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$1 for 3 months. Save 97%.

A new decade brings dreams of prosperity

Clyde Wooldridge
This ad of encouragement came from the Shawnee Morning News in January of 1930, informing the public that 1930 was going to be a year of prosperity. It turned out to be just the opposite.


With the opening of the 1930s of the 20th century, civic leaders, businessmen and bankers of Shawnee predicted a steady growth and expansion program for the city during the next 12 months. The boom period of oil development had passed, and a substantial basis was the foundation of prosperity for the coming year.

An attempt to appraise the business situation in Shawnee and trade territory and to forecast the trend for 1930 was generally occupying business concerns. The previous year began well and kept a steady pace throughout the 12 months.

Out of the confusion which followed the reaction in the stock market, several important conclusions were reached. First, that the general business in this section of the country has not been affected as broadly as the eastern states. Second, people in Shawnee were beginning to learn the importance of safe investments in home concerns, rather than send their money out of the county and state for speculative purposes.


An injunction against the use of money in the county courthouse fund to be used for repairing the present structure in Tecumseh was dissolved, following a hearing before Judge Hal Johnson in district court on January 3, 1930. The case was brought up for hearing when a demurrer was filed against the injunction by Randall Pitman, country attorney, legal representative of the board of county commissioners.

Attorneys who opposed the use of the fund to repair the courthouse gave notice of appeal to the state Supreme Court and were allowed 30 days in which to perfect their appeal. The injunction remained in effect pending the appeal.

The temporary injunction was granted the first part of December against the board of county commissioners, county clerk, and county treasurer, when the case was filed by Joe Ingram, Charlie Hawk, Archie Canada, and Ambrose Mears. They asked that the courthouse fund, amounting to more than $30,000, not be used for payment of repairs on the building.

The fund was created from a one-mill tax levy in the fiscal year of 1926-27, for a courthouse fund as prescribed by law. The law had since been held illegal, but the court ruled the law was still in effect when the money was raised. The state law creating the courthouse fund stipulated that the money could be used for erection, repair, or construction of a courthouse. The petition for injunction against the use of the funds held that the money raised by the one-mill tax levy was to be used only in the construction of a new courthouse.

Plans and specifications for repairing the courthouse were drawn up when the temporary injunction was granted. It was the plan of the county commissioners to add the money now on hand to additional funds raised by a five-mill levy for the construction of a new courthouse before the levy was defeated at an election on October 15, 1929. It was then voted by Commissioners A.W. Goar and C.E. Ayres to use the money to make repairs on the present courthouse. Commissioner A.J. Ownby opposed the use of the money for repair work.


Not guilty was the plea of 53 defendants from Pottawatomie County in conspiracy to violate the national prohibition laws when they were arraigned before Judge Edgar S. Vaught in federal court in Oklahoma City on January 3, 1930. Three defendants indicted entered a plea of guilty but were not arraigned. Others of the 102 named in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury September 21, 1929, had not been arrested at this point.

All defendants were allowed to adopt the demurrer to the indictment filed by Randall Pitman, country attorney, which was over-ruled, and exceptions allowed. Attorneys were given leave to file further motions before the following Monday, when a hearing on special actions in the conspiracy case would be held.

The United States district attorney informed the court that the case would stand on the original indictment returned by the grand jury. The overt act named against Pitman and Frank Fox, former sheriff, was for receiving money from D.W. “Dude” Denham in a drug store at Earlsboro in the summer of 1927. Denham was later sent to the state penitentiary on a charge of hijacking, with Pitman in charge of the prosecution. Trial for the defendants named in the conspiracy was scheduled to start in federal court on January 27.


An increase in the number of arrests and cases handled in the municipal court during the past year was shown when the report was compiled recently by Jim M. Yoder, chief of police. The records also showed that the present administration had a much larger volume of court business than any previous administration.

There were 7,265 cases handled by the police since the administration went into office, as compared to 7,200 cases handled by the two previous administrations. Chief Yoder said he handled the cases with the same number of officers on the force as in previous administrations.

The police department waited on the municipal court of Judge M.L. Hankins, which handled 200 civil cases in addition to the criminal docket. The civil cases filed under the administration of Hankins was more than the number filed in the municipal court for the eight years previous. Records showed the office handled twice as many criminal cases and more than four times as many civil cases as any administration in the past.

The efficiency of the police department helped clean up Shawnee, even though boom conditions prevailed since the administration took office. Not one drunk man was arrested on Christmas Day, and only three arrested during Christmas week.

Expecting a record number of drunk arrests on Christmas Day, based on the records of other Christmas days, Chief Yoder and Judge Hankins planned to pardon all such cases at noon. To their surprise, there were no prisoners to pardon.

Records revealed that during the past year, a total of 156 automobiles were stolen in the city. Of that number, 102 were recovered by the police. A total of 34 automobiles were recovered, which were stolen at other places, making a total of 136 stolen autos recovered during the year of 1929.

(These stories appear in Volume Two (1930-1949) of the Redbud City series on the history of Shawnee. A total of six volumes will eventually be produced in the works. Volume One (1830-1929); Volume Two (1930-1949); and Volume Three (1950-1969) are currently available and can be purchased at the Pottawatomie County Historical Society. Volume Four (1970-1989) is in the works and should be available during the summer or early fall.)

Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian.