The city is full of poison

Clyde Wooldridge
The 1925-26 Shawnee High School Basketball team was considered as a team loaded with talent that lacked consistency. They were reputed as one of the most prolific scoring teams in the entire state. (left side, top to bottom) Otho Newman, John Hill, Bruce Curtright, Roy Crawford. (right side) Walter Turner, captain Max Timmons, Frank Cunningham, and Clifton Shearer.


By scoring an average of 33 points per game, the Shawnee High School cagers brought a successful basketball season to a close on March 13, 1926. With Clifton Shearer showing the way, the Shawnee team amassed a total of 747 points and thus showed themselves to be one of the strongest scoring quintets in the state. The Wolves also displayed a strong defense by holding their opponents to 17 points per game.

Although the Wolves were defeated several times when they were expected to win, they retaliated and won when they were expected to lose. One of the outstanding victories was the Henryetta game. The Wolves’ victory over this team was a surprise to all, as they held victories over three of the best conference teams.

Shearer and captain Max Timmons were the only men to be picked from Coach Buddy Wilcoxson’s five to be placed on the district teams. In scoring for the year, Shearer led the list with 252 points, while Timmons came in with 204.


“Bootleg whiskey was bought at 22 different places in Shawnee and the immediate vicinity in a little over a week’s time by two Shawnee women,” said Rev. R.L. King on Sunday morning March 28, from the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church. In a sermon based on the text, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,” Dr. King took the hide off in his discussion of the lack of law enforcement insofar as prohibition was concerned.

The enforcement officers “got theirs,” but even more, to the “so called respectable citizens,” who encouraged the traffic by buying as well as the makers of the stuff.

According to Dr. King, a group of men and women planned a campaign. Two women, whose names he did not reveal, started out to see if it was as easy to procure bootleg corn whiskey in Shawnee as was suggested. They found it even easier than any of them had dreamed. The only requisite in the case of the “little man,” was to have the price. The bigger fellows were wearier and the services of a detective to outwit them was usually necessary for naturally they exercised some precaution in the matters.

In one case, a young girl 13 years old delivered the whiskey and collected the money. In one home visited, two children under 10 were drunk on corn whiskey made by their own father.

Dr. King said the reason bootleg whiskey was so easy to procure, aside from lack of fear of law molestation, seemed to be the fact that there were so many dealing in the traffic that in order to make a living, they had to sell to all comers. He said he did not speak with authority, but he knew a bootlegger who boasted that he furnished Shawnee city officials with whiskey. Another man boasted when threatened with arrest, that he was not afraid because he had sold enough to the officers that they did not dare to arrest him.

As an example of the brazenness and increasing lack of regard for the national prohibition laws, Dr. King stated that only recently one of the deacons of his own church had been approached. The agent solicited his order for a case of wine.

In discussing the duties of the officers in handling the situation, Dr. King said he did not pretend to know just what the officers were able to do. To him, it looked like when two women could round up 22 violators in a little over a week, at an approximate expenditure of 35 cents each, there was a problem. He believed an earnest and concerted move on the part of the proper authorities in the right direction should bring results. He further stated, “If I was mayor of a town and could not alone enforce the law, and its citizenship refused to back me up, I would feel it my duty to resign.

“The great trouble with us all,” said Dr. King, “is that we do not care. We have plenty to eat, you and me, plenty to wear and comfortable homes. We utterly ignore the Biblical admonition to “am I my brother’s keeper? In most instances, the makers of the poison are poor, ignorant, shiftless, but men with wives and children. They are generally offered the menace of tomorrow.”

Dr. King said what was needed was for the church universal to wake up to its duties and responsibilities. Shawnee, he said, ‘is perhaps no worse than other communities, which makes it only more appalling.” He said, “if we do not obey the laws and cherish the ideals of the nation whose protection we enjoy, we are unworthy citizens and have no right to the privileges.”


The Democratic slate won a sweeping victory in the municipal general election on April 6, 1926. Frank Ernest, nominee from the sixth ward for the city council defeated Frank Urban, his Republican opponent, by a vote of 449 to 98. Carl Groce, from the third ward, who had no opponent, received 383 votes.

Little interest was shown in the election, one of the lightest polls recorded in the city for some time. City officials used every means possible to eliminate the necessity of the election, but two votes cast in the recent primary, made it unavoidable. In the primary, Urban received two votes, one in each precinct of the sixth ward. After being thus nominated, he refused to withdraw. City officials estimated that the election cost the city between $250 and $300.

(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.