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Oklahoma Territorial Museum

402 East Oklahoma
Guthrie, OK 73044
(405) 282-1889

Director: Nathan V. Turner
Collections Specialist: Erin N. Brown

Museum Hours
Tue - Sat  9am to 5pm
(age 6-18)
(under 6)

Oklahoma Territorial Museum


The Oklahoma Territorial Museum through artifacts, photographs and paintings tells the story of the determined people who laid the foundation for the future state of Oklahoma. On the museum grounds stands the Carnegie Library where the first state governor was sworn in. Preserved by the Oklahoma Historical Society, this building, as well as the museum, serve as a visible link between Oklahoma's turbulent territorial period and the present.

Oklahoma Territory

Oklahoma's Territorial period lasted from 1890 to 1907. During that short span of time Oklahoma was transformed from an unsettled home for 65 Indian Nations to an area of prosperous farms and growing cities.

The Unassigned Lands

In 1889, Congress opened for settlement nearly 2 million acres of former Indian land located in Central Oklahoma. At noon April 22, 1889, the date of the opening, thousands of hopeful landowners rushed in from the border to stake a claim. At the end of that first day, laws were being established in the cities of Guthrie, Stillwater, Norman and Oklahoma City.

A homesteader's first task was the construction of a suitable home. The typical post-run farm dwelling was usually a "soddy," constructed from bricks of prairie sod, or a dugout built into the side of a hill. The homesteader next turned his attention to the planting of crops. The run had taken place too late in the season for a cash crop to be planted, so the new arrivals grew vegetables which they hoped would see them through the winter. The following seasons brought only hard times in the form of drought and depression. It was not until 1897, that good crops brought territorial farmers a degree of prosperity.

Not all of the people came for farmland. Many came to establish businesses or ply trades in the towns that sprang into existence. Along with the merchants, tradesmen and professionals came saloon keepers, gamblers and prostitutes, lending a colorful element to the era. In 1890, most of western Oklahoma, including the Unassigned Lands, were accorded territorial status. Guthrie was named the Territorial Capital.