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…
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.