I was born and raised in Oklahoma, and I’ve always been interested in the land runs, one aspect of our state’s unique history. In case you’re not familiar with Oklahoma, much of the state was designated as Indian Territory in the later half of the nineteenth century. Over forty Indian tribes were eventually moved there because white settlers in other states and territories wanted their valuable land.
Once much of the West had been settled, people started looking at Oklahoma as one of their last chances to get free land. They pressured the government to open the Unassigned Lands--land that had been promised to certain tribes, but no Indians had settled on it. The government finally agreed, and President Benjamin Harrison signed the paperwork for what was later called Harrison’s Hoss Race.
On April 22, 1889, over two million acres of land was opened for settlement in a land run. The homesteads were 160 acres and much smaller town lots were also available. Anybody twenty-one and older could ride—women, foreigners, and blacks included. The race began with the blast of cannon and gunfire and a cheer so loud your ears ached. An instant stampeded ensued. In less than a few hours, all of the homesteads had been claimed, leaving many people disillusioned and unhappy because they didn’t get one. In the first book in my series, Gabriel’s Atonement, my hero and heroine ride in the 1889 land run, which led to the settlement of Guthrie, Oklahoma City, and several other towns.
Sarah’s Surrender, the final book in the series, release next year, and it features the Oklahoma land lottery, which proved to be a less chaotic and dangerous way to claim the land.
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Heroes, Heroines, and History blog: http://HHHistory.com