The Ill-Fated Fourth of July Celebration

Stop 20: NW Corner of E Sheridan Ave and Mickey Mantle Dr, Bricktown

An extravagant three-day event plays out under a cloud of tragedy.

Oklahoma City was eager to showcase its can-do spirit with a first-class celebration on July 4, 1889. Promoters hoped to attract as many as 20,000 people. A baseball diamond, grandstand, and horse track were set up east of the Santa Fe tracks in the Military Reservation. Two hundred Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and Caddo Indians were brought in to entertain visitors. Events included a big parade, horse racing, feats of horsemanship, Indian war dances, a baseball game, and military drills.

While the visitor turnout was far below expectations, the event that would be remembered as the "Fall of Babylon" occurred at 3:00 on the first afternoon. The grandstand above the refreshment stand collapsed killing one boy and injuring many others. What was planned as a great celebration finished its three day run under a cloud of unexpected tragedy.

  • 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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