From the beginning of the history of Oklahoma, agriculture was its chief industry. The dependence on it for the wealth of its citizens appeared to be of upmost importance for the future. It was evident from the beginning of this area, that the people who engaged in the agricultural business also saw it as a “calling.” One way to encourage this enterprise was by the showing of the new innovations of what the farmers could do. Laws were established to allow counties to appropriate funds for the presentation of fairs to show off these new ideas.

POTTAWATOMIE COUNTY FREE FAIR OPENS AT BENSON PARK

From the beginning of the history of Oklahoma, agriculture was its chief industry. The dependence on it for the wealth of its citizens appeared to be of upmost importance for the future. It was evident from the beginning of this area, that the people who engaged in the agricultural business also saw it as a “calling.” One way to encourage this enterprise was by the showing of the new innovations of what the farmers could do. Laws were established to allow counties to appropriate funds for the presentation of fairs to show off these new ideas.

The first fairs held were usually under the supervision of a private company or corporation. The people paid admission fees for the sake of visiting and looking upon the products of their county. Possibly the first fair in Pottawatomie County was at the old fair grounds in the Kickapoo Addition several years earlier. However, the growth of the city quickly swallowed up the grounds and it was platted and sold off in building lots. Another fair was held down near the river, where a race track was built, but this soon came into disuse. When the Chamber of Commerce felt that this custom should be encouraged, it took upon itself the task of carrying on the fair. It started holding the fair in Convention Hall at the expense of the city. This was financed by public subscriptions and throwing the presentation open to all the public for free. In 1913, the progressive citizens of Tecumseh organized another company and built a track, furnished the grounds, and held a fair.

The law passed by the state legislature required two men to be elected or appointed from each township in the county as members of the County Free Fair Association. This made each town responsible for the success of the fair. At the first meeting of the Potawatomie County Free Fair Association, J.D. Seay, a prominent farmer near Tecumseh, was elected as the first president. He was praised for his efforts in organizing the first fair of its kind in the county.

One of the first questions was the location for the fair. It was a matter of much discussion and debate. The decision to locate the fair at Benson Park, midway between Shawnee and Tecumseh, became the final consensus. The management also secured the right to use a large shady tract of ground just west of the south entrance to the park for camping grounds to the people attending the fair.

Transportation to and from the fair was adequately provided by the Interurban line and the cooperation of the Rock Island and Santa Fe railroads. The fair opened for the first time at Benson Park on Monday, September 20, 1915. The free fair became a huge success in the city and remained popular for many years to the credit of its organizers.

LOSING AT CRAPS, HE CLEANED THEM OUT AT GUN POINT

“Red McDonald, a brakeman for the Rock Island, lost $10-12 in a crap game in an upstairs room on south Broadway on the afternoon of October 18, 1915. Infuriated by his loss, he proceeded to a hardware store, and procured a revolver. He returned to the game and at the point of the gun, enforced restitution from the gamesters and bystanders. He collected about $40. Some who were not playing at the time protested at being held up, but McDonald said he was impartial in collecting the restitution fund, because he “needed the money.”

Jeff Upshaw and Fred Ward, two of those held up, made complaint against McDonald and a warrant was issued charging him with “highway robbery.” About 9 P.M., he was arrested by Deputy Sheriff Bill Powers and got a free ticket to the jail in Tecumseh. This also led to additional charges against those involved in the illegal crap game.

The sheriff’s force had been previously raiding that section of town, attempting to eradicate that sort of illegal activities. After hearing the complaint, they went to the scene and gained entrance only after battering down the heavy doors with an axe. Inside were found a crap table, a poker table, empty liquor bottles and a large oil cloth curtain, suitable for darkening windows.

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL TEAM COMPLETES ROUGH YEAR

The results of the football season for 1915 was not successful from a matter of wins, finishing (3-6) on the year. However, the consensus was that considering the youth on the team, the future looked bright and had promises of great victories ahead.

The team opened on October 1, at Ada, with a loss to East Central Normal College, 19-7. The game was returned on the following Friday at Shawnee, with the same results in a 28-7 defeat. The next Friday, the team traveled to Tecumseh and picked up its first win, 27-7. Another road trip on October 22, to Cordell resulted in a convincing 43-7 victory. Five days later, they hosted a powerful Norman team and lost, 28-7. Chickasha came to town the following week and was too strong on defense, defeating the locals, 20-3. Next, a road trip to Enid resulted in another offensive inefficiency, losing 16-0. A road trip to Ardmore on November 19, righted the ship a bit, with a 41-0 drubbing of the Tigers. The season closed at home on Thanksgiving Day with a 27-7 loss to Oklahoma City High School.

The team was coached by first-year coach Billy Clark. Shawnee moved its all-time record to (27-29-5).

(These stories and hundreds more appear in Volume One of the history of Shawnee. It is now available for purchase. It can be obtained at the Pottawatomie County Historical Society or by calling Clyde Wooldridge at (918)470-3728. Volume Two, covering 1930-49, is finished and ready for publication. However, sales on Volume One covering 1830-1929 is going slow. Volume Two was planned to be available before Christmas, but it now depends on the sales of the first book. If you are interested in this five-volume series on the story of Shawnee’s development and history, please act as soon as possible with your purchase.)