By late November of 1896, the citizens of Shawnee got word that a statehood convention was set to meet in the city in early December. Delegations were invited from the counties of Oklahoma: Cleveland, Canadian, Kingfisher, Logan, Pottawatomie, Lincoln, Payne, Washita, Mills, Day, Blaine, Kay, Grant, Woods, Garland, Noble, Pawnee, C and O counties.

By late November of 1896, the citizens of Shawnee got word that a statehood convention was set to meet in the city in early December. Delegations were invited from the counties of Oklahoma: Cleveland, Canadian, Kingfisher, Logan, Pottawatomie, Lincoln, Payne, Washita, Mills, Day, Blaine, Kay, Grant, Woods, Garland, Noble, Pawnee, C and O counties.

The convention was called in obedience to a general request from all parts of the Territory, and for the purpose of re-affirming the demand for early statehood. Arrangements were made for railroad discounts on tickets, allowing accommodations for the delegates to travel to Shawnee.

When the convention met on Wednesday, December 4, 1896, it was described as one of the largest and enthusiastic crowds every held to that point in the Territory. Most of the delegates arrived on the train at 12:45 PM, and was greeted with a hardy welcome by a good-sized group of citizens. They were escorted to the various hotels while being entertained by the local band.

The convention began at 3 PM, with the Honorable Sidney Clarke, chairman, calling the meeting to order. Reverend Griffith Gunn gave the invocation. J.V. Admire, of the Kingfisher Press, was chosen as the temporary chairman, with J.Q. Blakney of the Oklahoman, and E.H. Perry of the Perry Times-Enterprise, chosen as secretaries.

The convention listened to several speakers and then appointed several committees before adjourning to allow the committees to go to work on their tasks.

They reassembled at 7:40 and listened to the committee reports. Several resolutions were made, such as, the declaration of the convention to urge the U.S. Congress to consider their petition for passing an enabling act to admit Oklahoma into the Union. There were minority reports where certain delegates wished to form the state from Oklahoma Territory and the Chickasaw Nation.

At 11:30 a vote was taken, which resulted in the adoption of the majority report by a vote of 137 to 95. The convention then adjourned.

The dance given for the delegates by the Crescent Club was considered “one of the most pleasant events of the season,” and was enjoyed by many of the visitors.

SHAWNEE GETS THE SHOPS

For several weeks the people of Shawnee were anxious in regard to the location of the Choctaw machine shops. However, in early February of 1896, that was put to rest. The proposition that was submitted by the Choctaw Railroad Company was accepted by city. It was then signed by John W. McLoud, attorney for the railroad, bringing the shops to Shawnee.

The shops meant much for the city, as the company would spend much money on the buildings and round houses. Also, the force that was necessary to build the shops became a valuable addition for the town. It allowed local people to find work in the shops for very good wages.

With the contract, the company began the removal of the shops from South McAlester in 15 days. They also added much to the size of the shops that were previously at the former city.

The city was very appreciative of Oscar G. Lee, and others, who so ably assisted him in securing the location of the shops. Lee was especially active and worked tirelessly in the matter.

The railroad eventually did a tremendous amount of additional work, adding side tracks, wyes, and other things. It led to the spending of thousands of dollars in Shawnee, most of it with the local merchants.

CITY ELECTION

The city-wide election on April 8, 1896, was a highly emotional contest between two competing political views. The local news media called it “a grand and glorious victory for the good people of Shawnee. It cannot be called a Republican victory for the fact that many good Democratic citizens voted for Mr. Search.”

The day was a dusty, windy one, but the voters were all out and a lively time was had. The following is the final vote from the four city wards:

Charles Knox, the Democrat, was elected as City Clerk by 102 votes over George Boggs, the Republican. From the First Ward, Dr. H.J. Keith and Oscar Lee were selected as Aldermen; Robert Reed and L.C. Thompson won their posts in the Second Ward; in the Third Ward, Charles Linn and W.M. Estes tied and would have to be selected by lot, won by Linn; and finally, in the Fourth Ward, George Overstreet and C.C. Blake were elected. William S. Search was elected Mayor by a count of 285-218 over Bob Galbreath. William K. Dodge earned the City Attorney over Hammond by 35 votes. B.K. Brown, the incumbent, was re-elected as Police Judge over Judd by a count of 278-174. Rush Chrisman edged Richards by a count of 205-186 for Assessor. In the city Treasurer’s race, the Democratic candidate, W.C. Jones, beat his rival Ragan by a vote of 224 to 192.

FOREST CITY, THE BUSIEST TOWN

IN OKLAHOMA

By late 1896, Shawnee was experiencing a boom that no other city in the Territory had. Stores, office buildings, a boiler house and engine rooms, a carpenter house, and a paint shop were receiving their finishing touches in the town.

The largest building in the Twin Territories, the engine house and shop was nearing completion. Aside from all this, there were several other brick buildings under the course of construction. The Maxey-Beard-Grussel Block, which had a frontage of several hundred feet, was set to become one of the new buildings on Main Street. The Lee Block was a new structure with a frontage of 50 feet on the corner of Main and Bell streets.

The large hotel of W.F. Callahan’s on the corner of Broadway and Main greeted the eyes of Shawnee visitors for many years. And the residential section of the city was not slow about progress either. New, handsome homes were going up all over town.

(Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian and is currently working on the comprehensive history of the city of Shawnee, “Redbud City,” due for publication in 2018.)