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bruner denied change of venue for murder trial

    Circuit Judge Gayle Crane has denied a change of venue for a defendant charged with fatally shooting an assistant football coach at Missouri Southern State University. The attorney for Jeffrey Bruner claimed pretrial publicity as the reason for seeking a change of venue in Jasper County Circuit Court.

    April 18, 2014

  • Russell family sues city, Joplin police

    Family members of a teenage girl whose suicide a year ago brought them into conflict with police officers and emergency medical technicians are suing the city and the Joplin Police Department. Kevin and Julissa Russell and their son, Brant Russell, are the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in Jasper County Circuit Court. The action filed on the Russells’ behalf by Kansas City attorney Andrew Protzman names the city, the Police Department and Officers Austin Wolf and Tyler Christensen as defendants.

    April 18, 2014

  • Kansas Regents stick with social media policy

    After directing a committee to study a controversial social media policy and make recommended changes, the Kansas Board of Regents appears to not be changing the policy at all. It’s left some in academia baffled by why it appointed the work group in the first place.

    April 18, 2014

  • Pittsburg Farmer's Market to open in new building, new location

    The official market season in Pittsburg, Kan., will kick off in the market’s new pavilion-style building at a new address, 11th and Broadway, on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. Market hours will continue throughout the season on Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to noon, with some Wednesdays or other special days throughout the season as announced.

    April 18, 2014

  • 041714 School safe rooms4_72.jpg Joplin school district readies community safe rooms for storm season

    Thousands of Joplin residents will soon be able to stay safe during storms in some of the region’s newest shelters. Community safe rooms at Cecil Floyd, Stapleton, McKinley and Eastmorland elementary schools, which double as gymnasiums, and Junge Field, which will double as a field house, are expected to be open within the next few weeks, according to Mike Johnson, the school district’s director of construction.

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

Must Read


A Missouri Senate committee has endorsed a 1-cent sales tax increase to fund transportation projects. The proposed constitutional amendment passed the House earlier this month. If passed by the full Senate, the measure would head to the November ballot for voter approval. Would you vote in favor of it?

     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter