A dusty pistol is aimed at the sky. The bullet soars toward the heavens with an echoing boom. Every steed lunges forward at the signal to begin. Wagons full to the brim with passengers and possessions rattling from side to side make their way across the prairie stricken with gofer holes. Cowboys push their horses past capacity to reach the coveted Promised Land with claim stake in hand. In a nutshell, this was the Oklahoma Land Run of 1889. April 22 marks 125 years since the first section of Oklahoma was opened for non-Indian settlement.
Up until 1889, Oklahoma was considered Indian Territory. This was where the U.S. government had transplanted many American Indian tribes, including The Five Civilized Tribes, following the Civil War, explains Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society.
“By 1889 there were 39 tribes in Oklahoma,” Blackburn said. “There was one parcel in the middle of what we know as Oklahoma called the Unassigned Lands. Farmers, largely from Kansas, thought they should have access to that land and convert it to private property.”
The Oklahoma Historical Society concludes that 2 million acres of land would be available for the race in ’89.
“This decision came at a period of time when we were in the midst of an economic depression nationally,” adds David Baird, Howard White Professor of History for Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. Baird grew up in Edmond, Okla., and received his doctorate at the University of Oklahoma. [Read More]
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