The 1920s approached the citizens of Shawnee with great expectations. The city was growing by leaps and bounds, with businesses popping up every day and new residential houses being erected constantly. The census records showed Shawnee had grown to 15,348 citizens.
The 1920s approached the citizens of Shawnee with great expectations. The city was growing by leaps and bounds, with businesses popping up every day and new residential houses being erected constantly. The census records showed Shawnee had grown to 15,348 citizens. That was an increase of 2,874 over the records of 1910 at 12,474. It was also an increase of 4,393 since statehood in 1907.
The decade would hold a variety of incidents and stories. Oil field production all around it, fires, floods, and storms. However, this ten-year period was dominated by all kinds of lawlessness. Everything from bank robberies, murders, thievery, dynamiting of houses, beatings, and the Ku Klux Klan. Yeggs would be renown, not only in Shawnee, but around the country as well. It seemed that the streets of Chicago did not have a lot on the growing pains and the coming of civilization in Shawnee, Oklahoma.
But things were generally much better for law-abiding citizens. Generally speaking, “life was good,” and the people were living like it was the “Roaring Twenties.” The schools and universities would continue to grow and become renowned as institutions. Pioneers of the early days began to pass on, but not before they passed the mantle on to the next generation to make Shawnee one of the great cities of Oklahoma.
THIEF CAUGHT AFTER CHASE
Carl F. Gossett, who stated that he was a thief for the money that he can make out of it, was arrested on the afternoon of January 14, 1920 in the city. The arrest came after an exciting chase over many of the city’s principal streets and through Woodland Park. When he was finally apprehended, he was hiding in the Carnegie Library.
Gossett entered the boarding home of P.C. Williams on north Market Street about 3 P.M., and went to the rooms of J.B. Council, a Rock Island machinist. After ransacking the room, he started to leave the house and Mrs. Williams noticed that he was not a “regular-roomer” and called to her husband to notice him. The husband called for him to stop and he broke and ran. Mr. Williams then gave chase and followed him down 9th Street to the alley between the lumber yard and the fire station.
Here, Harry O’Brien, fireman, joined in the “run” and Gossett was apprehended hiding in the library. He was taken to the police station and turned over to the authorities. After strict questioning, Gossett admitted his part in recent robberies at the Weaver Apartments, the Goodnight Apartments, and the Baldwin Apartments. He stated that the “booty” was in his room over the Victory Theater.
When the room was searched, almost $1,000 worth of stolen jewelry and clothing were found. Practically all the articles found were identified, but many articles which were stolen were not located. The bride of the accused man was not held by the authorities. She stated that she had known Gossett a short time and they were married only a couple of days.
STREET CARS MUST BE REPAIRED OR STOPPED
Shawnee was expected to have a better street car system in about 90 days or have a jitney system covering the entire residential districts. This was the ruling of the city council on the night of January 20, 1920, in ordering the Shawnee-Tecumseh Traction Company to repair their car system within 90 days. If not, the city would consider revoking their charter.
The proposition was introduced by Councilman Dick Richards, after a stormy session of the council and with one accord the members, all six of them, backed the representative of the third ward. They were severe and cutting in their criticism of the service that Shawnee was getting. They believed the road was paid well enough for better equipment and service to be installed.
Fifteen-minute service and the extension of the lines to the northeast corner of the Baptist University campus was also demanded. The resolution was introduced and unanimously passed.
LARCH-MILLER SACRIFICES LIFE FOR CAUSE OF SUFFRAGE
Never in the history of Shawnee, had its citizens been more profoundly shocked than when on early February 1, 1920, the word was passed that Aloysius Larch-Miller was dead. And even yet, it seemed impossible that one so vital, so full of energy and life, was now stilled forever. Just 24 hours earlier, she was ringing forth a message to the citizens of Pottawatomie County assembled in convention.
Larch-Miller, against the advice of her friends, arose from a bed of illness to attend the Democratic Convention of the county, held at Tecumseh on Saturday, January 31. She was there to make an appeal for the call of a special meeting of the Oklahoma Legislature. Many of the women of the state had asked them to ratify the national amendment for women suffrage. Larch-Miller had been suffering for a week with the flu and on returning home Saturday night, went at once to bed. She grew steadily worse, passing away on Monday morning at 2:45 A.M. of pulmonary edema.
The opposing forces recognized in her no mean opponent and this was shown when they sent to the convention to fight the passage of the resolution the intellectual attorney general. But the silver-tongued orator met his match when the little woman equaled him in both oratory and as a master word builder.
Although an earnest suffragist, she was not a militant. She was a hard, consistent and conscientious worker. However, she deplored and ever discouraged militant methods. She was broad-minded and generous alike to friend and foe. One of her last utterances to a friend before leaving the convention was an expression of appreciation of the courtesy and fairness displayed by her opponent.
Agnes Aloysius Larch-Miller was born in Jackson, TN. Her parents came to Shawnee in the fall of 1902 and lived in the city since that time. After finishing at Shawnee High School, she attended the Central Normal College at Edmond, and took special courses at the University of Chicago. Her funeral services were held on February 3, at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church.
DR. SCOTT ORDERS SCHOOLS TO CLOSE
Because of so many children being ill with the flu or being kept out of school because its prominence in the city, Dr. J.H. Scott, the city health officer ordered the schools closed for 48 hours on February 10, 1920. Forty-four percent of the children were absent the day before. Not all were ill with the flu but were needed at home to assist where several mothers of families were down with the disease. Many were just kept home as a safety feature.
Dr. Scott said that if things cleared up in the next few days, the schools would be allowed to re-open. Superintendent H.G. Faust, who went to bed with the flu himself, issued the following proclamation:
“On account of the continued spread of the flu epidemic, the city schools will be closed for a few days. It is hoped the teachers and pupils will take advantage of this opportunity to rest and recuperate as much as possible during this enforced vacation, and children should stay off the streets as much as possible. The time for re-opening schools will be announced in the Morning News.”
(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.