Prominent Land Cases

Stop 19: NW Curve of Latting Cir at City Hall, Downtown

Most land claim disputes were resolved by settlement, or purchase and relinquishment. But some required lengthy litigation.

With territorial government authorized by Congress in May, 1890, a formal structure was established for resolving land disputes. Trustees of townsites were appointed by the Interior Secretary to approve surveys and confirm land ownership. A Land Office was opened in Oklahoma City, and the Register took testimony and ruled on town lots and homestead claims. Appeals could be made to the Commissioner of the General Land Office, the Secretary of Interior, and county, territorial, and federal courts. Some cases made it to the U.S.

Supreme Court. A few lingered on into the early 1900s. Rival homestead claimants often lived on different parts of the same 160 acre homestead. One might try to farm the land and fence off others who were in the way, or sell off gravel, clay, or timber. A sooner whose claim looked risky might sell his relinquishment to another person who thought that he could eventually buy out rival claimants. In the city proper, a settlement payment from one claimant to another was often a pre-condition of investment in a business, or a building or home. These agreements or sometimes lengthy litigation decided who would remain in control of the 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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