By Frankie Meyer
JOPLIN, Mo. —
If you haven’t checked the University of Missouri Digital Library website, you will be amazed at the types of databases that are online free of charge.
This week, I checked several maps that were compiled and published by the Sanborn Fire Insurance Co. to help the insurance industry assess the risk of insuring a piece of property.
The website has 390 maps that Sanborn made of Missouri towns from 1880 to 1923. Each map has a key that explains the symbols that are used. Most of the maps only show businesses.
If an ancestor owned or worked at a town business, one can often find the building on the map and learn details such as the type of material it was made of, the location of windows and doors, the number of floors, the type of heat used, the type of roof, the type of lighting and the type of businesses that were nearby.
To access the maps, go to digital.library.umsystem.edu. When the site opens, click on “Sanborn Maps for Missouri.”
When the next screen opens, enter the name of a town and click on “Search.” The next screen will probably have maps of the town.
Most small towns are included, but a few aren’t. For example, there are maps for Southwest City in McDonald County but not Pineville, the county seat. Larger towns such as Joplin have several maps, each showing a different part of town.
Buildings are shown in colors. Yellow ones were wood, red ones were brick, blue were stone, gray were iron and brown were adobe. An “X” on a building means it had a shingle roof, a circle means it had a slate or tin roof and a solid circle means the roof was composite. Dots indicate windows.
The maps also show if a business was in the basement, first floor, second floor or other floor. Broken lines near a building mean it had wood cornices. Solid lines near buildings mean they had metal cornices.
According to the 1894 map of Southwest City, the only bridge across Honey Creek on the north end of town was a foot bridge. From the symbols, I learned that the Public School Academy had a roof that was part tin and part shingles. Its structure was brick, and it was heated by two furnaces with its lighting supplied by kerosene lanterns.
The largest company was the Walters and Struthers Roller Mills, located on the north side of Honey Creek. The map showed each of the buildings at the company complex, and listed the purpose of each building as well as the floor on which each piece of large equipment was located. The map noted that there was no watchman and no stove in the buildings. Coal oil lanterns were used. Water buckets were on the second and third floor. Cordwood was piled close by.
Some of the other businesses were barber shops, churches, livery stables, implement and hardware stores, hotels, general merchandise stores, meat shops, grocery stores, paint and furniture stores, wagon and buggy stores, banks, pool rooms, saloons, drug stores, jewelry stores, cobbler shops, photo galleries, post offices, doctor offices, boarding houses and millinery shops.
Suggestions or queries? Send to Frankie Meyer, 509 N. Center St., Plainfield, IN 46168, or contact: firstname.lastname@example.org