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The Redbud City: Hard Times

Clyde Wooldridge
The new Masonic Temple was dedicated on October 24, 1930. It became one of the most impressive edifices in the downtown area of the city.


Bootleggers and rum runners played a prominent part in giving financial assistance to the Salvation Army, although the aid to the poor was given reluctantly. The bigger the bootlegger, the more far-reaching was his Christian philanthropy. In fact, he gave the Army nine cents for every pound his still weighed, provided he was captured and the still was seized by the authorities.

The ponderous question, “what is answered through the milk and ice that is given to the poor families during the hot weather?” Every still captured in the county by the sheriff’s forces was given to Captain F.F. Mullins of the Salvation Army to be sold for junk and the money obtained was used in aiding the poor.

The Sheriff Frank Stewart made sure of his enforcement of the law. No still was given to the Army until it was demolished and the liquor making possibilities smashed and dismantled. This was no reflection on the Salvation Army, but merely required by law.

During the third week of July, about 30 stills were given to the Salvation Army. They were captured in raids over the county, with the majority coming from an intensive raiding campaign in the southern section. Several stills and bootleggers were seized during the week.

The stills were hauled out on the jail lawn at Tecumseh. Deputy sheriffs descended with axes and picks and proceeded to dismantle the stills, which they were careful to capture intact. Every still taken, ranging from pressure cookers and wash tubs lined with zinc to the more elaborate shining copper machines from which the “Canadian” and “pre-war” whiskey was dripped, was put under the axe.

Bootleggers lined the jail cell windows on three occasions to see long rips and gashes torn in the sides of their livelihood. Sides of the stills were ripped open and huge holes punctured in the tops and bottoms. Worms were smashed and broken as the sheriff and his deputies removed the work of the bootlegger, who probably spent weeks getting the still in working order.

As the deputies swung their axes, they talked of former raids, recalling where this still was captured, and what trouble they had in finding that one. These same officers during the raids, were so careful to take the stills intact in case they were needed for evidence. They displayed no sentimentality in ripping the sides from the “plants.”

After all the stills, big and little, were decreased to scrap copper, Stewart formally gave them to the Salvation Army. It was a solemn occasion for both the sheriff and Captain Mullins of the Salvation Army. Then the stills were loaded on a truck and taken to the nearest junk yard and sold for nine cents a pound, for the poor.


The largest vote ever polled in Pottawatomie County in the primary election took place on July 29, 1930. It resulted in many political upsets, as well as setting a new voting record.

Several county office holders who had been expected to win rather easily had a tough time of it, or did not make it at all. Although a strong vote was expected for William “Alfalfa Bill” Murray for governor, even his most ardent supporters were surprised when he obtained a majority in the county of 1,907 votes over E.B. Howard, his nearest opponent. On the same wave that road Murray to the big victory was joined by Thomas P. Gore in the race for United States Senator. Thomas D. McKeown was also a big winner for Congress.

Claude Hendon made a political comeback by taking the Democratic nomination for county judge over Charles Hickok. One of the surprises was in the race for State Representative in District One, when Kenneth Abernathy won over B.B. Wyatt.

Sam Coleman won the Democratic nomination for county assessor, when two votes were received by mail making his total two more than the combined totals of his opponents. The deciding votes were cast by C.F. Victory and his wife, who were out of the city and mailed in their votes for Coleman.

Jim Seay was accorded second place and assured of a runoff in the Democratic Court Clerk race, when he slipped through on a margin of one vote over Mahlon McKellar. Mabel Marlatt, incumbent won rather easily. Seay’s total vote was 1,922, while McKellar polled 1,921. Another close race was decided when W.M. “Bill” Haight won the nomination for county judge, defeating Jack Bradley. Bradley was leading by several votes until the last box was counted, giving Haight a margin of 93 votes.

Leroy Cooper was the easy victor for Superior Court Judge, with M.L. Hankins coming in second. Clarence Tankersley got the nod for County Attorney, with a little more than a 100-vote margin over Tom Stevens. W.A. Roberts edged out incumbent Frank Stewart in the sheriff’s race. And C.E. Pettigrew took the County Clerk race, with a victory over Iona Goree Williams.


Formal dedication of the Shawnee Masonic Temple was held at an impressive ceremony in the luxurious commandery lodge rooms on the afternoon of October 24, 1930. More than 1,000 Masons were in attendance. The full staff of acting grand officers carried out the dedicatory rites symbolical of the completion and dedication of King Solomon’s temple.

With that part of the day’s functions completed, the Masonic visitors were entertained with a buffet dinner at the dining hall on the sixth floor at 6 P.M. The evening program consisted of conferring the Master Mason degree with the 15 Fellowcrafts for Blue Lodge Masons and the Eastern Star work by a picked team for the ladies. Both rooms were packed to capacity and many were turned away.

Sam H. Lattimore, grand master of Oklahoma, acted in that capacity at the dedication. Other grand officers who filled their stations were John P.D. Mouriquand, grand pursuant; M.F. Manville, junior grand warden; Claude M. Marsh, deputy grand master; and L.C. Coffin, grand sword bearer.

(These stories and hundreds more appear in the six-volume history of Shawnee, entitled “REDBUD CITY.” They can be purchased at the Pottawatomie County Historical Society. Due to the current health crisis in the United States their open hours are reduced. The Museum is open Tue-Sat, 10-12 a.m., and 1-2 p.m. 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, if you purchase at least two Individually, volume one is $35, volume two, $30, and volume three $35. Because of the current closing of research centers, I am stuck at 1981 in volume four, (1970-89).

Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian.