The Choctaw Road

Stop 24: NW Corner of Couch Dr and N Broadway Ave at Kerr Park entrance, Downtown

Promising future prosperity, another railroad crosses downtown.

In August, 1889, an issue surfaced with settlers that would reverberate for years to come. The Choctaw Coal and Railway Company wanted to build a railroad (the "Choctaw Road") through Oklahoma City to carry coal from McAlester in Indian Territory. The company had been granted a right-of-way by Congress in 1888 which was ignored by the Seminole survey and settlers were now occupying all the lots where the railroad wanted to build. Would the settlers in the way relinquish their claims? It wouldn't be easy.

After Congress authorized territorial government in 1890 and W. J. Gault was elected the first mayor under territorial law, a compromise was negotiated to reduce the Choctaw right-of-way to 100 feet, use the east-west alley between First and Second Streets, and buy 40 feet on either side from lot holders for about $20,000. A committee selected by the mayor and Board of Trade asked citizens and businesses to contribute the required funds. When the committee came up short, the city decided to raise the fees for saloon licenses and sell scrip backed up by the increase. The saloon keepers bought the scrip at a discount, effectively funding the rail line. The right of way was acquired and the first Choctaw train arrived on May 10, 1891.
 

  • 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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