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The Redbud City: It happened in the winter and spring of 1935-36

Clyde Wooldridge
Contributing writer
Jimmy Overstreet

OVERSTREET TAKES OWN LIFE IN MICHIGAN PRISON

The body of Jimmie Overstreet was on its way to Shawnee on Friday, December 20, 1935, after the notorious bank robber died in the Michigan state pen that morning from self-inflicted wounds with a broken mirror the day before. The “Jelly Bean bandit” slashed his wrists and throat with the jagged mirror edge, grabbed up in the men’s lavatory.

Mr. and Mrs. R.A. Overstreet, of 716 south Beard Street, parents of the life-termer convict, were notified of his death Friday morning. Arrangements were completed for his burial in Shawnee at Fairview Cemetery.

The most notorious exploit of the dapper bank bandit and outlaw in his hometown was the robbery of the Federal National Bank of $18,000 on December 12, 1924. Also implicated in the robbery were Joe Marshall, found dead near Bristow the next day, and two women, Mrs. Marshall and Bobby Livingston.

At the time of his suicide, Overstreet was serving a term of from 30 to 65 years for a bank holdup in Michigan on November 21, 1931. He received an added sentence of seven years after an attempt to smuggle dynamite into his prison for an escape in 1932 and was transferred from Jackson to Marquette prisons.

A sentence to the state reformatory at Granite for car theft started Overstreet’s criminal career. He was 31 at the time of his death. Other crimes in which he was involved included dynamiting of Shawnee homes during the railroad shops strike of 1922, and a robbery charge in Illinois. He also was wanted at Parsons, KS, for bank robbery.

He escaped from the Granite reformatory and from the McAlester penitentiary, where he was sent after the bank robbery in Shawnee, and from the Illinois prison.

SHERIFF HOLDS BIG LIQUOR PARTY

A $5,000 liquor pouring party, the most expensive to Pottawatomie County bootleggers in history, was staged on the afternoon of January 4, 1936, in the offices of Sheriff Walter Mosier. Virtually the entire official family of the courthouse assisted or served as witnesses to the banishing of “John Barleycorn.”

Nearly 2,300 pints of federal tax whiskey, brandy, wine, and gin seized by Sheriff Mosier and his deputies on October 30, at a rural cache northwest of Shawnee, constituted the main task of the pourers. Added were some 300 gallons of moonshine confiscated during scores of raids in all parts of the county during the past several months.

The bonded liquor was held under court order pending disposal of the case. The court authorized its destruction on that day. Mosier sent the “moonshine” gurgling into the sewer after the “good” liquor on the theory that he might as well dump it all while he had plenty of assistance in the task.

Sheriff Mosier and his deputies, aided by Judge Leroy Cooper, County Judge J. Knox Byrum, Court Clerk Sam Coleman, and County Attorney Tom Wyatt, took off their coats and spent an arduous half hour carrying and pouring the loud-smelling liquor into the sheriff’s shower bath. Broken bottles were stacked in piles in huge boxes for final transportation to the city dump. The pourers soon found it much safer to remove the lids and drain the pints several at a time.

Half-gallon fruit jars and wooden kegs, containing the “moonshine” offered less of a problem, but considerably more of an odor. Some of the finest of bonded liquors and whiskeys, presumably of pre-war vintage, were included among the 2,300 pints. Labels bearing the national advertising brands of Canadian Club, White Horse, Seven Crown Seagram, Cream of Kentucky, Old Quaker, and a half-dozen lesser known brands were ruthlessly emptied, while spectators looked on in pained grief.

“I expect I’ve had 500 people come up to me and ask for some of this stuff since I got it,” Mosier said, “and I figure it’s better to just get rid of it all right out here in the open and that’ll be the end of it.”

DUST BLANKET COVERS STATE IN NEW STORM

A stifling dust cloud rolled over Shawnee for the second time during the week of March 23-27, 1936. Visibility was reduced at times to three blocks. Rolling in high from the arid panhandle, the silt sifted down like a curtain with only a light surface wind blowing.

Housewives moaned as they surveyed their dust-covered homes and prepared for a second house cleaning since the Monday, March 23 blow. A few improvised dust masks were seen on the streets, but as a rule, shoppers took it on the chin and went their way.

MUNICIPAL AUDITORIUM-GYMNASIUM DEDICATED

Cornerstone of the Shawnee Municipal Auditorium-Gymnasium in Woodland Park was laid at ceremonies on Saturday, March 28, 1936. Masonic dignitaries and officials of the Shawnee Composite Lodge 523 were in charge. It was dedicated as a civic entertainment and athletic center for the city. Park Wyatt, Shawnee attorney made the principal address.

A copy of the resolution of the city commission calling for construction of the building, Masonic papers, a copy of the Shawnee Morning News, and other records were placed in the cornerstone before it was set.

Another milestone during the 1935-36 school year was the paving of the Oval drive at Oklahoma Baptist University. The project finished in mid-March of 1936.

These stories appear in Volume Two of the six volume series on the history of Shawnee, entitled, “Redbud City,” (1930-1949). The first four volumes are now 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 available. 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.) Each volume is $35, but any purchase of two volumes at once will give you a discount to $30 for each volume.