SUBSCRIBE NOW
$1 for 3 months. Save 97%.
SUBSCRIBE NOW
$1 for 3 months. Save 97%.

The Redbud City: Hospital room is scene of official's selection

Clyde Wooldridge
Contributing writer
Elza Evans, appointed sheriff from the ACH Hospital after the traffic death of Walter Mosier in February of 1937.

HOSPITAL ROOM IS THE SCENE OF OFFICIAL’S SELECTION

A political thunderbolt rumbled across Pottawatomie County, as it flashed from a tiny room on the third floor of the A.C. H. Hospital on the afternoon of February 23, 1936. The county commissioners surprised many by naming Elza Evans, former Maud police chief, to succeed the late Walter Mosier as county sheriff.

Evans, 43, was a native Maud resident, who made a run for the nomination of sheriff in 1936. He appeared to be one of the favorites but faded late in the campaign.

Ironically enough, commissioners met only a few hours after supporters of Bertha Mosier, widow of the late sheriff, swarmed into the district courtroom in a frenzied rally, expecting to attend the session at which a new sheriff would be named.

Only Commissioner Elmer Rawlings appeared at the meeting. A.B. Carpenter and Charlie Dierker, prominent Shawnee attorneys who were active in American Legion affairs, had led the crowd of county residents seeking to bring pressure to bear on the county governing group in its choice of a new sheriff.

Petitions bearing 4,000 to 6,000 names were placed in the hands of Robert Easley, county clerk, for presentation to the commissioners. In the brief interlude, which followed the morning session, rumors were plentiful concerning secret meetings of the county board and Evans’ name persistently crept into the speculation with that of Rufus Lyon’s.

At 2:50 P.M., Easley, ex-officio secretary of the board of commissioners, left the courthouse swinging a brown brief case and walked gingerly the two and a half blocks to the hospital. In a room on the third floor of the hospital, Easley was greeted by Commissioners Frank Sims, suffering from a relapse after a week’s influenza illness, Chairman John Gentry, recuperating from a stomach ailment, and Commissioner Elmer Rawlings.

Chairman Gentry announced the purpose of the meeting was to appoint a sheriff to succeed Mosier and concluded his remarks by nominating Rufus Lyon, third Ward city commissioner. For several seconds, an awkward silence was broken only by Sims’ heavy breathing. There was no second to Lyon’s nomination.

Sims cleared his throat: “I nominate Elza Evans,” he spoke with his characteristic quickness, and said no more.

Gentry glanced at Rawlings while Sims studied the ceiling. Again, a period of oppressive silence filled the room. Then Rawlings seconded the nomination of Evans. Gentry withdrew Lyon’s name and Evans was named sheriff until January 1939. The three commissioners and Easley discussed the matter for about 30 minutes, and then emerged from the room to greet newsmen with the startling announcement.

Evans, when informed of his appointment, smiled broadly and jokingly said, “Gee, have you a gun I can borrow, I don’t even have one.”

The rotund former Maud police chief said it was his aim to maintain the harmony of operation in the entire organization that worked so efficiently under Mosier. There were no expected new appointments in the immediate future. Evans said, except those which might be necessitated by resignation.

Joe McCrabb, deputy under Mosier for the past two years, placed his resignation in the hands of Easley that afternoon. He told a Shawnee News reporter earlier in the day, before commissioners had met, that it was his intention to resign and enter the oil business as an independent operator. He was well-liked and widely known throughout Oklahoma. He was with the Shell Petroleum Corporation for 14 years and an independent operator when Mosier chose him as a deputy.

Evans, before he became the chief of police at Maud in 1928, worked for the telephone company and the electric light company at Maud. He was also a cotton buyer for many years. He served as Maud chief of police during the oil boom and ran two races for sheriff. In the past election, he placed third to Mosier and W.A. Roberts.

SHERIFF EVANS COMPLETES HIS STAFF

Sheriff Elza Evans completed his staff of deputies on March 3, 1937, with a surprise appointment of Mark Frazier, city commissioner, and Oscar W. Covington, county registrar, as jailer. George Southgate, jailer, was promoted to criminal deputy. The new men took the oath of office the next day. Sheriff Evans announced that Southgate would assume his new duties at the same time.

Like Evans, himself a dark horse in pre-appointment forecasts, the two new faces had entered little into speculation over the men who would be named to replace Para Blain and Joe McCrabb. Those deputies tendered their resignations after the change in administration.

Southgate had a creditable record as a deputy under Mosier and acted as Evans’ chief side in outside duties since the new sheriff took office. His appointment was met with hearty approval by veteran peace officers in the area who heard the announcement.

Both Frazier and Covington were prominent and well-liked in the city and reaction to their appointments were favorable along a wide front. Frazier entered city politics several years earlier when he was elected to the school board from Ward Two. The previous spring, he was elected to the city commission from the same ward, unopposed in the race. He resigned as school board president and was active in the city administration. He was a veteran Rock Island Railway conductor and a pioneer Shawnee resident. He lived on north Pottenger Street.

Covington was associated with the Lambard-Hart Loan Company, and an insurance representative in the city for many years. He served as Pottawatomie County registrar for the past several years. He was prominent in American Legion activities, having served overseas during the World War. He lived on north Market Street.

The completion of the new sheriff’s staff gave him the following setup with few changes from that announced by Mosier the first of the year, to serve until January 1, 1939: CRIMINAL DEPUTIES: Mark Frazier and George Southgate; CIVIL DEPUTY: D.O. Barton; UNDERSHERIFF: Roy Wellman; JAILERS: Harve Weatherford, Oscar Covington, Sid Roberts, and Willis Moore; MATRON: Eugneia Warlick; and COOK: Edna Milligan.

These stories appear in Volume Two of the six-volume series on the history of Shawnee, entitled, “Redbud City,” (1930-1949). They will be followed by some very unusual circumstances involving the new sheriff in the future. Look for them in the coming weeks. 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.