Shawnee has a magnificent story of how the small village developed into a prosperous city of over 30,000 souls over a period of 120 years. It has been my mission over the past two years to research this story and bring it all together in comprehensive form for your knowledge and entertainment. It will also serve as a reference point for you queries about when certain events occurred in the city of Shawnee.

Shawnee has a magnificent story of how the small village developed into a prosperous city of over 30,000 souls over a period of 120 years. It has been my mission over the past two years to research this story and bring it all together in comprehensive form for your knowledge and entertainment. It will also serve as a reference point for you queries about when certain events occurred in the city of Shawnee.

After much discussion with people of the city who gave me a lot of advice about what would be the best route to go on putting the episodes together for public use, I finally developed a plan that appears to be the best method. At first it was going to be just one volume like the past books I published on Wilburton (335 pages), McAlester (860 pages), and Eastern Oklahoma State College (350 pages). However, it did not take long to realize this would be the largest undertaking of my local history projects. It appeared to be more than 2,000 pages in the final form.

It was clear this would be too massive of a manuscript for the public. With my advisors, we finally came up with the final plan of at least five volumes, covering certain time periods of the story. By publishing them over a period of two to three years, the public would not be saddled with a massive amount of cost in one setting. Thus, it appears the final plan is a five-volume work covering the time from the creation of Indian Territory in the 1830s up to about 2022, or when I catch up with the current time in my research and writing.

VOLUME ONE, that came available in September of 2018, covers about a century of work. It begins with the removal of the American Indian tribes from various parts of the country to what was developed and called Indian Territory in the 1830s. It covers the general story of the creation of the territory but focuses more on the local tribes of the Pottawatomi, Shawnee, Kickapoo and the Iowa. A brief description of their early history and how they gradually settled in what is now Oklahoma. The apex of this story comes after the Civil War and the changing of relations between the Indian tribes and the federal government.

This leads to the eventual establishment of Oklahoma Territory in the western part of modern-day Oklahoma and its clear separation from the eastern part, known as Indian Territory. This leads to the allotment period and the settlement of the “leftover” land to white settlers through the land runs in what is now Shawnee, Tecumseh, and Chandler, and the other areas in counties “A” and “B.” These towns popped up overnight but were only villages at first with county administrations only. The towns incorporated rather early but were only little more than settlements until the advent of the railroads.

In the mid-1890s, a bitter battle developed between the county seat of Tecumseh and Shawnee over the location of the county government. The territorial legislature located it eventually in Tecumseh because it was closer to the center of the county geographically. However, after Shawnee received the railroads in the mid-1890s, there was clamor all over the new county of Pottawatomie for the removal to the larger city of Shawnee that blossomed after the Choctaw, Oklahoma & Gulf Railroad came to town and subsequently the Santa Fe. Bitter rivalries between the two towns led to the first vote between the two cities for the county seat. Shawnee won that first vote in 1910, but after protests from Tecumseh in the courts, the plebiscite was thrown out and the seat remained in Tecumseh for another 20 years.

The rest of Volume One covers the teens of the 20th century, known as “Convention City.” The city became a bastion for conventions of all kinds during that decade and led to the construction of “Convention Hall” in 1910 to accommodate all these meetings. By the 1920s, Shawnee was growing at “break-neck” speed. Along with prosperity and growth came men who wanted to tear down the town through their own selfish desires. This was a mixture of citizens who were “civic-minded” and help the city along to become one of the leading cities in the young state of Oklahoma. However, there were others who wanted to mold it to fit their own wants and did anything they wish to obtain those desires. However, by the end of the decade, the city appeared to be “riding high” on its economic development.

This leads into Volume Two, the 1930s and 1940s. The economic fortunes of the city turned sour as the Great Depression hit Shawnee like most all other places. Unemployment was high, and many people struggled to feed and house their families. However, with the advent of the “New Deal” during the Roosevelt administration, through the leadership of many progressive citizens, the city obtained many of the landmarks that are still visible in the 21st century: the county courthouse, built in 1935, after the second vote in the county in 1930 that moved the seat to Shawnee; the city auditorium in 1936; the Shawnee Lake and the community swimming pool. These all come through a combination of grants from the federal government through the CWA program and city-wide bond issues.

But there was also the advent of the “bad guys.” The 1930s seemed to be the time for the bank robbers and other bandits. Shawnee had more than its share of the lawless, some home-grown and some moved into the area to take advantage of this progressive metropolis. Names like, “Pretty Boy” Floyd, Wilbur Underhill, Paul Godwin, Chester Comer, and several other lesser-known, but just as lawless.

The pace changes in the 1940s and the country’s involvement in World War II. Hardships came to the city through supporting the war effort with all kinds of rationings and the giving of its young men to the war effort. When the war ended, Shawnee, like many other cities in Oklahoma, began to prosper more than ever before. In the early part of the decade, the state legislature designed Shawnee as the “Redbud City of Oklahoma” because of its great amount to Redbud trees.

These first two volumes contain thousands of names, businesses, and organizations. All are indexed for easy reference. They have a glossary with many of the servants of the city and county who held public offices. There is also a Memorial/Tribute section, where various families or organizations are highlighted.

Volume Three, covering the 1950s and 1960s, is due for publication in the summer/fall of 2019. Volume Four will cover the 1970s and 1980s. Look for it sometime in 2020 or 2021. Volume Five will cover the 1990s and the 21st century and is scheduled for 2022. There could be some slight changes in the setup of these volumes, but they are on the way.

I am offering a “Christmas Special” for the holidays that is good until January 2. The first two volumes as a package may be purchased for $60. Volume One can be purchased separately for $35, and Volume Two for $30. Those individual prices will remain after the holidays, but the special offer will be gone. They may be purchased by calling Clyde Wooldridge at (918) 470-3728, or by contacting the Pottawatomie County Historical Society.

Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian.