The Redbud City: Sheriff Evans saga continues

Clyde Wooldridge
Contributing writer
In the fall of 1937, the SHS Board of Education kept the schools running efficiently. (l-r) SEATED: George K. Hunter, clerk; Dr. W.M. Gallaher, president; Ollie HIckman; E.M. Warren, vice-president; & J.D. Stacy. STANDING: Superintendent A.L. Burks; Dr. C.F. Paramore; O.C. Brown; W.H. Williams; & Bernard Johnson, secretary. Not pictured were Joe H. Reily, attorney; & Glen Bovee, treasurer.

EVANS IS SHERIFF AS LYON BOND CANCELLED

The same two stage hands that rang up the curtain on Pottawatomie County’s political comedy-melodrama, wrote “finis” to the exciting episode on Saturday morning, May 1, 1937. Rufus Lyon’s $10,000 surety bond was cancelled and that left Sheriff Elza Evans as the sole claimant to the little suite of offices in the northwest corner of the courthouse basement.

Commissioners Frank Sims, and Elmer Rawlings met in adjournment session about 9 A.M., with Chairman John Gentry absent. Lyon’s bond was cancelled on Sims’ motion and Rawlings’ second. The county clerk was ordered to return the bond to the Hartford Accident and Assurance Company in Connecticut.

No further action was taken to affect the Pottawatomie political picture, except the appointment of D.L. Day as county weigher to succeed the late J.M. Hamilton, who died on March 25. Day’s surety bond of $2,000 was approved. The commissioners then adjourned until May 6.

Almost the full two-year term remained for Evans. With Rawlings, the jury finally came in with a 9-3 verdict of acquittal and the return to work immediately. Lyon, city commissioner for the past six years and popular with the voters of the third ward, was good-natured throughout the whole affair. Saturday night, Lyon indicated he would take no further action, leaving the “commissioners in power” to run things as they pleased.

EVANS RAIDS DANCE HALLS AND BEER PARLORS

Sheriff Elza Evans wrote one more action-filled chapter in his growing treatise of practical law enforcement on Saturday, August 14, 1937. He slapped the marble board and slot machine fraternity by a series of costly blows in a four-hour series of raids. He then climaxed a busy day by shutting down “for good,” two troublesome east Main Street dance halls.

Shawnee and McLoud business houses, drugs stores, cafes, and beer parlors, gave up more than 30 alleged gambling devices valued conservatively at $2,500 on Saturday afternoon and night, as Evans and his deputies, followed by a truck, gathered the material for a grand “smash up” on the following Monday afternoon at the rear courthouse lawn.

Shutdown of the dance halls was done without great commotion. Evans, accompanied by Undersheriff Oscar Covington, and Deputies George Southgate, Mark Frazier, and Day Jailer Willis Moore, dropped in on the first of the two places in the 700 block of east Main Street on Saturday night. Girls and women were excused immediately, but all men present were searched before being dismissed. Several semi-drunks were warned to go home immediately. The proprietor was informed the dance hall portion of his establishment must remain closed “from now on,” under penalty of having his beer license revoked. The same procedure was followed at the second dance hall, located a few doors west in the same block.

“I’m not fooling about shutting these places down,” Evans commented after the raid. “I’ve had numerous complaints on both places. I’ve waited for the city to do something about it, but the police didn’t act, so I figured it was up to me to do it. If either of those dance halls reopen, I’ll ask the people on McKinley, Tucker, and Harrison streets to bring me a petition declaring they’re a nuisance and I’ll get the county attorney to revoke their beer licenses and shut them entirely.”

“Sheriff Evans is clearly entitled to act in closing the beer parlors and confiscating gambling devices,” said City Manager T.E. Thompson.

 TAVERN OWNER DEFIES SHERIFF

Defiance of an order by Sheriff Elza Evans, closing dance halls operated in connection with east Main Street cafes, brought a second rebuke to one proprietor on Monday night, August 16, 1937. Mark Frazier and George Southgate, deputies, cleared the dance hall in the rear of the Ideal Coffee Shop, at 720 east Main Street, about 10:15 P.M., as several couples danced to the accompaniment of a phonograph record.

A.P. Parks, operator of the place, retaliated with the statement he would “open again tomorrow night unless you show me some legal authority why I can’t operate.”

Sheriff Evans said he received complaints from neighbors in the vicinity shortly after he dispatched the officers to close the dance. Parks brought a petition to Evans on Monday afternoon, signed by practically every resident in the vicinity. It explained that his place did not constitute a nuisance and there was no objection to its operation.

“I realize that city officers are handicapped in controlling the unpleasant situation because the beer license power is placed in the hands of county officials,” Evans said. “However, we can and will do something about it.”

The sheriff delayed destruction of a quantity of marble machines seized in Saturday night’s raids until Wednesday afternoon, when he would secure a district court order from Judge Leroy Cooper.

SHERIFF STRICKEN BY HEART ATTACK

Sheriff Elza Evans remained in critical condition in the municipal hospital late Tuesday night, August 17, 1937, semi-conscious, after a severe heart attack suffered at his office earlier in the day. Physicians placed a special nurse in constant watch at the 44-year-old sheriff’s bedside and no one else was allowed in the room.

Evans was sitting in his outer office at the courthouse Tuesday morning, relating details of a knifing affair at McLoud on Monday night, when he was stricken. He asked George Southgate, a deputy, to get him a glass of water, but slumped to the floor before Southgate reached the door. Physicians were summoned to the office where first aid was administered before an ambulance sped to the municipal hospital with the sheriff.

Evans was advised by doctors several weeks earlier to avoid excessive duties and adopt a diet for high blood pressure. The strain under which the sheriff was working in the recent hot weather was said to be contributing factors to the attack. Physicians said it would be advisable for Evans to remain in the hospital for at least a week and take a prolonged rest to strengthen his heart.

 These stories appear in Volume Two of the six-volume series on the history of Shawnee, entitled, “Redbud City,” (1930-1949). The sheriff refused to give up his position and finally, the commissioners acquiesced and revoked Lyon’s bond. 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 the summer or early fall of 2021. Volume Six, (2010-2022) is almost finished and should be available shortly after Volume Five comes out. Each volume is $35, but any purchase of two volumes or more can be purchased at $30 for each volume.