Mrs. Eugene Bass spent months attempting to track down her missing husband. After he fled from their home in Leesburg, MO, she heard he might be in Rocky Ford, CO. With the assistance of his brother, they finally located him in Shawnee, running a rooming house.

“I’D RATHER GO TO JAIL THAN TO LIVE WITH THAT WOMAN”

Mrs. Eugene Bass spent months attempting to track down her missing husband. After he fled from their home in Leesburg, MO, she heard he might be in Rocky Ford, CO. With the assistance of his brother, they finally located him in Shawnee, running a rooming house.

On March 9, 1909, she appeared before Justice Hal Johnson’s court as the chief witness against her husband. He and his mistress, Mrs. Dora Hoppus, were both charged with living in adultery. The court set his bond at $500, and allowed Hoppus to go on her own recognizance. Interesting, the fate of three groups of children were also interwoven into the story.

“I would rather go to jail than live with that woman,” acclaimed Bass, speaking in court of his wife. She appeared to reporters as being a “little and comely,” looking person. The wife carried an infant in her arms. Bass would look at neither. His attention was consumed with the two little daughters by a former wife, whom he had taken with him from his Missouri home.

Tears streamed down the face of the Hoppus woman, who confessed to her guilt, but denied that of Bass. Assistant County Attorney Jesse D. Lydick severely arraigned both the woman and the man. Bass was represented by Leander G. Pitman.

Pitman quoted from the Bible in his defense, “Let him who is without guilt, cast the first stone.”

Chief of Police William Sims and other policemen testified that when Bass and Hoppus first arrived in Shawnee, they told them they were husband and wife. They both denied passing that information on to the authorities.

There was some talk about taking the little daughters of Bass and placing them in some home or institution. However, when a neutral party suggested that they would provide for the children locally, the court gave them custody. As the little children departed from the court room, each with eyes filled with tears, they kissed their father goodbye.

Victorious in her first appeal to the courts, the little wife from Missouri, left the city as quickly as she came.

VOLCANIC ERUPTION IN CITY COUNCIL MEETING OVER CONVENTION HALL

Excitement was at fever pitch on March 16, 1909, at the City Council meeting when Alderman Jesse O. Prowse asked for a vote on the location of the newly proposed Convention Hall.

He said, “There were eight aldermen who had agreed on the five lots at the southeast corner of Union and 9th, owned by Peter Brandenburg.”

Alderman J.W. Wayne then exhibited an option made in favor of John Haining, with the purchase price set at $6,000, and the option expiring on March 30. The pronouncement came as a thunder bolt out of a clear sky. This brought Aldermen Joe Farris and George C. Abernathy to their feet in strong protest against the proceedings. They said it came as a complete surprise.

“I have been making particular inquiry for several weeks past as to when the location of the Convention Hall would be brought up,” said William Blessing, who happened to get the attention of the chair. “I have not been able to get any answers at all. What the taxpayers want to know is whether a ‘gang of eight’ aldermen are to do these things without consulting the people?

“It is the taxpayers who voted to erect this building and you should take them into your confidence. Let us all agree as to what the majority wants. This is but justice and fairness to all.”

Many other criticisms came up from this debate. Would the Council decide on their own where the new hospital would be located? What about the School Board’s decision on the location of the new high school? Some thought it was too close to the Santa Fe. They claimed the matters had never been discussed in open meeting.

Suggestions were finally made that the motion on the location be postponed and that the will of the community be ascertained before making a snap judgment. However, Mayor Frank Stearns, who had difficulty in maintaining quiet, proclaimed that there was no need in putting this off and that a decision would be made by the next evening.

After parlaying for nearly an hour the following night, with some aldermen meeting at the Pottawatomie Building and some at City Hall, a final decision was made. The decision was made by a 7-5 count to locate the new building at the corner of Union and 9th streets. Many ideas were brought up before the vote, including the thought of locating it at Woodland Park. However, when the vote was taken, Aldermen Prowse cast the deciding vote.

THE BAPTIST ARRIVE IN THE CITY FOR A LOOK

Shawnee gave itself over on March 18, 1909, to entertaining the Educational Committee of the Baptists of the state who came to look things over. The plan was to leave the next morning and travel to Sulphur to make their final decision as to the location of their college.

Shawnee offered $100,000 and a 40-acre site. The committee visited for the main purpose of visiting the site. They arrived from Oklahoma City about noon. After an automobile ride, with a large committee from the Chamber of Commerce as their escorts, the visitors were taken to a luncheon. Automobiles were again ordered after lunch and a tour of the sites in both the northeast and northwest parts of the city were made.

The one that seemed to please them most was the northeast location, beyond the old ball park. Both were within easy access of the city utilities. Tours were also made to all parts of the city.

In the evening, they were the guests of the Chamber of Commerce for dinner at the Norwood Hotel. They were then taken to the Elks Club Room, where an informal reception was held in their honor. Short talks were given by George E. McKinnis, acting as master of ceremonies, and other responses were made by F.B. Reed, Sidney J. Roy, Mayor Frank Stearns, and Rev. L.C. Wolfe of the First Baptist Church.

None of the party would commit themselves, but seemed very complimentary of the city and were well pleased. The citizens felt their prospects of securing the university for Shawnee were good. However, their hopes appeared dashed a couple of days later when McKinnis returned from the meetings in Sulphur. The word was that the Baptist decided to give the school to Oklahoma City.

The Shawnee representatives stood out to the last, it being generally conceded that the “Forest City” would be selected. Then Guthrie was given permission to increase its offer to one-million dollars and a site of 40 acres. At this point, Oklahoma City real estate men I.M. Putnam and Frank Frantz, came forward and pledged individual contributions to the sum already offered by Oklahoma City.

The Board accepted the offer. It appeared to be another sad day in Shawnee and another failed attempt at securing an institution of higher learning. However, time told that this was not a “done deal” as of yet.

(These stories and many more will appear in the comprehensive history of Shawnee, set to be published in 2019.)