The Oklahoma Land Run

A gunshot fired. A cannon roared. Horses startled and wagons sprang to life. On April 22, 1889, settlers flooded into the region of central Oklahoma known as the Unassigned Lands. President Benjamin Harrison signed a proclamation on March 23, 1889, opening the land and people came from across the country to claim it. According to the Homestead Act of 1862, if a settler could stay on the land he claimed for five years and improve it, it would be his free and clear. Some people were very excited about the 1889 Land Run and were ready to try to make a new life in Oklahoma Territory. There were people, however, who did not want new settlers to come into the territory.

This exhibit will show the 1889 Land Run from the perspectives of five different players: David Payne, leader of the Boomer movement; Lew Carroll, a settler who came to stake a claim but was unsuccessful until a later Land Run; American Indians who were placed on agencies and whose land was allotted and taken from traditional communal control to create the Unassigned Lands; Elias Boudinot, a Cherokee man who welcomed white settlers for his own economic gain; and the women who had to set up households on the prairies using little but what they had in their wagons or strapped to their horses.

1893 survey crew. (719, OHS Research Division)

Photo of the Land Run in progress. The 1889 Land Run began promptly at noon on April 22, 1889. Barney Hillerman Collection (21412.M562.15, OHS Research Division).
Map of Indian and Oklahoma Territories (ITMAP.0023, OHS Research Division).
Map of Oklahoma Land Openings.