Before the Land Run in this area in 1891, in what had been pre-designated County “B,” there was considerable speculation and advanced planning performed. In fact, Martin J. Bentley and his scheme for the proposed town of “Brockway” is highly documented. He was complicit with the hunting in December 1890, with John W. Beard and Dave Perriman. Those going on the expedition were: Alfred B. Beard and his three sons and his daughter, Henry G., John W., Lyman F. and Lola G. Beard; Joe Clark, Dr. Munger, Elijah Alley, James T. Farrall, L.E. Troxell, Etta B. Ray, and her father Phillip H. Ray, a former Lieutenant in the Civil War in the Illinois Regiment, and J.W. Gee, Etta Ray’s grandfather and Bentley.

Before the Land Run in this area in 1891, in what had been pre-designated County “B,” there was considerable speculation and advanced planning performed. In fact, Martin J. Bentley and his scheme for the proposed town of “Brockway” is highly documented. He was complicit with the hunting in December 1890, with John W. Beard and Dave Perriman. Those going on the expedition were: Alfred B. Beard and his three sons and his daughter, Henry G., John W., Lyman F. and Lola G. Beard; Joe Clark, Dr. Munger, Elijah Alley, James T. Farrall, L.E. Troxell, Etta B. Ray, and her father Phillip H. Ray, a former Lieutenant in the Civil War in the Illinois Regiment, and J.W. Gee, Etta Ray’s grandfather and Bentley.

Perhaps if any one man in the group could be singled out as contributing more to being the “town builder,” it would arguably be Henry G. Beard. Being closely connected with the history of Pottawatomie County, he was a conspicuous figure of his time. It was through his efforts, assisted by others, that culminated in bringing the Choctaw Railroad through Shawnee. In addition to the 120 acres he gave to them, he gave 13 acres for the High School and the Woodland Park.

He was an outstanding leader before coming to Shawnee. Beard was a member of the first Territorial Legislature and was elected Council Secretary in 1890. He was appointed as one of the first three County Commissioners of County “B” and the bridge over Sweeney Crossing was built by this first group of commissioners. It is the present Beard Street bridge over the North Canadian River. Beard was later the first Chairman of the Town Board of Trustees, the first Mayor of Shawnee. As one of the organizers of the Bank of Shawnee, he became the vice-president. The name of the bank was later changed to the First National Bank in 1898. He was also president of the Draper Casey Furniture Company.

Later, he was a United States Marshal for the Eastern District of Oklahoma. Beard, along with his spouse, Etta, are given credit as some of the founders of the city of Henryetta, along with an earlier settler in the area, Hugh Henry. Originally, the place was a coal mining camp called Furrs. He died while living in Sapulpa in 1929.

In the settling, most of the homesteaders staked claims along the north bank of the North Canadian River. It was here that the first stores were located. What is now known as Farrall Street became the early Main street and long lines of tents awaited the first business street of Shawnee.

The original town site consisted of 320 acres bounded by Kickapoo Street on the west, Union Avenue on the east, Highland on the north, and Bluff on the south. The east-west streets were numbered: first, second, third, and so on up to the 11th. This explains the jump from 7th Street south of the present Main Street, to 9th, which is the first street north of Main. In the early plan of the town, Main street was 8th.

Henry and Etta Ray Beard’s log cabin, the first house built in Shawnee in 1891, is still preserved in the city. During the 1930s, it was relocated in Woodland Park. The original location was about 100 yards southeast of Highland and Kickapoo streets where it faced south. In the 1990s, following a storm that damaged the home, it was repaired and moved near the Pottawatomie County Historical Society.

When the run occurred, present Kickapoo Street was the westward line north of the North Canadian River. Etta B. Ray staked the NW quarter-section 19, and Lola G. Beard immediately north of Ray’s location in the SW quarter-section 18. John W. Beard had driven his stake in the NE quarter-section 19, just east of Ray. James T. Farrall staked his claim where south Shawnee now exists, just south of Ray’s quarter section of land.

By Christmas of that year, there were only three white men living in the immediate area: John W. Beard, Captain Richard A. Timmons, who later in 1894, was elected County Surveyor, and Gus Darrow. Beard prepared a Christmas dinner and rode over to invite Timmons and Darrow to join him. Darrow was ill and declined, but Captain Timmons rode back with Beard. After dinner, the two made their plans for the new proposed town.

On a piece of paper, they outlined their proposed townsite. Across the plat, north and south, Timmons drew a line and called it the Santa Fe railway. Across the plat, east and west, Beard drew a line and called it the Choctaw railway.

A month later, several groups joined the Brockway settlers, including the family of Joe Clark. He and his wife pitched their tent 100 yards north of the Sweeney Crossing over the North Canadian River. His son, Neal Clark, recalled “that the wildness of the country as being its most outstanding feature.” He said the yapping coyotes and the terrifying yells of the Kickapoos in the night brought uneasiness to him. He said, “the impenetrable forest extended north from the river for one or two miles. There was hardly a stretch where one could see more than 100 yards.”

It was in their tent home that Bertha Clark soon started the first subscription school for children in the community. Soon after, the second subscription school started with Gertrude Norris as the teacher.

The first homesteaders to the present city of Shawnee were: William Ragland, Captain Richard A. Timmons, Joe Clark, Emmett E. and Lola Whittaker, Jennie McDivitt, Dr. E.F. Larkins, George S. Willeford, William J. Eastes, C.M. “Cash” Cade, Lola G. Beard, Etta B. Ray, Elijah Alley, John W. Beard, Martin J. Bentley, Henry G. Beard, David P. Spaulding and James Whittaker. W.J. Eastes and Lola Beard each contested the same quarter section, but agreed to divide the 160 acres.

The following spring and summer, the growing band of pioneers chopped out a main street, which is the present Farrall Street, and two side streets, that took the names Beard and Broadway. Through the influence of Bentley, many other settlers joined the pioneers so that by the fall of 1892, the village took on the look of a town.

During the first year after the run, the little town was known as “Brockway,” “Forrest City” and “Shawnee.” The name was finalized in an Oklahoma City hotel only after an all-night battle between the leading founders. Martin J. Bentley, original promoter for the name “Brockway,” and then changed for “Chicago,” while Henry Beard wanted “Beardville.” James T. Farrall insisted on “Shawnee,” in honor of the Shawnee Indian tribe. That name finally won out!

The town had already been surveyed, a plat drawn and staked out by Farrall, and was approved on September 29, 1892, by the Territorial Secretary. It left 28 acres in each of the two quarter sections for Woodland and Farrall parks. Beard and Farrall streets were named for the two men. Market Street was so named because it run through the town market place. Park Street was named since it ended at Farrall Park.

(Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian who is in the process of writing the comprehensive history of the city of Shawnee. Look for this story, “The Redbud City,” in 2018.)