The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

April 27, 2013

Franklin rebuilds after 2003 storm

FRANKLIN, Kan. — Former Crawford County Sheriff Sandy Horton remembered it as a “furious, furious storm.”

The F-4 tornado that hit Crawford County, Kan., late in the afternoon of May 4, 2003, was one of several spawned by a storm system that moved through that Sunday.

As the tornado swept through the small, unincorporated towns of Ringo and Franklin, wind speeds topped 200 miles per hour — strong enough to pull grass from the ground.

At 5:11 p.m., it all but leveled Franklin, population 476, taking with it one-third of the homes and buildings, the post office and the community center. It killed Josephine Maghe, 87, in her home of 50 years.

“It stayed on the ground longer than any storm I’d ever seen, and it did more damage than anything I’ve ever seen,” Horton said.

The same tornado claimed more lives in Missouri, hitting Stockton, where it destroyed 80 more homes and damaged and destroyed many businesses.

In all, that tornado claimed seven lives.

But Franklin would not let itself be a victim of the May 4, 2003, outbreak.

Franklin community activist and historian Phyllis Bitner often thinks of what might have happened if everyone hadn’t banded together there in the aftermath of that storm.

“Would it have just stayed a barren wasteland? We’re all really proud of what we have done. We didn’t just let the little town die.”

What the town has accomplished in the past 10 years, she said, has been the direct result of “people rolling up their shirtsleeves.”

The community center was rebuilt, as was a community park and several homes.

“Help came from so many places that we were not anticipating,” Bitner said.

One photo in an album at the rebuilt Franklin Community Center shows Melvin Patrick, Ray Hamblin and John Nepote installing a sign in the park. Another shows Brenda Stokes serving chili at a fundraiser at the Bargain Bazaar.

Still another shows Butch Maxwell and Ron Wilbert installing letters on the welcome sign near the entrance to the town.

For the past week, Peggy Prince, Alan Roberts and Bess Strukel have been busy making final preparations at the community center that will serve as host for a six-week traveling exhibit by the Smithsonian Institution, which organizers anticipate will attract 18,000 visitors.

Plans already are under way to add on to the Franklin Miners Hall Museum inside the community center, which for the past year has been host to a series of monthly exhibits focusing on trades and industries that helped build Southeast Kansas.

“Now we’re bringing 500 people a month to Franklin to see the new museum,” Bitner said. “How can that be?”

At 4 p.m. Thursday, the Franklin Farmers Market will open in the newly landscaped park, and will continue there each Thursday throughout the growing season.

The post office has not been rebuilt and, in light of recent budget struggles by the U.S. Postal Service, likely never will, Bitner said.

Some of the now-vacant lots where homes once stood likely won’t be rebuilt on in the near future.

“Many of those were owned by elderly residents who had lived here all their lives, but they’ve moved on to places like assisted living centers or in with family,” Bitner said. “The good news is we’ve been in contact with their children who live elsewhere, and many of them say that when they retire, they plan to come back and build on those lots.”


A flag dedication ceremony is planned for 12:30 p.m. on May 4 in front of the Franklin Community Center, and a remembrance ceremony is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Franklin Community Park. Following the ceremonies, the Franklin Community Council will host a picnic.

“We’re trying to keep it positive, to focus on all we’ve accomplished,” Bitner said.

Text Only
Local News
  • State audit of Joplin School District begins

    Staff members from the state auditor’s office have begun their audit of the Joplin School District, Superintendent C.J. Huff said Monday. They are expected to be in the district four days per week for the next five to six months, or perhaps longer, until the audit is complete, Huff said.

    July 21, 2014

  • Burglary conviction draws shock prison time

    A Joplin man who received 120 days of shock incarceration time Friday in a drunken-driving case in Jasper County Circuit Court was assessed a concurrent sentence Monday in a burglary case.

    July 21, 2014

  • Mike Pound 2010.jpg Mike Pound: Family gatherings mirror circle of life

    The annual family gathering is getting bigger. There tends to be an ebb and a flow to most family gatherings. When you’re a kid, and especially if you’re a kid from a large Catholic family, the gatherings seem to be huge.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • 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

  • 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

  • 071714 Jasper Cty Dispatch1_72.jpg Area communities, Jasper County work to improve communications

    The first law enforcement officer to respond to a fatal shooting last November at Northpark Mall was from the Duquesne Police Department — not Joplin. Joplin police Chief Jason Burns said he wasn’t bothered by that. “We dispatch for them, and they had an officer close who could get there faster,” he said. “And getting help to people as quickly as possible is more important than jurisdictions.”

    July 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • New and old TIF districts on agenda for Joplin council

    Another tax increment financing district is being proposed for Joplin, this one along South Main Street. The area is close to the new Mercy Hospital Joplin that is set to open next year. RKS Development is seeking authorization from the Joplin City Council when it meets Monday night to prepare a request to establish a TIF district.

    July 20, 2014

  • AndraBryanStefanoni.jpg Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Family grows by one — a black Lab named Raven

    If you haven’t experienced the feeling of a tiny puppy in your lap at the end of a perfect July Saturday — hammock time, s’mores, leisurely walks, you know the kind — I highly recommend it. It is pure joy.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • 042017 Jo Ellis_c.jpg Jo Ellis: Car show, sidewalk sale and more scheduled for weekend in Carthage

    All roads leading to Carthage should be packed this weekend as numerous events geared toward entertainment, cultural pursuits and bargain hunting are expected to pull in large crowds.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • SusanRedden.jpg Susan Redden: Hobby Lobby lawyer to speak at watermelon feed

    Josh Hawley, who helped represent Hobby Lobby in arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on contraception requirements in the Affordable Care Act, has been added to the list of speakers for Thursday’s annual watermelon feed sponsored by Newton County Republicans.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

Must Read


Do you think Missouri should pass legislation that would allow a prescription drug database to be kept?

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