The Resignation of Mayor William L Couch

Stop 15: SE Corner of W Sheridan and N Hudson at Myriad Gardens, Downtown

First a boomer, then a sooner, then the first mayor of Oklahoma City, William L. Couch resigned as Mayor on November 11, 1889. Five months later, he died of a gunshot wound by a rival homestead claimant, the day before the first anniversary of the Land Run.

After a summer of heated disputes among lot claimants, unremitting criticism from his political opponents the Kickapoos, and a dramatic confrontation with voters in the charter election of September 21, Mayor Couch abruptly resigned as mayor on November 11, 1889. Increasingly concerned about rival claimants of his homestead who accused him of being a sooner, he joined his family just west of the city limits to protect his 160 acre claim.

Couch's homestead was claimed by two other settlers who had built houses on the acreage and several townsite companies that hoped to establish West Oklahoma City. On April 4, 1890, rival claimant John C. Adams, also a sooner, fired his rifle at Couch and hit him in the leg. The wound became infected and on April 21, 1890, Couch was dead.

A massive funeral the following day honored the city's first mayor on the first anniversary of the Run of '89.
 

  • 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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