The Redbud City: It happened in June

Clyde Wooldridge
Contributing writer
The first fire station and city hall were located in the 100 block of south Bell Street, near the end of the block, south of the old Mammoth Department Store. Just beyond the fire station stood the city hall, behind which was a small one-room structure that served as a city hall. This photo shows how they appeared in June of 1896.

1870 - On June 6, the MK&T began laying tracks southward from the Kansas border. This was the first railroad through what would someday be the state of Oklahoma. This eventually led to the building of tracks east and west that enhanced the advancement of Shawnee and the surrounding areas.

100 YEARS AGO - William H. Dodge, pioneer Shawnee citizen, who came to Shawnee on the first train run into the city, passed away at his home on west Highland Street June 30, 1921. He came to Shawnee in 1895 and lived continuously in the community since that time. He invested heavily in property and practiced law. He held the office of city attorney and police judge of the city, retiring from active practice several years earlier because of failing health.

75 YEARS AGO - Leslie A. Ford, former vice president, Wednesday, June 12, 1946, stepped into his father’s position as president of the Shawnee Milling Company by action of the directors. They first elevated his father, J. Lloyd Ford, to a newly created post of chairman of the board. W.H. “Henley” Williams, former secretary and treasurer was elected a vice president and secretary.

50 YEARS AGO - Dr. William G. Tanner, president of Mary Hardin-Baylor College in Belton, TX, was elected president of OBU Monday, June 2, 1971, by the school’s board of trustees. The 41-year-old educator-minister would become the school’s 11th president. He would succeed Dr. Grady C. Cothen, who resigned the previous September to become president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Tanner would assume his duties on August 2.

25 YEARS AGO - Shawnee Mayor Pierre F. Taron Jr. lost his relatively brief battle with cancer early Sunday, June 9, 1996. He died at his home with many of his family members beside him. Shawnee was described at Mayor Taron’s town. He was born, grew up, returned after World War II military service, spent 41 years in business, and 22 years in city government, 18 of those as mayor. He was mayor during two periods: 1966-74; and from 1986 until his death. He was first elected city commissioner in 1962. Just two days after his memorial service the new bridge on east MacArthur Street was named in his honor.

---Frank Kennon, a Shawnee resident, was accorded perhaps the ultimate honor from his coaching peers. From the approximately 4,000 coaches who constituted the Oklahoma Coaches Association, Kennon was selected as the sole member to be included among the first-ever inductees into the National High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame. Kennon, who coached at Shawnee from 1964-70, was inducted during ceremonies in Cromwell, Connecticut, on June 27, where Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz was the keynote speaker. Kennon was also one of the original founders of the National High School Athletic Association. “It’s a real honor, but I don’t feel worthy,” said Kennon.

TEN YEARS AGO - After months of discussions and negotiations, the Shawnee city commissioners decided to close the portions of Broadway Avenue, from Farrall Street to 7th Street in June of 2011. Jeanetta Townes, a major opponent to the street closing, shifted the debate toward making Bell Street more accommodating to through traffic. “I really have no objections to the closing of the Broadway,” Townes said. “I have concern to the reaction it might cause.”

Townes asked city commissioners to consider creating a side road to bypass semi-truck traffic to the Shawnee Milling Company, and to provide an alternative route around railroad crossings. “We believe that if this is to pass, it will be a wonderful thing for the city,” Shawnee Milling Company President Bill Ford said. “We look forward to working with the city in the future.”

Ford said the street closing would lead to further job creation at the Mill and had stated previously that the closure was necessary in order for the mill to meet Homeland Security requirements.

FIVE YEARS AGO – In June of 2016, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin officially appointed Pottawatomie County Special District Judge Dawson Engle to serve as associate district judge. Engle would fill the judgeship vacated by the previous year’s retirement of Associate District Judge John Gardner.

Engle, of Shawnee, served as special judge for Pottawatomie and Lincoln counties since August 2005, splitting time each week in both counties for the past 11 years. He said he was excited about the new appointment to associate district judge in Pottawatomie County, but said he was going to miss the staff and attorneys in Lincoln County. “They’re as close to family as you can get up there,” he said. “It’s such a family atmosphere...I’ve enjoyed it.”

ONE YEAR AGO - In June of 2020, Van’s Pig Stands, Oklahoma’s oldest single family-owned Bar-B-Q restaurant celebrated 90 years in the business. “Van’s Fans are a part of our family and our history, and we love to hear their stories,” said Jev Vandegrift, Co- Owner. “Without our loyal customers, there would be no Van’s Pig Stands.”

Van’s Pig Stands had been doing Bar-B-Q right since 1930 and had been an Oklahoma tradition for decades. Famous for their hickory-smoked ribs, brisket, and Pig Sandwiches, customers across the state and even across the country considered Van’s among the nation’s top barbecue restaurants. There were currently five Van’s Pig Stands locations, two in Shawnee, one in Norman, Moore, and Purcell.

These stories appear in all six-volumes of the history of the City of Shawnee. The first four volumes, through 1989, are now available for purchase at the Pottawatomie County Historical Society. They are now open, and you may visit them, or you may order them online at their website, or by calling (405) 275-8412. Each volume is $35, but a purchase of two or more volumes can be obtained at $30 each. We are offering a special deal. If you purchase any other volume, you may obtain Volume One (1830-1929) for just $20. Volume Five, (1990-2009) is now finished and is at the binder this week. Look for it near the end of this week or early next week. Volume Six, (2010-2021) is almost completed and should be on the market shortly after that.