The North Canadian River was rising at the rate of three inches an hour at the city pump station at midnight on May 31, 1923. The gage showed a stage of 11 and one-half feet. This was leading to the lowlands as a solid mass of surging water from McLoud to Shawnee. Desperate fights were staged at all bridges along the way to keep the river in check and to allow travel to resume over the state highways as soon as possible.

DESPERATE FIGHT AGAINST FLOOD WATERS

The North Canadian River was rising at the rate of three inches an hour at the city pump station at midnight on May 31, 1923. The gage showed a stage of 11 and one-half feet. This was leading to the lowlands as a solid mass of surging water from McLoud to Shawnee. Desperate fights were staged at all bridges along the way to keep the river in check and to allow travel to resume over the state highways as soon as possible.

The west Highland road was completely blocked early in the morning and all travel to the west shut off. The night before, Commissioner Dick Richards announced that a road had been opened to McLoud and travel would soon be resumed. The road led one mile south from the Beard Street bridge and two and one-half miles west; then two miles north to Highland road. Thence, four miles west to the oil well road and three miles north to a big cottonwood tree in the center of the road, and then two miles west and four miles north to McLoud.

The road was not, however, recommended for use, since in the event of any heavy local rain might send Deer Creek on a flood rampage.

Waters were lapping over both ends of the west Highland road bridge, but the river was not rising rapidly by midnight. Two bridges further up the river were at a standstill, with little cause to think the bridges might go out. The waters reached the east Highland road the next morning and cut off travel to the east.

After six days of endless battling, Dick Richards, and his score or more of ultra-faithful men announced with a sigh of relief at midnight on June 7, that all bridges on the North Canadian were still intact. All rumors to the contrary were denied in reports gathered by the Shawnee Morning News.

The river was falling at Dale, the rise west of Oklahoma City had no effect on it. The water was falling in Shawnee also. The water over the east Highland road started receding that day and continued its fall.

SHAWNEE FLOODS CONTINUE IN JUNE

Shawnee was in the midst of the worst flood, maybe in its history. Waters swirling and gorging, swept down the North Canadian River shortly after midnight on June 15, and sent the murky carriers of destruction into all the lowland to the north and west of the city. The heavy rain had not reached the east Highland road at midnight but was quickly approaching.

So swift and destructive was the current that fears were expressed for the safety of many people living in lowlands. Refusing to heed warnings, four families were literally forced to leave their home near Dale by men working under the orders of County Commissioner Dick Richards of the first district.

With this problem, service into Oklahoma City was suspended. The Shawnee-Tecumseh Traction Company suspended traffic over their North Canadian River bridge on June 15. There was a car on each side of the river. The passengers could walk across the bridge and load on the other side.

BEARD STREET REOPENED AFTER FLOOD

After being closed more than a week, the Beard Street road was opened to general traffic on the evening of June 20, 1923. The first car went over the fill hastily thrown into the badly washed stretch of road south of the bridge by County Commissioners Elmer E. Brown and “Dick” Richards. The two joined forces to give Shawnee an inlet and outlet to the south, east and west.

Since the high water, practically the entire county had been turned away from Shawnee due to the inability to get traffic across the flooded river. From McLoud to Keokuk Falls the roads were now opening through the south Beard Street bridge.

Work on the repairs started on the 20th and with the combined forces of the first and second districts, rapid progress was made. Dick Richards was unable to say at the time when he would be able to open the Highland roads, or the Dale road.

OVERSTREET SKIPS GRANITE IN JAIL BREAK

Jimmy Overstreet, Shawnee railroad striker, was sentenced to do time in Granite Reformatory. He was convicted of being in on the shootings at the Shawnee shops the previous August. On August 10, he escaped from the facility.

Overstreet was arrested in Tupelo, MS, after he and two other men had been nabbed while trying to rob a jewelry store. They surrendered to Mississippi authorities and were handed over to Oklahoma officials to be tried on the rioting charges. As of that time, he was on the lam and there were no signs of him.

GOVERNOR WALTON FREES SHAWNEE “TERROR SQUAD”

Among others, it was learned on September 2, 1923, that men convicted as members of the dynamiting ring that terrorized Shawnee during the railroad shops strike were at liberty. This was learned after the news of Overstreet’s escape a few days earlier.

When the governor’s office was questioned about the rumors that the men had been released, his office said some of the men were out on leaves. The spokesman did not reveal the names of the prisoners and could not make a statement until she examined the records.

However, the records did reveal that the ones given liberty headed to Chicago, where they had “positions.” They were Horace Brundige, Ernest Covey, Jimmy Faust, and Ray Hynes. They were all sentenced to five years after pleading guilty to engaging in strike violence at Shawnee. Overstreet was under a 10-year sentence.

 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 cewool@live.com.

 (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.