The Stillborn Election of September 21, 1889

Date: September 21, 1889

ensions mounted throughout the summer of 1889. Topping the list of citizens’ complaints were the city council’s alleged incompetence and reliance on the military to enforce its policies. Other issues included the Seminole faction’s excessive influence in city governance and the high price exacted by the Seminole company for lot certificates. After many calls for revision of the city charter, a new charter prepared at the request of the city council was put to a vote on August 29, and overwhelming defeated by the voters. By mid-September, citizens belonging to the Kickapoo faction were ready to submit their own city charter to a vote of the people.

Arriving at the polls on September 21, voters were shocked when soldiers under the command of Captain D. F. Stiles, who routinely enforced orders from the mayor and city council, prevented them from casting their ballots. When some citizens refused to disperse, Stiles ordered his troops to fix bayonets and clear the streets. Those who could not move fast enough were stuck with bayonets and clubbed with muskets. Hamlin Sawyer, editor of the Oklahoma City Times, and his associate, both vocal opponents of the administration were singled out for arrest at Mayor Couch’s behest and escorted to “the calaboose.”

Even though a full-blown uprising was averted, the election never took place. Ensuring the legitimacy of city officials would have to wait for another day.

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