The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

December 9, 2012

Jo Ellis: Hall of Carthage Heroes to be unveiled Dec. 21

By Jo Ellis
Globe Columnist

CARTHAGE, Mo. — A stroll down the Hall of Carthage Heroes will be a lot like one of those two-minute videos that encapsulate world history, only it will be Carthage history and it may take a bit longer than two minutes.

For the past several months, a group that grew out of the Jasper County Courthouse Preservation Committee has been working on establishing a permanent exhibit honoring Carthage’s pre-eminent residents over the span of the city’s existence.

The work will come to fruition with an induction ceremony at 11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 21, according to Sue Vandergriff, committee chairwoman. The exhibit, created with ceramic tiles, will feature a mural of Carthage scenes, photos and information on those residents. It is to be installed in the main corridor at the Carthage Family Y, 2600 Grand Ave.

The old photos were gathered with the help of Michele Hansford, curator/director of the Powers Museum. They are being re-created on 18- by 12-inch ceramic tiles by Images in Tile.

Criteria for selection to the Hall of Heroes were based on “being worthy of emulation,” Vandergriff said. “These are the men and women who built Carthage, who can be an inspiration to the kids in the community.”

Among the early heroes chosen for the inaugural induction are Amos Caffee, physician, surgeon and druggist; Gustav Cassil, founder and first president of the Bank of Carthage; Malcolm McGregor, another founder of the Bank of Carthage; Norris Hood, the first Jasper County sheriff; Timothy Regan, the first city postmaster and the developer of Park Cemetery; Charles Harrington, owner of the Harrington Hotel who established the first fire department; and John Shirley, who owned most of the north side of the square where he also had a hotel.

The list also includes Dr. Robert Brooks and Dr. Thomas McCune, physicians who cared for the city’s population and whose generosity helped establish McCune-Brooks Hospital, forerunner of today’s Mercy McCune-Brooks Hospital; industrialist H.E. Williams, founder of Williams Lighting, currently one of the city’s largest employers; and Joseph Leggett and Cornelius Platt, who developed an innovative wire spring coil and founded Leggett & Platt Inc.

Vandergriff said she is pleased that the inductees include women and African-Americans: Annie Baxter, an early feminist and the first woman to hold an elected office in Missouri (Jasper County clerk); Emma Knell, a mortician, promoter of the Jasper County Fair and a state representative; and Col. Kenneth O. Wofford, one of the original Tuskegee airmen who served in World War II.

Six athletes are honored with inclusion: Carl Hubbell, New York Giants baseball Hall of Famer; Harry Putnam, football and track star; Bill Samuels, football; Toby Waters, wrestling; Jack Crusa Sr., golf; and Felix Wright, a National Football League player. Samuels, Wright and Waters are expected to attend the induction.

Completing the list are Ward Schrantz, an early historian; James Scott, internationally known ragtime composer; Marlin Perkins, naturalist and host of TV’s “Wild Kingdom”; and the Steadley family, whose philanthropic efforts have benefited every aspect of the quality of life for Carthage residents.

Kudos to the Hall of Carthage Heroes committee — Bill Putnam, Steve Weldon, Danny Ross, Mark Elliff and Vandergriff — for their work on this exciting project. Funding, all from private donors, is administered by the Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri. Plans call for new inductees to be added at the rate of 12 per year. Vandergriff said nomination forms are available at the Carthage Chamber of Commerce.

The public may attend the induction ceremony. So mark your calendar accordingly.

ADDRESS CORRESPONDENCE to Jo Ellis, c/o The Joplin Globe, Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802 or email news@joplinglobe.com.