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.