It was estimated on good authority at the time that negotiations were underway by which the Jay Gould Railway interests were about the acquire the Choctaw, Oklahoma & Gulf Railroad system. The rumors were in January of 1902, that the deal was about to happen anytime.


It was estimated on good authority at the time that negotiations were underway by which the Jay Gould Railway interests were about the acquire the Choctaw, Oklahoma & Gulf Railroad system. The rumors were in January of 1902, that the deal was about to happen anytime.

By an agreement made with the other railroads in Oklahoma, Gould could not build one mile of track in the Territory. However, nothing would prevent him from buying a road already there.

The local Commercial Club was in correspondence with officials of the Choctaw for several months and received assurances that the road would be extended to Shawnee.


Behind the columns of Oklahoma Baptist University’s Administration Hall lie years of perseverance and hard work by church leaders striving to build a great institution of higher learning; and years of persistent effort by Shawnee leaders who wanted that institution in the city.

The location of the university in Shawnee was due primarily to the efforts of George E. McKinnis. In fact, it was at a dinner at his home in 1902, that the idea was born.

That year, the Baptist Convention of Oklahoma and Indian territories held their annual meetings in the city. During the session, the two consolidated into the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Two leading pastors, guests of McKinnis, were commenting on this step toward harmony when the opinion was ventured that Shawnee would be an ideal location for a Baptist school of higher learning. Not just a small college, but a real university that would take its place among the territories’ best.


On January 24, 1902, the Choctaw east-bound train brought to Shawnee the Honorable Henry Asp, Oklahoma solicitor for the Santa Fe Railroad. He was accompanied by W.H. Coyle, the right-of-way director for Eastern Oklahoma; Chief Engineer James Jones of that road; and W.F. Callahan, who had the contracts from Edward Ripley to Cushing and from Pawnee to Ralston. All those gentlemen went at once to the Burt Hotel. They had come unannounced, but it took very little time for them to assemble a body of representative businessmen in the parlors of the Burt, after they let it be known that they had brought the maps and profiles of the line that the Santa Fe was considering. The word was that they were determined to build a “short line” through the city, provided the reasonable requests of the company were complied with by the city.

Bankers W.N. Douglas, Willard Johnston, and C.J. Benson represented the three National banks. Harry Meade, Charlie Pottenger, Dr. B.F. Hamilton, Henry Beard, A.M. Coffin, R.A. Timmons, M. Kerfoot, and representatives of the local newspapers were present.

Asp explained the nature of the aid which Shawnee would be required to give to secure the road. The first proposition called for the right-of-way from the Lincoln County line to Shawnee on the line through that the engineers thought would be best from the east side to the south at a bonus of not less than $10,000.

After much negotiations, the bonus was omitted and the people of Shawnee were merely required to obtain the right-of-way from the North Canadian River to the Lincoln County line together with such ordinances as would permit the company to occupy such streets and alleys as were necessary with its tracks.

After hearing the report, it was decided to at once call a public meeting of the citizens that night at the Opera House and bills were printed to that effect and other means employed to get out the businessmen and property holders. The spacious hall was well filled and Harry Meade called the meeting to order and introduced the Honorable Frank Clark to state the object of the meeting that he did in forcible and eloquent terms.

Asp followed Judge Clark, and won the hearty applause of the auditors by his ringing declaration for single statehood and the development of these two grand territories. He formally explained the position of the company and the nature and purpose of the visit to the city. The matter was not totally settled at the meeting, but the railroad representatives went away almost assured that it would happen.

On this same subject, Shawnee was covered with railroad surveys and “Colonel” C.N. Points had a franchise to run his street cars on every street, but that it was thought of as no reason why a “sure-enough” railroad should not be added in making the city a principal point on the line.


 There was a smear of trouble in the wind all day Thursday, March 13, 1902. Some of the city and county officers of the law went about looking wise and their “big works” came off about 10 A.M. A deserted home, a runaway wife and her lover were parties in the opening and closing scene.

John Riggs, a plasterer from Shawnee, went to El Reno on March 11, in search of his wife, whom he had been informed was living in that city with a lover by the name of William Oliver, who was also a plasterer. He received word about a week earlier from friends living there, that his wife was living with Oliver and they were living as husband and wife.

Riggs sent a picture of his wife and a general description to the city authorities in El Reno, and she was located at the Oliver residence. He was notified by El Reno officers that the runaway wife was there and Riggs quickly arrived there to investigate.

A warrant was sworn out for Oliver and the law enforcement gathered him in. He was guarded by the undersheriff of the town and Riggs prepared to pay his bond.

An interesting twist on the story concerned the fact that the summer before Oliver was in Shawnee and worked for Riggs. It was there that he became acquainted with Mrs. Riggs, and her affection for him grew. After Oliver left and was gone for some time, she also left and went to Geary, OK. That was in December of 1901, and Riggs had not heard from her since.

Interestingly, after Oliver had been placed under arrest, he met Riggs and invited him down to dine with him and his old wife. Of course, Riggs refused.

Oliver was from Lincoln, IL, where he had a wife and three children. He had been arrested once before in Shawnee for the same offense, but managed to escape from the officers and was never made to answer for the charges. Mr. Riggs sued for a divorce and custody of their three children.

(Look for the comprehensive history of the city of Shawnee, “Redbud City,” coming in 2018.)