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Shawnee history: It happened in July of 1926

Clyde Wooldridge


Dr. Warren Waverly Phelan was named to succeed Dr. J.B. Lawrence as president of Oklahoma Baptist University, and he arrived in Shawnee on July 9, 1926. He immediately assumed his official duties as president of the university.

His first appearance before the student body was made the next day at the chapel hour, when he responded to the welcome given him by the dean. He followed with a timely address on Christian statesmanship.

Three years earlier, Dr. Phelan spent a year of leave in China, teaching in a government school during which time he was closely associated with Dr. Annie Jenkins Sallee, one of the Southern Baptists’ great missionaries. During the past year, he was in close touch with conditions in China and the mission work, which he did in connection given him as a missionary.

Dr. Phelan did not come to OBU as a man inexperienced in denominational work. For 14 years he was a teacher in denominational schools before going to Oklahoma University. Before OU, he was a professor of Pedagogy and Philosophy at Baylor University. He had been a member of the board of trustees of OBU from the re-organization 11 years earlier and had served as chairman of the faculty committee during those years.

For the past 14 years, Dr. Phelan was a professor of Pedagogy and Philosophy at the University of Oklahoma. He had been the Dean of the school of Education at OU since it was organized. He was generally recognized as one of the strongest school men in the United States.

He received his A.B. degree from Columbia University in 1894, and his A.M. degree from the same institution in 1896. In 1905, he earned the Ph. D. degree from George Washington University and received his L.L.D. degree from Oklahoma Baptist University in 1921.


Disappointment spread its tepee again in the tribe of the Shawnee Indians. A “pocket veto” seemed to be the fate of the Shawnee Indian bill passed by the senate during the closing hours of the session just ended. The bill authorized the payment of $463,700 to descendants of the Pottawatomie County tribe in settlement of claims arising under the Treaty of 1868.

The president did not veto the bill from Washington. Neither did he sign it. The belief prevailed that he would fail to sign it within the 10 days following the adjournment of congress. That meant it might as well not have been passed.

The failure of the president to approve it before the adjournment prevented it from becoming a law. Others held that he could approve it anytime within 10 days.

President Coolidge left Washington on July 6, for his summer vacation in the Adirondacks. Washington rumors were that he had no intentions of signing the measure. Other indications came from the Budget Bureau, who refused to place its stamp of approval upon the expenditure. They held that it was contrary to the president’s financial policy.

After passing both houses, there were high hopes that the measure would be made a law. The president’s signature to the bill would have meant the distribution among the Shawnee Tribe in Pottawatomie County of approximately $350,000.


Little Jack Irvin, 18-month old baby, smiled through his tears at the Shawnee municipal hospital. At times the pain, caused from a criss-cross of several welts on his back, brought forth sobs that could not be suppressed. Then, as he saw the toys left in his crib by friendly hands, he burst into smiles. Little Jack fairly devoured the kindly attention given him by charity workers of the city, friendly nurses and hospital attendants.

Large brown eyes sparkled as he was taken into the arms of some good woman. His childish heart perhaps, had difficulty in comprehending the charge from treatment he had previously received.

The baby was taken to the hospital for treatment after he had been brutally beaten. A.W. Schelbert, 45, was being held in the county jail at Tecumseh, charged with the crime, while officers were seeking Raymond Schneider, 15, who was also named in the complaint.

Baby Jack was left at the Schelbert home two weeks earlier by his mother, who said she was going to seek work. She told the Schelberts she would only be away for a week.

Schelbert, when interviewed by Assistant County Attorney W.F. Durham, said he returned from work one day the week before and noticed that the child bore bruises on his body. He said an inquiry revealed that his wife’s brother, Schneider, was responsible for the baby’s condition. Young Schneider told Schelbert that the child was injured accidentaly.

Schelbert told neighbors about the affair and several women in the community decided to start an investigation and take care of the child. When they arrived at the Schelbert home, they discovered the baby had additional marks on the face. One of his eyes was almost closed and was badly discolored. It bore the appearance of having been a bruise caused by a hard blow from a fist, or some blunt instrument.

Schelbert denied that he ever touched the child. He was arraigned and his bond placed at $1,000. His preliminary hearing was set for the next week. Young Schneider’s arrest was expected by that time.

Police did not believe that Schelbert had anything to do with the administering of the punishment to the child. However, they suspected that he was withholding information concerning the way the baby got in the condition he was in.

Little was known of the baby’s mother at the time. No relative of the child had made an inquiry as to its condition at the hospital yet. Not a friend appeared to offer sympathy or to care for the child. But “Little Jack” was making new friends, perhaps the first he ever had. He seemed devoted to Mary Humphrey, superintendent of the hospital, and waved a merry goodbye to news writers who had paid him a visit.


“Little Jackie” Irwin was in a serious condition following his fall from a window in the third story of the hospital. Deserted by his mother, abandoned by his father, flogged by people in whose custody he was left, Jackie was just beginning to regain back his strength and view the world through rose colored glasses, when fate played its last cruel card.

An awning above a window of the first floor of the building saved the baby’s life when it broke his fall. Jackie bounced off the awning and onto a concrete sidewalk sustaining a severe concussion, which brought unconsciousness for several hours. No bones were broken, and physicians believed he would recover.

Jackie’s mother, who was in Oklahoma City, called the hospital several times to inquire as to the child’s condition. She had friends call the county attorney’s office trying to regain custody, but it was refused by Assistant County Attorney W.F. Durham. He declared that a thorough investigation of the case would be made before the child was released.

Judge Hal Johnson arrived at the hospital in his car and saw the baby climb from his crib into the window, unfasten the screen and topple out. Johnson, who was carrying his own baby, hastened to the building, and made an effort to catch the child when he hurdled off the awning.

(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.