The Redbud City: Thousands attend celebration of opening, dedication

Clyde Wooldridge
Contributing writer
More than 30,000 citizens and visitors attended the pioneer days and new county courthouse dedication on the weekend of July 3-6, 1935. This photo shows the huge crowd in front of the courthouse for its cornerstone ceremonies on July 3.

The 44th annual pioneer celebration was officially opened, and the new Pottawatomie County courthouse formally dedicated with appropriate ceremonies on Wednesday, July 3, 1935, before an estimated crowd of 30,000 people. Thousands of rural people came to Shawnee and visited the courthouse, watched a half-hour parade, enjoyed a free barbecue at Woodland Park, and heard Governor E.W. Marland speak at the courthouse dedication in the early part of the afternoon. Not only visitors from all sections of the tri-county district, but also high state and PWA officials made up the throng which took part in the first day’s activities.

The Konawa High School band was awarded first place in the 40 contests held relating to the parade, which officially opened the celebration at 11 A.M. Second place went to the Capitol Hill High School band of Oklahoma City. Prizes were $24 and $15, respectively. Along with the bands, a varied series of floats, Indians, and pioneers in early-day costumes, commercial and decorated cars, and old-time vehicles kept sightseers who lined Main and 9th streets entertained for almost 30 minutes as the parade wound from it starting place to Woodland Park.

Forty-thousand sandwiches disappeared like magic, almost before celebration officials could complete arrangements for giving them out. Visitors rushed the free barbecue stands set up in the park at noon. Barbecue sandwiches and ice water were provided in the free lunch.

A plea for pride in the magnificent new county building and for the election of honest county officials to protect the social security of the community was the central thought of the address by Governor Marland, who officially dedicated the new courthouse building at 1:30 P.M. Defending the “New Deal,” Marland outlined the history of the constitution, praised President Roosevelt for his attempts to replace a disorganized individualistic society with a planned program against opposition from large corporations. He also lambasted the Republican Party for its present conservative stand.

“Social justice can only arrive in Oklahoma,” Marland said, “when every man has a home and a job. Now, the state is producing four times as much food and clothing as its population can use yet must support one-third of its people on relief rolls of the federal government. The machine age is responsible for the present national conditions, and social security should be the thought uppermost in the minds of public officials.”

Before Governor Marland spoke, through the loud speaking equipment set up in front of the courthouse, Rev. Chesterfield Turner, of the First Baptist Church, led the devotional. A.J. Fluke then directed the crowd in the singing of “America.” Fred Martin’s band gave a short concert before the ceremony began.

M.M. Henderson, chairman of the dedication committee, introduced Governor Marland to the crowd. On the platform with the governor were representatives of the Indian tribes of the county, pioneer settlers who homesteaded claims in the 1891 opening, county officials, PWA officials, and those in charge of the construction of the building.

The actual laying of the cornerstone of the building was carried out with traditional Masonic Lodge ceremonies under the direction of the state lodge grand master. In a copper compartment at the back of the cornerstone was placed official documents, copies of the four Shawnee newspapers, and county records relating to the courthouse.

On the south side of the cornerstone, were the names of the architects, the county commissioners, the county clerk, the state PWA engineer, the contractors, and the Masonic emblem. The west stone carried the Masonic inscription and the date.

James I. Phelps, state supreme court justice, made the principal dedication address following the Masonic ceremony. “Good government was the privilege of every citizen,” the justice said. “With such, it was their duty to maintain the highest standards of government in the new courthouse in the future.”

Celebration activities on Thursday opened with further registration of pioneers in the lobby of the Aldridge Hotel. At 10 A.M., a special ceremony in the new courthouse occurred when a steel lock box, to be opened July 4, 2035, was sealed in a corner of the vault in the office of the county clerk. It contained records of the Pottawatomie County Historical Society, a copy of the recent historical edition of the Shawnee News and Star, and other historical records.

At 11 A.M., pioneers were honored at a reception in the Aldridge Hotel, with a picnic lunch and concert by Martin’s band held in Woodland Park at noon. A second day of the rodeo began in the afternoon at OBU’s Hurt Field. A big fireworks display, under the direction of Fire Chief W.W. Wicker, was set off at 9 P.M. from the field just south of Athletic Park.

On Friday and Saturday of the celebration, much of the same events continued, such as the rodeo at OBU. There was also a big banquet and several other contests. Members of the Sheriff and Peace officers’ convention were in town for their convention and celebrated with the city.

Thousands attended the parade in the downtown district celebrating pioneer days and the dedication of the new county courthouse on July 3, 1935.

This story, along with many others appear in Volume Two of the six-volume series of the history of Shawnee, entitled “Redbud City.” 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 with two or three weeks. 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.)