The six-volume series on the history of Shawnee from its pre-existence to the present times are still in progress. It is about a six-year project that is half-finished. The third volume, covering the 1950s and 1960s is now available and can be purchased at the Pottawatomie County Historical Society, or by calling the author, Clyde Wooldridge at (918)470-3728.

The six-volume series on the history of Shawnee from its pre-existence to the present times are still in progress. It is about a six-year project that is half-finished. The third volume, covering the 1950s and 1960s is now available and can be purchased at the Pottawatomie County Historical Society, or by calling the author, Clyde Wooldridge at (918)470-3728.

The first volume, covering from the 1830s up through 1929, was published in July of 2018. It begins with a brief history of the Native-American tribes who eventually made their homes in the Indian Territory and in the area of the future city of Shawnee. It then moves along and sees the establishment of the city through the land run of September 21, 1891.

The story continues as the struggling small village reaches a milestone when the railroad was built through the community in 1895, and the village quickly changes, almost overnight, to a thriving city. The city was incorporated in 1894 and the new city government begins striving to organize and build a legitimate town in the young Oklahoma Territory.

By the turn of the century, much of Main Street and the surrounding streets are taking shape and businesses are beginning to thrive. The first decade of the 20th century sees many upgrades in the lifestyle of the citizens of Shawnee. The increase in population leads to advancements such as the building of the rails in the city for the street cars and the development of entertainment spots for the citizens, such as Woodland Park and Benson Park. There was also intense competition for the location of the state capital in the city. However, big money and politics won out, with the state government being landed by Oklahoma City.

The teens saw the city become a drawing card for all kinds of conventions in the community. The requests were so plentiful that it led to the construction of a huge “Convention Hall” in downtown. Groups from all over the state came to meet in the city. With the possibility of the state capital location in Shawnee gone, the new focus was on an attempt to move the county seat from Tecumseh to Shawnee. This was a battle that lasted for 25 years and was not settled until the 1930s.

The 1920s was a “rough and tumbling” time in Shawnee. The growing pains continued. The re-emergence of the KKK in the state of Oklahoma, and especially in Shawnee, led to some exciting and even violent times. The railway strike of 1922-23 also led to violent events with house bombings and beatings on the streets.

Toward the end of the decade, “professional criminals” started to emerge across the nation and state. Shawnee was not left behind in the adventure. The middle of the decade saw the big bank robbery of the Federal National Bank and all the backdrop stories that accompanied it. And the advent of the Great Depression hit at the end of the decade.

In volume two, the 1930s and 1940s are recorded. The hard times of the 1930s with the depressed economy led to massive unemployment and struggling times for almost everyone. You also saw the increase of crime in and near the city with famous outlaws, such as “Pretty Boy” Floyd and his sidekicks showing their wares. Others were also involved the “scary episodes in the city, like the shootout with Wilbur Underhill and his gang, involving the feds and city officers on West Dewey Street in 1933.

However, the 30s had some positive signs under the New Deal, with the establishment of the Municipal Auditorium; the development of the Shawnee Lake west of the city; and the building of the county courthouse in 1935 in the city.

The 1940s saw Shawnee and the area come out of the depression in fine fashion, with employment on the rise. But they also saw another setback with World War II and the rationing of many goods and services. However, when the war ended and life came back to normal, the city began to thrive again.

The city was designated by the state legislature in 1941 as the “Redbud City of Oklahoma.” The citizens began to celebrate this with a Redbud Festival each summer that lasted up into the 1950s.

Volume three covers the 1950s and 1960s and is only recently been published and available to the public. The decade of the 1950s is seen as the advent of modern times for the city. The city government and services are on par with the latest advancements to society. Education takes a huge leap with the construction of a new, modern high school on Highland Street. Entertainment takes a change of direction with the fading of the park recreation and the creation of professional baseball in the city with the Shawnee Hawks. The diamond sport lasted for most of the decade before finally losing much of its appeal to the rise of television.

1960s continued the advancement of civilization in the Redbud City. This decade saw a domination of sports in the community. The high school basketball teams became a state powerhouse under the leadership of Jerrell Chesney and some great talent. The girls’ tennis dominated during the decade with several state championships. OBU basketball became a national power under Bob Bass in the middle years and came home with a national championship in 1966. St. Gregory’s also developed a juggernaut under the coaching of Shawnee’s own Don Sumner.

The city also gained national and international recognition with one of its favorite sons accomplishing new exploits in space. Gordon Cooper became the most famous man in Shawnee history. The decade also saw another advancement in education, with the establishment of the Gordon Cooper Vocational-Technical school.

Volume One, 1830-1929, contains 422 pages, with hundreds of photos and thousands of names and businesses. Like all volumes, it is fully indexed for easy reference to individuals or businesses and civic organizations. It can be purchased individually for $35. It is also available on USB for a slightly less fee.

Volume Two, 1930-1949, contains 400 pages, with numerous photos and illustrations. It is also fully indexed and contains a glossary, as all volumes do, of government officials and other groups. It can be purchased individually for $30 and is also available on USB.

Volume Three, 1950-1969, contains 500 pages. It is filled with pictures and illustrations. It is indexed with thousands of names and places, along with the glossary, a signature page, and a memorial-tribute section. It is priced at $35, and also available on USB.

A purchase of a combination of any two, or three, at the same time, can be made at $30 each. Volume Four, 1970-1989, is scheduled for the fall of 2020. Volume Five, 1990-2009, should be available in the fall of 2021, and the final volume, 2010-to the present, is set for 2022.

Any organization wishing the author to present a program on the series may contact him at (981)470-3728. You may also look for excerpts from the volumes in the weekend edition of the News-Star in the Lifestyle section.

Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian.