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Exploring History: Historic photographs of Shawnee, Oklahoma

Updated on December 12, 2017
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Eric Standridge is a freelance writer with an interest in history. His main focus is writing about Oklahoma.

The history of the town of Shawnee has its origins long before statehood. First settled before the American Civil War, the area was first populated by members of the Sac and Fox tribe during the Indian Removals. Later, they were followed by the Shawnee, Kickapoo, and Pottawatomie Indians.

Since the future town of Shawnee was located both on Fort Leavenworth road and the Fort Scott Military Road, it was inevitable that Shawnee would become a major town. Later, during the great cattle drives of the 1870's, Shawnee Town would become one of the most important towns in the future state of Oklahoma. Of the four major cattle trails that wound through Oklahoma, one of the passed directly through the young town. Known as the West Shawnee Trail, this trail crossing would have been located near present Main Street and Kickapoo.

By the 1890's, railroads soon began to wind across the future state of Oklahoma. Because of Shawnee's status as a flourishing town, it was inevitable that the railroads would reach the town, and with that, Shawnee Town's status of a town of the first class was cemented in history.

During the first years of the new century, the growth in Shawnee matched that of Oklahoma City. The town quickly became a major agricultural center. In fact, several sources claim that Shawnee had the largest cotton-seed oil mill in the southwest. Products from the region were shipped all across the United States. With this, Shawnee also became known as a major railroad town. By 1907 there was an average of 65 freight trains and 42 passenger trains arriving in the town every day.

As a testament to the towns growing status, Woodland Park boasted of many beautifully flowing fountains and elaborate formal gardens and was considered one of the most beautiful places in the region.

During the 1920s, Shawnee experience another boom with the discovery of oil in Oklahoma. While there was no oil directly in Shawnee, the town was perfectly situated to host many newcomers who sought oil nearby. Added to this, the town had a good infrastructure that would support growth in the region.

Growth finally slowed in Shawnee after the Great Depression. During those hard years, times were rough for everyone in Oklahoma. Still, despite the hard times, Shawnee survived and is once more a thriving, floflourishing city.

Map of Shawnee, Oklahoma, 1900
Map of Shawnee, Oklahoma, 1900

Historic Photographs of Shawnee, Oklahoma: Late 1800s

Dedication of Shawnee Waterworks, September 1, 1899
Dedication of Shawnee Waterworks, September 1, 1899
Main Street Shawnee, looking west, late 1800's
Main Street Shawnee, looking west, late 1800's
Broadway looking south from 9th street: late 1800s/early 1900s
Broadway looking south from 9th street: late 1800s/early 1900s

Historic Photographs of Shawnee, Oklahoma: Early 1900s

C. R. I. & P. Railway Yards, Shawnee, Oklahoma 1907.
C. R. I. & P. Railway Yards, Shawnee, Oklahoma 1907.
Garage and Stores department, Shawnee District, O. G. and E.
Garage and Stores department, Shawnee District, O. G. and E.

Historic Photographs of Shawnee, Oklahoma: 1910s

Shawnee Theaters

Bison Theater, 1936
Bison Theater, 1936
Bison Theater, 1936
Bison Theater, 1936
Ritz Theater
Ritz Theater

© 2012 Eric Standridge

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