Prior to Statehood...Oklahoma's Early History Explored, Part Three

October 31, 2019

Shape 3d of Oklahoma map with flag isolated on white background. To read about the events that led to the Oklahoma Land Run of 1889, see the Prior to Statehood . . . Oklahoma’s Early History Explored, Part One blog published two weeks ago. The beginning of the Land Run was covered in last week’s blog, Prior to Statehood, Part Two. Staking Their Claim Of those who surged forward when the starting signal was given at noon on April 22, 1889, many were married men who left their families behind on the line, cheering them on as they made their mad dash to claim 160 acres of land. But there were also women who joined in the rush. And couples who made the run together, whether on horseback or by wagon. There were even land-rush trains, each not only loaded to the ceiling on the inside, but also carrying riders on the top of their cars, which helps to explain why the trains were described as looking like “… a giant centipede with hundreds of arms and legs and heads sticking out everywhere.” The trains all arrived after the starting signal. When one pulled into Guthrie at 1:25 p.m. the occupants discovered a newly born town already brimming with people. The double-engine boomer train from Purcell didn’t pull into Oklahoma Station until 2:10 p.m. No matter what transportation they used and whether they were single or part of a family, each person making a claim was responsible for determining the range and township of their claim based on the surveyor’s cornerstone markers for the plot. Each claimant also had to plant a stake bearing his or her name and location. Some immediately began making token improvements, like assembling material to build a home or digging a well. Other hurried instead to the land office to register their claim. Since there was no citizenship requirement, some Land Run participants were immigrants from France, Scotland, England and Ireland. People of color participated as well. In a Single Afternoon Brand new towns sprang up in the course of a single afternoon. Oklahoma City was one that emerged from the prairie that day. Guthrie was transformed from a small railroad station to a tent city of 10,000 in a few hours. By nightfall, more than 11,000 agricultural homesteads were claimed as the result of the Oklahoma Land Run. Understandably, many of those claims ultimately came under dispute, with multiple parties claiming the same plot of land. By 1892, approximately 5,000 claims were contested in the Oklahoma Land Office. It took years to resolve the resulting court battles. Some of the cases even ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court. Those whose land claims went undisputed and/or who won their court case eventually received title to the property after five years if they lived on their land throughout that time and improved their plot. Statehood Followed The Oklahoma Land Run of 1889 hastened the end of Indian Territory. Other Land Runs were held in the 1890s, which ultimately removed most of the land from Native American control. In 1890, the Unassigned Lands became Oklahoma Territory. In 1907, Oklahoma Territory united with Indian Territory to form the 46th state of the Union, Oklahoma.
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