The Redbud City: City gets new charter

Clyde Wooldridge
The old City Hall, built in 1905-06, became the city of activity in 1930 for the new city charter under the commission system.


After battling for more than two years, Shawnee had a group of city officials named under the city manager form of government after the vote on June 3, 1930. The proponents for the charter claimed a victory in the results from the six wards and the commissioner at large.

Joe A. Ingram, unopposed for commissioner at large, piled up 2,517 votes for one of the largest figures ever cast in a city election. Heavy vote, particularly in wards one, three, five and six, was attributed to the strenuous campaign of the six nominees. Ingram was set to serve a two-year term from the “at large” position.

Kib Warren retained the margin he held in the primary over Weldon Hall in the First Ward and was elected by a vote of 375-348. Warren would serve a four-year term. Phil Watson, the favorite in Ward Two, easily defeated J. Emmerson Varnum by a vote of 218-54. Watson was due for a two-year term. Herbert Burton, second highest man in the primary, staged a fast finish to nose out Rufus Lyon, incumbent from Ward Three, winning 234-231. Burton would also serve a two-year term.

J.C. Cooper, who ran second to Virgil Hardin in Ward Four in the primary, rallied to pile up a majority of 33 over Hardin, winning 329-296. Cooper’s term would last for two years. Henry Goodson, a dark horse in Ward Five in the primary, showed his running ability when he came out ahead of Jesse I. Miller by 31 votes. Goodson term was set for four years.

Dr. George S. Baxter, who out distanced all his opponents in the primary, easily defeated Meade Norton in Ward Six, piling up a majority of 178 votes. Baxter would serve a four-year term. Norton made a hard campaign, but the Baptist vote in that ward was too much for him to overcome.

Under the provisions of the charter, the three candidates from the wards getting the greatest number of votes would serve four-year terms. This would result in election of a majority on the commission every two years.

Charges that someone obtained a supply of registration blanks and tried to vote several ineligibles by false receipts were heard, especially in the first and fifth wards. No official action was taken, and election officials said they had no knowledge of willful violations of the election laws.

The new commission would take office on June 16, when the present temporary administration handed over affairs of the city under the new charter. Although several men were rumored to be applying for the city manager’s job, no names were made public. No statement was made by Lyon on whether he would ask for a recount. It was considered likely.


Shawnee’s new city manager would be an out-of-town man, an engineer, a diplomat, a young man of city manager experience, or similar experiences and one capable of managing the city in fact as well as in name. This was the standard agreed upon at a special and unofficial meeting of the newly elected city commissioners on June 5, 1930.

In the meantime, doubt that one of the seven men elected as commissioner would get to serve arose when Rufus Lyon, defeated candidate in the Third Ward, filed suit against Herbert Burton, winner, charging election fraud. Lyon asked the court to cancel the election certificate issued Burton and adjudge Lyon the commissioner.

While no official statement was made as to the meeting of the commissioners-elect, or the matters discussed, it was learned they got together merely to sound out each other’s sentiments in order to avoid as much delay as possible in naming the manager after they took office on June 16, at their first official meeting.

It was also learned that the commissioners favored carrying out the spirit of the charter by giving the manager full authority to hire and fire city employees at will and for the commission to act as quickly as possible if he failed to get results.

Lyon’s suit claimed fraud in the registration of more than 40 voters in the Second precinct of the Third Ward. False registration certificates, issued after the registration period expired, were issued, he claimed. J.T. Hughes was named as the distributor of the certificates and Lyon claimed the name of M.E. Vandeveer, precinct registrar, was forged on the certificates.

The petition also claimed Hughes was a supporter of Burton and that Burton’s name was written across the certificate, as an added incentive to vote for him. Lyon lost by three votes, and claimed he won the election by the legal ballots cast. He carried the first precinct, but lost the race in the second precinct, the one under contest, by a count of 143 to 82.

Rumors were persistent since the election of fraud in other wards but failed to take definite shape during the day. No information was made public that indicated what, if any, action was to be taken.


Paring the list eligible to three, the new city commissioners were installed on Monday, June 16, 1930. They said they were nearing the appointment of a city manager to complete the program begun three years earlier with agitation for the city manager form of government. Joe Ingram was the newly elected mayor by his peers.

Ingram said that there might be new names added to the roster of those being considered. In the meantime, telegrams were pouring into the new mayor’s office from all parts of the country recommending and stating the qualifications of applicants. It was understood from Ingram that each of the three men being considered at present were men from outside the city. There were pending investigations being made by the commissioners, but none of the applicants’ names were announced.

Ingram was selected by unanimous vote of the five commissioners present to be mayor of Shawnee for the next four years as their first official act after taking the oath of office. He was nominated by Kib Warren, commissioner from the First Ward, and was seconded by J.C. Cooper from the Fourth Ward. Nominations were immediately closed, and the vote made unanimous. Commissioners installed were Kib Warren, First Ward; Phil Watson, Second Ward; Herbert Burton, Third Ward; J.C. Cooper, Fourth Ward; Henry Goodson, Fifth Ward; with Dr. George S. Baxter of the Sixth Ward, commissioner-elect absent. Dr. Baxter was attending the trial of W.W. “Snake” Thomason, at Guthrie as a witness.

A resolution was then made to retain in office all present city department heads and employees. An additional vote was taken and made unanimous by the body in the selection of Ray Evans as city attorney to succeed himself. Another vote, also unanimous, retained Cora Stevens as city treasurer. Chief of Police Flavius A. Budd was also retained.

(These stories and hundreds more appear in the six-volume history of Shawnee, entitled “REDBUD CITY.” They could normally be purchased at the Pottawatomie County Historical Society. However, due to the current health crisis in the United States, they are closed. If you cannot obtain a copy, you may call me at (918) 470-3728, and I will mail you a copy. The first three volumes are currently available, and hopefully, the fourth is coming out this fall. The price is $30 per volume. Because of the current closing of research centers, I am stuck at 1981 in volume four, (1970-89).

Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian.