Fire starting at about 1 P.M., on December 26, 1912, destroyed the Pottawatomie Building, later to be known as the Elks’ Building, and for a time threatened the entire west side of north Broadway. The flames were not controlled until about two hours later. Chief L.A. Brown and the fire department, assisted by the Rock Island fire department, worked heroically and fearlessly until they were exhausted.

Fire starting at about 1 P.M., on December 26, 1912, destroyed the Pottawatomie Building, later to be known as the Elks’ Building, and for a time threatened the entire west side of north Broadway. The flames were not controlled until about two hours later. Chief L.A. Brown and the fire department, assisted by the Rock Island fire department, worked heroically and fearlessly until they were exhausted.

The losers were Wallace Mann, druggist, with total loss; Shawnee Gas & Electric, with total loss except their books in the safe; Diamond Grocery Company, almost a total loss; Stanard, Wahl & Ennis, total loss of library and records, except contents in the safe; Howell & Miley, total loss; W.N. Maben, total loss; Dr. J.E. Wells, total loss; Dr. J.E. Hughes, total loss; and the Elks Club Room, total loss. Other occupants of the building and the adjacent building also suffered a total loss. Wallace Mann and the Gas Company were the biggest losers. Aside from the loss of the building, the Gas Company had more than $16,000 worth of electrical fixtures in stock.

During the progress of the fire, Jeff Goulette, who was assisting in combating the flames, was forced to jump from the landing in the rear of the building to the Gas Company’s work room below. From there he then fell to the ground. He was stunned, but soon recovered. Art Brown, a fireman of the east end station, was overcome by the heat and smoke, but was revived. Bill Stowe, a Rock Island boilermaker, was hit by a falling brick and slightly injured.

Mayor Frank Stearns put in a call for the Oklahoma City fire department, but the fire was controlled in time to stop it as it was being loaded on a train. A call was also sent to McAlester, but it was also countermanded.

Occupants of buildings throughout the area comprised between Beard, Broadway and Main and Ninth streets were moved out. It appeared that the entire block would be destroyed by the fire.

The fire started in the furnace room of the Pottawatomie Building. Slack stored there caught fire first. When the alarm was given, the flames were issuing through the floor of the Gas Company’s store room in three places, and the smoke from the burning slack was so dense that the firemen had to endure the keenest suffering to get within reach of the flames. For a time, they succeeded in keeping the fire in the basement, but it followed the walls to the second floor, and completely enveloped the building in a very brief time. From that time the fire was spectacular. The immense clouds of smoke were lighted from time to time by the lurid flames that leaped 100 feet high. Crashing walls shook the earth and it appeared that the whole business section might be threatened.

Chief Brown and his men held the fort however, though smoked and seared by the flames. In the nick of time the Rock Island department arrived to assist them and fought like demons to check the flames. It soon became a mere matter of soaking the dying embers.

Anticipating need of medical assistance, the city and county health officers were on the ground from the start. They stationed physicians and surgeons at the chief points of danger. Whenever needed, there was always a doctor on the spot. Their presence aided materially in the fight the firemen made against the progress of the flames.

The Pottawatomie Building was constructed by Senator Culberson of Texas in 1906. It had since been the home of several business and professional firms. It was one of the chief office buildings in the city.

Mayor Stearns commented after the fire was controlled, “the boys did valiant work and it looks like a miracle that they were able to save the rest of the block. The Rock Island boys also did heroic service.”

Fire Chief Brown said, “I knew we could stop the fire when it got to the one-story building but didn’t know whether we could stop it before then or not. The whole floor of the Gas Company’s store room was in flames when discovered, and we could do nothing with it.”

The water pressure was good all during the fire, though every fire plug in the vicinity was tapped. While the fire was at its height, the electric lights and power were cut off as a precautionary measure. As soon as the Broadway trolley wire was cut, the power was turned on again. A full force of linemen of the gas company and the telephone company was on hand. Every precaution was taken against danger from live wires or open gas pipes.

(This story and hundreds more appear in Volume One of the history of Shawnee, called “Redbud City.” Publication of this first edition is set for later this month. It contains 426 pages and hundreds of photos. A copy of this first volume, covering the years 1830 through 1929, can be purchased at two places: either contact Clyde Wooldridge at (918)470-3728 or by email at cewool@live.com; or by contacting the Potawatomie County Historical Society at (405) 275-8412. The cost for the traditional book is $55, but can be pre-paid for $50 before publication, coming later this month. The digital copy is $35. Volume Two is scheduled for release in September that covers the 1930s and 1940s. Later volumes will eventually cover the rest of Shawnee’s comprehensive history into the 21st century.)