Last week I mentioned the rowdy activities at Johnson’s Vaudeville Theatre in early-day Joplin, but sometimes things crossed the line from rowdy to violent.

Last week I mentioned the rowdy activities at Johnson’s Vaudeville Theatre in early-day Joplin, but sometimes things crossed the line from rowdy to violent.
In 1877, Frank Carney, a brother of Cora Johnson, arrived in Joplin to visit his sister and began helping out in the Vaudeville saloon. On Oct. 17, George O’Bannon stumbled into the bar drunk and knocked over a stove, scattering fire and ashes on the floor. Carney tried to get the man to clean up the mess, and they got into a violent argument. When O’Bannon cursed Carney, Carney knocked him down and began beating him, but O’Bannon pulled a knife and stabbed his assailant. O’Bannon was quickly arrested and lodged in jail, while Carney, although seriously wounded, soon revived.
In the wee hours of Dec. 18, 1879, Cora announced that it was time to close the saloon and started to lock up. Two young hellions named Billy Beck and Charles Marshall told her not to be so fast because they wanted something more to drink. Willing to stay open a while longer, Cora sat back down, but when Beck asked whether his credit was good, she told him no. Beck replied with profane language, and bartender Johnny Manning intervened, herding Beck out of the building. While Cora went behind the bar to get the day’s receipts from the money till, Marshall followed Beck and Manning outside and fired a shot at the bartender. Manning ducked back into the saloon, and the two hellions rushed in behind him. Marshall fired a shot that struck a mirror near Cora’s head, shattering the glass into pieces, and Cora dashed into an adjoining room. The two hell-raisers fled, as A. S. Johnson gave chase with a double-barrel shotgun. Both young men were later arrested for felonious assault.
One of Johnson’s employees, gambler Jake Pecora, started running a lunch counter at the Vaudeville saloon in partnership with Al Searle. On Sunday, June 27, 1880, the two partners got into a disagreement and ended up, according to the Joplin Daily Herald, indulging in “a first class row.” Pecora drew a pistol, but Searle kicked it out of his hand, causing it to go off, and the ball struck Searle in the foot. Pecora was arrested and charged with felonious assault. Among the witnesses for the state in the case were Thomas Carney, who was another brother of Cora Johnson, and a soiled dove named Allie Rogers. The charges against Pecora were eventually dropped.
On June 6, 1881, after A. S. Johnson had sold the saloon to Pecora, Tom Carney started to take some silverware from the saloon, claiming it belonged to his sister and her husband. Pecora said he owned the silverware because it came with the property, and the two men got into a violent argument. Pecora had Carney put out of the saloon, and Carney went next door to his sister’s house to get a pistol. Back at the saloon, he opened fire on Pecora, who returned fire. Approximately eight shots were fired in all, and Charles Thompson, a theater performer, was hit and mortally wounded. Carney was charged with murder, but he, too, died from his wounds before the case came to trial.

Larry Wood writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.