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.OOOk-lahoma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain, and the wavin’ wheat can sure smell sweet, when the wind comes right behind the rain…    

​So goes the catchy tune written by Rodgers and Hammerstein.  And on April 22, 1889 at high noon, approximately 50,000 people lined up for their piece of this promised land in what we now know as the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889.  Can you just imagine the unbridled excitement and hope that circulated throughout Central Oklahoma that day?  Two million acres of unassigned and unoccupied land, considered some of the best public land in the United States, was now open for settlement.  The Indian Appropriations Bill of 1889 was passed and signed into law with an amendment that authorized President Benjamin Harrison to open the two million acres for settlement.  Due to the Homestead Act of 1862, signed by President Lincoln, legal settlers could claim lots up to 160 acres in size.  Provided a settler lived on the land and improved it, the settler could then receive the title to the land.  The rules were simple, anyone could join the race for the land, but no one was supposed to jump the gun.  With only seven weeks to prepare, land-hungry Americans quickly began to gather around the borders of the irregular rectangle of territory.  Many lived in tent cities on all four sides of the territory until the appointed day.  At 11:50 a.m. soldiers called for everyone to form a line.  When the hands of the clock reached noon, the starting signals were given at the many points of entry.  Thousands of Boomers streamed into the territory in wagons, on horseback, and even on foot.  By nightfall, they had staked thousands of claims either on town lots or quarter section farm plots.  The town of Guthrie sprang into being almost overnight.  It was one of the most bizarre and chaotic episodes of town founding in world history however, it worked.  In some respects the settlement of Oklahoma was the most remarkable thing of the present century, and unlike Rome, the city of Guthrie was built in a day.  At twelve noon on April 22, 1889 the population of Guthrie was 0; before sundown it was approximately 10,000.  In that time streets had been laid out, town lots staked off, and steps taken toward the formation of a municipal government.  Of course, what would a good land rush be without cheaters?!  Many people had entered the territory hours before the appointed time and were found staking their claim.  As it was clearly impossible for a man on foot to outrun a horseman, it became obvious that many had not followed the rules.  Surprisingly though, there was no bloodshed over the disputed lots.  Many believing that credit goes to the fact that no intoxicating liquors of any kind were allowed to be sold in Oklahoma.  Prohibition at its best.  Had whiskey been


First Day of Issue
January 11, 2007
Oklahoma City, OK 73125
February, 2013

MAIN LOT  $17.00

plentiful in Guthrie the outcome might have been different as every man went armed with some sort of deadly weapon.  Oh but now comes the real work because red dust was ankle deep in the main street.  The red dust rose in clouds and hovered above the feverish city until the air was like fog at sunrise.  It managed to work its way through the tents, it crept into blankets and clothing, and it stuck like wax to the faces and beards of the tired citizens.  Add to that the heat, lack of food and an unquenchable burning thirst.  To make matters worse, water was scarce, and sometimes unfit to drink.  There are always entrepreneurs or opportunists, and it was no different in 1889. Boomers not required to hold down their lots, might be found peddling water in pails to their thirsty neighbors for five and ten cents a there’s a thoughtful neighbor!  One writer penned that  ‘once, when compelled to moisten my parched throat from one of these pails, I noticed that the water was unusually yellow and thick.’  “See here”, said I to the Frenchman who held the pail; “you have washed your face in this water.”  “No, monsieur,” he said, with grotesque earnestness, “I do not wash my face for four days!”  He did not doubt it as the Frenchman’s face had become so thickly encrusted with red dust and perspiration that he would not have recognized himself had he chanced to look in a mirror.  Life was hard and the only men in Guthrie who made money during the first week were the restaurant keepers and the water peddlers.  But they persevered and gradually the town became inhabitable as schools, banks, and newspapers sprang up.  Arguments continued as to what constituted the legal time of entry.  Those that entered the unoccupied land early and hid there until the legal time of entry to lay quick claim to some of the most choice homesteads, came to be identified as “Sooners”.  The New York Herald observed on the eve of the opening, “that men will fight harder for $500 worth of land than they will for $10,000 in money.”  Indeed, there is something quite special about owning a piece of this good earth.  Eventually, the residents of Oklahoma were able to transform and improve the land so much so that they could honestly sing, 

“Oh what a beautiful Morning,
Oh what a beautiful day,
I’ve got a wonderful feeling,
Everything’s going my way.”

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