Prompt and effective work by the fire department on May 19, 1911, saved Shawnee’s $125,000 high school building from great damage and possibly total loss by fire. The flames originated in the north end of the manual training room and were confined entirely to that room.


Prompt and effective work by the fire department on May 19, 1911, saved Shawnee’s $125,000 high school building from great damage and possibly total loss by fire. The flames originated in the north end of the manual training room and were confined entirely to that room.

Several of the work benches were destroyed, articles being made by the students were ruined, the floor was damaged to a considerable extent and patches of plastering came off the ceiling. This, aside from the breaking of window glass, was the extent of the damage done.

The fire apparently started among the paints and oils what were kept in the north end of the room. The intense heat of the day probably induced spontaneous combustion. The blaze was well under way when discovered by neighbors and though there was some trouble experienced in turning in the alarm, the fire department reached the scene and the flames were extinguished almost before people of the immediate vicinity knew what happened. The building was filled with smoke and the air in the main hallway was so heated as to be unbearable while the fire was burning.

Superintendent Scott Glen stated that the loss would be approximately $400. The loss of the work done by the students could not be replaced and thus could not be estimated. The room was cleaned up and would be ready for classes in the following week.

The Shawnee High School building was considered one of the best in the state and its loss would have been a sad blow to Shawnee. Had the fire occurred at night, instead of in the day time, the building would have been destroyed.


Carrie Nation, world-famous as a militant temperance reformer, died in Leavenworth, KS, on June 9, 1911, in the Evergreen sanitarium of paresis. She entered the sanitarium on January 23, suffering from a nervous breakdown.

It became evident only a few days earlier that she could not recover. Dr. A.L. Suwalsky, physician at the sanitarium informed her that she was about to die. She said nothing, only smiled calmly. She became unconscious at noon and did not revive. Relatives had been telegraphed of her expected death, but only the doctor and nurses were at her side when she passed.

Reports were that worry over lawsuits brought by her against a lecture bureau for alleged failure to pay her for services on the platform, were circulated to have caused her breakdown. She was not even permitted to read letters addressed to her. Doctors feared that some hint of the pending suits could endanger her health.

The last five months of her life in the sanitarium was in contrast with her former aggressive activity. The meek little woman submitted passively to the physician’s directions. Her one-time aggressiveness seemed to fail with her health.

Once she saw a physician on the grounds smoking a cigar. She made no remonstrance, simply smiling and saying that she had done all she could to “eradicate the evil.” She was content, she told him, to let others carry out the fight.


Literally enveloped in a blinding sheet of lightning at 1:35 A.M. on June 18, 1911, the power and light house of the Shawnee Gas & Electric Company was a mass of flames within five minutes. Inside of 30 minutes, it was reduced to ruins. Valiant work by the fire department saved the boiler house intact. The loss was estimated at $125,000.

Fire Chief L.A. Brown, Assistant Chief of Police Jerry Spann, and four firemen had a narrow escape when the south wall of the building fell. They were forced against the high wire fence with no way of escape. Because of the fire, all light and power in the city and Tecumseh was off.

When the fire occurred, the morning edition of the Shawnee News was just going to press. The News used electric power alone for its presses and linotype. The consequences were the inability to issue the news. A gasoline engine was purchased and installed, with little interruption of the publication.

Manager Fred Caldwell of the electric company began working immediately to restore the power with a new plant as soon as possible. Electric houses at Wichita, Dallas, Memphis and other points, were contacted and rush orders given for all the generators in stock. Caldwell said he would operate the Tecumseh plant and that could relieve the situation as to lights in residence and business houses, allowing one light to each house.

The first alarm was given by a Rock Island engine in the yards near the passenger station. The power plant whistle then blew, and other whistles joined in. Employees at the plant did valiant work trying to save the building. They worked savagely with lines of hose at their command but were forced from the power room by the rapidly spreading flames. They were barely able to save the hose but did not have time to shut off the fire plug. Before they left the building, they took time to shut off the gas and leave everything in such a shape as not to endanger the fire boys.

Considerable other damage was done by the storm, which was of great fury. The Grace M.E. Church on the east side was struck by lightning and the roof damaged. Several small bridges were washed out, and the streets all over the city were converted into raging torrents. The river rose about three feet.


John Parks, 30-year-old brakeman on the Rock Island railroad, was stabbed and seriously injured by M.G. Wells, a machinist’s helper at the Rock Island Shops on July 16, 1911. Parks’ condition was considered critical and physicians said his situation looked terminal. Wells was arrested the next morning and arraigned before Justice of the Peace Hal Johnson. He did not enter a plea and his preliminary was set for later in the week.

Wells commented to a reporter of the Shawnee News that he was intoxicated and in company with three other young men. They were walking along Main Street, on their way to downtown. Four boys then arrived at the corner of Park Street and Main. Parks and another man drove past. Wells says that he waved his hat at the two men and said something to them.

“I probably cursed them,” said Wells. “Parks shouted back to me that he didn’t speak to such fellows. I told him to get out of the buggy. He then took the butt end of the buggy whip and struck me over the head, knocking me down several times. I then saw that I wouldn’t be able to handle both men and I drew my pocket knife and stabbed one of them. I didn’t know either of the men.”

Wells was not arrested until the next morning. The knife, with a four-inch blade, was still in his possession. The police were unable to locate him until he gave himself up to a watchman at the Rock Island shops. Wells said that the three men with him did not offer to help him and that he had to do something to protect himself.

“I sure hate this,” said Wells. “I came to Shawnee to live and have only been here a few weeks. I was drunk, or I never would have done what I did.”

Parks was in bad shape. Examination showed that the knife entered his chest on the left side and punctured the lung. Blood poisoning was also feared.

(These stories and hundreds more will appear in the first volume of “REDBUD CITY, Shawnee in the early days 1870-1950,” coming in the summer of 2018. It will be in digital format. A printed version will also be available at a higher price. The digital copy will read just like a book on your computer. It will contain approximately 800 pages, with hundreds of photos and illustrations. It is also fully indexed with about 4,000 names and over 1,000 businesses and places. Look for more details in the coming weeks.)