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The Redbud City: Traffic accidents plague U.S. in 1937

Clyde Wooldridge
Contributing writer
Auto traffic deaths were becoming one of the worst menaces in the United States by 1937.

CHERRY KILLED IN UNAVOIDABLE ACCIDENT

Death wrote a tragic climax to Shawnee’s three-day siege of sleet-covered streets and 10 to 14-degree weather. A 13-year-old boy, playing in the street on his sled, was ground to death beneath the wheels of an automobile in front of his home on the evening of January 9, 1937.

Lawrence Cherry, of 822 north Market Street, was the victim. Harry Keenan, 18-year-old high school student, was the driver of the car. The boy, with two companions, rode down the driveway near his home and slid into the street in the path of Keenan’s car, traveling about 25 miles per hour.

It was impossible to stop on the glazed sheet of ice and the car crashed into the Cherry boy and the sled, as his two mates rolled off in time to avoid being hit. Keenan picked the boy up and rushed him to the A.C.H. Hospital, but he was pronounced dead by physicians there. The boy’s skull was fractured.

Police Chief F.A. Budd released Keenan after an investigation showed the accident to be unavoidable. However, he issued strict warning against sledding in the streets. The police also threatened revocation of taxi drivers’ licenses if traffic accidents involving cabs continued at the present rate. A search of records showed that of 21 crashes reported to police headquarters in the past 48 hours, involved 10 taxi cabs.

MOSIER KILLED IN AUTO CRASH

Sheriff Walter C. Mosier, 43, six years a popular Pottawatomie County peace officer, was killed instantly about 5:30 P.M., Tuesday, February 16, 1937. The car in which he was driving crashed head on into a truck, seven miles west of Hugo, in the southeastern part of the state. At an Antlers undertaking establishment, it was learned Mosier died of a fractured skull. His leg was broken, and he suffered internal injuries.

Mosier and N.J. Jacobs, a General Motors Company employee, left Shawnee early that morning for Mount Pleasant, TX. They were on their way to repossess an automobile for Kuykendall-Ramsey Motor Company. On the return trip, between Antlers and Hugo, Jacobs, driving the repossessed car, said he had pulled off the broad gravel road until dust kicked up by a car driven in front of him subsided. He then observed Mosier in his car as he passed him.

“It was hard to see anything in the sudden cloud of dust,” Jacobs said. “All at once I heard a loud crash and when the dust cleared away, I saw Walter’s car and the truck completely wrecked.”

Jacobs said he pried open a door of Mosier’s car and pulled him from the wreckage, but he was already dead. An undertaker returning from a trip to Hugo took the body to Antlers. The driver of the truck was in a serious condition in a Hugo hospital, with his leg and arm broken, and dangerous lacerations about the body.

Mosier’s body was returned to Shawnee early the next morning by Gaskill’s, who had charge of funeral arrangements. News of Mosier’s tragic death was a shock, not only in Shawnee, but throughout the state, where he was well-liked and respected by fellow officers since he first became undersheriff in 1930 under W.A. Roberts.

Mosier was responsible for broad improvements in the Pottawatomie County jail, installing a complete fingerprinting system and only recently he added a photographic department, directed by Undersheriff Roy Wellman. Efficiency in the handling of prisoners and in routine at the county jail prompted federal authorities to term it a “model prison” and they designated it as a federal jail where government prisoners were kept.

After serving four years as undersheriff, Mosier was elected sheriff in 1934, and was acclaimed the previous summer by re-election without a runoff in the first primary. He served less than two months of his new term.

The genial Pottawatomie County sheriff climaxed his efficient career with his tireless work on the Ray Evans case. He was praised by state crime bureau officials for his expert handling of the tragedy, which put Oklahoma in a state of turmoil in late 1935.

Aside from his duties as head of county law enforcement, Mosier took an active part in civic enterprises. At the time of his death, he was a leader in the establishment of a police short wave radio station in Shawnee and the county. As a member of the Shawnee Kiwanis Club, he was a leader in the Junior Police movement among city schools and was instrumental in the operation.

Mosier was prominent in Masonic work, being a member of the India Temple Shrine, the consistory at McAlester, and a past patron of the Order of the Eastern Star. He was a World War veteran and a member of the Bernard Gill Post of the American Legion in Shawnee.

Prior to the time of his entrance into law enforcement circles, Mosier was an employee of the Santa Fe Railroad in Shawnee. He came to the area many years earlier from Kansas. His birthplace was in Emporia, KS, June 6, 1893. His tombstone read he was born in 1891. He was survived by his spouse and a son and daughter, who were both students at Shawnee High School.

Sheriff Walter Mosier

MANY ATTEND LAST RITES FOR MOSIER

A vast crowd of men and women from all walks of life paid final respects to Walt C. Mosier on Thursday, February 18, 1937. The services were held in the municipal auditorium that afternoon. Included among the host of friends was a multitude of peace officers, and city and state officials from all over Oklahoma.

The main floor of the auditorium was filled with members of Masonic bodies, American Legion and the auxiliary, county officers and employees, Kiwanis Club, Eastern Star, and employees of the Santa Fe Railway, besides hundreds of officers.

Rev. G. Lemuel Fenn, in the funeral sermon, pictured Mosier as a lover of his fireside, devoted to the upbuilding of his home in addition to his sincere devotion to duty. Rev. Fenn stressed the kindliness with which Mosier discharged the duties of his office.

“He treated those whom it was his duty to arrest and hold for violation of our laws in such a manner that they came back to him, not as prisoner to sheriff, but as friend to friend,” said Fenn.

The pastor of Mosier’s church commented upon his life as a churchman and the activity he and his family took in the First Methodist Episcopal Church, to which they belonged. Rev. Fenn spoke of the public spiritedness of the veteran officer and commended Mosier for the full part he had always taken in civic and community affairs.

Dr. Chesterfield Turner, pastor of the First Baptist Church, assisted in the service and offered the opening prayer during which he prayed that the state might hasten the day when all hazards of the road would be removed, and put to an end such deplorable circumstances as those which caused the popular peace officer’s death.

Masonic graveside services were conducted at the Fairview Cemetery, followed by ceremonies of an American Legion firing squad and the sounding of “taps.” Earlier in the day, more than 2,000 persons filed past Mosier’s body as it lay in state in the courthouse foyer, while a guard of Legionnaires, city and county officers stood watch.

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 One covers from (1830-1929); Volume Three documents the years (1950-1969); and Volume Four, (1970-1989). All are now available at PCHS. 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 or more can be purchased at $30 for each volume.