History of Joplin’s Klu Klux Klan Cave
Klu Klux Klan Cave | Joplin, Missouri
The Ku Klux Klan, as most people know, arose in the aftermath of the Civil War, ostensibly as a law-and-order organization, but it ended up dishing out its brand of justice in a discriminatory manner, mainly targeting freed slaves. The group fell out of favor after a few years as its racist tendencies became increasingly clear.
However, the KKK enjoyed a revival starting about 1915, and in 1921 a local branch of the secret organization was formed in Joplin. The organizational meeting was held at Schifferdecker Park and drew an estimated crowd of 1,500 people. Not long after the formation, the group purchased a cave near Belleville a few miles west of Joplin.
References to the cave in local newspapers come from 1924, it's clear from the context of these references that the cave had already been in use as a KKK meeting place for some time.
The Joplin KKK was definitely not without its opposition, however. In late 1923 or early 1924, a local anti-Klan group arose, and in the spring 1924 school and city elections, the anti-KKK organization mounted a strong campaign against the Klan and for its own members to be elected to the school board and to city commissions. The group charged that the Klan was dividing the city, threatening the local institutions of government, intimidating citizens, and endangering their liberties. "Will you vote for a continuance of this condition," one anti-Klan newspaper ad challenged, "or do you desire release from this stranglehold of a group...who have so dominated our city affairs that you have no voice in its administration, and must perforce accept the dictates of a secret society that issues its edicts from the Ku Klux Klan cave at Belville.” Apparently, however, the KKK still held sway in Joplin, because all the candidates endorsed by the anti-Klan group lost.
In 1940, with World War II on the horizon, some Joplin city officials proposed to the federal government that the old KKK cave be used as a war industry site, perhaps a munitions plant. The local officials said the cave was two miles long with openings at both ends and that it was 20 to 30 feet high and could be widened to 20 to 50 feet, so that vehicles could be driven through it. The government rejected the proposal, however.
The Second Coming of the KKK: The KKK of the 1920's and the American Political Tradition illustrates the reasons the KKK would grow during the 1920's.
In 1989, the cave along with 10 additional acres was sold at auction. In recent years, the cave, dubbed the Old Haunted Belleville Cave, has been used as a commercial haunted house during the Halloween season.


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