The Boomers

Stop 1: SW Corner of E Sheridan Ave and Mickey Mantle Dr, Bricktown

Captain David Payne and his Boomers defied federal authorities to attempt settlement in the Unassigned Lands.

From the 1830s onward, most of present-day Oklahoma was reserved for Native Americans who had been forcibly relocated from their ancestral lands. Following the Union victory in the Civil War, the tribes who had sided with the Confederacy were forced to cede their lands in western Oklahoma, leaving a large area of Unassigned Lands in the middle.

Believing they had a legal right to settle on former Indian land, Boomers, led by Captain David L. Payne staged highly publicized settlement expeditions beginning in 1880. Each time, they were escorted back to Kansas by U.S. soldiers stationed at western forts.

Payne died suddenly in 1884, and was succeeded by Captain William L. Couch, who led additional Boomer incursions in 1884 and 1885. After 1885, Couch took his case to Washington, D.C., lobbying Congress to legalize settlement. On the day of the run, in 1889, Couch was on the payroll of the railroad at Oklahoma Station, ready with family members and other die-hard Boomers to realize his dream of settling the Promised Land.

  • 1862
    The Homestead Act opens up settlement in the western U.S. by allowing any adult American to claim up to 160 acres of free federal land. 15,000 claims are made by the end of the Civil War.
  • 1866
    The Civilized Tribes are forced to cede large portions of their land, including the Unassigned Lands, to the U.S. Government for relocation of other Native American nations.
  • 1880
    Boomers begin attempts to settle in the Unassigned Lands. The U.S. military repeatedly forces them out.
  • 1887
    The Santa Fe Railroad from Kansas to Texas is completed. Multiple stops are opened in the Unassigned Lands.
  • January-March 1889
    Creek and Seminole Nations release claims to the Unassigned Lands, and Congress approves opening the land for settlement.
  • March-April 1889
    "Boomer camps" pop up along and inside the borders of the Unassigned Lands.
  • March 23, 1889
    President Harrison's Proclamation sets noon on April 22 as the time and date for the Land Run
  • April 19, 1889
    Prospective settlers are escorted from the Kansas and Texas borders to the perimeter of the Unassigned Lands. Those already inside are required to leave.
  • April 20, 1889
    Land east of the railroad tracks at Oklahoma Station is reserved for military use
  • April 22, 1889 at noon
    Oklahoma Land Run officially begins.


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