“Oklahoma’s “New Jerusalem” state capital site joined Shawnee on the west and north. It comprised about 5,700 acres, and was bounded on the south and west by the Santa Fe Railroads. It circled by the beautiful Canadian Valley, and was touched on the northeast by the Santa Fe Railroad. It sloped perfectly and was wonderfully drained, had springs of clear, cold water, and in fact was in all respects, and ideal location.”

“Oklahoma’s “New Jerusalem” state capital site joined Shawnee on the west and north. It comprised about 5,700 acres, and was bounded on the south and west by the Santa Fe Railroads. It circled by the beautiful Canadian Valley, and was touched on the northeast by the Santa Fe Railroad. It sloped perfectly and was wonderfully drained, had springs of clear, cold water, and in fact was in all respects, and ideal location.”

This was the conclusion arrived at by the State Capital Commission, which was accompanied to the grounds by the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce and the Tecumseh Commercial Club. The committee was made up of: Senator Russell Chapman of Muskogee, originator of the “New Jerusalem” idea; Senator J.H. Strain of Wann; Rep. H.R. King of Tillman County; and Rep. D.G. Murkey of Alfalfa County. They were accompanied by Senator Michael F. Eggerman and Rep. Milton Bryan of Shawnee, and Rep. William S. Carson from Tecumseh. Upon their arrival in the city, they were escorted to the Norwood Hotel.

At 9 A.M. on May 16, 1908, members of the Commission left the hotel, accompanied by Sidney J. Roy, Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, and committees in five carriages. The party was driven at once to the west limits of the city. From there were driven over the plat which was considered the finest possible site for Oklahoma’s ideal capital city.

The Shawnee News reporter commented that the Commissioners were shown something they could not equal in all of Oklahoma. At almost the geographical center of the state, the ground was high and dry, with the valley of the Canadian sweeping about its lower edges in a semi-circle. It put before them a gaze of a beautiful panorama view. Here the Rock Creek provided a clear water supply with a natural drainage system for the area.

The ground was touched by the Santa Fe, Rock Island and Katy; all three great railways. This would solve the problem of transporting material for construction of the public buildings. The lay of the land rendered itself to the making of good roads for the property.

The idea of the Capital Commission, or the “New Jerusalem,” was to secure a tract of ground about three miles squared. It was to join with a city and be centrally located in the state. It would then be laid out as a capital city. The Commission left with the belief that Shawnee was an excellent spot.

Shawnee’s location in the state was practically as follows: from the east line, 144 miles; from the west line, 180 miles; from the south line, 115 miles; and from the north line, 121 miles. Thus, it was easily seen that the city was near the geographical center of Oklahoma.

JOHNSON AGAIN FOUND GUILTY

The instructions to the Bill Johnson jury in the District Court were read on May 18, 1908, at 6 P.M., with a night session being held in order that counsel might make their arguments. The arguments were concluded, and the case went to the jury after midnight. At 3 A.M., the jury returned a verdict of guilty of the murder of Mrs. May Cuppy in the first degree.

Judge B.B. Blakeney set May 22, as the date upon which he would sentence Johnson. This gave the defense three days in which to enter a motion for a stay of sentence and a new trial. May 22 was the date set earlier by Judge William N. Maben for the hanging upon Johnson’s first conviction. The statutes provided that sentence would not be executed sooner than 30 days, nor later than 60 days after conviction. That made the execution to come some time after June 19, and not later than July 19, of the same year.

FLOODS CLAIM VICTIMS AND HAVOC

The floods of May 24, 1908, claimed the life of Tompkins Cheek, the little son of Mr. and Mrs. J.G. Cheek, who resided near the river bridge. He drowned in the engine pit of the old pump house at the race track. His body was not found until later that afternoon.

The little boy, along with his older brother, had been watching some hogs for their father during the morning when he was missed. There was an immense crowd and hence escaped notice. When a search failed to find him, an alarm was sounded. A systematic search began to find the boy.

Late in the afternoon, T.D. Williamson discovered the boy in the bottom of the pit. The pit was inside the old pump station and was very deep, lined with concrete. A farmer had been using it to store hay, but seeing that the water was rising, removed the hay.

As the water rose in the river, it was carried into the pit. It was assumed that the child, who had a habit of playing in the hay, supposed that it was still filled with the hay. He then probably jumped into the pit.

The floods also paralyzed railway traffic. The first train that headed east on that Sunday morning was marooned in Maud by washouts on both sides of the track. Tecumseh was shut off from the rest of the world with a section of the Interurban track bridge being washed out. It was several days before all the repairs were made and traffic was back to normal.

CONVENTION HALL IS A WARM FAVORITE AMONG SHAWNEE CITIZENS

The proposition of building a Convention Hall in Shawnee by the issuance of bonds in the city was made possible by the action of the legislature. It was also given a unanimous endorsement by the Chamber of Commerce directors at a meeting on June 2, 1908. It was brought in the form of a resolution by Harry Meade.

Meade’s resolution declared it to be the sense of the body that a Convention Hall be erected immediately. He said the new act of the legislature enabling cities to issue bonds for such purpose should be taken advantage of by Shawnee. He believed the city should vote on the matter of issuing $100,000 in bonds for that purpose.

The City Council was invited to meet with the Executive Committee of the Chamber of Commerce to discuss the matter, upon the motion of H.T. Douglas. Mayor Frank P. Stearns arrived after the meeting and was given a rousing reception.

He endorsed the Convention Hall proposition and any proposition that would be of advantage to the city. His reference to street paving and the signing of the contract was also received with a storm of applause.

(These stories and hundreds more will appear in the history of Shawnee, due for publication in 2019. The book will be 1,000-plus pages, fully-indexed, containing a glossary of past office-holders, and a memorial/tribute section for those who wish to dedicate a page to love ones or an organization.)