Tri-State Tribune, August 13, 1981, Page B-2

 

(author unknown, probably Alan Matthews)

     February 19, 1918, apparently marks the date of Picher's first recorded history, when the town voted to incorporate. State statutes provided for electors to meet at 9 a.m. on the morning of the election and elect ' three inspectors to conduct the election. 

     On the morning of the 19th, Picher electors chose W. A. Short, F. H. Simmons and R. M. Hammond, inspectors. Hammond was chosen clerk.  The trio were sworn into office by notary P. Guinn.  The polls were immediately opened and remained open until 4 p.m.  

   The vote for incorporation was 54.  The vote against, 14. 

    Short was designated to take the sworn returns to the county seat the next morning and file with the county clerk. 

    February 25th the inspectors met in Short’s office to determine why the returns had not been filed. 

    Short admitted that because of  the opposition of some mines, he thought it best not to file the returns until just before the county commissioners met and that the returns  were safe in a vault in the Court­house, and he would file them.

     However, he refused to reveal what vault they were in.            

      Finally, the illusive returns were filed in March.     

BIG JOB AHEAD

    Picher was now a municipality and faced a challenging future, and a big job of bringing order from chaos born of the preceding years.   It was not an enviable task.    

FIRST TRUSTEES ELECTED

     March 12, 1918, the inspectors met to outline the procedure to elect trustees to the governing board of the new municipality.  They unanimously agreed to dispense with a Primary election, and vote an independent ticket.   Election was set for April 4. 

     Notices were prepared by at­torney Daniels and published in Daily, Miner.  

     L. B. Daniel was appointed precinct registrar and established an office at the Picher Hardware, 323 S. Main.

     A dispute arose over whether the marshal's office should be elective or appointive.  A decision, however, was reached to elect one trustee from each of the five wards, and elect at large a clerk, treasurer , assessor and justice of peace.                                          

     On Election Day, (April 2) the trustees were elected: W. E. Robins, D. L Connell, F. H. Simmons, W. A. Short and Jack Davis. 

     Meeting followed hectic meeting, as the trustees had a lot of ground to cover to get the infant municipality on its feet, and a framework of government established.

     April 5, the first ordinances were adopted, No. 1 and 2, dea1ing with vocational, occupational, and professional licenses.  Other ordinances, followed bang, bang, bang, bang. 

     Dog taxes were levied, pool halls licensed and miners prohibited from them; also prohibited, street

and public grounds excavations .  Other ordinances dealt with lewd conduct, and set fines, $5.00 minimum;

$25.00 maximum; petit larceny, cheats, fraud, obscenity, profane language, jumping up on, or hopping on moving vehicles, swine in certain sections of town, explosion of firecrackers.   

      Prostitution was prohibited, using such descriptive words as courtesan promenading and bawdy house.                    

     Other resolutions regarded the conduct of junk dealers disturbance of public worship, obtaining board and lodging fraudulently, traffic violations and penalties, hauling of drinking water, gambling and gambling houses,  vagrancy, and etc. etc.                      

     A mass meeting was called at the Union Church to discuss raising funds to build a city hall and jail.   

     D. C. McKaller had been elected town treasurer. 

Clerk S. A. Davis, possibly overwhelmed by recording moun­tains of ordinances and minutes, resigned within a month of his election, and Henry Craig was appointed to take his place.                                                                            
     For want of a building the board continued to meet at Dr. Connell’s office.

      Other meetings of the trustees in April saw standing committees appointed; the poll tax set for the "small man” at $13.50 -- two days work with a team, of  horses.  A proposal to annex Tar River was considered; an engineer employed to stake out streets.  A, committee was appointed to purchase an iron and steel cage to confine prisoners, and a sanitation inspector was named. 

MAY MEETINGS 1919

     A committee was named to call on mining companies for financial assistance for repairs along " A" Street, and to contact business firms and individuals for financial help to erect a city hall.  

     Walter Woodall was appointed patrolman and a five-passenger car was purchased for use by the police department.  

     Plans were approved for a city hall, but later the committees reported no money had been collected for
either a city hall or “A” Street repairs, because they had been busy with Red Cross work. They requested more time.

     A drinking water ordinance was drawn up, and traveling shows showing under their own top were declared a nuisance “during the period of war” (World War I).                                   

OTHER 1918 HAPPENINGS

     In June Dr. Connell resigned as chairman of the city board and G. H. Todd replaced him. 

The closing months of 1918 brought negotiations by the Commercial Club and committee of the trustees with Empire District for power and light.                                                                             

     J. T. Wharton resigned as city  physician to enter the Army Reserve.  

Mr. Robbins was named to supervise construction of a 36 x 40 concrete building to house city hall and a jail. Consumer Gas Co. applied for a franchise.  

THE YEAR 1919 - CLEAN UP

First official acts  of 1919 were a decision to "clean up the town; purchase of bloodhounds and providing a place for the fire car." 

Public dance halls were labeled a nuisance, ordered closed and not to be permitted to re-open. 

   The first volunteer fire department went into service under Chief W. C. Ivey.  

Ordinances 54 and 55 provided issuance of waterworks bond ($170,000) and sewer bonds ($70,000).   At  a special election April 4, 1919, the issues were approved by the voters --- waterworks bonds, 456-11 and sewer bonds 445-11.

 The May board reorganizational meeting saw; Mr. Robbins, presi­dent; H. L. Henderson, judge; L. A. Daniels, city attorney; Mayme Tyler, treasurer; M. L. Bacon, chief of Police and Henry Craig, clerk.

       During the year 1919, the city disposal plant was contracted for, and numbering of houses and placing of street signs began. 

     A clinic was established by the city and mining companies for free treatment of venereal disease. 

1920 MORE PROGRESS

January 9, 1920 the city entered into a contract with George Potter to drill a deep well and install a pumping system at a cost of $11, 827.60. 

May 6, the board of trustees adopted a resolution for Oscar Sheridan Picher, who died April 26, recognizing him as "our beloved friend. noble citizen, and founder of this city." 

In November 1920, Mr. Robbins died, and J. N. Davis succeeded him as president of the board. 

But the work of the trustees was drawing to a close, due to events a few months earlier.              

 In September, a movement led by Henry Craig had circulated a peti­tion to have Picher declared a city of the first class.                                  

For some reason or other, Picher inadvertently had been incorporated as a "village" in 1918.  Revenue benefits would be much greater as a city than a village.  Picher's population by 1921 had reached the 10,000 mark.  Craig's first issue of his "Outlook Lookout" sponsored the petition. 

    September 29, 1921, the petition signed by more than 35% of the qualified electors was presented to Governor J. B. A. Johnston, asking for a special election.  

The proclamation divided the town into four temporary wards and called for the election of all officers. 

November 14, 1921 Picher elec­tors vote, 817 for, 293 against. A week later trustees C. E. Rickman, H. A. Hallock, J. W. Black, N. W. Green and T. E. Grisham, turned over the reins of government to the new mayor-council form a government of a brand new first class city. 

H. L. Henderson was the first mayor. Councilmen were: M. D. Montgomery, J. N. Davis, John Stauffer, G. H. Todd, J. N. Jamison, N. W. Green, W. C. Tinsley and P. W. Payton. Homer Hend­ricks was the city treasurer; Law­rence Voyles, city clerk; C. E. Feltcher, chief of police; C. C. Chambers, street commissioner and A. L. Commons, city attorney.

Perhaps it's fitting, this second week in August, 1981, on the 'occasion of the second annual mining district reunion, to reflect a bit on the dedication and foresight of a group of men and women of three-score years ago, who planted the roots and laid the foundation for the municipal political structure of the "town that Jack built." 

It was no easy task to transform a lusty, booming, melting pot, infant mining camps into an ordered pattern that was the key to survival as a city.              

   But they were equal to the challenge. .