In 1897, the residents voted $35,000 in bonds for waterworks. Prior to that time, individual water wells had been used exclusively, and each building had its barrel of water in front for fire protection. Also in that year J. C. Fisher was granted a franchise to operate the first electric light plant. From his first plant on south Bell Street, he furnished current for 10 “arc lights” that had to be trimmed each day.

NEW WATERWORKS FOR THE CITY

In 1897, the residents voted $35,000 in bonds for waterworks. Prior to that time, individual water wells had been used exclusively, and each building had its barrel of water in front for fire protection. Also in that year J. C. Fisher was granted a franchise to operate the first electric light plant. From his first plant on south Bell Street, he furnished current for 10 “arc lights” that had to be trimmed each day.

The seat of the city government in 1897 was set up a half block south on Main and Bell streets, with the city offices, jail, and fire departments all housed in two small frame buildings.

The Mammoth Department store was finished and started in 1897, by H.F. Potts, and was later bought by George Kerfoot and his brother from El Reno.

SHAWNEE SAYS NO TO FRISCO

Shawnee may have been the liveliest spot in the Territory in 1897. It was only natural when former Federal Judge Isaac C. Parker and Dennis Flynn, representing the Frisco Railroad, came to the city seeking an ear on their proposal to build through the town. The two spent some time talking to the powers around town. However, the town leaders were not favorably impressed.

The “town bosses” enjoyed their uncontested domain in which their word and will was the absolute law. If the Frisco could build through the community, it would mean a much bigger town, competition, and the end of their sweet monopoly.

Thus, the leaders of Shawnee basically told the Frisco representatives in so many words, “Gentlemen, get on your horses and ride out. We’d sooner pay you $30,000 to stay out than 10 cents to come in.”

They justified their position by explaining that a north-south railroad would build many small towns along the way, and therefore, take trade away from Shawnee.

POLITICS AS USUAL

The year of 1897 was much like most all years in politics. It was nearing city election time as the spring approached and there were several “tickets” available for the citizens to choose from. However, the Democrats, under the leadership of Bob Galbreath, contended that the Citizen Ticket was not being legally put before the people. A protest was organized and presented to the City Clerk to keep them off the ballots.

They claimed the ticket was not regularly filed and could not be presented to the people for vote. The rumor going around town was that the clerk would eliminate them. There were also protests or opinions in the city that everything was in order, but these things led up to a lively election on April 6.

The newly elected officials were: James T. Farrall as Mayor; Ben Dierker became City Clerk and Treasurer; E.E. Hood won the City Attorney post; John C. Boswell became the city Marshal; First Ward Aldermen were A.F. Streight and Charles T. Bushfield; Second Ward were C.S. Scott and J.N. Berry; Third Ward were E.W. Craft and H.H. Henderson; with William S. Search and J.C. Martin winning the nod for the Fourth Ward.

CHURCHES OF 1897

By 1897, seven church denominations were basically established in the city: Presbyterian, located on the corner of 9th and Bell, and pastored by S.A. Caldwell; Methodist, located on the corner of 9th and Beard, with J.C. Williamson as pastor; South Methodist, on south Broadway and pastored by J.W. Full; Christian, on the corner of 7th and Philadelphia; Catholic, on the corner of 9th and Park, with Father Felix DeGrasse as pastor; the Baptist Tabernacle, on Union Avenue and W.R. Chandler was the pastor; and the Methodist-Episcopal, located near downtown and pastored by T.O. Pipkin.

THE BUILDING CONTINUES

Shawnee was in the middle of a grove that was about as beautiful as nature could provide, and was encircled by the water of the North Canadian River. It was surrounded by the most fertile and productive farming land that ever “grew a pumpkin.” With this advantage, it is easy to see how the town took on an attraction to outsiders that few communities in Oklahoma or Indian territories had.

The citizens of the city knew this and became very prideful in their abode. In fact, as the century was about to turn, many people often referred to the city as the “Proud Princess.”

As people began to migrate to the city, the building boom continued. New places included the Oscar Lee Building that housed the State Bank and the new dry goods firm of C.D. Smith & Brothers. It contained a 50-foot frontage.

The Harris Building was built on the site of the old post office and was a handsome brick, two-story structure that was 25x90. It also contained a wholesale liquor house.

The handsome new two-story brick structure on the corner of Main and Broadway, 50x140, was erected by W.J. Callahan. It was occupied by the post office and a news stand and hotel.

W.G. Montgomery erected a two-story, 50x90, brick building on west Main Street.

The new Iron Foundry, on the corner of Main and Market, was 25x80, and made of brick. It was built by G.B. Rogers & Son, of Gainesville, Texas.

D.E. Fruit and Alfred Beard erected a building just west of the Hesse Building on Main and Beard. A.F. Wayland, Willard Johnston, Henry Beard, and Martin J. Bentley jointly erected a building on Main and Bell streets. W.E. Brooks opened his photography business on Broadway, as did Silas Kirksey on Union Avenue.

Residential areas were going up even faster than the commercial areas. Prices of lots were still relatively cheap and the citizens and migrants were building at a rapid rate. Yet despite all this, the town was not considered as a “wild boom town.”

CITY SCHOOLS ON THE MOVE

In May of 1897, the city council leased to the school board 300 square feet in the southeast corner of Woodland Park. The terms of the lease were for 99 years, upon the condition that a well be sunk at once for use of the city temporarily. At their next meeting, a bill for $17.25 was produced for the boring of the well.

The original school property, as set aside by Etta Beard’s plat of Shawnee was on the northwest side of what became Main and Beard streets. It began at the corner of Union and Highland, and ran west along Highland to Kickapoo.

The school board in its annual report of 1898, being the first board to assume management of the school, found the district heavily in debt. A bonded debt of $7,500 and several hundreds of dollars of warrants were needed to be paid. They were unable to find the property that they owed for, such as furniture and other apparatus that the district was accountable for. Apparently, the preceding boards were careless in taking care of the school’s property. It turned out that most of the property was stolen or lost. The board also found most of the buildings dilapidated and were forced to make expenditures to repair them.

During the year, the board bought six lots in the third ward and moved the building there from the park. They also bought six lots in the fourth ward and constructed a school for the colored children.

J.H. Ware was superintendent at that time of the report, succeeding George McKinnis in 189., He served through the 1901-02 school term.

(Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian in the process of writing and publishing the comprehensive history of the city of Shawnee. Look for it, “Redbud City,” in 2018.)