The striking railway shop men wanted police power under their own union leaders. They would take over the strike situation in Shawnee under a guarantee to preserve the strictest law and order. They would not only allow imported workers to continue in the shops but give full protection to any number the railroad workers brought to the city. This was the substance of an offer made to United States Marshal Alva McDonald on the night of August 24, 1922, by the executive committee of the local strikers, headed by Roy Hendrickson, chairman. The marshal said he did not consider the proposal feasible or advisable.

MCDONALD SAYS PLAN IS NOT FEASIBLE

The striking railway shop men wanted police power under their own union leaders. They would take over the strike situation in Shawnee under a guarantee to preserve the strictest law and order. They would not only allow imported workers to continue in the shops but give full protection to any number the railroad workers brought to the city. This was the substance of an offer made to United States Marshal Alva McDonald on the night of August 24, 1922, by the executive committee of the local strikers, headed by Roy Hendrickson, chairman. The marshal said he did not consider the proposal feasible or advisable.

Chairman Hendrickson said the offer was based on the removal of all railroad and federal guards who were protecting the shops of the Rock Island and Santa Fe railroads in Shawnee. There were about 150 men, including special agents and deputy marshals on duty. They were guarding property valued at nearly 15 million dollars, and some 200 imported employees of the railroads.

A force of about 400 additional workers were scheduled to come in the Rock Island shops on August 25, according to C.L. Van Hickey, superintendent of the Panhandle Division of the Rock Island, who oversaw the situation in Shawnee. Preparations were made to house the workers, all within the railroad yards. The new men were recruited for the most part from Chicago.

Strike chairman Hendrickson said that he was confident there would be no trouble under the present conditions. However, he could not be responsible for any trouble which might result from men working in the shops going into town unguarded, unless his own “men” had the responsibility of protecting them.

Hendrickson said he was gathering evidence that the recent disorders in the city, in which several shots were fired at lighted windows in the railway shops and at a group of deputies stationed outside the shops, were caused by “interests bent upon making the situation in Shawnee appear blacker than it was.” He added that although the reports he received pointed to the guilty persons, he did not have proof that such a conspiracy existed.

“Our men here, about 1,000 of them, are very nearly all American born. This town is their home. They own property here and exercise all the rights of citizens who expect to live out their lives here,” said Hendrickson. “They will not endanger all their future lives here by allowing disorders to occur which might permanently take away their job.”

He admitted there might be a small element among the strikers which could be aroused to violence but added that the other men would act to prevent it. He said that although the strikers held daily meetings, there were no radical speeches made at those gatherings, and that he had not been able to find any members of the I.W.W., or radicals in Shawnee.

CONTROVERSY OVER TROOPS

The entry of state troops into the strike situation in Shawnee loomed on August 25, when the receipt by local officials of a letter from Governor J.B.A. Robertson indicated that might happen.

“I am forced to the conclusion that the local officers in Pottawatomie County are doing practically nothing in the way of suppressing violence, and I am also convinced that all the trouble has been occasioned by the activities of a few individuals who are well known to the local authorities,” said the governor.

Mayor Charles B. Caruth and Sheriff Grover Butler reported the night before that the possibility of troops was removed, after their return from a conference in Oklahoma City with the governor. The governor’s letter went to the mayor, sheriff, District Judge Hal Johnson, Superior Judge Leander G. Pitman, and County Attorney Claude Hendon.

In his letter, the governor went on to say, “The U.S. Marshal and the representative of the railroads are still insisting that the troops be sent. As of yet, I have not fully determined the matter and do not care to do so until I hear from You. I reserve that right, however, to act on my own initiative at any time.

“It is not the purpose of the governor to interfere in local matters, except in case of emergencies. I have withstood all demands and requests for state aid, believing that the good citizens of Pottawatomie County and Shawnee would rally to the support of law and order. Up to this date, I have had no evidence of any such action on the part of the good citizens and the situation is rapidly reaching the point where prompt and determined action is necessary.”

Following the receipt of the letter, county officials met with Chief of Police Ira Sims and Deputy Marshal W.D. Fossett, representing Marshal McDonald. It was agreed at the conference that troops were not needed. The mayor and sheriff left immediately afterward to meet with the governor. They reported on their return that the governor had been won to their point of view and would not send troops.

Fossett said he considered the situation unsafe although deputy marshals and other guards on duty now numbered more than 150. He indicated that the shops and the men working in them could only be adequately protected by a strong detachment of troops.

The stoning of the residence of the boiler shop foreman for the Rock Island shops, George Peity, early on August 25, was reported to the marshals. The foreman said he and his family were awakened by the stones thrown at his house. Little damage was done. The same house was stoned two weeks earlier.

SHAWNEE MAD ALL OVER

Shawnee woke up on August 26, “mad all over.” In fact, the good people of Shawnee were “sore clean through.”

They read in glaring headlines that their city was making a bid for publicity. Publicity they didn’t want and for which they weren’t going to stand for. The splotch on the banner – the gob of mud that had been smeared over the fair name of Shawnee contained in the bulletin from the capital of the United States and accredited to Attorney-General Harry M. Daugherty, thereof to same such effect as this:

“Reports to the Department of Justice indicate that ‘agitation’ of the railroad strikers at Shawnee is as high pitched as any point in the U.S., with I.W.W. fanning the flame. Trains are being stopped and the mails are being interfered with to some extent,” said the attorney general.

“Then the call for state troops, which call they failed to heed. When the troops were demobilized, instead of being rushed to Shawnee to lend dignity and grandeur to the majesty of the law, came the call for more deputies. A score and some more, instantly rallied to the sign of the six-pointed star.

“Commander-in-chief McDonald then deployed his army of 150 guards before the walls of the fortress, in which were toiling a similar number of stalwarts. With his famous ‘triple cordon of guards,’ stationed near the ‘danger point’ which pointed toward the vacant bridge, he waited for the attack.

“There was no attack,” was Marshal McDonald startling statement. “It was as if we were sitting on a magazine here, with all wires laid for the explosion. Up until a late hour last night, the powder must have been wet. The explosion fizzled out. The magazine was a dud.”

The attorney-general went on to say, “A report was sent to Washington that the mails were being interfered with, but the superintendent of the mails at Shawnee had been slighted. He knew nothing about any delay. Taking it all in all, Shawnee had a thrilling time, earning the name of the world’s worst village.”

(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 more than 400 pages with hundreds of photos and illustrations. They are fully indexed, making it easy to look up individuals or places of business. Volume four 1970-1989; volume five 1990-2009; and volume six 2010-to the present, 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.