Historical Society of Pottawatomie County Timeline
February 18. 1926: Concerned that the colorful history of the area was passing away with the older citizens who had lived it, Mrs. R.W. Funk, a Shawnee librarian, had invited citizens to meet in Shawnee Carnegie Library auditorium to discuss organizing a historical society. On a bitterly cold night in 1926, a small group of interested people heard the Joseph B. Thoburn, Oklahoma State Historical Society secretary, speak on the importance of the organization. The citizens took the challenge, forming the Historical Society of Pottawatomie County that night, electing John Klapp of Tecumseh president, and appointing committees.
February 25, 1926: Leadership from Asher, Shawnee, Tecumseh and all sections of the county met to adopt a constitution and by-laws. It was decided to meet monthly at Court Room of the County Seat, which was in Tecumseh at that time.
Two stone markers donated by Mrs. Carrie Boggs of Shawnee were placed with appropriate ceremonies. One marked the spot near which the last annuity payment was made to the Potawatomi Tribe of Indians. The second marked the home of the famous Indian trader, Jesse Chisholm, whose trails became the nation’s highways.
For a time there was widespread interest. Several written and oral histories were prepared and photographs, documents and other artifacts were donated. But no plans of a permanent nature were made. The Society rocked along for several years. At times there was burst on interest then a lag. A few faithful members stayed on with courage and determination, continuing to meet regularly.
1936: The Society sponsored the writing of a county history by John Lake Fortson. The result, Pottawatomie County and What Became of It, continues to be reprinted today is considered a primary reference for the history of the area. The Santa Fe Depot Museum and by the Tecumseh Historical Society still sell the book today.
Under the guidance of Lola C. Durham, elected president in 1936, the Society set to work securing community histories, photographs and artifacts throughout the county.
The Philadelphia Society of Friends donated the old Friend's Mission Church, which was built in 1872 as a mission and school for the Shawnee Indians. Restoration of the building was a heroic undertaking for the Society, which had non-compulsory membership dues of 50 cents at the time. George Stone of Tecumseh, a pioneer of the county, took the lead in raising the necessary funds. An Indian woman, Mrs. Ozetta Jenks, who had attended the little church as a girl gave a gift of $50 to head the list of donors. The women of the society scrubbed away year of accumulated dirt and grime and held an open house. Holding rummage sales and selling quilts, the Society raised the funds to add a heating system to the building so that meetings could be held there.
An oil well came in near the site of the church, and then president, Mrs. O.D. Lewis of the Shawnee Indian Agency, asked for sealed bids for the lease on the three and one-half acres belonging to the church. Four major oil companies responded with bids that provided sufficient funds to do most of the things that needed to be done at the little church.
May 26, 1937: The Historical Society of Pottawatomie County received a Certificate of Incorporation. Articles of Incorporation were signed by Florence Drake, Lucille M. Oldham, Ozetta D. Jenks, Lola H. Riley, Florence R. Pigg, and Pauline Lewis. Many of these women served as officers of the society over the years.
June 4, 1974: The Santa Fe Depot Station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places through the efforts of the members of the Historical Society under the leadership of Mr. & Mrs. Reuben Keller
When the Station was closed, the Santa Fe Railroad Company made arrangements for the building to be operated by the City of Shawnee for historical purposes. The City of Shawnee then invited the Society to house their collection of artifacts in the building and the Santa Fe Depot Museum was created.
January 17, 1979: The Historical Society received its non-profit organization status. Bill Dougherty was president of the society and Haylor Fisher was the chief fundraiser. They, with 100 society members, set to work to raise funds to restore the building. Contributions came from the Oklahoma Historical Society, Shawnee Chamber of Commerce, Shawnee Business and Professional Women's Club, Lions Club, Shawnee Garden Club Council and many area families that made gifts in memory of loved ones. Many other fund raising events also followed.
In the 1970s & 1980s: The Santa Fe Depot area was the climax of the SANTA FE DAYS PARADE with tours, Indian dances, gunfighter shows, square dancing and other activities associated with the Santa Fe Days celebration which was held the first part of July every year.
January 1982: An Open House was held at the Santa Fe Depot Station in preparation of opening the Depot as a museum.
May 30, 1982: The Santa Fe Depot had it's grand opening as a Museum in the restored depot with all the artifacts moved from the Old Quaker Mission Museum through the efforts of Edna Sadler former Curator and Jean Barron the new Curator. Mrs. Barron, an ex-school teacher, history buff, and tireless worker, had lived in 13 states and in all of them became associated with some historical group. The Museum was first open three days a week then on Sunday afternoon and by appointment only by an all-volunteer staff.
1985: After a few years of little interest, the Museum was reopened by former Curator Edna Sadler who worked with Sara Epley to renew interest in The Historical Society. Monthly programs were reestablished and work was begun on the book, History of Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma. Laquita Hackett joined them in this project to help complete it. The book was published in 1987.
February 1986: The first paid Curator, Laquita Hackett, was hired to keep the Museum open on a full-time basis, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Sunday still had a volunteer. At this time a gift shop was added to the Museum to help defray the cost of a paid Curator.
Formerly Santa Fe Depot Museum