Governor J.C. Walton promised a score of representatives of shop crafts unions in Oklahoma at a conference in his office on March 4, 1923, that he would “do all he could” toward a settlement of their strike.


Governor J.C. Walton promised a score of representatives of shop crafts unions in Oklahoma at a conference in his office on March 4, 1923, that he would “do all he could” toward a settlement of their strike.

He said that he would take up with “the more progressive” governors the possibility of a conference of chief executives of state to consider settlements. He mentioned as officials with whom he probably would confer with were the governors of Kansas, Nebraska and Arizona.

The meeting was arranged by O.E. Heath, president of the Oklahoma state Federation of Labor. Present were Claude Connally, state commissioner of labor; Victor S. Purdy, secretary-treasurer of the federation; Roy Hendrickson and S.T. Jones of Shawnee unions; H.E. Hart of El Reno; A.R. Pegg of Guthrie; J.H. Crow of Enid; Jerry O’Leary of Lawton; and others representing shop craft organizations in Purcell, Waynoka, Muskogee, and Parson, Kansas.

“We submitted two requests to the governor,” Secretary Purdy said. “We asked him to help us toward a settlement in this state, and to arrange, if possible, for a conference of governors.”

“I told them I would do what I can for them,” said Governor Walton after the meeting. “They put their arguments before me, showing that rail conditions in the state are bad and travel dangerous on account of faulty equipment, and I agree that the strike should be settled as soon as possible.”


Declaring that he now had positive evidence that every depredation perpetrated in Pottawatomie County by members of the striking railroad shop crafts in the recent strike, had been done with the complete knowledge of Sandy Watson, state representative from the county, declared U.S. Marshal Alva McDonald on March 5.

He left that night for Oklahoma City from Kansas City with Horace Brundige and Jap Freeling, strikers, wanted in Shawnee regarding numerous dynamiting outrages.

“I measure my words carefully when I say that I know now that Watson had advance information regarding every depredation carried out in Pottawatomie County, and that after the depredation was committed, he knew who committed it,” said McDonald.

McDonald asserted that he now had the name of every man who participated in depredations in Shawnee. Brundige and Freeling were both members of the shop crafts organization in Shawnee. They were arrested at Chicago a week earlier at the request of McDonald. They stopped in Kansas City “between trains” on their way back, and confined the prisoners in the U.S. marshal’s office, where Brundige broke down and confessed. County Sheriff Grover Butler and Special Agent John H. Burnett accompanied McDonald to Chicago to return with the two prisoners.

In addition to being charged with violation of the federal injunction issued to protect the railroads and employees from violence in the strike, Brundige and Freeling were charged with conjoint robbery of strike breakers. The two admitted to participating in several “hi-jacking” parties in which strike-breakers were the victims and of shooting into the Rock Island roundhouse at Shawnee.

Brundige also admitted he participated in the dynamiting of three houses in Shawnee occupied by strike-breakers. He also was complicit in the dynamiting of railroad bridges, one at Dale and another at Tecumseh.

Sheriff Butler wired back to Shawnee and told his deputies to immediately arrest Roy Hendrickson in relation to the crimes. McDonald asserted that Hendrickson kept Sandy Watson informed of the activities.

“Brundige also stated that Hendrickson made arrangements for him to meet an agent at Gainesville, TX, and he completed negotiations for the organization of the dynamiting squad,” said McDonald.

Fifteen men comprised the “terror squad” Brundige admitted. Meetings were held in Henry Garrett’s barn in Shawnee. Hendrickson attended the meetings, according to Brundige, and directed the activities.

“Of the 15 men in the squad, 13 have now been arrested, three have confessed, and have been sentenced to five years each in the pen,” said McDonald. “And in every confession, these boys have said that Watson was involved.”


Henry Garrett, alleged ring-leader of the “terror squad” in the recent strike, escaped from Sheriff Grover C. Butler, as he was being returned to Shawnee from Oklahoma City on the night of March 6, 1923.

Garrett jumped from the window of a Katy passenger train as the locomotive was leaving the junction about two miles from Oklahoma City. Sheriff Butler, in announcing his escape, offered a reward of $250 for his capture.

The Sheriff was just returning home from Chicago where he went to get Horace Brundige and Jap Freeling. The two were arrested and charged with rioting relating to the strike. Leaving these two prisoners at Oklahoma City, Butler picked up Garrett to return him to Shawnee.

Garrett had already made bond for his appearance in the federal court on charges of violating the federal injunction. He was to be charged with rioting in the state courts.

“The boys have all told what they knew about this deal,” the sheriff told him, “and the quickest way out will be the best one.”

Garrett then told him that he was going to tell everything he knew as soon as he came back to Shawnee. He stated that he would implicate many of the committeemen in his confession.

“They are the ones who forced us to do it,” Garrett told the sheriff.

On the way to Shawnee, Garrett complained of being sick and asked the sheriff to take him to the toilet. The sheriff granted the request and stepped out on the back platform to watch the window and door to prevent any escape.

Garrett evidently beat him to the window, for after waiting three or four minutes, Sheriff Butler called the porter and had the door opened. It was then learned that Garrett had jumped.

Garrett was a man of means and owned property near Shawnee. It was also learned that he sponsored the meetings of the strikers in his barn and furnished the men with dynamite.

ATTENTION SHAWNEE CITIZENS AND BUSINESSES: If anyone is interested in placing a Tribute/Memorial page in the upcoming third volume of the history of Shawnee, please contact the Historical Society, and they will get word to me. I will then contact you for the details. You may want to purchase a tribute page for your family, or you might want to give attention to your business, or possibly your family’s business of the past. Civic Clubs may want to give a tribute to the history of their organization. The cost is $100 per page and it will appear in the final four volumes. You may also contact me directly at (981)470-3728, or by email at

 (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.