Judge Leander G. Pitman of the superior court convened a grand jury on March 16, 1925, to look at several matters. First was an investigation into the handling of school board finances, tied to the safeguard of deposits in the National Bank of Commerce. Especial interest was linked to the failure of the institution. There were many other matters that also concerned local citizens.

Judge Leander G. Pitman of the superior court convened a grand jury on March 16, 1925, to look at several matters. First was an investigation into the handling of school board finances, tied to the safeguard of deposits in the National Bank of Commerce. Especial interest was linked to the failure of the institution. There were many other matters that also concerned local citizens.

In examining potential jurors, Judge Pitman inquired as to their opinions on the enforcement of liquor laws. Each member was asked if he was a “drinker,” or believed that leniency should be given in the cases of those charged with violation of the prohibition statutes.

Judge Pitman laid more stress on his instructions concerning the alleged loss of funds for School District 93 in the crash of the National Bank of Commerce than on any other item. After explaining that reports had been circulated that $90,000 in securities were taken in some manner from the school treasurer’s safety deposit box and disposed of in a way that the school failed to receive any of the proceeds. Pitman took up the matter of surety bonds covering deposits of the school board. He alleged that the bond in the amount of $250,000 had proven to be of no real value.

He said it had been further charged that immediately preceding the election for a treasurer of the school board, who was to handle the money that was afterward dissipated, that the president of the National Bank of Commerce paid to a candidate for school treasurer during the primary election the sum of more than $200 to withdraw from the race and to assist in the support of the candidate that the bank was supporting and was eventually elected.

Judge Pitman informed the jury of the possibilities. He said that if an investigation revealed that the school board, and the members thereof, failed to require a good and sufficient bond from the custodian of the school funds, then it would be their duty to return an accusation against every member of the school board. It would include those now in office and was a member at the time of the transaction heretofore referred to. It would mean charging the said member of the school board with willful neglect of duty and asking for their removal from office.

The failure of the Conservative Loan and Trust Company was called to the attention of the grand jury. Alleged irregularities in the management of the business were cited.

In discussing the liquor situation, the judge told the investigating body that almost every day, citizens of the county complained to the sheriff and county officials of liquor violations. The court said it had been further charged that recently a county court jury trying a liquor case had deliberated over its decision while at least three members of the jury were very much under the influence of liquor. It was also charged that liquor was used in the jury room by at least three members of the jury.

“If this charge is substantiated, it certainly betokens a deplorable condition of affairs in the county,” exclaimed the judge.

BANKERS NAMED IN INDICTMENTS

The hand of the law fell heavily upon the shoulders of several former bank and loan company officials on April 5, 1925. Indictments returned against them by the superior court were made known following their arrests. Ten former officials of fallen institutions were charged with various violations of criminal laws as the outgrowth of alleged manipulations of the National Bank of Commerce and the Conservative Loan and Trust Company.

Wallace Estill, former president of the National Bank of Commerce, was charged with five indictments of grand larceny and one of bribery; Jesse M. Caldwell was indicted on four counts of grand larceny; R.S. Caldwell on four; M.L. Caldwell on two; and J. Michael Caldwell on two.

Three indictments charging embezzlement were returned against former officials of the Conservative Loan and Trust Company. Those against whom true bills were found were: G.M. Christner, president; Fred K. Sage, vice president; Harry B. Crew, vice president; Fred W. Christner, secretary; C.E. Bowlby, treasurer; and J.H. Silene, assistant secretary.

In one of the cases against the officials of the National Bank of Commerce, they were charged with maliciously and feloniously taking school board warrants. They allegedly converted them to their own use. This crime supposedly happened on November 21, 1923.

SIX-YEAR-OLD CALLED UPON TO ACT AS MOTHER TO HER SISTERS

If little Marie O’Bryan, age six, hadn’t known how to make gravy, this story might have had a sadder ending. Deserted by her father several months earlier, she was also confronted with the disappearance of her mother during a week in mid-April. It became necessary for this little child to not only take care of herself, but to act as mother and assume the responsibilities of caring for her two sisters, Gail, aged four, and Agnes, just 12 months old. The mother disappeared on April 13, and on the 16th, neighbors induced police to make an investigation. The case was called to the attention of the Salvation Army.

When rescued by the Salvation Army, the children were said to have been in a deplorable condition. Neighbors, realizing their plight, had given the children some bread and jelly, Previously, they had only gravy to eat. The gravy was prepared by Marie.

None of the children were well clothed. In fact, their tattered rags barely covered their nakedness. They were begrimed and filthy.

Captain Charles Richmond of the Salvation Army took the children into his home. He issued an appeal for clothing. Physicians were called to examine the children for any diseases. They were reported as appearing healthy enough and there was nothing to indicate that they were going hungry. Richmond believed the children had received an insufficiency of food since the disappearance of their mother some time earlier.

The family resided in the east part of Shawnee, near the end of the car line. Their mother had been charged with neglect in the past. Recently, a petition was presented to Mayor Charlie Hawk, asking that the city take some steps to relieve the situation. It was charged that the mother was unkind to the children and did not feed or clothe them properly. Police said their information was to the effect that Mrs. O’Bryan left for Cromwell.

 (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 Depo. tThe cost of purchase is $35. Volume two, “1930-1949,” is also available for $30. Volume three, “REDBUD CITY: SHAWNEE, THE MIDDLE YEARS, 1950-1969,” is now available, at a cost of $35. All three volumes are more than 400 pages with hundreds of photos and illustrations. A combination of two or three can be purchased at $30 each. They are fully indexed, making it easy to look up individuals or places of business. Volume four 1970-1989, is scheduled for the fall of 2020; volume five 1990-2009, should be available in the fall of 2021; and volume six 2010-to the present, is scheduled for the fall of 2022. They are also available on thumb drive at the PCHS Museum.)