On the evening of May 23, 1919, the 21st annual commencement exercises of Shawnee High School were held in the auditorium, which was filled with patrons and friends of the graduating class.


On the evening of May 23, 1919, the 21st annual commencement exercises of Shawnee High School were held in the auditorium, which was filled with patrons and friends of the graduating class.

To Schubert’s “March Militaire,” by the orchestra, the class marched into the auditorium and took their places in the front middle tier of seats. Before they were seated, the class and audience sang “The Star-Spangled Banner. After that Rev. R.B. Morehead led in the invocation.

Gladys Basham, one of the graduates, pleased the audience with a violin number, “Hungarian Dance, No. 5,” by Brahms. She was accompanied by Dorothy Flood.

Superintendent H.G. Faust greeted the class of 1919, stating that these commencement exercises marked the close of the academic year. He said it had been a remarkable year in many ways. He first apologized that the scheduled speaker had canceled on them at the last minute and Dr. J.W. Jent of OBU had graciously consented to speak in his place. The word was that the speaker did an outstanding job in such a short time of preparation.

Then Principal Charles Gethmann addressed the class, giving a brief review of the high school commencements through the years. He commented that since 1899, 664 students had graduated from Shawnee High School; 484 girls and 280 boys. The class of 1918 had been the largest in history to that point with 103 graduates.


During the Great War period, though it was drawn upon heavily for soldiers from the student body, and chaplains from the faculty, the Catholic University held its own. The past school term of 1917-18, was considered a success. However, only the high school and commercial departments operated.

Students were returning from the war. Three members of the faculty went to the service. Only two of them returned. Rev. Timothy Murphy died at Camp Doniphan.

During the past year, the improvement of the grounds was continued, with the entire school property in excellent shape. Further portions of the great building were being completed and equipped in preparation for a large attendance that was expected in the fall. The school authorities felt assured that the enrollment for the 1919-20 term would more than double.

Oklahoma Catholic University had already made secure its place among the great educational institutions of the state. The outlook of the leadership was quite optimistic, visioning the school as the “Second Notre Dame” for the southwest.


Burton Witherspoon, son of Mr. & Mrs. R.F. Witherspoon of north Louisa Street, had the distinction of winning the highest military rank of any of the Shawnee boys who served in the war. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Witherspoon volunteered his services as soon as war was declared, leaving Shawnee on April 7, 1917, for Fort Sheridan. There he entered the officers’ training corps. At the end of three months, he received his commission as First Lieutenant and left soon after that for France. There he took a course of instruction in field artillery at Saumur, followed by a course of maneuvers as a lieutenant of artillery with the First Division in preparing for work on the line against the enemy. After that, he served as Lieutenant of an Artillery unit for three months in the trenches.

Colonel Witherspoon served as an aide on the staff of Robert Lee Bullard, Lieutenant General, U.S.A., as Division Corps officer for another four months.

He arrived back in the states from overseas on April 1, being mustered out at Camp Meade and arrived home on April 13. On May 28, he married Emma Thompson of Ada. They moved to Chicago, where he engaged in the practice of civil engineering.


 The real spirit of the Fourth of July was brought out in the large gathering at Shawnee on July 4, 1919. Good times were enjoyed by a large mass of people that had not been equaled in size in the history of the city.

Early in the morning, automobiles, carriages, buggies, wagons, and every other known means of conveyance were rushed into use and throngs began their journey toward the city. By 9 A.M., the city was well filled. The parks were both filling rapidly and the “alfalfa flying field” was packed with automobiles and people from everywhere in the region.

The morning crowd was divided, some watching the airplane with its passengers, some attending the band show, some watching the field and track events, and some going to the theaters. By noon, the large mass of people assembled at Woodland Park, where the barbecue dinner was served.

After the noon hour, some came to the city to “see the show,” while the greater number stayed to hear the excellent addresses delivered.

The evening was also diversified in its means of entertainment. Many went to Benson Park to see the celebration there. The park entertained the largest crowd in its history. The crowds left after celebrating the service of the area soldiers, sailors and marines, letting them know of their pride for their service.


Orville N. Sanders, son of Mr. & Mrs. H.A. Sanders, received a special citation for bravery and was awarded a Victory Medal, with two battle clasps for special heroism under fire. He was cited for his action during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive during September-November, of 1918. The honor was bestowed by Major General McGlachlin.

Sanders was employed with Wirfs Paint and Glass Company before entering the army. He was overseas for a little more than a year.

(These stories and hundreds more appear in the first volume of Shawnee history, entitled: “REDBUD CITY: SHAWNEE, THE EARLY YEARS, 1830-1929.” It can be purchased by calling Clyde Wooldridge at (918) 470-3728, or by visiting the Pottawatomie County Historical Society at the old Santa Fe Depot. It can be purchased for $35. Volume two, “1930-1949,” is also available for $30. They may be obtained as a package for $60. Volume three, “REDBUD CITY: SHAWNEE, THE MIDDLE YEARS, 1950-1969,” is coming during the late summer or early fall. All three volumes are slightly over 400 pages with hundreds of photos and illustrations. They are fully-indexed, making it easy to look up individuals or places of business. Volumes four and five are scheduled in the next two to three years, bring the history up to the current time of publication.)

Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian.