A contract was drawn up on the morning of March 28, 1908, in accordance with a proposition, whereby for $1,500, a good league team was assured for Shawnee. The owner of the team, for the consideration, promised to attend to all the details of grounds and other things. There was still some of the money that needed to be raised.


A contract was drawn up on the morning of March 28, 1908, in accordance with a proposition, whereby for $1,500, a good league team was assured for Shawnee. The owner of the team, for the consideration, promised to attend to all the details of grounds and other things. There was still some of the money that needed to be raised.

The offer was made by M.L. Russell, formerly of Louisville, KY, who recently moved to Shawnee for the sake of his wife’s health. Dan McGann, first baseman of the Boston Red Sox was associated with him in the venture.

Russell promised that he would put a strong team in the field. He already had good men lined up for the team. He believed Shawnee would eventually be a good baseball town, and expected to build for the future. He said he was currently in communication with President Shively of the Oklahoma League, arranging for the promised berth in that league.

At the meeting, $1,500 were raised. The remainder was expected to be secured in the next few days. Baseball fans were enthusiastic about the proposition in Shawnee. They felt that the city would once more enjoy a season of first class league ball with a winning team in the field.


Two tons of giant powder and 37 cases of dynamite went off in a terrific explosion on March 31, 1908, at the Katy Stock Yards west of the city. As a result, a small child was dead, and three men were seriously injured. One died the next morning and several others had injuries that were not considered serious.

There were 30 men, women and children in the camp at the Davis Brothers Grading Unit at the time. Everyone would have been killed had the dynamite and powder exploded at the same time. Thankfully, that did not happen.

The explosion resulted from the careless lighting of powder on the floor of a box car, half-filled with cans of powder and cases of dynamite. Some of the cans were partially opened, being previously used. They were leftovers from grading work that the outfit recently quit on the Katy at Limestone Gap, between McAlester and Atoka. Wagons were on hand to transport it to the Mead magazine when the explosion took place.

Before the explosion, there were four men in the box car, unloading it into a couple of mule wagons. They were Sam Koontz, Bill Bailey, P.S. Holmes, and H. Trowel. Koontz and Bailey were arguing as to whether the powder would burn or not. To settle the question, one of them set a match to a small pile on the floor. It immediately puffed up and some of the fire flew into an open can.

As soon as he saw what was happening, Trowel leaped from the car. The others were thrown out, and were severely injured and badly burned. Others standing nearby were badly injured also. Lucy Clay, Mary Britton, and Clay’s two-year-old son were sitting on railway ties at the end of the box car. All were burned, and the child died a few hours later.

Both mule teams ran away from the explosion. One was so badly burned that he was shot. The camp became a scene of desolation. Several people were interviewed that were on the scene.

One said, “Most anyone can tell you more than we can, cause all I know is we are alive, and not very sure of that!”

“Lord, man,” another said, “if all that powder had gone off at once, we wouldn’t any of us be here now!”

Another asked how he escaped injury and answered, “I’ll never tell you, because I don’t know!”


The city election on April 7, 1908, vindicated the stand taken by the Civic League and the Republican Party that a change in the city’s charter was needed. The Democratic candidates did not go along with that idea until the final week of the campaign.

This led to the election of “Freeholders,” elected with the charge of coming up with a new charter for the city. They were also charged to hold “open sessions” with citizens to learn their wishes about new government in Shawnee.

Several new choices were made in the elections for councilmen and school board members. M.H. Ernest was also selected as the City Assessor. In the First Ward, John Lain for council and W.H. Curtice for school board; Second Ward, Jesse Pelphrey for council and R.J. Burke for school board; Third Ward, J.B. Springer for councilman and Wes Hailey for the school board; Fourth Ward, Arthur Dimmers for councilman and J.W. Atterbury for the school board; Fifth Ward, J.O. Prowse for councilman and E.W. Watts for the school board; and in the Sixth Ward, George C. Abernathy for councilman and Fred Christner for the school board.

The Board of Freeholders included: Ed Howell and Martin Fleming from the First Ward; M.L. McKenzie and Jesse Dickson from the Second Ward; R.H. Clayton and J.E. Dunn from the Third Ward; Charles F. Barrett and W.S. Pendleton from the Fourth Ward; Walter Newman and A.J. Cammack from the Sixth Ward.


One of the most fiendish attempts to murder ever known in Shawnee was the attack made on the morning of May 4, 1908, by Joe Bies upon his wife, Grace Bies. While in a drunken condition, and crazed by the taunts of others, threw a bottle of acid upon the unfortunate woman. Afterwards, he attempted to take his own life.

His wife was badly burned about the face and Bies himself was considerably burned by the acid, which he spilled upon his face in an attempt to swallow it.

Bies was arrested on a warrant, charging assault with intent to commit murder, and was put under bond of $1,000 in Justice G.S. Carter’s court. He pled not guilty.

Bies had been in Kansas City and his wife was employed at the Choctaw Restaurant. He returned the day before and was in a drunken state. A friend, not realizing what the result might be, teased him about alleged attentions paid him by Bies’ wife, during the latter’s absence. It was intended merely as a joke, but was persisted until Bies became crazed with jealousy. He was still under the influence when he made his attack upon his wife.

Bies was formerly employed as fireman at the Norwood Hotel, and it was while there that he was married. He had been working for the Rock Island, having just got back from Kansas City.

(These stories and hundreds more, will appear in the comprehensive history of the city of Shawnee, coming in 2019. The hard-backed book will be available in traditional form, and digital for those who prefer to read it on their computers. Look for more details and the layout of the book in the future.)