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Shawnee history: The city chooses new type of government

Clyde Wooldridge
The Central Drug Store, located on the corner of Main and Broadway, was badly damaged by fire on the early morning hours of March 28, 1930. It was one of the most prominent businesses in the city.

March of 1930 saw a few new things happen in the Shawnee area. Some of them were rough at the time, others brought about new conditions that have lasted into the 21st century.


Benson Park was set to regain some of its past glory during the coming summer, according to Al Lewis, manager of the park. Work was under way in early March to make many improvements in the park. New steel bridges were being constructed, and all drives in the park repaired and placed in good condition.

Amusements would be provided at the park throughout the summer season, including rides and concessions. The best improvement would be in the “Plunge,” which was being remodeled and enlarged. It would be an open-air swimming pool, with water provided from deep wells that were being dug. The water was kept circulating through the swimming pool at all times and would be one of the most sanitary in the state, said Lewis.

The skating rink was remodeled and would open in the middle of March. Picnic grounds were enlarged, and new tables provided. When the work was completed, Shawnee would have access to one of the most beautiful free picnic grounds in the state.

Every effort was being made to make Benson Park the playground of Pottawatomie County and amusements would be provided for the entire summer.


A landslide victory was registered for the city manager form of government in Shawnee on March 18, 1930. The amendments to the city charter, submitted at the primary election, were adopted by a vote of 1,803 to 502. A cold wind that kept many persons indoors was thought to have kept the total vote much smaller than usual in a city election.

It was a vote of confidence in the “Committee of 13,” which spent many weeks on preparing the city charter amendments to be presented to the vote of the people. The only upset from the charter committee candidates was when Virgil J. Hardin won the Democratic nomination for councilman from the fourth ward over Walter White, by a vote of 159-119. Hardin would be opposed in the general election on April 1, by J.C. Cooper, Republican candidate, who was nominated without opposition.

Cora M. Stevens, Democratic candidate for city treasurer, led the list of candidates with a total vote of 1,331, and would be opposed by J.A. Clouse, the Republican nominee. Both candidates were placed on the ticket by the charter committee.

Cliff L. Martin, charter candidate for the Democratic nomination for mayor, won an easy victory over Carl C. Groce by a vote of 1,243 to 544, with M.J. McLaughlin, the Republican candidate, receiving 379 votes.

In the race for Democratic nomination for councilman from the first ward, Kib Warren won over Frank E. Brown by a vote of 242-93, with S.S. Jones on the Republican ticket. Because Republican candidates were unopposed in the primary, the vote of that party was exceptionally light.

Immediately following the official report on election returns, the mayor and city council made an official canvass of the election, and the charter amendments could now be submitted to the governor for approval. It was expected to be two or three weeks before the governor and attorney general examined the charter amendments to make certain that there were no conflicts with the state law.

Five weeks after the charter amendments were approved by the governor, an election could be held for nominations for seven city commissioners. The two candidates receiving the highest vote would oppose each other in a race for commissioners, two weeks after the nominations. Candidates would not be permitted to run for commissioner on a political ticket.

After the election and qualification of commissioners, they would elect one of their members as mayor, and then select a city manager. Until the city charter amendments were approved by the governor, the city must operate under the present charter, and because of this, the regular city election for two councilmen, mayor, and city treasurer would be held on April 1. They would be installed in office and conduct the affairs of the city until the commissioners started operation.


Nearly the entire stock and fixtures of the City Drug Store at 14 West Main Street were destroyed and the building gutted by fire, which broke out early on the morning of March 28, 1930. Damage to the building, a two-story stone affair, was estimated at $2,500 by Fire Chief W.W. Wicker.

Nat Green, the proprietor, was ill at the time of the fire and could not be reached for an estimate of the loss he sustained. W.H. Brown was the owner of the building and was also not available to find out if the structure was insured.

Roy Holloway, who lived at the Baker Hotel, an employee of the drug store, said that he had not worked for the past week and that O.C. Campbell was working the night before the fire.

The fire started behind the prescription cases and spread rapidly along the wall case and ceiling. It gutted both the front and rear rooms of the building. Jess Guilliams, police patrolman, turned in the alarm and aroused sleepers in adjoining buildings by firing three shots from his revolver. He first saw the fire as he rounded the corner of Main and Beard streets.

Slight damage to the Ritz Barber Shop and Mack’s Quick Lunch, adjoining the drug store on the west was caused by smoke seeping through the ceiling and walls.

(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). However, I am currently working on Volume six, (2010-to the present) that I have access to online.)

Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian.