Per early plans, what is now Broadway was to be the main business street and several bought lots and located business houses there. But when three banks were located on what is now Main street, the attraction became too great and thus developed into the principle business street of the city. In the meantime, an invitation was made to anyone living in Tecumseh to move to Shawnee. The “inducement” offered was that each person who owned business lots in Tecumseh would be given a corresponding lot in Shawnee, along with an additional residential lot. Many, however refused the offer to come to Shawnee, which was destined to take a commanding place among the communities, because of the advantages that the railroad offered.

Per early plans, what is now Broadway was to be the main business street and several bought lots and located business houses there. But when three banks were located on what is now Main street, the attraction became too great and thus developed into the principle business street of the city. In the meantime, an invitation was made to anyone living in Tecumseh to move to Shawnee. The “inducement” offered was that each person who owned business lots in Tecumseh would be given a corresponding lot in Shawnee, along with an additional residential lot. Many, however refused the offer to come to Shawnee, which was destined to take a commanding place among the communities, because of the advantages that the railroad offered.

The anger felt by Tecumseh residents toward Shawnee was so strong about the latter securing the railroad that many steps were taken against it. Rather than travel five miles to Shawnee to board a train, the citizens chose to travel 30 to 50 miles to Norman or Oklahoma City for a passenger line.

On Jan. 21, 1895, about two and a half months after their first meeting, the newly incorporated town of Shawnee’s Board of Trustees passed a resolution to send a lawyer to Washington, D.C. to try to persuade the Secretary of the Interior to route the railroad through Shawnee. What later happened resulted in the oldest Oklahoma Territory Supreme Court case involving the City of Shawnee. During the winter of 1895, the lawsuit stated that there was pending before the Secretary of the Interior an application for ratification and approval of maps and surveys of the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad for a line to be built through Pottawatomie County. Two routes were under consideration, one through Shawnee and one three miles south.

At the request of the town Board of Trustees, Shawnee attorney W.S. Field went to Washington to plead Shawnee’s case for the railroad to pass through his town. Acting as attorney for the town, Field appeared before the Secretary of the Interior to present to him the benefits that would come to the town of Shawnee. The Secretary was persuaded.

Being successful, Field returned home and presented his bill for $500 to the Trustees. He said he had spent $200 as necessary expenses of travel and living, and that in the performance of his duties, he consumed 30 days and that his services were reasonably worth $300. The Board of Trustees denied his bill and he sued in district court of Pottawatomie County. The District Court refused to allow the bill and he appealed to the Territorial Supreme Court.

An 1886 Act of Congress, and later the Organic Act, passed to govern Oklahoma Territory and even later the Oklahoma constitution, all contained similar provisions that a city may not loan credit to any association having corporate powers. It appeared to be an obvious attempt to prevent collusion between a town and city officials and corporations.

The Supreme Court ruled that it was the railroad company that would benefit and that the act of Congress prohibited the city from using its credit to assist the railroad in obtaining such benefits. The court held that the city owned some real estate and that it would be enhanced in value by the location of the railroad had no merit.

“The city could no more use its credit to obtain the consent of the Secretary of the Interior; that the railroad might locate its line through the city and that it could use its credit as a consideration to induce the railroad to be built,” was the Court’s comment.

However, in the end, the judgment was for the town of Shawnee. Fields got nothing for his efforts. The new Board of Trustees passed Ordinance No. 19 on June 18, 1895, that granted to the railroad the right to go through Shawnee and vacated 7th Street from Market to Bell, for railroad right-of-way.

It appeared ironic that the town refused to pay Field $500, because the act of Congress that was cited after he was successful in getting the Secretary to locate the railroad through Shawnee. The same board gave a portion of Shawnee’s real estate to the railroad and vacated some of the city’s streets for the railroad’s benefit.

It was about this time that the infant city succeeded in securing the C.O.&G. Railroad and developed a boom. This vigorous growth repeated itself through the years. This precipitated a great legal battle between Shawnee and Tecumseh. It was a contest to compel the said railroad to build to the respective towns, and though Tecumseh failed it was said she put up a gallant fight.

In 1895, it was “Presto Change” for Tecumseh when the city was denied the railroad. The young city was financially unable to raise the bonus and Shawnee, a small village just north of the North Canadian River became the favorable contestant. Tecumseh paid Horace Speed $2,500 to represent her in the law forbidding a railroad building a town within five miles of a county seat laid out by the government. John W. McLoud, the Choctaw Railroad representative, overcame this objection by moving its little wooden contested city Shawnee a mile to the north. It left its only brick building erected by James T. Farrall on South Beard Street to go to ruin for want of business.

After the Choctaw made its first trip through Shawnee, the city distributed circulars to resident property owners in Tecumseh, offering them the same number of lots in Shawnee if they would build upon them. Many accepted the offer and moved over, others struggled on to save Tecumseh, whose property rapidly depreciated. Her schools ceased to run on a cash basis. Most of the teachers resigned and sold their script for 30 cents on the dollar for time taught.

A quote from a local newspaper, written in 1898, spoke to the matter of Shawnee securing the railroad and eventually the repair shops:

“Had Tecumseh secured the first, most probably she would the last and Shawnee would today be nothing but a wide place in the road. In the beginning of the battle the odds appeared to be in favor of Tecumseh - she had nearly all the wealth, influence and the prestige of an established county seat, but the promoters of Shawnee wisely made up some 800 acres of land, in and around the site of the proposed city, and this they donated, unconditionally, to the Choctaw and that did the business. The railroad people recognized the difference in building a town of their own, on their own land, and where they had hundreds of acres to sell and to use, and in going to a town where they had no interest, the railroad company became more interested in the fight and went in to win. Thus, as soon as it was ascertained that Shawnee had secured the railroad, the boom set in, and in April, 1896, she was declared A CITY OF THE FIRST CLASS.”

The paper went on to say, “It was necessary to have a population of 2,500 people, and the census of Shawnee taken for this purpose showed a population of 2,604. We may date the birth of Shawnee proper, of “New Shawnee” from January 1, 1895. A village of 250 people in October 1894, we find it had jumped to 2600 - multiplied its population ten-fold by April 1896, and we may safely say that three fourths of this number were here by April, 1, 1895, yes say, 2000 of them, and by Dec. 1, 1897, population has jumped to 4,000.”

(Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian who has written other local histories in the past. Look for his comprehensive story of Shawnee, “The Redbud City,” coming in 2018.)