Shawnee and Pottawatomie County were much in the public eye as a potential oil field. Derricks were erected in every direction from the city, one even being within sight, while others were only a short ride by automobile.


Shawnee and Pottawatomie County were much in the public eye as a potential oil field. Derricks were erected in every direction from the city, one even being within sight, while others were only a short ride by automobile. The wells were being drilled on the strength of reports from expert geologists, men who caused the large companies to stake millions of dollars on their judgment.

The country about Shawnee was leased up for many years and occasionally some zealous individuals made attempts to put down a test well. Through inexperience and lack of capital, those attempts resulted in failure.

However, things appeared to be different in 1921. The wells were being drilled by the large oil companies, each one having blocked up large areas to insure them against loss if success rewarded their efforts. The companies were drilling and those holding thousands of acres in leases embraced all the larger companies operating in Texas and Oklahoma and some of the independents.

Apparently, the time had come when they were prepared to drill their holdings and settle any doubt there may be as to the productivity of the field. The best men were given the contracts for drilling, the most complete equipment was installed, pipe and casing to go down the limit of distance, tankage and other requisites were on the ground.

Four wells were being drilled within an hour’s automobile ride of Shawnee, and with the completion of the approaches to the Asher bridge, six more wells along the river would be within an hour of Shawnee under ordinary conditions of travel.

 Those facts interested Shawnee, for the city was in position to serve each of those potential oil districts and was a sort of city where the families of oil men and those interested in the companies could find a very pleasant home. The fellow who must stay “on the lease,” found a pleasant welcome in Shawnee.

Shawnee was also interested in the development of the oil resources in the county and district. From the standpoint of building up its financial and business prestige it sought to increase the volume. Nothing had a more exhilarating effect than the bringing in of a real oil well.

The drilling operation that was attracting the great amount of attention in Shawnee was that of the Transcontinental Oil & Refining Company of Pittsburg, five and one-half miles northwest of Shawnee, where a steel derrick had been erected and a hole put down 285 feet at the present. The contractor of the well was Gene O’Brien, one of the experienced men of the Oklahoma field.


Chairs were placed in aisles, stairways were used as seats, and the Sunday School rooms back of the pulpit were opened to accommodate the crowd, which thronged to hear the Rev. G.W. Truett on the evening of March 3, 1921, at the First Baptist Church. The famous preacher of the First Baptist Church of Dallas spoke in the interest of the follow-up campaign of the 75- million-dollar drive. The message brought by the speaker called the people to be world citizens and to launch a mammoth program for Christianity, which he said was the only physician able to heal the disaster of the nations.

Prior to the address of Dr. Truett, Dr. McConnell, who was the Baptist state secretary of Oklahoma, spoke briefly of the encouraging accomplishments of the denomination in the state. For years, Texas had led the Baptist work of the south, but for the past two years, Oklahoma had stepped into the leadership, having baptized into the church 1,416 during the past year. Dr. McConnell said that government figures showed there was one Baptist for every three persons connected with any religious denomination in the state.

In speaking of the campaign, for enlargement in every organization, from the largest city churches to the little country meeting houses, Dr. Truett mentioned the importance of the orphanages, the hospitals, the papers, and the great book concerns. He stressed above all, that evangelism was fundamental. He said that a church was little better than an ethical club without the soul-seeking spirit.


No better movement could be devised than bringing the cities of Tecumseh and Shawnee together. The citizens of Tecumseh were given credit for initiating the plan to build a hard surface highway to connect the two cities. This stretch was considered as the most used roadway in the county.

The promoters of the movement in Tecumseh were already securing pledges in that city attempting to raise $5,000 toward the expense of the permanent road. They also took up the matter with the state highway department. The state had agreed to pay half of the expense, along with federal funds.

The matter was then checked off to Shawnee to say what it would do in the matter. It was clear that the need of a united community, in every respect, would be needed to make the final decision.


Tecumseh and Shawnee were both ready and anxious to build a permanent road between the two cities. If the meeting of the committees appointed by the commercial bodies of those communities held at the rooms of the Shawnee Board of Commerce on the night of March 16, 1921, be taken as serious.

Twelve men representing Tecumseh met with the Shawnee committee appointed to talk with them. M.M. Henderson of Tecumseh, who had been very active in the matter, reported that he had interviewed the governor and he had informed him that the state and federal governments would match any amount raised by the two cities.

M. Jordan, County Commissioner in whose district the road would be built, stated that he had discussed the matter with the state highway department and with the other commissioners and they were all ready to go ahead with the work. He also said that county funds to the extent of $2,500 would be available and men and teams to work on the road could be furnished equivalent to approximately $10,000.

The matter of the Asher bridge was brought up in the meeting. It was ready for governmental approval. It was mentioned that a commissioner from McClain County said he was prepared to improve the road from the bridge on to Stratford, along the old Chisolm Trail route. It was desired that the road be finished and the bridge be ready for use in time for the Ozark Trail boosters to use it on March 28.

 (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 sometime before Christmas. 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, bringing the history up to the current time of publication.)

Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian.