Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rich Hill's historic Opera House (Wagon Wheels)may 31,1979

Part 1
In the late 1880's when the town was booming and the population was increasing daily,Thomas D. Sanderson, a hardware merchant, and S. B. Lashbrook saw the possibilities of a profitable enterprise by providing a place for entertainment and pubic meetings. With this in mind they built a two story double brick structure at the cost of $11,000 in the heart of town.The ground floor was used for a drugstore and grocery store.
The upstairs was to be opera house fashioned after those in the larger metropolitan areas. The gallery would seat five hundred people. The opera house was to be used for dramatic presentations using both local talent and commercial entertainers.
It was also used for public speakers when such dignitaries as Governors Marmaduke,Polk,Francis and Dockery acme to town . Many important speakers appeared on the platform including senators W.J. Stone and Jarves A. Reed . William Jennings Bryan,Candidate for President,also known as the "Silver Tongued Orator" was scheduled to make an appearance, but a tornado near Joplin delayed his Train for Several hours, and the speech had to be canceled.
The Opera House served still another purpose. When the businessmen met to consider important issues for the improvement of the town ,the meeting was held in the Opera House.Representatives of Railroads met with business men try to sell shares for the construction of a Railroad to nearby towns.On one occasion $100,000 was pledge to build a railroad to Walker,Schell City and ElDorado Springs.The project never materialized not for the lack of money or cooperation but because of the difficulty of building a grade across the Maraais Des Cygnes bottoms.

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