Oklahoma's MANY Land Runs & Openings

The recent anniversary of the Land Run of '89 was a reminder that Oklahoma had FIVE land runs between 1889 and 1895. They grew so wild, the government shifted to allotments (six), lottery (one), and sealed bid (one) for further land openings! Durant, OK artist Neal Taylor's (gntayloroklaart.com) painted "The Run of '89," above. Many of Taylor's paintings grace the covers and pages of "The Oklahomans: The Story of Oklahoma and Its People," Vol. 1, Ancient-Statehood.

The Unassigned Lands Run of 1889 and the other land openings were highly publicized events that garnered international attention. Thanks to my friend and premier Oklahoma Historian Bill Welge and the Oklahoma Historical Society for providing this classic poster!

Fifty thousand people—including nearly a thousand African-Americans—from every state in the Union converged for the first Land Run in 1889. When a U.S. cavalryman fired a shotgun, they thundered across the line on horseback, mule, bicycle, and foot; in wagons; and even inside, outside, and on top of trains churning in from Texas and Kansas Some got land, while others didn’t. There were fistfights, shootouts, and court battles. Many snuck in early and claimed some of the best hundred and sixty-acre tracts and town lots. These energetic folks earned the label “Sooners.”

Eyewitness account of a daughter about her widowed, sharecropping mother, one of the many females who rode in the Run of '89: “We got in line ready to make the run when the signal was given. Then, real excitement began—everybody yelling, horses’ hoofs clattering, all in a hurry. Mother applied the whip and the horses started running. She didn’t try to guide them until we came to land on which very few people could be seen. She stopped the horses, jumped out of the wagon and stuck up her stakes. (This claim was one mile east of Crescent.) Mother then looked over her claim for a likely place to pitch our tent. She found a wide rocky canyon and a good spring of water.” —Mrs. Welling Haynes, daughter of a widowed, sharecropping Kansas mother and “’89er”

'89ers firmly holding their Guthrie town lots, won in the Unassigned Lands Run of 1889.

Depew, Oklahoma artist Wayne Cooper's depiction of Oklahoma City, just seven days after the April 22, 1889 land run that raised the future state capital up overnight from the barren prairie.

One of the first Langston student body photos. Edward P. McCabe and other African-Americans settled the town of Langston in the Run of '89 and built the college, one of the first black colleges west of the Mississippi River. By Oklahoma statehood, African-Americans owned approximately 1.5 million acres of land in the state.

The Cherokee Outlet Run of 1893, the greatest land run in history, with appx. 100,000 participants. This is the only extant photo of any land run.

Tom Cruise, playing an Irish immigrant riding for land in the Cherokee Outlet Run of '93, in Duncan, OK native Ron Howard's epic film "Far and Away."

Edmond, OK artist Mike Wimmer's rendering of President Theodore Roosevelt signing the Nov. 16, 1907 Oklahoma statehood bill.


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John J. Dwyer | redriverdwyer@gmail.com | OKLAHOMA, USA

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