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Two fights were on in November of 1925

Clyde Wooldridge
The 1925 edition of the OBU Bison football team was arguably the best team in school history.

NEW COURTHOUSE HIT BY LITIGATION

District Judge George Clark of Oklahoma City was assigned to Pottawatomie County to hear the courthouse case on November 25, 1925. It made permanent a temporary order restraining the county commissioners from carrying out a contract with Cowen Brothers for the construction of a new courthouse. The judge’s action came after he had overruled a demurrer filed by the county attorney, which sought to set aside the original petition on the grounds of insufficiency. The injunction was granted a party of four taxpayers represented by Fred H. Reily.

The court further held that the injunction course was the proper remedy and that the constitutional limitation for taxation had been exceeded in the county and therefore no further debts could be incurred, unless given approval at an election by three-fifths of the county’s voters. The statute under which this ruling was rendered provided that no city, county, state school district, or other subdivision of government may incur liabilities in excess of five percent of the total valuation, except with the approval of three-fifths of the voters.

County Attorney Randall Pitman announced that he would stand on his demurrer and appeal to the Supreme Court. The decision of the Supreme Court in the case would be the final act in a long series of events which transpired in efforts to secure a courthouse. The movement first started over a year earlier when District Judge Hal Johnson became alarmed over the condition of the old structure and advanced a scheme under which he thought a new building could be erected without adding to the advalorem taxes. After considerable investigation, the plan was abandoned as impracticable.

During the 10th Legislature, a bill was passed providing that the county commissioners could assess a small tax levy that could be used together with fines, accruals, and interests to be placed in a special fund known as the “courthouse fund.” Shortly after, A.C. Davis & Sons Architect was awarded a contract for the drawing of a new building. They were given a warrant in the amount of $4,000 as an initial fee.

The county commissioners advertised for bids on construction of the proposed building. When the bids were opened, it was found that all were more than the amount of money that would be available to the county. Supplementary bids were then made according to certain changes in specifications. Cowen Brothers Company was awarded the contract on the revised plans.

Fred H. Reily, representing a party of citizens made application for a temporary restraining order to prevent the county commissioners from carrying out the contract. They charged that the courthouse bill was unconstitutional because it was a revenue raising act, and that the county had outstanding debts of more than five percent of valuations. The application was heard in superior court and the temporary order granted by Judge Leander G. Pitman.

Expressing that some outside judge should pass on the case, Judge Pitman transferred it to the district court. Judge Hal Johnson asked for the appointment of an outside judge and Judge Clark was called upon to make the last decision to local courts.

While litigation was continuing, the courthouse was crumbling and a “tin can jail” was being used to house the county prisoners. Both parties to the litigation admitted that something had to be done at the earliest possible moment for every record in the county was in jeopardy two hours a day. It was freely admitted that should the courthouse be destroyed by fire the county would lose more in records than a new courthouse would cost.

BAPTIST LAY CLAIM TO TITLE THROUGH BETTER RECORD

“The season was over. I have bought my ticket for California and I am having a rest tonight. I would not stay in Tulsa for another game for love or money.” Such statements were attributed to Elmer C. “Gloomy” Henderson, coach of the Golden Hurricane football team of Tulsa which was challenged for the Oklahoma Intercollegiate championship by Oklahoma Baptist University.

The statement was made to Victor Hurt, athletic director and coach of the Bison, who spent the past two days in Tulsa trying to get a contract for a post season game. Earlier in the season, it was indicated by Tulsa officials that the Bison would be given a chance at the title in event they were successful in defeating Phillips and Southwestern. However, this attitude was evidently assumed by Hurricane officials in hopes that the Bison would be “spilled” by one of its strong rivals.

Tulsa was the only team in the conference with a clean slate and likewise had played less games than any other team in the circuit, except for Northwestern. Tulsa had only participated in four conference slashes as compared to a total of seven by the Bison. The Bison had lost only one game.

Officials at the Baptist institution stated that a fight would be made at the conference meeting in December to have the Bison declared champions, based on their contention of the showing made by the two teams and the fact that Tulsa had not met half of the conference rivals, while the Bison met all of them but two. The Bison’s willingness to play Tulsa in order that one of the teams might have undisputed claim would also be cited.

While officials at the University were not inclined to be very indignant over the turn in affairs, the student body was not so liberal. The Hurricane was accused of being “yellow,” “afraid to play,” and a bunch of “four flushers.” The student body was confident all along that the Bison would be given a chance to fight for glory on a Tulsa gridiron; so confident were they in fact they were in negotiations for securing a special train to Tulsa to witness the game.

As conditions stood, the Bison would lay aside their uniforms. The annual game with the Haskell Indians was called off because of terms offered by the Indians.

The Bison had a wonderful season, finishing 8-1 for the campaign. They were undefeated at home, going 4-0, and 4-1 on the road, losing only their first game of the season to Central State Normal School at Edmond. They went to win the next eight games, including a 118-0 victory over Murray State Junior College.

The Bison inaugurated their new Victor C. Hurt Field at their homecoming in their sixth game of the season against Southeastern, in which they dominated the Savages, 33-0.

This undefeated home streak was actually part of a five-year streak, ranging from 1924 through 1928, in which they went 18-0.

 (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. The 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.)

Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian.