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The Land Run of 1889

Lew F. Carroll

Not all who made the Land Run of 1889 got a claim. Thanks to the diary he left behind, generations of Oklahomans can learn the story of Lew F. Carroll and his family, who ran but did not obtain a claim in 1889.

The Carroll family left their home near Chetopa, Kansas, on April 11, 1889, to trek to the opening of the Unassigned Lands in Oklahoma Territory. They loaded their wagon with a tent and camping supplies, food for themselves and their team of horses, a compass, an ax, a single-barrel shotgun, a revolver, and a map of Indian Territory. In preparation for finding a new farm, Lew Carroll tied his sod plow to the side of his wagon. On the way the Carrolls encountered other settlers traveling to the starting line and American Indians from the area who were, in Lew Carroll's words, "none too friendly, thinking that their country might soon be taken from them."

The Carrolls joined the frenzy at the starting line at noon on April 22, 1889, for "Harrison's Horse Race." At twelve o'clock sharp, the settlers dashed off to claim their land. Lew Carroll and his family searched all day but found nothing available that suited them. They continued their search the next day, but by April 24 they decided to make their way home to Kansas. On May 2, 1889, Lew Carroll reached his home near Chetopa feeling "a little out of sorts, but will be all right soon."

Lew Carroll did not give up on obtaining land in Oklahoma Territory. In the spring of 1890 he and his family moved to the Oklahoma state line near Arkansas City, Kansas, in anticipation of the opening of the Cherokee Outlet. Lew Carroll staked his claim in the land opening in 1893.

Hunting a claim in the Land Run of 1889 (15728, D. S. Mitchell Collection, OHS).

Lew F. Carroll and his wife near the wagon they rode in the 1889 and 1893 land runs (8596, Joseph Thoburn Collection, OHS).

Map showing the Unassigned Lands, which were opened in the Land Run of 1889 (ITMAP.0164, Oklahoma Historical Society Map Collection, OHS).