Shawnee staged the most spectacular parade boosting the Better Cities campaign ever staged in any state in the union, according to Dr. William A. McKeever, director of the Better Cities Campaign.


Shawnee staged the most spectacular parade boosting the Better Cities campaign ever staged in any state in the union, according to Dr. William A. McKeever, director of the Better Cities Campaign. The event took place on April 28, 1921. The parade was over two miles long and was filled with dancing happy children, all bespeaking their best sentiment and hopes for Shawnee in the contest.

The parade was a demonstration of Shawnee’s interest in the Better Cities campaign and was also a demonstration of the patriotism of the city. The entire length of Main Street was banked with people who turned out to witness the demonstration, and to aid in the offering of the best Shawnee had for American patriotism.

Starting promptly, the parade went from Highland, south on Philadelphia to Main, then west on Main to Market and north on Market to the place of disbandment.

Leading the parade, 15 members of the junior bugle corps blared forth clarion call after clarion call and opened the eyes of the folks on the curbs to the fact that “a mighty army” was approaching. Following immediately behind the bugle corps, 20 Girl Scouts in full uniform, proclaimed their devotion for Shawnee and their desire that the city win her Better Cities contest.

Marching third, the Jefferson school, led by their own principal, J.M. Burton, as the pied piper, made a great hit. Each student wore a paper hat with a “J” on it and added much to their appearance in the march. The Horace Mann school was enthusiastic in its swatting of the flies and germs, had a well-designed float of the man who didn’t swat the germ and the man who did the gold dust twins and the flower girls. The entire Horace Mann delegation wore purple and orange and purple and gold caps with the letter “H.M.” on them.

All the other schools also presented floats and the day was considered as a success and a good showing to convince the judges that Shawnee was in the running for the prize.


A million-dollar campaign for the endowment and enlarging of the Oklahoma Catholic University was incepted at a meeting of 200 representative businessmen from all sections of the state on May 3, 1921. Representatives of the Bishop of the Diocese were also there. Bishop Meerscheart was the chairman of the meeting. However, he was not present because of the death of a friend and was out of state.

OCU, in appreciating the support that Shawnee had given it, prepared and served a most elegant dinner of at the meeting. At the banquet, it was pointed out that Shawnee had given the university $154,500 and had financed it until now, but was now turning to the Diocese to make it a great state school, but one that would stand as one of the largest Catholic universities in the entire west. The 200 men at the banquet pledged themselves to support the million-dollar campaign, the inception of which was to be immediate and the drive for funds made through the fall and winter.

A few years earlier, U.S. Hart, Martin Fleming, and Charles Eckert of Shawnee signed a contract for a deed and notes put at $35,000. They paid $5,000 out of their own pockets, as a cash payment on the purchase for a site for the school. They demonstrated a faith so unbounded and a confidence, so implicit as to be almost tragic in their trust of the high sense of honor and obligation amongst the people of Shawnee towards their ideals for the cause of education.

That gift to the Catholic University of Oklahoma embraced 80 acres of beautiful, level and fertile land just a mile outside the city limits. Since that time, its value had doubled several times.

The ink on the final deed to the site had scarcely dried when a corporation, composed of Shawnee citizens, and doing business under the name of the Shawnee Development Company, gave the university an unencumbered deed to 160 acres more of fine land adjoining that already given them by the people of the city. The land was platted into lots and laid out an addition to the city of Shawnee, which would in time, be dotted with beautiful homes.

Two-thirds of the building lots in the gift of land were sold throughout the east by the Benedictine fathers, from which they received approximately $80,000. The Shawnee Development Company was not organized for profit, but solely for financing institutions that would insure the future growth and development of the city, and for that reason, it included among its stock-holders the names of almost every businessman and public-spirited citizens of the community. The gift of the development company, therefore, was a second gift of $100,000, to the university by the people of Shawnee.


A total of 127 seniors, the largest number ever graduated from Shawnee High School, were given their diplomas at the high school auditorium on the night of May 19, 1921.The class was unique in several respects. For the first time in the history of the schools, there were more boys than girls. There were 65 boys and 62 girls.

The class started as freshmen with only 119, and instead of losing numbers, it gained them through the years. Another unique thing was that only four of the students were 21 years of age or older. President of the School Board, George C. Abernathy presented the diplomas to the graduates.

Rev. A.G. Williamson gave the invocation. The keynote speaker was Granville Jones of Kansas City.

(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.