The inevitable happened and the long-expected automobile fatalities were increased by a second victim in two weeks, when Mrs. James Pruitt was run over and almost instantly killed on the evening of September 8, 1916. She was run over by a roadster driven by Grover C. Brookover.
The accident occurred at the intersection of Ninth and Oklahoma in the presence of her spouse and other spectators. As usual in such cases, versions of the accident differed materially. Generally, witnesses asserted that the car was going at a considerable high rate of speed, with the driver continuously sounding his horn along the way.

SECOND AUTO FATALITY IN TWO WEEKS

The inevitable happened and the long-expected automobile fatalities were increased by a second victim in two weeks, when Mrs. James Pruitt was run over and almost instantly killed on the evening of September 8, 1916. She was run over by a roadster driven by Grover C. Brookover.

The accident occurred at the intersection of Ninth and Oklahoma in the presence of her spouse and other spectators. As usual in such cases, versions of the accident differed materially. Generally, witnesses asserted that the car was going at a considerable high rate of speed, with the driver continuously sounding his horn along the way.

Mr. & Mrs. Pruitt had started down Oklahoma Street toward the Ice Plant, to meet their children. Once the couple noticed the car coming, Mrs. Pruitt hesitated which way to turn, and before her husband could restrain her, she stepped into the path of the car. When Brookover saw that a collision was probable, he attempted to stop the car and failing in this, turned sharply to avoid Mrs. Pruitt, but was unsuccessful.

The unfortunate woman was terribly crushed by the impact and expired as she was being removed to her home on south Pennsylvania Street. The remains were later taken to the Bossier Undertaking Company’s morgue. Brookover was arrested on a warrant of murder in the second degree. He was released upon a bond of $1,500. He was completely overcome by the terrible accident. He told the local News-Herald reporter that he considered it unavoidable on his part.

The city was stirred by this second fatality from automobile accidents within a period of two weeks. The cry for closer enforcement of the automobile ordinances, especially of speeding, was encouraged. Mayor Frank Stearns issued a proclamation calling upon all police officers to strictly enforce the traffic ordinances. He said drastic steps needed to be taken in cases of violation of the same, especially in cases of accidents involving pedestrians.

SHAWNEE TO JOIN IN OZARK TRAILS MOVEMENT

Upon invitation from Meeker, plans were made for a delegation from Shawnee to meet the Okmulgee, Henryetta, Okemah, and Prague delegations at the Ozark Trails Convention in Oklahoma City during the third week of November 1916. Shawnee was interested in getting the trail through Meeker, since the county road to the north line had been extended to Meeker by Lincoln County citizens. The improved road would secure both the east and west side of the state.

Advocates of good roads were confident that the Ozark Trails Convention would inaugurate a period of good roads building in Oklahoma that would eventually place the state in the list of those known for that reputation. In the 27 years of existent of the people of the state and territory, they were busy establishing themselves as a first-class region. From following Indian trails and cow paths in the early days, to the time when farmers of the new state laid out and made passable roads on section lines, this important branch of state-building was rather haphazard business.

During the past few years, many sections of the state began a systematic method in their road building. However, it was not until automobile travel became such a factor in business of the state and of communities, that real road-building took on significance.

At the time, three routes from northeast to southwest, paralleling each other, were in competition to secure the official mark of the Ozark Trail. It would become the link in a trans-continental highway. Each of the three routes were scenes of activity, and more than 1,000 miles of very excellent roadway was the expected outcome. Much of the work between Oklahoma City and Amarillo was already completed and ready for inspection.

Rivalries between the tentative routes between Tulsa and Oklahoma City were keen. Organizations in every town on each of the three competing lines had perfected and worked on their campaign. Many miles of the “good roads” were already in a high state of excellence.

The route from Okmulgee, Henryetta, Prague and Meeker, was the most advantageous to Shawnee. The work on that route and intersecting roads was so advanced that the boosters for this route felt confident they would be successful in getting the approval of the convention. President H.O. Bailey of the Shawnee Auto Club, and others, were busy lining up the local road enthusiasts to have a good representation at the convention.

CITY COUNCIL ORDERS “IMMORAL-FREE” SHAWNEE

The city council on the night of December 5, 1916, instructed the police of the city to take immediate steps to institute an active campaign to the end that every lewd woman be driven from Shawnee by the first of the year.

Alderman Allen “Dick” Richards stated that he was glad to see the attempt to open gambling in the city promptly nipped by the police. Now he believed that attention should be focused on the question of immoral women in the city. Other councilmen believed that although Shawnee was perhaps the cleanest city in the state in this respect, vigorous steps should be taken at once against such questionable resorts as still existed. There was to be no distinction as to color. There was no intention of criticizing the police and that there was a consistent attitude of working against such vice of every kind in the city.

Chief Charlie Hawk said there were no houses of prostitution in Shawnee, but that there were two or three purported rooming houses which he considered of questionable character. He said the roommates had been frequently arrested, but never stood trial on charges. He added that because of the activity of the police, places which had given trouble in the past, recently changed hands and had become respectable rooming houses. This probably left no more than two or three questionable places in the city.

Mayor Frank Stearns declared emphatically if the law was being violated at the places mentioned, it was the duty of the police to employ vigorous corrective measures. His instruction to the police had always been to proceed against all forms of law violation, wherever found, he said.

Alderman Richards thought the fine should be made heavier and that upon a repetition of the offense charged, the woman should be given a jail sentence, instead of a fine. Other aldermen suggested more frequent fining, but Chief Hawk objected that such a system was too much like a license system.

(Note: These stories and many more appear in the comprehensive history of Shawnee, called “Redbud City.” It appears in a five-volume series of the history of the city dating from the removal of the native peoples to Indian Territory in the 1830s, up to the present day 21st century. The first volume is now available at the PCHS or by calling Clyde Wooldridge at (918)470-3728.)

Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian.