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Oklahoma Journeys

Cherokee Strip Land Run, September 16, 1893


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When you mention land runs, everyone automatically thinks of the first land run, the one in 1889 that opened up what is today Oklahoma City. Actually there were five land runs, a land lottery, a land auction, and a Supreme Court decision that combined to create what is today the state of Oklahoma. The Land Run of 1893 actually opened more land for settlement than did the one in 1889. That's our story on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

The Federal Government granted seven million acres of land to the Cherokee Nation in treaties in 1828 and 1835. The government guaranteed to the Cherokee Nation that this land would be a perpetual outlet west for tribal hunting grounds; it measured 58 miles wide and extended 220 miles along the northern border.

After the Civil War, because the Cherokee Nation had supported and fought for the Confederacy, the federal government demanded a new treaty made. They reduced the original reservation lands and permitted "friendly tribes" to be moved to eastern end of the Outlet. With the start of the cattle drives following the Civil War, the Cherokee used their western land to make a profit. Cattlemen wanted to fatten their cattle on the rich grasses before taking them to railheads in Kansas, so they leased the land from the Cherokee. Land hungry settlers viewed the cattlemen's use of the area as a waste of fertile farmland and pressured the government to purchase the Cherokee land from the Cherokee. Congress eventually paid more than 8-and-a-half-million dollars, or $1.40 per acre, and announced the opening of the Outlet to homesteaders.

President Grover Cleveland designated September 16, 1893, as the date for the "run" on 6,000,000 acres. The day of the run was hot and dry. Dust, whipped by wind and thousands of feet, made it unbearable. To add to the misery, soldiers were doing their best to keep order and see that no one "jumped the gun." The run was to begin only when troopers fired their pistols into the air at high noon, but there were several reports of persons shooting guns crowds, and man homesteaders excitedly took off on hearing any gun shot.

Finally, at noon September 16, 1893, a shot rang out and more than 100,000 determined settlers raced for 42,000 claims. By sunset, farms were being established, and the cities of Enid, Perry, Alva, and Woodward had risen out of what had been virgin prairie the day before. Making the race and staking a claim must have seemed simple when compared to establishing a home in the sometimes formidable Cherokee Strip. Some settlers carved sod homes and dugouts from the prairie while others lived in their covered wagons. The first winters were harsh as the land tested the endurance and character of its new inhabitants. Many of the settlers could not endure the harsh conditions, and after weeks or months, gave up their dream. Hard times gave way to better days as crops flourished and communities, schools and churches rose from the wind-swept plains.

The Oklahoma Historical Society will open the new Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center in Enid this November 5. The only remaining sod house from the land run is now a museum owned by the Oklahoma Historical Society in Aline. The Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City, features a large exhibit on the land runs including an actual wagon that made both major land runs in 1889 and in 1893. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.