On September 1, 1907, the new amusement park of Shawnee was formally opened to the public. The opening ceremony was a matinee given by the “Beggar Prince” Opera Company. Great crowds attended both the matinee and the night performances.

On September 1, 1907, the new amusement park of Shawnee was formally opened to the public. The opening ceremony was a matinee given by the “Beggar Prince” Opera Company. Great crowds attended both the matinee and the night performances.

The Interurban cars were crowded to their full capacity until midnight, carry people to and from the grounds, which was located two miles south of town. Several buildings, such as the boat house, dance hall, and café were not yet completed. However, they were ready before the season was over.

At the entrance to the park, a large rustic bridge was constructed across the lagoon. These rustic bridges were scattered throughout the park. Fountains were erected at different places in the park.

A wonderful transformation was made in turning the place into a beautiful recreation area from its original undergrowth. Numerous workmen and teams were employed for over a month to clear out the grounds.

The park consisted of 21 and one-half acres, purchased from Thomas “Wildcat” Alford. He sold the site on July 17, to the Deka Development Company, owned by William E. Hyde and Russell H. Alexander for $3,190.50. The Shawnee Traction Company had dedicated $85,000 to the project. The park was named for C.J. Benson, a local banker and chairman of the Board of Shawnee-Tecumseh Traction Company. It would thrive for a quarter of a century as one of the main entertainment centers in the area.


Since public meetings had become the rule for Woodland Park because of its central location, it was slowly being ruined by buggies and wagons driving across the grass and cutting up the place. Also, refuse was left by the crowds that made it unsightly. Chairman Harry M. Ticknor, of the Park Board, said he was considering a restriction on so many public meetings in the park.


The federal census was announced by Commissioner W.C. Hunt for the city of Shawnee at Guthrie in early September. With the additions taken in a total population, the figures showed the city to be inhabited by 11,962. Ward One had 1,850; Ward Two, 2,158; Ward Three, 1,416; Ward Four, 2,708; Ward Five, 1,645; Ward Six, 1,178; and the outside additions, 1,007.

The “outside additions were an integral part of the city, as they had been long taken in through the regular method. However, the official plat of the city was not filed as required by law with them included. An official of the local power and light company disagreed with those figures and said he thought the total was closer to 16,000. The total count of the county was 43,272.

The total gain of Shawnee since 1900, was four percent greater than the largest city in the new state.


Will Jones, an illiterate Black man, living in the south part of Shawnee, claimed that he was arrested on election day for not paying his poll tax. He said he was never notified and was thrown into the city jail until he stated that he would vote the Democratic ticket. He promptly did that.

The story went that at 8 A.M. during the recent state and county elections, he was taken into custody in the Fourth Ward, where he was asked his name. The man who took him to the station was in citizen’s clothes, but was evidently an officer, for he had his gun strapped on and carried a warrant. Jones was thrown into jail, where he remained for four hours.

After a time, he claimed that he was asked if he were released, would he vote the Democratic ticket. He replied that he would do anything to get out of jail.

“Well, be easy a few minutes,” came the reply, and a tall, thin man in civilian clothes escorted him to the Fourth Ward voting place. When he came out a large man, otherwise unknown, approached the man who had Jones in custody. He told his custodian to let him go, as he would furnish the bond.

It was reported that at least 40 warrants were prepared to serve on other Black people on election day. For some reason, they were never served.


There was no show on Sunday, October 6, 1907, at Benson Park. The sheriff put a “lid on it.” Manager Lucas of the park was warned the day before that the theatre would be raided and himself arrested if any attempt was made to run on Sunday.

The sheriff was rather “closed-mouth” publicly, except that it was his intention to close the Benson Park theatre for trying to open on Sunday. The manager said he was “up against it,” and had no other option but to close and try to get the show postponed until Monday.

There were rumors that the action by the sheriff was the first move in a crusade inaugurated against the local management of the traction company by the sheriff’s office. It was said that the sheriff and his deputies had for some time failed to receive ordinary courtesy at the hands of the management, not even such as was extended to the city policemen.


William Durham and Bill Monroe were arrested on October 8, 1907, by the police in a raid for gambling. They were charged with playing poker in a room in the rear of the Silver Dollar Saloon on west Main Street.

The police got the tip and the door was not locked. They had no difficulty in securing an entrance and putting the men under arrest. There were others present, but they were released. When brought to the station, Monroe put up a $75 cash bond, and Durham was allowed to go with an officer to procure bail.

While talking to a group of men, Durham managed to evade the officer and made his escape. The trial was set for the next day, after Durham was apprehended.

(These stories and many more are coming in the publication of the history of Shawnee. Look for it sometime in 2019.)