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The Redbud City: It happened in the fall of 1934

Clyde Wooldridge
Contributing writer
This architectural drawing of the new plant at Shawnee Mills appeared in the Shawnee Morning News on October 28, 1934.

MURDER, DOUBLE SUICIDE CLAIMS THREE LIVES

A murder and double suicide claimed the lives of three Shawnee residents on Sunday night, September 9, 1934. Colorado and Commodore McDaniels, 38, twin brothers, were the suicides and Elsie McDaniels, 26, wife of Colorado, was the murder victim, slain by the brothers.

The triple shooting occurred shortly after 7 P.M. Sunday at the residence of Colorado McDaniels at 436 east Wallace Street. Elsie McDaniels and her husband quarreled, and she fled from the house to the car of Mrs. Eddie Sirmon on north Tucker Street, in which she had arrived a few minutes earlier.

Colorado, partially paralyzed, followed with a gun in his hand, covering the ground on his hands and feet. While his wife cowered in the car, he fired four times, three bullets taking effect. Then he turned the gun upon himself, shooting himself in the head.

Commodore, the twin brother, came from the house, picked up the gun and told Sirmon and her mother, who had brought Elsie to her home a few minutes before, he was going to kill them and then himself. However, the gun snapped on an empty chamber and he returned to the house, with the women fleeing.

Commodore reloaded the gun in the house, beat his brother’s wife about the head, breaking the pistol’s grip, shot her once more, and then shot himself in the head.

According to Mrs. Sirmon, Elsie McDaniels lashed her husband across the face with a belt during their quarrel in the house before the shooting. Commodore then walked across the room, took a pistol from a table and handed it to Colorado, who followed her from the house.

Mrs. Sirmon and her mother were the only witnesses to the shooting of Elsie McDaniels and her husband’s suicide. They did not see the second suicide after fleeing. Mrs. McDaniels died at the hospital, where she was rushed in an ambulance, but the two brothers were dead when help arrived.

Funeral services for all three were held at the Badger chapel, with Rev, J.J. Enos in charge. Burial was at the Dale cemetery. Commodore McDaniels was unmarried. His brother and wife were the parents of two children, who were with relatives at the time of the incident.

FOES OF INDIAN MEASURE DRAW FIRE FROM COLLIER

John C. Collier, first Indian commissioner in history to meet his charges face to face, left Shawnee on the night of Friday, October 19, 1934. He headed to Washington with the memory of warm handshakes and tumultuous cheers of tribesmen to encourage him as he made conceded alterations in the Wheeler-Howard bill.

All through Friday, Commissioner Collier sat with Senator Elmer Thomas on the platform of the Aldridge Hotel ballroom and alternated in discussing attacked phases of the “new deal” Indian bill. They culminated the day-long session with an open forum from citizens. This came after the full-endorsement of leaders of the Potawatomi, Shawnee,  and Sac & Fox Indians. Undecided whether to oppose or to approve, committee heads of the Kickapoo and Iowa tribes took the alternative, wishing for additional conferences and stated they would let their decisions be known in Washington before Congress convened.

It was the final “Indian meeting” of the week in Oklahoma and the last of the series for Collier, who had to be back in his office by Saturday night. Senator Thomas, however, continued the next Monday and Tuesday with meetings at Concho and Anadarko on discussion of the issue.

For the first time in his tour of the state, Collier turned bitterly upon enemies of the Wheeler-Howard bill, who he declared were attempting to confuse the issue in the Indians’ minds by stirring up religious dissension. Many opponents felt the bill did not allow for religious training in the Indian schools.

“Secretary Ickes and I have declared that the constitutional guarantees of freedom of conscience shall be adhered to for Indians,” said Collier. “We mean to make good on that understanding. Indians shall have religious liberty. It is a wanton falsehood to say that this policy is a scheme to make pagans out of Indians. If it be such a scheme, let it be blamed on the men who wrote the constitution of the United States,” he added.

NEW SHAWNEE MILLS DRAWING REVEALED

On October 28, 1934, an architectural drawing of the new facilities for the Shawnee Milling Company appeared in the Shawnee Morning News.  When the new section of the plant was completed on the site of the burned portion, the structure would appear as shown in the illustration. It would constitute one of the finest plants in the country.

Rising to a height of six stories, and with a basement, the building would be concrete and fireproof throughout. There would be a storage capacity of 600,000 bushels and the mill would have a capacity of 1,000 to 1,200 barrels of flour and 500 to 600 barrels of meal each day.

A new poultry feed mill was being installed for the manufacture of a full line of the Climax feeds, which were produced before the fire.

“In point of construction and in efficiency of operation, it will be the last word in milling engineering and will provide one of the most complete plants in the country, including a modern analytical laboratory,” said president and owner, J. Lloyd Ford.

Pouring of concrete began on October 25, using the slip method, which meant that construction was continuous. The floors were poured as the walls reached their levels. It was expected that the roof would be completed by December 13. The plant was scheduled to be back in operation by April, in time to celebrate the opening with the 29th anniversary in Shawnee.

The project insured the building back of one of Shawnee’s industries, which always played a large part in the community. Before the fire, 115 persons were employed at the mill and the work of reconstruction kept most of them busy. When completed, it was expected that the greater capacity of the plant would result in other members being added to the force.

(These stories appear in Volume Three of the “Redbud City” six-volume series of the history of Shawnee. The first three volumes are available and can be purchased by going onto the Pottawatomie County Historical website, or by calling (405-275-8412). Volume Four, (1970-1989) is now with the printer and should be available for purchase soon. Volume Five, (1990-2009) is scheduled for October of 2021. Volume Six, (2010-2022) is about 75 percent finished and should be ready in early 2022.)