Did You Know…
This Week in Sapulpa History – Dewey Ave Gets a New Look
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
The Mother Road of America was established in late 1926 and began connecting many states along the now infamous highway. From Chicago, Illinois through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona to Santa Monica, California, the stretch of road became a historic icon. The inspiration was planned by Cyrus Avery (of Tulsa, OK) and John Woodruff (of Springfield, MO) as they advocated the American Association of State Highway Officials.
At first, each town was in charge of their section of the highway. Later, State Highway Departments were ahead of the projects of highways. This week in Sapulpa history, on June 5, 1937, it was announced that Dewey Ave would be under construction to widen the highway.
“Fred Cowden, Chamber of Commerce President, revealed plans [for] widening of Dewey Avenue through Sapulpa from the west city limits.” Of the 375 miles of Route 66 in our state, Sapulpa’s construction would consist of 9 miles, and was the only town in Oklahoma to have plans for construction on the Mother Road that year.
“Relative to widening of Dewey Avenue, Cowden stated that the sidewalks on each side would be cut down to carry better highway traffic. The State Highway Department would insist on only parallel parking.” Prior, along the Business District on Dewey, angle parking was used along the traffic.
At first, the City had kept in mind to keep angle parking, however, it was met by resistance from the State Highway Commission. In October 1937, “Dr. W.E. Grisso, Chairman of the State Highway Commission, stated unless cities between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, including Sapulpa cleared traffic obstacles there would be agitation started for federal placement of a by-pass around the towns or an airline highway that would leave them ‘high and dry.’”
At the time of the statement, Sapulpa had angle parking on the north side of Dewey, with parallel parking on the other side. “The City Manager, Fred Boone, agreed with Dr. Grisso was ready to recommend to City Commissioners an amendment of the present parking ordinance to provide parallel regulations on both sides of Dewey from Poplar St to Oak St and even out to Maple St if necessary.”
Fred Cowden had mentioned that the ultimatum from the State Highway was only a newspaper story, and the City always had intentions to establish only parallel parking. “‘When I talked with Dr. Grisso and proposed parallel parking, he talked of prohibiting parking on Dewey altogether. The City is willing to cooperate with the Highway Commission, but would like also to secure help from the state in maintenance of Dewey Ave.’”
In November 1937, it was announced the changes ordered by the commissioners in the new parking ordinance. “Parallel parking on both sides of Dewey Ave east from Main St to the railroad…buses will not be permitted to stop and load or unload on Dewey Ave.” It further stated that there is no parking on West Dewey, southside, between Poplar and Main Streets. Furthermore, limited parking to a two-hour stretch from 7 AM to 6 PM on Dewey from Main St to Walnut St.
Finally on November 8, 1937, orders for no parking along Dewey due to the new paint being laid for the new parking layout. “This move is being made in order that there will be less congestion on the busiest street in the city and highway traffic through Sapulpa will have privileges of through traffic. There will be less cause for accidents, according to J.O. Edwards, Chief of Police, which have been caused from backing away from curbs [due to angle parking]. The straight parking is in compliance with the State Highway Department wishes.”
Just two week later, “Sapulpa’s parallel parking down Dewey Ave has had sufficient time to prove it is a highly practical move…Crowded conditions on Saturday nights formerly made this lane extremely narrow and difficult to navigate. And car drivers have cooperated and swung into the new habit with ease."
Did You Know…
This Week in Sapulpa History – Beginning of Sapulpa’s Ku Klux Klan, One Year After the Tulsa Race Massacre
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
At the turn of the 20th Century, the American Civil War, which ended in 1865, was still in living memory. Civil rights for African Americans were lacking, and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK or Klan) was resurging - primarily through the influence of the wildly popular 1915 film The Birth of a Nation. Since 1915, the KKK had been growing in urban chapters across the country.
After World War I, veterans returned to Tulsa, and they tried to re-enter the labor force. Social tensions and anti-Black sentiment both increased in cities where job competition was fierce. Northeastern Oklahoma was in an economic slump which increased the level of unemployment.
According to the Oklahoma History Center, “Tulsa was also a deeply troubled town. Crime rates were extremely high, and the city had been plagued by vigilantism, including the August 1920 lynching, by a white mob, of a white teenager accused of murder.”
“By September 1921, the Oklahoma City Klan claimed twenty-five hundred members. The Tulsa Klan grew in a similar fashion, numbering two thousand Kluxers soon after the 1921 event. By the end of 1921, 3,200 of Tulsa's 72,000 residents were Klan members according to one estimate. In the early 20th century, lynchings were common in Oklahoma as part of a continuing effort to assert and maintain white supremacy.”
“The Oklahoma KKK was triggered by the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. The Massacre took place on May 31 and June 1, 1921. Mobs of white residents, some of them deputized and given weapons by city officials, attacked Black residents and destroyed homes and businesses of the Greenwood District in Tulsa.”
One year later, June 2, 1922, a Klan parade marched down Sapulpa’s Dewey Ave.
“Eighteen hundred Ku Klux Klansmen, clad in the white robes and helmets of their organization, paraded in the business district of this city last night before the largest crowds that has ever turned out for any event in Creek County.”
The City Manager was asked for permission for this event earlier that week. Many people from all over the county were present in the downtown district for Klansmen appearance. Spectators described the event as “long, silent line of white-cloaked [figures] appeared from over a hill at the western end of Dewey. Brilliant sky rockets and red and blue flares leaping far into the air from the unseen side of the hill appeared ahead of the Klan. Streaming rockets from the tops of business, houses, ignited by unknown parties, sailed above the thousands of spectators.”
Underneath some members' robes were hidden instruments; their band played as the members marched forth. “The parade proceeded east on Dewey, through the entire downtown, turned south to Lee at Oak, and thence west again out of the city.”
Other members without instruments carried signs bearing slogans. “‘Here Yesterday, Here Forever,’ ‘70,000 of Us in Oklahoma,’ ‘One Language for Americans,’ ‘No Hyphenated Americans,’ ‘Protect Our Public Schools,’ ‘We Are Behind Law-Enforcing Officers,’ ‘Lawbreakers Get Out,’ ‘You Can’t Fool Us,’ ‘Separation of Church and State,’ ‘We are in Every Walk of Life,’ ‘We are Pledged to Law and Order,’ ‘Law Abiding N-- Need Not Fear Us,’ ‘We Believe in Free Public Schools,’ ‘America for Americans, ‘Keep the Church Out of Politics.’”
The crowd and the Klan remained silent for nearly the whole program. The crowd would cheer or applaud “when they saw a banner which pleased them.”
More on Sapulpa’s Klan: To the white community, the Klan appeared to make efforts to help the town, its businesses and organizations, and its people. Ads were published in the Sapulpa Herald; bribery was the main reason for such ads - the Klan members would slip money in secret to the offices.
On one such occasion, two members of KKK, dressed in their white regalia, made an appearance at the Herald office, presenting 3 envelopes of money to the clerks. One envelope went to a former Sapulpan in need of help, one envelope to William E. Day (Principal of Booker T. Washington School), and the last envelope to another unknown Sapulpan. The money was accompanied by a letter addressed to the Herald: “It is our purpose to aid and assist, whoever and whenever possible, those persons who are worthy, regardless of race or color. Signed, Sapulpa Klan No. 106 (or 100), Realm of Oklahoma.” The Klan gave money for charity; but gave it to the papers first to get the publicity and to hide their own true biasness.
The Herald wrote an editorial about the Klan extolling their virtues. In 1922, Oklahoma City had started a women’s chapter called Cu Clux Clan; Sapulpa had a chapter called White American Protestants (W.A.P.) Study Club. The editorial stated that there were no objectionable features visible in their platforms. It mainly leaned toward law enforcement and white supremacy. Furthermore, it stated that if the Klan wanted to persecute the colored, then they would have during the previous year - this may have been referencing the Tulsa Race Massacre. With both female and male organizations keeping watch on the law enforcers, the law breakers better be on guard. “The eyes of the Ku Klux Klan and the Cu Clux Clan are upon all. It behooves the criminal element to beware.”
In 1923, the Oklahoma Legislature passed an anti-mask bill aimed at curbing Klan violence. Governor Walton wanted to diminish the Klan organization. Sapulpa made national news for the cross erected by the Ku Klux Klan in the northern section of the city. It was erected on North Heights’ Hill (“Klan Hill”), at 40’ tall with 62 bright red light bulbs. Due to the new law, however, members of the community sought to blow up the cross with dynamite. It is unknown who blow up the cross, however. Within a few days, another cross was rebuilt, smaller and without light bulbs.
From 1924 to 1928, the local papers often ran advertisements and editorials for the Klan.
For the Salvation Army: “The Klan asks no questions as to race, creed, or political affiliation, all we ask is the opportunity to serve humanity in the name of the meek and lowly Nazarene.”
For the Young Women’s Christian Association (Y.W.C.A.): “$25 donation from the local Klan to be used to furnish a room for women who were temporarily out of work.” The Klan held a public initiation and barbecue on “Klan Hill” north of Sapulpa.
Arrangements from the local W.A.P. were made for a Mrs. Block for a new washing machine for her business: Mrs. Block stated that she had turned out 8 loads of washing in a week as compared to normally doing five. Additionally, Sapulpa had one of the first known Junior Ku Klux Klan (or “Ku Klux Kiddies”) organization meetings.
Over the rest of the decade, the Klan slowly declined in allegiance and power. Anti-Klan organizations began forming to oppose the reign of the invisible empire. Threats and counter-threats of violence and retaliation became a common occurrence between 1923 and 1926. Internal disputes also weakened the Klan. Charges of greed and graft greatly diminished Klan membership. Nationally, a series of scandals reduced membership to a small core. Despite a brief resurgence of membership in the 1930s, and despite many isolated incidents of Klan activity, the Ku Klux Klan remained weakened and fragmented, having negligible power in Oklahoma since 1928.
(Sapulpa Light, March 8, 1907; Sapulpa Herald: May 1, 1922; June 3, 1922; February 2, 1923; December 26, 1923; August 26-27, 1924; October 9, 1926; October 15, 1926; February 12-16, 1929; December 21, 1961; San Bernardino, Evening Telegram, September 20, 1923; Oklahoma Historical Society; Greenwood Cultural Center; Oklahoma History Center; Tulsa Historical Society)
Did You Know…
This Week in Sapulpa History – Sapulpa High School Baseball Championship Controversy
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
This week in Sapulpa history, the Sapulpa High School baseball team took their Oklahoma Championship down to Texas and challenged the Texas Champions. The Waxahachie vs Sapulpa three-game series which would determine whether Oklahoma or Texas to be the two-state champion for 1921.
In 1920, the two teams faced off during the two-state competition. The champion was Waxahachie, winning two of the three games. In 1921, the two teams agreed to meet up again for the clash of Oklahoma-Texas games. The agreement was that the first game was to be held in Sapulpa, and the last two games of this series on Waxahachie turf, south of Dallas.
May 19, 1921: Mayor J. Wade Bone issued a proclamation for everyone to take a half holiday for the game opener in Sapulpa. The crowd overflowed the grandstand and bleachers until “hundreds had to stand, dozens of cars were parked inside the grounds, filled with spectators.” Unfortunately, Sapulpa lost the first game, 11-to-9. Then the teams had to travel to Texas to finish the series.
May 23, 1921: “Twenty-five hundred people saw Sapulpa High School and Waxahachie High School play a ragged game of baseball here in Sapulpa, with the Sapulpans taking the long end of a 7-to-4 score.” Sapulpa took the second game, tying the series 1-to-1.
May 24, 1921: The third game went to an extra inning, with the winning scores in the 10th frame. “Sapulpa fans went wild with delight when the word finally came that Coach Virgil Jones’ Sapulpa High School baseball team made themselves the champions of Oklahoma and Texas, by decisively defeating the fast Waxahachie team by a score of 4 to 2.” Sapulpa scored two in the extra inning, declaring them champs. Sapulpa was the Southwestern Champion.
May 25, 1921: Although the newspapers never explained why, but another agreement for an exhibition was scheduled for the Sapulpa team on their way back from Texas. It is unclear if this game had already been planned, or if this was spontaneous agreement between each team. The Sapulpa newspapers had already claimed Sapulpa as State Champs prior to this game. “The Sapulpa champions play Wetumka today in an exhibition game and will arrive home this evening.”
The team arrived in Wetumka ready for the match. An eye witness stated, “in the first half of the initial inning it looked as if the game would be all Sapulpa. The boys from Creek County hammering in four runs, one of which was a homer. Then the Wetumka pitcher tightened and most of the Sapulpa bats went out by the strikeout.”
The witness further stated that he was not from Wetumka, but had traveled a great distance to watch a “good, clean game of ball between teams fairly evenly matched.”
“Along about the fourth or fifth inning, the Wetumka squad fell on the Sapulpa pitcher…” and hit-after-hit, run-after-run, the Wetumka players began pulling away.
And then, the game abruptly ended in the fifth inning.
“Jones called his men off the field.” The witness stated that the crowd became anxious and excited. Due to overcrowding, the stands did not occomederate for such a large crowd, and many spectators were along the sidelines. “A few who crossed the line immediately recrossed it.”
Later that night, when the team arrived home, Jones and the Sapulpa team told tales of the crowd mobbing the diamond, interfering with the game. “The crowd rushed onto the field when Wetumka made two [more] hits in the fifth inning. Jones, completely disgusted, declared he would forfeit the game, and started to leave the field.”
Jones was fuming, and had also declared that bats were stolen from their dugout. Jones told Sapulpa papers and Tulsa papers “a wild mob of 500 to attack a team of high school players, hurling vile epithets, bricks and other missilen at them.”
Jones would also describe that “the Wetumka militia was out in uniform. One of them put the bayonet of his gun against his stomach, and threatened to kill him.” Jones stood firm and declared, “‘You haven’t got the nerve to use it, you tin soldier. You see, I’ve got on an American Legion button. Where’s yours?’”
The team was able to get back to their hotel, and the boys locked themselves away in their rooms, barricading the doors with furniture, Jones described. “Jones then made a speech to the mob from the hotel balcony and said he would concede the state championship if they would only let his team get out of town.”
The eye witness did not describe the aftermath, but had added his two-cents. When Jones called his men off the field to protest the overcrowding, “no kind of persuading could induce him to send them back. His excuse was that the crowd overran the diamond…the way it looked to an outsider, Coach Jones, after winning the class A state championship of Oklahoma and then defeating the Texas state champions, could not bear the thought of seeing his banner trailing in the dust at the hands of a class B team.” The eye witness wanted an outsider perspective to be heard.
When the team made home safely that night, banquets and parades were waiting for the team that had just defeated Texas. The city welcomed the team home, but were also introduced to the horrific tales of the Wetumka game. “For this reason, the entire city feels that the Sapulpa team was in no way to blame for the Wetumka outrage.”
Sapulpa, Drumright, and Tulsa papers were the first to publish the incident that occured in Wetumka, taking Sapulpa’s side. The towns agreed that Wetumka’s baseball team needed to be “barred for several years to come.”
Wetumka, Okemah, and Weleetka papers responded to the allegations. In each town’s paper, the headline included the statements that “Sapulpa forfeits to Wetumka,” and had lost their championship title. In each paper, Wetumka witnesses replied “both sides of the controversy have appeared in the city dailies.”
Furthermore, “we regret very much that his happened and that the game was not finished. However, we do not feel that we are responsible for the unsportsmanlike conduct of the Sapulpa coach.” The town agreed that the coach “called his team from the field, after Wetumka had started a rally which seemed impossible to stop.”
Wetumka stated what they witnessed as the downward spiral of the state champions. “This was too much for Coach Jones who called his team from the field, claiming that his men were unable to play on account of the large crowd…”
Okemah papers seemed to be more neutral in their storytelling, however. “Wetumka wins ball game and bad reputation.” Jones had also explained that they had simply stopped by for an exhibition, but Wetumka advertised it as the state championship affray. “‘I explained as a class A team, we were not mingling with class B clubs in championship tilts, but we started the game anyhow.”
It further stated that in the fifth inning, one of Wetumka’s singles reached the outfield and the ball was lost in the crowd. This resulted in a two-run score. These are the two runs that upset Jones the most. Jones told the umpire to get the crowd off the field and they would resume play. Umpire Lucas stated that he couldn’t get them off, and if Sapulpa doesn’t return, they forfeit the game*.
*Note: the eye witness stated that Sapulpa had 4 runs to Wetumka’s 9 (when Coach Jones forfeited). Okemah’s papers stated when the umpire declared the forfeit, the score was 0-to-9.
Tulsa papers would later retell the story in a more neutral tone. However, for the next week, Sapulpa papers would print their dislike of the Wetumka baseball team.
It is unknown if the allegations were true, nor if there was any reprimanding for each team. The incident slipped out of the news by the end of the second week. It is also unknown if Sapulpa kept their title or due to the forfeit, Wetumka did.
That game would be known as the “Wetumka Affair.”
Did You Know…
This Week in Sapulpa History – The Beginning of Sapulpa Auxiliary Police
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
This week in Sapulpa history, the Sapulpa Auxiliary Police would be formed. The “primary purpose of the organization is to provide a policing group in case of emergency, such as possible bomb attacks here or on Tulsa, tornadoes, large-scale fires, or other disaster cases.” The discussion had begun back in March of 1955, but it would officially be formed this week in May 1955.
On May 15th and 16th, 1955, it was decided that the police auxiliary would be under the direction of the civil defense organizations, and would operate on a city, county, and state level. Furthermore, it would be governed by three board members appointed by the mayor of Sapulpa. The mayor at the time was Mayor Fred Cowden, from 1954 to 1956.
The announcement was made that the membership for the auxiliary police is a voluntary position. Additionally, the organization would be systematized on a “semi-military basis, with both a direct line authority and a distinct, specialized staff group.”
With Woody Cooper, a teacher and coach at Sapulpa High School, as the first Commanding Officer. Over the next month, volunteer applicants were screened, accepted, and assigned. “More than 60 Sapulpans registered to take an active part in the newly formed Sapulpa Auxiliary Police force,” announced by Police Chief R.C. Bradford.
Members of the new unit and their office follows: Bob Vaughn (Executive Officer); Jim Sarver (Adjutant); John McCrory (Medics); LeRoy Adams and Ed Coplin (Supply); Hobart Robertson, Sr. and Walt Kyser (Director of Operations); Merle McPherson, Bud Collins, Kenneth Bristow, James Skaggs, and Jack Doudican (Communications); Bill Gierhard and Max Batchelder (Public Relations); Charles Rupert (Office of the Chief of Police).
For Company A: Bob Powers (CO); J.R. Warfield (2nd Lt); W.B. Mullins (1st Sgt). And for Company B: Allen Wallace (CO); Olen D. Jones (1st Lt); W.T. Moore (2nd Lt); J.L. Rush (1st Sgt).
Unassigned personnel were: Bill Owens, George Montgomery, Melvin Roberts, Robert Stroup, Clarence Asher, Benjamin Smith, Roy Rainwater, Albert Bradley, Jr., Ed Wells, Ira Hardee, Pat Bradley, C.W. Hampton, Robert Stewart, L.D. Beebe, H.C. Walker, Leonard Garner, C.H. Ashton, Thomas Herzer, B.J. Turley, Bob Lucas, Wesley Smith, B.F. Wooden, Jr., Bob Bassinger, Bob Jones, Leo Blake, Earnest Crabtree, James Greenwood, Jimmy Green, Kenneth Harrison, Rex Claude Maples, Fred Phillips, and Dick McCaig.
Additionally, “each member may buy a regulation uniform which runs around $15*. This includes khaki trousers, green shirt, officers type cap, tie, belt, patches, and rank.” By July 1955, the members of the Sapulpa Auxiliary Police would order their badges for the newly organized task force.
*Note: $15 in 1955 would be roughly $160 in today’s money.
“They may be called to duty at any time of the day or night to function directly, as a unit, or to take the place of regular officers in their normal duty, so as to relieve them for emergency work, whatever the case may be.” The Sapulpa Auxiliary Police also was subject to the office of civil defense, the chief of police of Sapulpa, and the sheriff of Creek County.
Overall, the volunteers were not assigned sidearms, necessarily. “Wearing of sidearms will be permitted when on a specific duty and assignment with another law agency or when so directed by the commander.” Rules and regulations were enforced and monitored.
As with every new organization, there were bumps in the road ahead as the year went on, and meetings were held to correct any potholes in the organization. One of these meetings was held on December 29th, 1955. Dissension among the ranks in the Sapulpa Auxiliary Police was high during the meeting at the Court House. Several members and ex-members of the Auxiliary voiced complaints, questions, and concerns that they thought they were under the County, instead of City control.
John S. Egan, head of both City and County Civil Defense, stated that the organization recited the City Ordinance before they were sworn in. The volunteer members, however, were under the impression that it was part of the overall Civil Defense, and that memberships had dropped drastically because it was for the City only.
However, until this meeting, no complaints had reached Egan’s office. Arguments began in the meeting, igniting other topics of discussion. “At one point in the meeting, Egan offered to step aside as Civil Defense Director of either the County or City or both. ‘This thing is too important to be botched up because of possible personal differences.’”
One volunteer officer had resigned due to not being allowed to carry a sidearm. “Member wanted to carry a gun with his uniform at a football game, and had resigned when he was not permitted.” The resigned-member had stated “‘I haven’t any gripe. I just think we shouldn’t wear uniforms and stick our necks out without guns.*’”
*Note: the original decision back in May about sidearms was upheld.
The sheriff stepped in stating, “‘I am satisfied with the setup as it is now. I can call the group through channels or by calling them individually as deputies.’” Other city authorities such as the mayor and city manager agreed that the Sapulpa Auxiliary Police has been very impactful and necessary.
Did You Know…
This Week in Sapulpa History – Cleaning Out Crooked Creek County
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
This week in Sapulpa history, the mayor had to address the problems growing in the town. Mayor Whedon B. Stone had a tough road ahead of him due to the liquor, bootlegging, gambling, and prostitution in city limits. The clean out of “crooked” Creek County began in 1916.
On May 9th, 1916, Mayor Stone listened to a case in court about a married man named Mr. Harry Webber, who lived at the Lee Hotel at 106 E Lee, who became involved with prostitutes in Sapulpa. The man was charged with lewd conduct and associating with lewd women. The mayor “made his plea for greater decency and self control. ‘This thing has been called a necessary evil, but I want to tell you that the madams of these houses and other people who have brought me reliable information to the effect that it is not the single men supporting these evil houses, but the married men.’”
The mayor was further surprised that “four-fifths of the revenues of these places is contributed by married men who have wives and children at home.”
The man in court pleaded guilty, but the mayor did not want to sentence him to jail; however, the mayor only fined him so it’ll make him a better man for his wife and children. The man stated, “I intend to support my children.” The mayor then fined him $100*.
*Note: in 1916, $100 was around $2,500 in today’s money.
Before Mayor Stone took office earlier that year, the Sapulpa Herald had the podium to discuss the issues in Sapulpa. The Herald ran an article, back in February 1916, about how Creek County had more licensed liquor joints than any other county in Oklahoma.
The month of January 1916 showed sixteen licenses issued in Creek County. Five were in Sapulpa, seven in Drumright, two in Shamrock, one in Kiefer, and one in Oilton. The licenses had to be Federal Liquor Licenses since Oklahoma state did not issue licenses for it was a dry state. With the use of Federal licenses, it kept some bootleggers from getting into trouble. However, this did not stop the Herald from publishing liquor holders’ names of Creek County.
The names from this article from Sapulpa were: John Gorman at 28 N Main, Ed Hayes at the upstairs room of 102 N Main, William Hedden at 8 N Water, Elam Gray at the Lee Ave Cafe of 108 E Lee, William Weaver at the Turner Building of 9 N Water, and Elmer Payne just outside Sapulpa city limits.
The article further mentions what happens at each location. “In Sapulpa, John Gorman heads the list for the old Blue Goose Cafe which has had more continuous history of booze dispensing than any other building in town unless it is the Ripley [Hotel]. Ed Hayes also takes out one for upstairs, a good stand, judging by those who go in and out and where at least two of the necessary evils are supposed to be in full blast. William Hedden appears for the license for the Booth building which probably means the drug store? William Weaver, brother-in-law to Hedden has a license for the Turner building but (and this is the sad, sad part*) he can’t use anymore because the owner of the building got wise and won’t let him. Unfortunately these licenses are not transferable and can’t be used.”
*Note the sarcasm by the Sapulpa Herald.
The Sapulpa Herald had more to say in the upcoming election for city officials. The campaign for the election was becoming hot and heavy in March 1916. The Herald ran their article about how it wishes to have reform in the city. The reform ticket held Whedon B. Stone for mayor. The other local newspaper, Sapulpa Argus, was supporting the current mayor Mr. Sandy J. Smith.
The reform candidates won the election. The Herald was pleased with the results that “clean men were elected” and that “with an organization superior to that even of the bootleggers, the good citizens and taxpayers of Sapulpa went to the polls and registered their protest against the kind of government Sapulpa had had for the last four years. It elected to office three clean men who will do their duty and give Sapulpa two years, at least, of a clean business administration.” The new City Administration was sworn in: Mayor W.B. Stone, Public Affairs Officer W.S. Brown, and Head of Finance Don McMasters.
Right away, Mayor Stone began working on the vices of town. Mayor Stone was in favor of an ordinance making a curfew for young men joy riding around town with young ladies after nine o’clock without written consent of the lady’s parents. He stated that more girls were going to be destroyed by the automobile route than in any other way.
A case of smallpox had broken out, too, during the cleanup of Sapulpa. Smallpox hit the town with twelve patients being quarantined in the Lee Building*. A report in early May 1916, stated that the smallpox spread due to the “booze joints, gambling rooms, and everything from the cellar to the garrett.” One report stated that a man jumped out of a back window in order to get away when police began investigating the gambling hideouts.
*The Lee Building, Lee Ave Cafe, and Lee Hotel were all the same building at 100-106 E Lee Ave, the same building now is the Sapulpa Historical Museum.
The new administration cracked down on the liquor, gambling, and prostitution. Mayor Stone had been in office for only one month. Then Mayor Stone was hit by a taxi cab on S Main and was killed.
A little over a year later, Mayor J. Wade Bone learned that the War Department had sent a secret service agent to Sapulpa to investigate vice within town. A letter was sent to the mayor on the investigation. The agent said that he found that liquor, gambling, and prostitutes were easily obtained in all five of our leading hotels*.
*It didn’t mention which hotels, but based on “five leading hotels,” it is safe to assume at least: St James Hotel ( 26 S Main), France Hotel (221 E Hobson), Norwood Hotel (107 E Hobson), Sapulpa Hotel (25 S Main), and the last one could be Cacy Hotel (18 N Maple) or Lee Hotel (106 E Lee).
The letter stated that any bellhop or porter could provide you with a prostitute any time of the day or night. Liquor could be had at $10 a quart and gambling of some kind was found in every hotel in town. The letter continued to discuss what happens to the military men. “Venereal disease disables more men than any other factor with which the surgeon general of the army has to deal with in this country.” The city, in order to comply with the letter, planned to round up the prostitutes and hold a detention camp.
City Commissioner Fred Fowler had a special meeting with every police officer in town. Both he and Chief of Police John Willard said to “raid, raid, raid and be on his toes or give up his badge.” A temporary place to house the women was to be the women’s restroom at the Court House. It was thought it could hold a dozen women.
Most women had already left town ahead of the raids.
Many tales of the crimes of early day Sapulpa still are told and wondered about if they were real stories or just wild imaginations and exaggerations…
Did You Know…
This Week in Sapulpa History – Two Nights of Tornadoes, Back-to-Back
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
The National Weather Services defines a tornado as “a violently rotating column of air extending from the base of a thunderstorm down to the ground. Tornadoes are capable of completely destroying well-made structures, uprooting trees, and hurling objects through the air like deadly missiles. Tornadoes can occur at any time of day or night and at any time of the year.”
Oklahoma, and other Central Plains areas, know all too well about tornadoes. Many of us have witnessed these storms first hand; and some of us have witnessed multiple tornadoes in one night. This week in history, Sapulpans witnessed two cyclones within two nights in May 1960.
Wednesday, May 4, 1960 (Morning): “Scattered showers and thunderstorms and cooler weather in forecast for this area Wednesday night and Thursday…The weather bureau warned of severe thunderstorms producing tornadoes, large hail, and damaging winds.”
(Evening): A small tornado hit the southeast part of Sapulpa Wednesday evening. The damage was in the area of the 1200, 1300, and 1400 blocks of East Lincoln, McKinley, Fairview, Bryan, and Cleveland. Several homes were damaged and trees were uprooted. Only one person was injured that night.
It was reported that no one in Sapulpa had seen the funnel, but a small twister-like winds caused hefty damages. “Only one-storm connected injury was reported; this being a broken arm sustained by a Sapulpa man who slipped on his front porch as he raced into his home at the height of the storm.”
The Keeton family had planned to move to their new home in the coming weeks. However, due to the late night tornado, the move became immediate. “The A.L. Keeton family was planning to move to 201 East Murphy from their rented home at 1021 East Bryan, but expected to be moving today. Their furniture is water soaked…” He and his family went to a nearby cellar, taking refuge as the storm hit at 9:30 that evening.
Thursday, May 5, 1960 (Morning): “Tornadoes ripped across all of Oklahoma last night in a skipping fashion and tornado-like winds dipped across a part of Sapulpa, demolishing one house, damaging another, and inflicting considerable damage to other homes in its path.”
(Evening): A similar situation occurred in the direct opposite area of the previous night. Another tornado hit the northwest part of town at 6:30 that evening. “The tornado ripped through the northwest part of town, crossing the Sapulpa Golf Course and traveling up U.S. 66 to Wickham Packing Co. and then jumped back to the housing area. The path of the storm then is near the Turnpike entrance and continues northeastward, with a large number of homes on the Sand Springs Highway destroyed.”
The storm destroyed hundreds of homes, killing three people, and injuring dozens. In an unofficial estimate, 100 homes were completely destroyed, and another 100 homes had severe damages; and at least another 100 homes with minor damages.
Lee Birmingham, Lillie Wright, and George Thomas were listed as the three victims of the tornado*.
*Note: the original report named a Mr. George Thomas, however, it was discovered that the deceased was a Mrs. Ora Thomas.
The City declared this section of Sapulpa a disaster area, and condoned onlookers, sightseers from trespassing the heavily damaged area. “Organized search parties including Highway Patrol, Civil Defense Auxiliary police, National Guard” and aids from Salvation Army and the Red Cross would arrive Friday morning.
Friday, May 6, 1960 (Morning): “An ugly, death-bearing tornado leaped from the skies…The cold, gray light of dawn Friday signaled the start of a search through the mass of rubble and mud for five persons unaccounted for. As late as 1PM Friday, reports were received that a fourth fatality had been recorded here, but this is not confirmed officially.”
(Afternoon): The City Manager, Add Ellyson, reported that the storms had knocked out all the power lines at the pump station, keeping the city from either pumping water from lakes or filtering the water. By the end of the day power and water should’ve been restored to most of Sapulpa.
Another loss to the city of Sapulpa were the two buildings of Booker T. Washington High School and Mount Olive Baptist Church. “Noel Vaughn, Superintendent of Schools, said that Booker T. Washington School was a total loss, and students there would start attending classes in the new high school on Monday.” It was estimated at the time the school damages would be over one-hundred thousand in damages.
The Aftermath (May through September, 1960): The School Board, Superintendent, teachers and staff, and students had to readjust after the devastating loss of the school. The City also had to find relief, and a way to support its citizens.
(City): Still by May 8th, little to no water was restored. The restriction of the disaster area had been lifted at that point, however. The treatment plant’s large motors that ran the pumps were being dried out in hopes that they could be put back into operation.
“Gov. Howard Edmondson inspected the storm by plane and declared Sapulpa to be a disaster area. Steps are being taken to compute the loss and applications will be made to the federal government for assistance.”
A little over a week later, on May 16th, the City Manager reported that the city had applied for $70,000 in Federal Funds for repair to various facilities the city owned. The worst was the pump house at the water treatment plant; it would need to be replaced. Other damages included all electrical lines were down at the plant, 225 bags of chemicals ruined, the filter plant cracked, and other miscellaneous items.
At the city park, damages to the ballpark, the golf pro’s building, and the swinging bridges were destroyed. Over 250 trees were also down in the park. By September, the City began remodeling the old swimming pool bath house for the golf pro shop.
June 6th, 1960, the City received notice that the Federal Government had rejected the request for funds in Oklahoma from the May tornadoes. Senator Robert Kerr asked the government to reconsider the proposal again. In early August, the City received word that the Federal Government had approved $14,000 for the building of a new pump house at the water treatment plant.
“Recent storm damage to public owned property in Oklahoma has been estimated at $736, 696.29, likely reaching $900,000; with Creek County’s loss being set at $73,500, not including damage to Booker T. Washington High School.” A later report was stated that the city would rebuild Booker T. Washington with the estimated cost of $100,000.
(Booker T. Washington High School): The School Board held an emergency meeting to discuss the rebuilding of Booker T. Washington School. Noel Vaughn thought the gymnasium and ten classrooms could be salvaged.
“The new high school is all set to receive Booker T. Washington students who will be housed there beginning Monday. Noel Vaughn said about 90% of the desks have been salvaged and taken to the new high school. Many school books were destroyed and students in some classes will have to share their books. Nearly all library books at Booker T. Washington School were lost. The Home Economics room was the hardest hit at the school.”
In the meantime, all students from all grades would have school in the new high school. Since Sapulpa schools were still separate schools, Booker T. Washington School students would be the only students in the new school. Then graduation began to change the Sapulpa school system.
The following couple of weeks, both Sapulpa High School and Booker T. Washington High School had to prepare for graduation. Sapulpa High held graduation exercises in the evenings; the Baccalaureate on May 22, and the Commencement on May 23. Booker T. Washington High held graduation exercises before and after the other school’s programs; the Baccalaurate on the afternoon of May 22, and the Commencement on the evening of May 24.
Both graduations held their graduations at the new high school auditorium.
After this school year, the agreement was that once a new Booker T. Washington School building was rebuilt, students from grade one to nine would return to Booker T. Washington School. The high school students, however, would remain at the new high school.
This would begin the process of integration of all students in Sapulpa schools for the next couple of decades.
Did You Know…
This Week in Sapulpa History – The Great Depression Hit Sapulpa Schools Hard
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
The Great Depression affected everyone in the world. Big and small companies, rich and poor folks, healthy and sick, military and civilians across the globe were hit by the economic depression. Even the near-center of the 48-contiguous United States of Sapulpa, Oklahoma could not withstand the worldwide effects*.
*Note: of the 48-contiguous states, Lebanon, Kansas is the central location, which is less than 400 miles from Sapulpa.
In 1932, the Federal Government was dividing the supply of goods, including flour, among the states. Sapulpa had received 98,000 pounds of flour to distribute to the community. Over 700 citizens had applied for the flour. To each person, only 5 pounds were given.
Additionally, postage rates had increased 50% in 1932. The postage increased from 2 cents to 3 cents by July that year. Prices increased everywhere, and salaries were cut for every person. Almost all County employees had their salaries cut by 25%, saving the County $14,500 that year. That same month, City of Sapulpa employees had their salaries cut 10% (this was their second pay cut this year). Also, street lights were turned off in parts of town.
The City also experienced other issues with people not paying their water bills. Many individuals were wait to last minute, pay a singular dollar or two on their $5 water bill just to keep the water going. The City Manager said people were abusing the kindness of the City, and costing the town $50 to $100 a month*.
*Note: $100 in 1932 is about $2,000 today.
However, people kept struggling to get by. Citizens and City Officials were at their wits-end. The public schools of Sapulpa were no different. This week in Sapulpa history, it was announced that salaries of our teachers would be cut drastically.
On April 28th, “drastic reduction in salaries for Sapulpa teachers, officers, and other school employees were made at the school board meeting.”
The School Board cut teacher salaries by 12.6% from last year. “The entire saving in the 1932-1933 budget over last year will be 15.2% or $14,000. Those receiving the highest salaries will take the largest reductions.”
“Less will be spent on athletics than in previous years. The instructors who coach football, basketball, wrestling and other sports will act as full time teachers, teaching five or six classes a day.” It was stated that coaching is an extracurricular activity after regular classes.
Furthermore, for the last three years, 1929-1932, Sapulpa schools spent less per student than any school system in Oklahoma. “Sapulpa school system has been operated on less money than any school in the state with approximately the same enrollment.”
April of 1932 was not the only time schools had to push through the Great Depression. Just two years later, E.H. McCune, Superintendent of Schools, announced that the school term may only last eight months due to a lack of funds. Officials were trying to obtain federal aid to keep the schools open. The Sapulpa schools budget had decreased 50% since 1929.
It was announced on April 17th, 1934 that schools would close that Friday, April 20th. The schools had hoped that they could receive the funds. “When word was received here that the fund would go only to aid weak schools in towns and districts under 5,000 population,” it was decided to close*.
*Note: Sapulpa, in 1934, had a population of a little over 10,000 citizens.
The closing of schools was postponed another week, however. False hope due to a misunderstanding made the schools close on April 27th, 1934. “Sapulpa, along with Henryetta and Picher, has been recommended to share in federal relief funds to the same extent as cities under the 5,000 population ruling,” is what was announced a week prior. But the funding did not come through.
“‘Sapulpa schools close tomorrow’” was announced the morning before closing.
More devastating news about salary cuts arrived the following month. The school board announced severe cuts in salaries in the school systems. The board was determined to cut enough to ensure that the students would have a full nine months of schooling. They followed the state aid recommendations for salaries. Teachers would $80 to $100 a month. Principals went from a salary of $2,200 for the ten-month period would then receive $1,050. Similar cuts were made in the administration, as well, and only one teacher’s position had been eliminated.
Did You Know…
This Week in Sapulpa History – After Nearly Fifty Years of Service, Fire Chief Retires at Age of 76
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
This week in Sapulpa history, Fire Chief William Collier had announced his retirement would be scheduled the first of May in 1959. The announcement came April 19th after Fire Chief Collier had just celebrated his 46th year and one month as a member of the Sapulpa Fire Department.
Fire Chief Collier, 76 at the time of his retirement, had been a member of the Department since April 1, 1913.
Fire Chief Collier was born in Missouri in 1883. He and his family moved to Chandler in 1900. He moved between a few Oklahoma cities before finally settling in Sapulpa by 1909. He worked for the Frisco Railway at first as a “trucker.*” here.
*Note: the 1910 Sapulpa City Directory labeled his occupation as “trucker, Frisco railway.”
“When he entered the Department as a fireman in 1913, he was assigned as a driver of the horses. At that time the department had seven men and E.R. Stagg was their Fire Chief. Later, he served under A.W. Smalley, then Chess Orsborne.”
Collier was named Fire Chief in 1921. “When the City Commission and Osborne disagreed and the Commission dismissed Osborne, the Fire Chief’s appointment was given to Collier.” Collier had refused to accept the job for another four months, however.
Under Collier, within his first year, the Department increased to 18 men, the same number of firefighters Collier had under his supervision at his retirement in 1959. During his last week, Chief Collier reminisced with stories of ole.
“Chief Collier remembers many of the bad fires which have occurred in Sapulpa and the surrounding area. ‘We used to have some real bad fires at the old Sapulpa refinery. I remember one in particular that kept me at the refinery for 72 hours before we got back to the station.’”
Other famous fires he and his crew powered through were the Loraine Hotel fire and the OG&E fire on Main Street. “At [these] times threatened the city because of windy conditions, but the Department managed to confine the fires within the buildings and kept them from spreading.”
One main point Chief Collier pointed out was that he never lost a member in the line of duty. Even during the harsh fires, the Department kept strong and persevered. “He remembered one time two firemen were injured proceeding to a fire, another time two men were injured when a hose got loose at a fire.”
Collier retired and he said to keep his time, he wanted to be more involved with the church. “‘I can’t do too much on account of doctor’s orders, but I plan to become more active in church work,’” Collier stated heading out.
After Collier, Jack L. Wilson was appointed Chief of the Sapulpa Fire Department on April 21, 1959. Wilson was a member of the Fire Department for 18 years. He worked as a driver in 1945, and was promoted to Captain in 1947. By 1954, he received his appointment as Assistant Chief. For a short time, during Collier’s era, Wilson was Acting Chief after Collier suffered a heart attack, and spent time in the hospital in 1958.
Ten years into his retirement, Chief William “Bill” M. Collier passed away at age 86 in 1969. He was an active member at South Heights Baptist Church and the Masonic Lodge 170.
Did You Know…
This Week in Sapulpa History – Sapulpa’s Early Day Growth
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
On Sunday, April 10, 1910, the Sapulpa Evening Light began distributing a Sunday paper after deciding to cancel their Saturday paper. The Sapulpa Evening Light Sunday’s Article nicknamed “Sapulpa Sunday Light” for the special Sunday papers. The Evening Light had distributed papers six days a week. The paper’s first Sunday page boasted about how Sapulpa city is a lively town.
“No town in Oklahoma or in the southwest offers a better or safer field for investments than Sapulpa.” Sapulpa was all about the growth and advantages of living and doing business in Sapulpa.
A visitor to the city recently said: ‘I have visited every city of importance in the southwest and nowhere have I found a place where realty values rest on a more substantial basis than in Sapulpa. Neither has it been my privilege to purchase realty as cheap at other points as I have here - the city’s future prospects considered.’”
The article discussed the strength in numbers; and the number of workers mattered in our town. It stated that the city was not a “boom” town with inflated prices but a city with steady growth and opportunity. “In a short space of seven years from a frontier village to a modern city of 15,000 population. Her growth has been of the steady and stable kind. Year by year she will continue to go forward, if for no other cause than by her own momentum.”
Within the older City Directories, there are pages that describe the city. One page was dedicated to the population. In the 1910's Hoffine’s Sapulpa City Directory stated:
“The estimate of population from a directory canvass is of much interest and is generally regarded as being correct. The number of names in this volume is larger than in any previous issue and shows a large growth in the population of the city.
“There are in this volume 4,803 names, which, multiplied by the ratio of 3, indicates a population of 14,412 for Sapulpa at the present time. There were in the last year’s directory 3,174 names, multiplied by 3, to 9,522; hence the increase in population for the last year.*”
*Note: the city directories’ estimated number for population did not include children and married women which is why it multiplied by 2 ½ or 3 into the population.
Sapulpa became the “talked-of city in the new state.” The Frisco would soon announce a $500,000 expansion of their yards in Sapulpa. A new roundhouse was being planned to replace the existing one. It would have thirty stalls, and largest in the state. Frisco would have a monthly payroll of $150,000 per month*.
*Note: $500,000 in 1910 translates to be over $14 million in today’s money. And the $150,000 would be roughly $4 million today.
However, this was all a rumor, and the roundhouse did not expand to the enormous size the paper exaggerated it to be. Often the papers would boast and exaggerate some of the details, but Sapulpa kept working hard nonetheless. “Millions of dollars of improvements, both public and private are now under way, and when these are completed, the city will be commercially, civically, industrially, and from every other standpoint - barring the population - the peer of any town in Oklahoma.”
The Wells Packing Plant was going to open in a few weeks, and employ three hundred men. The plant was the first packing plant to open in Oklahoma. By July 1910, the Wells Plant was a huge operation; the capacity of the pant was 600 cattle and 1,000 hogs per day. It had two railroad sidings, and large stock pen. It also had very expensive machinery. It was also underfunded and was only in operation for a few weeks*.
*Note: it had closed and reopened again and again over the next few years, but never to the extent it dreamed.
“The Sapulpa Steel Company, another industrial concern capitalized at $500,000 will begin operation of their mills soon, giving employment to several hundred men.*” Similar to the Wells Plant, it too opened and closed over the next couple of years. It had legal issues when it was being sued for non-payment of work.
Not all were exaggerated or a loss. The Sapulpa Brick Company had just finished their new plant and soon would start making brick. It was a $100,000 corporation. The Sapulpa Company, operators of the cotton compress, also had a capital of $100,000 and will soon establish a factory for the manufacture of cotton batting*.
*Note: $100,000 then would roughly be $2 million today.
“Plans are complete for the building of a $75,000 glass factory, that will furnish employment for 175 skilled laborers. The Premium Glass, later known as Liberty, opened in Sapulpa in 1912. Several other glass factories soon were built such as Sunflower, Schram, and Bartlett-Collins.
The paper was delivered by the “most expensive paper-boys that ever delivered paper.” They were delivered by promoters of the new million-dollar Fire Insurance Company. It was delivered by automobile. The regular carriers assisted the promoters; and they were thrilled to ride an automobile to delivery the papers. In less than a week, 15,000 shares of the Sapulpa Fire Insurance Company had been sold. Seven thousand shares were sold in one day. This was a remarkable showing of sales for such a short time and in such a relative small town.
The Census also stated that in 1910, the population in Sapulpa was nearly 9,000 citizens. The 1910 Census report showed that Sapulpa had the second fastest growth in the ten-year period between 1900 and 1910.
Sapulpa wasn't the largest growth, but one of the fastest with a large percentage growth. The three cities of Sapulpa, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa grew over tremendously in these ten years. Oklahoma City grew from 10,000 to 64,000 (roughly 550%). Sapulpa grew from 1,000 to nearly 9,000 or about 900%. Tulsa had the fastest growth at nearly 2,000 to nearly 20,000 (or over 1,000% growth).
Did You Know…
This Week in Sapulpa History – Comical Parking Fines In Sapulpa
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
In Sapulpa Herald history, the newspaper would often print humorous articles or tidbits about the ongoings of Sapulpa. Most stories involved Sapulpa’s rivalry with Tulsa. These stories were comical, stating that Tulsa wasn’t big, bad, and tough as they let themselves think they are. Other stories were just everyday happenings in Sapulpa that had a comical twist.
This week in Sapulpa history, a little tale about a city policeman whose position on the task force was to monitor parking meters, parking violations, and traffic conditions may have had a taste of his own medicine.
In bold ink, the headline read: “Meter Reader Gets ‘Big Parking Fine.’”
City Policeman Van Nelson was shopping at Warehouse Market at 24 S Park, Saturday evening on April 7th, 1959. “Fate turned the tables on Patrolman Van Nelson. Nelson, whose daily duty consists of handing out parking violations tickets to the general public, received a ticket himself.”
Nelson stated that after shopping, he loaded his car with his bags. He had realized he needed more items, and proceeded to go back inside the store.
“Nelson left the cart for just a minute. Returning,he found a ticket. The overtime parking ticket read, ‘50 cents fine, $1,000 court costs.*’”
*Note: in 1959, 50 cents is about $5 today; whereas, $1,000 then is about $8,700 today.
Over the next week, word traveled fast and far about the officer’s unfortunate circumstance. On April 12th, the Herald ran the “Incidentally” column. This column was often used for gossip, town events, and notices.
“Van Nelson, City Policeman, believes in the power of the press. He received a copy of the Springfield, MO. paper with a story about his ticket for overtime parking in a grocery story. He also got a phone call from his son in Odessa, TX, who heard the story over the radio.” The Springfield Leader and Press had placed this story under “Today’s Best Story.”
As an experienced officer, Nelson kept working hard. Unfortunately, 1959 was not his year. He received another ticket the following month.
Another humorous article was printed with bold letters in mid-May. It read: “Cop Gives Self Ticket.”
Van Nelson made the news again. “Meter man for the City Police Department saw a car overparked at a meter. In a routine manner, he checked the tag, wrote down the time, and put a ticket on the delinquent vehicle.
“The car was his own! His son, Van Jr., was in town visiting from Texas, and driving his father’s car. Van Sr. thought his son and car were in Tulsa until he returned to the Police Station.”
When Officer Nelson discovered what happened, he paid the 50 cent fine. “‘I’ve been tricked,’ Nelson said. Still wondering if the car he tagged was really his own, Nelson said, ‘I would have put the ticket on there even if I had known it was my own!”
Patrolman Nelson had been on the police force almost 20 years before his retirement in around 1964. He had served as Deputy Sheriff under Abner Bruce. Nelson had previously owned and operated garages in town, the Norwood Garage, and the Nelson Garage. These were in operation from at least 1922 to the late 1940s. Nelson saw the town grow and come alive; he came of age in the new city of Sapulpa for he arrived in Sapulpa with his parents the year Sapulpa became a city – 1898. He was born in 1883. His obituary appeared in the Sapulpa Herald in December 1970.
The information found on this page has been researched through Sapulpa (and area) newspapers, Sapulpa Historical Society archives, books, and photographs, Sapulpa yearbooks, city directories, and other local authors. Any other sources will be labeled and named as the research continues. Any mistakes will be noted and adjusted as needed.