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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


Generally, the term Oklahoma Colony referred collectively to groups of land seekers in Kansas and Texas organized by David L. Payne to settle the unoccupied public lands known as the Unassigned Lands. Payne hoped to establish a town to serve as a capital as well as provide homesteads for farmers. Beginning in February 1880 he and others formed the Southwest Colony Town and Mining Company and another association called the Southwest Colonization Society. Memberships in the organizations were sold at two dollars for the right to a quarter section of land and twenty-five dollars for a town lot. Eventually, after several name changes the colonization group became known simply as Payne's Oklahoma Colony.

Payne led numerous colonization expeditions into the Unassigned Lands between April 1880 and August 1883 and again in July and August 1884. His attempts failed because U.S. troops arrested Payne and evicted the illegal settlers. After Payne's death in November 1884, several men who were prominent in the Boomer Movement continued the battle to establish a settlement. William L. Couch led settlers on two other unsuccessful excursions in December 1884 and October 1885. William H. Osburn, who had served as secretary of Payne's Oklahoma Colony, formed the Osburn Oklahoma Colony to petition Congress for legislation to open the area for non-Indian settlement. Osburn also edited the Oklahoma Pilgrim, a boomer publication similar to the Oklahoma War Chief, at Burrton, Kansas. E. H. Nugent, a Payne follower and a member of Osburn's group, broke away and started his own "Oklahoma Colony." Although these efforts failed, they brought national attention to the availability of the Unassigned Lands and to the March 2, 1889, passage of the Indian Appropriations Bill, which had been amended to authorize the president to open the area to homestead settlement. That event occurred on April 22, 1889.

Linda D. Wilson


Marjorie Aikman Coyne, "David L. Payne, The Father of Oklahoma" (M.A. thesis, University of Wichita, 1930).

Stan Hoig, David L. Payne: The Oklahoma Boomer (Oklahoma City: Western Heritage Books, 1980).

Michael W. Lovegrove, "Free Homes: David L. Payne and the Oklahoma Boomer Movement, 1879–1884" (M.A. thesis, University of Oklahoma, 1996).

David L. Payne Collection, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Carl Coke Rister, Land Hunger: David L. Payne and the Oklahoma Boomers (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1942).

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The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Linda D. Wilson, “Oklahoma Colony,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=OK035.

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