Thoroughly aroused by the last of a series of crimes against women, all of which occurred south of Shawnee, residents of the vicinity of the crime on the night of September 3, 1911, were ready to act. On that night, 14-year-old Oneta Hughes was fatally beaten and her escort, Clifford Hughes, fatally shot.


Thoroughly aroused by the last of a series of crimes against women, all of which occurred south of Shawnee, residents of the vicinity of the crime on the night of September 3, 1911, were ready to act. On that night, 14-year-old Oneta Hughes was fatally beaten and her escort, Clifford Hughes, fatally shot.

The neighbors started a movement to raise by popular subscription, a fund of $1,000 to offer as a reward for the apprehension and conviction of the guilty person. The action was led by H.F. Brogden, proprietor of a country store near the scene. He was intense and earnest about the matter, as were the other neighbors. They were assisted by many of the businessmen and others of the city in raising the money.

Following the latest crime, the theory was again advanced that all the crimes had been committed by the same person, though three boys were already in the penitentiary. They were convicted of two of the cases. In every case, the assailant was described as of rather stout build, medium height, and generally wore working clothes and appeared in his shirt sleeves. Many believed that he was a maniac with a thirst for women’s blood.

The first of a long series of such crimes occurred five years earlier east of Tecumseh. A boy was found dead by his buggy, and the girl who had accompanied him, was lying deceased about a quarter of a mile away. A large gun had been used in the double killing. It was called murder and suicide, but most of the people believed it to be just murder.

Charles McDaniels was shot in the back south of Shawnee and crippled for life. His companion was dragged away into the bushes and sexually assaulted. No one was ever arrested for the crime. The women described their assailant as black.

Mollie Colclasure was shot to death in McConkey’s pasture, south of Shawnee. Her escort, Claude Gorman, ran to the police station and reported it. She had on his coat and, although no effort was made by Gorman to conceal the fact that he had been with the woman, he was charged with the crime and sentenced to life imprisonment. He described the man who, he claimed, attacked him and the woman as an Indian or a Mexican.

Victoria Page was shot through the body and killed near Benson Park. Willie Canalis was convicted of her murder, but it was never shown that he had a revolver nor was the weapon ever found. Two men were seen in the vicinity just before the killing.

Jessie Edington was beaten almost to death near Benson Park. Charles Robarts, her escort, was charged with the crime and convicted. In this case, there was evidence of the same mysterious third party.

Besides these cases, there were numerous cases of assault that were never made public, and the consequences were not serious. In some cases, the assailant was driven off; in others, the attacker succeeded in escaping.

Many were fixed in their belief that if this theory of a maniac was taken up and followed that the guilty person would be apprehended. The man who committed the crimes, it was believed, was an accomplice, who was always near the scene.


At 8:55 A.M., on September 21, 1911, just 10 minutes before Governor Lee Cruce re-entered the state, Acting Governor J.J. McAlester signed the document granting a full and complete pardon to William F. Sims. He was formerly City Marshal and Chief of Police. McAlester expressed a determination to grant the pardon, so it was not unexpected.

“Bill” Sims, as he was familiarly known among his friends, had a narrow escape. His appeal from the five-year penitentiary sentence of the District Court, was rejected by the Criminal Court of Appeals and a pardon was his last chance of escape from prison.

The Sims case was a celebrated one. His was one of the few convictions resulting from the great upheaval in official circles three years earlier by a special grand jury convened to investigate charges of alleged wholesale corruption on the part of county officers. His friends always maintained that he was a victim of circumstances; that he was guilty of nothing more than what had always been the practice in Shawnee, and now the practice in Oklahoma cities; the licensing of vice by a fine system.

It was said that County Attorney C.P. Holt called Acting Governor McAlester, protesting the granting of the pardon. However, stronger influences had already been at work and the acting governor informed Holt he had decided to grant the pardon.

There were rumors there would be trouble in executive circles as soon as Governor Cruce got time to recover his breath. The Governor was described as very indignant that the Lieutenant-Governor, in his absence, should try to depopulate the prison at McAlester. Locally, however, people appeared generally well pleased with McAlester’s action.

Over the next few days there were all kinds of opposition about the pardon of Sims. Some suggested that it was illegal because Governor Cruce was back within the state borders when it was granted. Secondly, rumors were floating that the Governor would rescind it. However, Governor Cruce eventually came out publicly and said the pardon would stand.


Shawnee High School traveled to Oklahoma City for a football game on October 20, 1911. The game had an abnormal outcome, as described by sports editor of the Daily Oklahoman:

“With five minutes left to play in the fourth period of the game, Coach Earnway Edwards of the Shawnee football team called his men off the field and forfeited the game to Oklahoma City, rather than comply with a decision of the referee. The official said that Maxwell, fullback of Shawnee, must leave the game for indecent language. The score was 8-0 in favor of Oklahoma City when the contest was forfeited.

“According to referee Pritchard, Maxwell had been using indecent language in objecting to decisions at other times during the game. He said he was warned several times. With five minutes left, the referee decided he must leave the contest. Coach Edwards would did not agree and the game was forfeited.

“The game, barring objections to decisions, wrangling and inefficient work on the part of the referee, was well played with the teams being evenly matched. The Oklahoma City team scored twice, five points on a touchdown and three on a drop-kick. The score should have stood at 3-0, as the touchdown was made after the referee had blown his whistle and the play should have stopped.

“The touchdown was made by OKC after 12 minutes of play in the first quarter, when the runner received a punt on Shawnee’s 30-yard line and zig-zagged across the field and over the line. But just after he caught the ball, the referee unintentionally blew his whistle and part of the Shawnee players ceased effort to tackle the runner. The visitors objected strenuously to the decision, but the referee allow it to stand. The extra point was missed.

“Later in the second quarter, the Shawnee team successfully made a forward pass and Rose ran 70 yards for a touchdown, but the referee blew the whistle for offside and brought back the ball. Shawnee again objected, but to no avail, and the game went on. With one minute left to play, OKC executed a drop-kick squarely between the goal posts and they earned three more points.

“After allowing OKC the touchdown, the Shawnee coach gave notice that he would protest the game with the football rules committee’ However, by quitting the game it was doubtful that any protest would have positive results.”

(These stories and hundreds more will appear in the comprehensive history of Shawnee. Volume One is coming this summer, entitled “Shawnee, the Early Days, 1870-1950.” It can be purchased on a flash drive. It you would like a traditional printed copy, it can be provided at a higher cost. Volume One will be approximately 800 pages in length, fully indexed with a glossary containing public office holders during that period. Look for more details later.)