One of the most representative gatherings ever assembled in Shawnee crowded the superior court room on the night of January 6, 1919. The auditorium, gallery and adjacent corridors were packed with people. It was all in response to a call from Mayor Frank Watts to discuss the light and power situation. The theme was to consider the possible remedies to the problem.

GREAT MASS MEETING HELD OVER PLANT

One of the most representative gatherings ever assembled in Shawnee crowded the superior court room on the night of January 6, 1919. The auditorium, gallery and adjacent corridors were packed with people. It was all in response to a call from Mayor Frank Watts to discuss the light and power situation. The theme was to consider the possible remedies to the problem.

The crowd voted by a raise of hands that the city council proceed to call an election to vote bonds for a municipality-owned and operated electric light and power plant. The sentiment of the meeting was singularly unanimous in endorsing the movement. The only objection raised was by Attorney Charles W. Wells, who urged against the construction of a plant at that time, when the cost of material and equipment was so high. It was seconded by George A. Henshaw, former member of the State Corporation Commission, and one of the organizers of the Oklahoma Light & Power Company.

Their argument was countered by J.D. Lydick, who talked on behalf of a municipal plant. At the conclusion of the meeting, the chairman was instructed to select a Committee of 12 to organize the fight for a municipal light and power plant.

The meeting was called to order by Mayor Watts, who suggested that a chairman and secretary be selected. Joe B. Cobb, councilman from the second ward, was named chairman. A.B. Fell, managing editor of the News-Herald was selected as secretary.

MORAL CONDITION OF CITY CONCERNS COUNCIL

In an earnest effort to clear up a situation that had for some months been troubling the police department and the entire city administration was taken up by the council. Namely, it brought charges of improper conduct of the local hotels. This led to questioning of a local proprietor, led by Alderman Wade Willard.

Mayor Frank Watts introduced the subject by stating to the council that complaints and reports of conditions at the local hotels were such that he believed they should be investigated. For that purpose, he would appoint a committee to be composed of Aldermen Joe Cobb, A.J. Cammack, and Allen T. “Dick” Richards.

Alderman Cammack insisted that it was not the duty of the members of the city council to perform such service. It was up to the police department, and he would decline to serve on such a committee. He requested a statement as to why such a thing was proposed.

Cammack suggested that it should not be a concern of the council. If a member of the council, or anyone else, was conducting an illegal place, he was amenable to the laws of the state and the proper procedure to close the place should be taken. It was up to the officers to secure the evidence and not the council. Then if such council member be found guilty in the courts, the council might act. Richards said the police were under the council, and consequently, the council should take cognizance of the situation at hand.

Mayor Watts stated that to be frank about it, the charges and complaints concerning the hotels had been made by the police department. The police had reported to him that the two leading hotels of the city had acquired the reputation of being complicit with law violators and the chief centers of bootlegging, gambling and prostitution. He said it was not suggested that the managers of the hotels were directly concerned in such law violations. He inferred that the managers had not shown a proper inclination to assist the officers in remedying the conditions.

MINISTERIAL ALLIANCE PUSHES FOR CLOSING OF POOL HALLS

Sunday night, January 12, 1919, could well have been called “civic righteousness Sunday” in Shawnee. The ministers of the city in one way or another put forward the movement for a cleaner and better city. They made civic righteousness a keynote subject of their sermons.

Chief among the problems discussed were the pool halls. In agreement with a previous decision of the ministerial alliance, each minister circulated in his congregation petitions addressed to the city council, asking that they either abolish pool halls by ordinance or submit the question for a vote.

Rev. J. Herron Miller, at the First Presbyterian Church, spoke of regulation of the display of moving pictures and the closing of theaters on Sunday, and moral conditions in the city to a vote of the qualified electors of the city. At each church, a petition for the women and one for the men were circulated and were generally signed. Taking as his theme: “The Altar in the Home,” he made a strong plea for morality, honesty and straightforwardness for genuine religion without hypocrisy or pretense.

Rev. Walter L. Ross, president of the Ministerial Alliance, at the First Christian Church, besides presenting the pool hall petitions, spoke of conditions in the city and warmly commended the News-Herald for its frontpage editorial stand on the subject.

Rev. E.L. Compere at the First Baptist Church, at the evening meeting dealt especially with the situation relative to the pool halls as a source of evil. He put forward his ideal for Shawnee. “It should be a city in which the young men may have only the best of influences thrown about them. A city in which evil influences may not touch them.”

Rev. R.B. Morehead, in presenting the pool hall petition, discussed the problem in an enlightening manner. It had been represented to him, he said, that some of the pool halls of Shawnee, as conducted, were a menace to the morals of the youth.

In the churches, there was a strong note for a better Shawnee citizenship, for honesty of purpose, and sincerity, for the strengthening of the arm of the good influences, and the castigation of the evil. The matter of abolishing the pool halls was put up to the Ministerial Alliance by OBU authorities. It was submitted to the Rotary Club at its last meeting, and referred to one of the standing committees, for consideration and recommendation.

TOTALS IN FOR CASUALITIES OF THE GREAT WAR

An official tabulation of casualties for the American Expeditionary Forces during the past Great War was shocking when released to the public. For the Americans, 53,402 were killed by combat; 63,114 died from other reasons; a grand total of 116, 516 deaths attributed to U.S. participation in the war.

There were another 204,002 wounded in action; raising the casualty totals to 320,518. There were 3,350 missing in action. There were 726 deaths from the state of Oklahoma.

Three young men lost their lives from Shawnee. Barnard Gill, technically listed as from McLoud, but his family had moved to Shawnee; William C. Brown; and John R. Levins.

(These stories and many more are part of Volume One in the history of Shawnee from 1830 through 1929. The above stories are from Chapter Five, entitled “Convention City, 1910-1919.” The first volume is available at the Pottawatomie County Historical Society, (405) 275-8412, or by calling Clyde Wooldridge at (918) 470-3728. Volume One is priced at $35. Volume Two, covering the 1930s and 1940s, is also available at a cost of $30. Volume Three, on the 1950s and 1960s, is scheduled for publication in the late summer or early fall of 2019.)

Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian.