JOPLIN, Mo. — Even some lifelong residents of Joplin may not be aware of the difference between two cemeteries on either side of the same street.
McClelland Park Road is the dividing line between Parkway Cemetery on the east side and Osborne Memorial on the west.
In 1922, the City of Joplin bought a large parcel of land there for the purpose of opening up a new facility because it’s existing public cemetery, Fairview, would soon be out of room.
But even before the new facility was built, Jill Halbach, a member of the Joplin Historic Preservation Commission, a group that’s done extensive research on city cemeteries, says it was destined to be used by two different groups of Joplin residents.
“And there was a local group, a local organization that said ‘Hey, if we’re doing this, then we should also have a cemetery that’s for exclusive use for Joplin’s Black citizens,'” said Halbach.
That organization, called “The Joplin Colored Citizens’ Club” lobbied the city to have the east side of the property to be called “Parkway Cemetery” although it’s not known why the Joplin City Council decided on that particular name.
But this facility meant a lot more to the Black community at the time than just as a cemetery.
“Of course this was during a time where African Americans and Black families had very little options for where they could gather and have fellowship and so the cemetery also served as that, there were picnics, there were celebrations,” added Halbach.
The east side of the property was constructed as a W.P.A. or Works Progress Administration project during the Roosevelt administration and opened in 1933.