Did You Know…
This Week in Sapulpa History – When the Mayor and Editor ‘Took It Outside’
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
Words from Oklahoma City’s Harlow’s Weekly echoed throughout the town of Sapulpa in 1916: “At Sapulpa, the enforcement controversy is strongly impregnated with personalities, particularly between Mayor Boggs and Editor Todd of the Herald. A fight so prolonged and waged with such ferocity could hardly exist without the personal issues overshadowing the fundamental principles involved.”
A fight waged on from the first time Boggs and Todd interacted, just months before the mayor election of 1916. A fight with words for political views, moral views, and action would not be the only fight between the two. A physical fight with fists, a gun, and a whip would break out in the Downtown District.
In 1916, Sapulpa’s Mayor Stone began working on his campaign to rid Sapulpa’s vices, gambling, liquor, and prostitutions. The Herald’s editor, Todd, would often use the paper for his personal preferences in politics. For instance, the paper praised Stone’s work on cleaning up the city. Unfortunately, after only a month in office, Stone was killed in a car accident. The Herald ran articles over the next mayor election, focusing on the “progressive” T.A. Wilson and the Frisco worker, A.K. Boggs.
June 1916: “One Candidate in Trouble” read Herald’s headline over the information on how Boggs destroyed a citizen’s fence and therefore “liberating of the stock strained.” The owner of the home wished to charge Boggs for damages. Todd would often include a last question when he had something to say about Boggs: “would you want this type of man as your mayor?”
Todd also ran other articles praising Wilson while bashing Boggs. “Wilson’s honesty and past record win him staunch followers,” while “loafers” are “boosting” for Boggs. Todd would go to town meetings, and present his findings. Such as, “some other strong Boggs men got up and began to vilify our deceased mayor, using some pretty strong terms in condemning his policy for law enforcement.” The crowd began to shrink, until it was only Boggs and the “Boggs men.”
With the election coming near, out of the six in contention, Boggs and Wilson were the top candidates. A poll went out, and Wilson held a narrow lead. Todd concluded that “the result indicates to the observing very clearly what is desired by the voters-a competent and clean government for the city of Sapulpa.” The main issue in this election is an open or closed town for booze.
“Booze and the booze interests are behind A.K. Boggs…such a man is dangerous even as a private citizen…If you don’t vote for T.A. Wilson on July 11, and show Boggs and his bootlegger friends under such a mountain of votes that there will never again be a question of the moral stand of this community.” The poll had Wilson at 428 votes while Boggs had 389 votes.
July 1916: Todd’s editorial didn’t let the narrow lead stop his tactics. “How are you lined up? Are you for Wilson [for clean government] or are you for Boggs [for the return of the old, graft, barroom, and gambling hell conditions of a year or more ago?]” Todd wrote that Boggs once said, “‘the worst thing that can be said about me is that I am for an open town.’” Todd further stated, “Wilson believes in the enforcement of law. Boggs believes in ‘fining them if they happen to get into police court.’” Boggs released a statement stating that “it has been reported by unscrupulous enemies, who are either intensely ignorant or grossly careless with the truth,” that he is power hungry and wishes to remove the Commissioner of Public Affairs.
Todd continued his tactics to call out Bogg’s behavior. The week of the election, Wilson had asked for a public meeting with Boggs. Boggs refused to comply. Todd called Boggs “a coward.”
The election results began to come in, and the Herald’s editor went to bed knowing Wilson was in the lead.
Then, Creek County Republican newspaper announced on the top of their front page: “Boggs is the Mayor-Elect, changes in departments ahead.” The Herald stated, “It is Boggs by a Good Majority: Sapulpa reversed themselves.” Boggs won with 770 votes, and Wilson had 623 votes.
Another bash at the new mayor from the paper said, “one observing citizen said that Mayor Boggs did not hold up the right hand when he was sworn in. Think it over.”
Todd’s campaign didn’t end against Boggs.
August 1916: reports came in that Mayor Boggs had removed people from their position and hired “his men” in place. In one incident, Boggs had two people for the same position. “It became known today that the city has two health officers. No notice was given nor ordinance seen…whether or not Boggs had any right to throw out the old appointees will likely be tried in the courts.”
Boggs would announce that a significant change in expenses was needed for the city. In Todd’s editorial, he stated, “during the evening and while the mayor was present, nothing was said about the reason for the $26,000 increase in the cost of doing business...the meeting was that the whole thing was a subterfuge to legalize commercialized vice and booze joints. The mayor stated himself that the contribution of clubs and near beer joints would make up something like ten thousand dollars of the tax.”
Mayor Boggs began doubling-down on people questioning his authority.
September 8, 1916: a big fight broke out in front of the Herald’s office. Between Mayor Boggs and the paper’s Editor Todd. The Herald had for the last two years fought against vices in the town over corruption, booze, prostitution, and crime in general. The Herald received word that the Mayor would arrive at their office at 6 that evening to beat up Todd and his partner, Young.
The day before, Boggs told Herald to retract the story of the Mayor trying to enforce the occupation tax. When Todd refused, Boggs threatened to kill him and clean the place out.
At 5, the Mayor, along with his men, City Attorney, Moral’s Inspector, and MotorCycle Cop, drove by the Herald’s office, twice, then stopped across the street.
After a conference with the four of them, the Mayor went for more “reinforcements,” his son and another “thug.” Boggs sent his son in to invite Todd out for the fifth. Todd did not go, so Bogg’s son and aid, began to drag him out.
One of the Herald’s employees brought out a gun and began chasing his boss’s kidnappers. The officer disarmed him, and took him off to jail. The Moral’s Inspector was known for his whip that he used as his sidearm. Mayor Boggs retrieved the whip, and lashed Todd a handful of times. Todd broke loose and decked Boggs with one punch.
Bystanders began crowding around. The crowd was able to subdue the men and the fighting ended.
This week in Sapulpa history, October 2, 1916: the Herald received a gift. The Editor wrote on the front page of his editorial piece about Mayor Boggs: “in his mental limitations though in that prehistoric manner, he could cover up his official course in Sapulpa.” The gift was “handsomely decorated” and would be hung in a “prominent place.” The gift was a reminder, “reminder of the boob who once essayed to run a city in a modern age as a cave dweller would have run it had he found a fellow from a far country objecting to his crude methods.” The paper never said how they acquired the gift, however.
The gift that they received was the whip.
Note: the paper petitioned for a recall in the vote in November 1916, but there were not enough signatures and evidence. Boggs was mayor from 1916 to 1918. Other papers in town did not have the same reactions to Boggs being elected, nor added any clarity on the fight. However, all information above was found in Todd’s editorials, except from Creek County Republican and Harlow’s Weekly mentions.
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.