Although cool weather put a “damper” on the crowd, the attendance on September 28, 1908, for the laying of the cornerstone at First Baptist Church was considered quite large. The new building intersected 10th and Union avenues, and was deemed as impressive. So was the ceremony. It was representative of the entire city.

FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH LAYS CORNERSTONE

Although cool weather put a “damper” on the crowd, the attendance on September 28, 1908, for the laying of the cornerstone at First Baptist Church was considered quite large. The new building intersected 10th and Union avenues, and was deemed as impressive. So was the ceremony. It was representative of the entire city.

The exercises were carried out from a temporary platform erected for the service. The ceremonies opened with the singing of “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord,” by the choir. This was followed by prayer, led by Rev. H.B. McGee from Tecumseh.

The address of the evening was delivered by J.C. Stalcup of McAlester, the secretary of the State Board of Missions, which had contributed in no small sum to the completion of the new edifice. His speech was described as scholarly. He emphasized the fact that Christianity had exerted a powerful influence for the betterment of mankind in all walks of life.

Ministers from other local churches made brief addresses of a congratulatory tone in which they praised the congregation of First Baptist Church in their effort to erect another beautiful edifice in the city. The short speeches were made by Rev. G.W. Martin of the First Methodist Church; Rev. O.C. Fountaine of the M.E. Church; Rev. F.A. Colwell of the Grace Methodist Church; Rev. Marion T. Conklin of the Reformed Church; Rev. G.M. Farrell of Holdenville; and Rev. T.B. Harrell of Ada.

Rev. L.C. Wolfe, pastor of the First Baptist Church, presided over the laying of the cornerstone. Several items were included in the cornerstone, including list of members of various organizations and a copy of the Shawnee News.

It was indeed a great day for the membership, who had struggled for so long against great odds to get their new building under way. The completed structure would represent an expenditure of about $30,000. The first floor of the building was completed at the time of the laying of the cornerstone. Efforts of the local membership was aided by a substantial donation from the church extension fund. The work was expected to be completed in the near future.

HISTORIC FLOOD SWEEPS DOWN THE CANDIAN VALLEY

Possibly the worst flood in known history swept down the Canadian Valley on the morning of October 21, 1908, dealing death and destruction in its wake. At first it was feared that as many as 100 people could be lost from the waters.

The county bridge on Beard Street, the Interurban bridge, and the Katy bridge west of the city were all washed away. The Santa Fe bridge was being held down by all the locomotives available. Hundreds of people in the bottoms took refuge in the tree tops and were rescued as soon as possible, though it could not be achieved immediately because of the flood.

Following the cloud-burst the night before, the North Canadian remained in its banks until about 9 A.M. At 8:15, the water lacked six feet from reaching the top of the county bridge on Beard Street. Within 45 minutes, it was three feet over the crossing, and the structure was washed down the valley and launched against the Interurban bridge. That bridge went out a few minutes later.

The water was described as at least two feet higher than ever seen in the area. By noon it was slowly subsiding.

At the time it was feared that many lives were lost. The rise was so sudden and unexpected that very few of those living in the bottoms made any effort to escape. Chief of Police William Sims estimated that it might cost as many as 100 lives.

West of Shawnee, at 8:45, the Katy bridge went out. In the bend of the river there were several families living in the bottoms and had a hard time evacuating. The entire place of Oate Johnson was washed down the river. Further west, there were hundreds of people living in the lowlands. The Rock Island was washed out at McLoud also.

South and east of the city, the crest of the flood found everyone unprepared. The family of “Slim” Volk, south of the old slaughter house, was cut off, and their only refuge was a nearby large tree. Near the county bridge, R.G. Moore, a farmer, rescued a number of people from a house. There were also several horses in the stables of the old fair grounds that were in danger.

All the work done by the county and the Interurban south of the city was washed out. The river cut through and ran along the Interurban track south of the bridge. It washed out all the work that had cost the Interurban company $10,000 to construct. The last car going south over the track from the bridge was almost dumped into the river at several locations.

The town of Dale was swept away down the river bottom. In a matter of just a few minutes, the river rose as much as 12 inches. All morning boats were used to rescue the stranded. Hundreds of acres of corn, cotton and vegetables were under water. One man was seen rowing his boat over his turnip patch. This was the second flood in one season for the local farmers.

Immense trees were uprooted by the flood, and floated down the river. This was largely responsible for the destruction of the bridges.

As it turned out, only one victim was claimed by the flood. Ben Nugent, age 23, fell from the Interurban bridge into the swollen stream. While working on the bridge, Nugent had a seizure and fell from the bridge into the water. The report said he was unconscious by the time he hit the water. His body was seen only briefly after that. It was a few days later before they recovered his remains.

JOHNSON HANGS FOR HIS DASTARDLY CRIME

At 11:13 A.M. on the morning of December 11, 1908, at the Tecumseh jail yard, Sheriff E.A. “Dink” Pierce sprung the trap of the scaffold that launched William (Bill) Johnson into eternity. After a long repeal process, he paid his dues for the dastardly murder of May Cuppy back on April 5.

Five and one-half minutes after he fell with the rope around his neck, he was pronounced dead by the attending examiners. There were no demonstrations from the huge crowd that assembled for the event.

After the body was cut down, it was laid in a pauper’s casket and the crowd was allowed to pass by and view the remains. This became the fourth hanging in the new state of Oklahoma. There were no relatives available to claim the body.

His last words were, “Send my body to mamma!”

(These stories and hundreds more will appear in the history of Shawnee, a comprehensive compilation of the events of the past in the city. Look for its publication in 2019.)