The Land Run

Stop 3: SE Corner of W Sheridan and EK Gaylord Blvd, Downtown

The race for free land began at noon on April 22, 1889, with an estimated 50,000 participants from all over the world.

At high noon on a bright and clear Monday, April 22, 1889, a drama roared to life when mounted soldiers fired their guns and blew their bugles to signal the Run of 1889. An estimated 50,000 people began the race from the perimeter boundaries of the Unassigned Lands.

Station Master A. W. Dunham, who was standing on a box car at noon at Oklahoma Station, saw settlers almost immediately. "My astonishment was complete - people seemed to spring up as if by magic as far as the eye could reach. I could see them racing in every direction, some on horses, some in vehicles, and a greater number on foot." The settlers he saw had clearly not started from the perimeter boundaries.

Legal settlers began arriving by rail and horseback about 1:15. Those who had started the Run from inside the perimeter boundaries, later dubbed "sooners," had already staked the choicest claims.

By the end of the day, nearly every townsite lot and homestead claim was occupied. Some claims were legal and some were not. Without officially sanctioned territorial government, settlers were on their own to make sense out of the chaos.

  • 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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