Connected successfully  The Okie Legacy: Vol 19, Iss 6 1889, Good Advice To Boomers

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NW Okie's Journey

In this week's "OkieLegacy Ezine" we explore the Run of 1889 in Indian Territory. The boundaries of Oklahoma proper was bounded on the north by the Cherokee outlet, on the south by the Canadian river.

The North Fork of the Canadian and the Red Fork of the Arkansas or the Cimarron River flowed from west to east, one through the northern central and the other through the southern central part of the Territory. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Road extended through the Territory from north to south, and several other roads were approaching completion, or would be built in the near future. The present district of Oklahoma would form the center of the new Territory of Oklahoma.

The First Clash
A bloody affray between boomers and deputy marshals was the first clash. As reported in a Chicago newspaper 21 April 1889, a dispatch from Purcell, Indian Territory, regarding the reported conflict between Deputy Marshals and boomers, said thirty boomers were taken prisoners, seven being wounded. One Deputy Marshal was slightly hurt. For several days men on horseback and in wagons had been fording the South Canadian north of Purcell, and disappearing in the timber to the eastward.

Men who came in from hunting trips reported having seen large bodies of boomers moving in a northeasterly direction, and a hunter who arrived the night before declared that he had found a man plowing in a secluded valley about twenty miles from Purcell.

The morning before at sunrise thirteen prairie schooners, well manned, crossed the Santa Fe tracks below the city and forded the river. The drivers urged their animals with whip and clubs' nd the train was across and out of sight before many of the residents of Purcell were stirring. A citizen saw them and acquainted others who had staked out claims and hoped to occupy them soon after noon Monday next. The story soon gained general circulation, and before noon a meeting was held. The feeling against the trespassers ran high, and inside of thirty minutes a half-dozen fiery speeches had been made. It was finally decided that the Chief Deputy Marshal be called upon to try to expel the raiders.

It was in the afternoon the Chief Deputy, accompanied by thirteen assistants, rode down to the river and took the same ford. They discovered four wagons about three hundred feet from the trail and five men seated around a fire eating their dinner. These were unceremoniously ordered to hitch up. The enterprising boomers were thoroughly scared, and in less than fifteen minutes were on the back trail in charge one of the deputies, who was ordered to escort them across the river, and then picket the fording place until his comrades returned. The latter deployed as skirmishers and advanced slowly several miles. Suddenly a shot was heard on the left, and a bullet clipped a leaf above the head of one of the party. A minute later a volley ran out in front, and the pony ridden by one of the deputies sank to the ground with a bullet int he head.

The chief of the deputies called out for his men to "charge." Each had unslung his Winchester, and all surged forward. They fired into the thicket and shouted like madmen. There was no response for several minutes' and the men began to think they had dispersed the assailants. They soon discovered their mistake. A man popped up from behind a log and fired at them, and this was the signal of another fusillade form his friends. He retreated down a ravine just in time to escape the fire of the deputies, who continued to advance and pump their repeaters. Half way down the ravine the deputies discovered a rough barricade of logs and burst across the entrance, and simultaneously a voice exclaimed: "Now give it to them, boys."

A sheet of flame poured from the face of the barricades d another shower of bullets sped toward the officers. They had been sufficiently warned, and but one of their number was hit and his would was not serious.

The Chief Deputy ordered a retreat, and gathered his en about him for a council f war. It was evident that the barricade was quite heavily manned, and that a director assault would prove disastrous. Therefor, it was denied to divid the party and attack the flanks of the enemy. This movement brought the deputies directly above the barricade.

At a given signal they began shooting from the top of the ravine right into he midst of the boomers, who were utterly unable to defend themselves from such an attack.

Ten minutes of rapid firing ensued and then a cry for quarter went up from the barricade, "We surrender," shouted a man who the firing ceased. The blood pouring from a wound in his forehead attested that he knew he had enough.

A hasty advance to the fort was made, and the officers were in charge thirty prisoners, seven of whom were seriously wounded. As but one of the Marshal was wounded, and his injury was trifling, the charge of murder couldn't be brought against the men. They may be tried for resisting arrest, but the belief was that they would rereleased after Oklahoma was opened.

~ "Buckle-up, Buttercup!"
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Walking With Sweet Silly Sadie

It was April, 1889 when the land flowing with "milk and honey," so to speak, opened for settlement 22 April 1889, giving us our Oklahoma country and history with this description of the territory.

The Springer bill, which passed the House February 1 (1889), provided that that part of Indian Territory bounded on the west by the State of texts and the Territory of New Mexico, on the north by the State of Colorado and the State of Kansas, and on the east by the reservation occupied by the Cherokee tribe of Indians and by the Creek, Seminole and Chickasaw reservations and the State of Texas - in other words, all that district comprising what is known as the public land strip and all that part of the Indian Territory not actually occupied by the five civilized tribes, should be created into a temporary government under the name of the Territory of Oklahoma. This bell passed the House February 1, 1889, but failed to pass the Senate.

On February 5, 1889, the President, in a message sent to Congress, announced the purchase of what was known as Oklahoma proper. This purchase contained 1,878,800 acres. This district of Oklahoma originally belonged tot he Creeks of muskogee Indians, but was purchased from them under the treaty of 1866 at 30 cents an acre. The treaty stipulated that the land thus purchased was too e used for the settlement of friendly tribes of Indians. The stipulations as to the location of certain friendly tribes were not carried out, and negotiations looking to a new basis of settlement were opened. By the treaty of 1886, which was approved by the Creek Council, the Indians received $1.25 per acre less the 30 cents per acre already paid them. The agreement of cession was made to embrace a complete surrender of all claims on the part of the creeks to the western part of their domain, including the assigned as well as the unassigned lands. The agreement was ratified by Congress and appropriations made to pay the purchase money; and this Territory would, under the proclamation of the President, be opened to settlement April 22, 1889.

Only A Small Portion
This tract was but a small portion of the domain which Mr. Springer's bill proposed to allot to the territory of Oklahoma. That would have included the western section of the Indian territory, and nearly two-third of its unite area. The eastern section was occupied by the five civilized tribes, the Cherokees, Creeks, Seminoles, Choctaws and Chickasaws. In the whole of the Indian territory as it was that day there was a population of about 70,000, for whose occupancy there were thus reserved more than 44,000,000 acres of land, most of it good, thus giving more than 600 acres to every man, woman and child in the tribes. The bulk of the Indian population was comprised among the five civilized tribes in the eastern part of the Indian territory. In the proposed new territory of Oklahoma there were about 13,000 Indians, remnants of 17 tribes, to whom it was proposed to assign lands in severalty. But the proposed new territory also included the strip known as No Man's Land, which had the rare distinction of having no government of any sort save that provided by the common consent of its 7,000 people, over which the United States exercised no supervisions and which had no law buy lynch law. Then the northern boundary of Texas, and later the southern boundary of Kansas were fixed, this strip of land, containing 3,700,000 acres was left out, and had remained out to that day. Adding this to the section proposed to be cut off from the Indian Territory, Oklahoma would contain 23,267,719 acres, mostly fertile land, with a mild and equable climate and offering every inducement to the settler.

Good Night! Good Luck!
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1889, Cattlemen Adjourn

This concerns the cattlemen in the Cherokee Strip Live Stock Association. The article was found in the 22 March, 1889, The Leavenworth" out of Leavenworth, Kansas, Friday morning, March 22, 1889, with the following headlines: "The Cattlemen Adjourn."

Found on

Caldwell, Kansas, March 21 (1889) -- The Cherokee Strip Live Stock association adjourned late the night before after electing directors for the ensuing year as follows:

Major A. Drumm, Captain A. J. Evans, H. W. Greswell and Thomas Bugbee, of Kansas City; L. P. Williamson, of Independence; J. Forsyth, of Pierce City, Mo.; Major E. C. Moderwell, of Penesco, Ill.; the Hon. E. M. Hewins, of Cedarvale, Kan.; Major Charles N. Eldred, of Medicine Lodge, Kan; J. B. Wilson of Dallas, Tex; Ben Garland, of Caldwell, Kan; J. Ho. Johnson, of Arkansas City, Kan, and T. S. Hutton, of Kiowa, Kan. The directors were in session all night and that day. The new board elected the Hon. E. M. Hewins, president; Major Charles Eldred, vice-president; John A. Blair, of Caldwell, secretary; and Andy Snider, of Kansas City, treasurer.The board will adjourn this afternoon.

A great deal of important business has been transacted and several big deals in cattle and ranges made.
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22 March 1889, Oklahoma Proclamation To Be Issued

In March, President Benjamin Harrison had announced that land in Indian Territory called the Oklahoma District (land obtained from the Creek and Seminole that wasn't currently assigned to a tribe) would shortly be opened up to non-Native American settlers. This move came after years of eager homesteaders known as "boomers" trying to illegally settle the land; they were repeatedly removed by federal troops, but eventually the pressure on Washington from boomers, western congressmen, and railroads proved strong enough for the government to agree to allow non-Native American settlers to stake claims in the Oklahoma District.

It was 22 March, 1889 we found this mention of "The Oklahoma Proclamation Ready To Be Issued." It appeared in The Leavenworth, out of Leavenworth, Kansas, Friday morning, March 22, 1889, with the following headlines: "Within A Week."

Found on

Washington, March 21 (1889) -- The proclamation to be issued by President Harrison declaring Oklahoma open to settlement was completed shortly after noon on this date, and it was at once sent to the secretary of the interior for his approval. A consultation would be held at 2 o'clock this afternoon in the secretary's office, to go over the proclamation carefully to see if it was all right. If it be found correct it would be sent to the White house and then there would be nothing left to do but for the President to examine and sign it. The first duty would take some little time, perhaps a week, as General Harrison had said he would not sign it until he had gone over it carefully himself.

The proclamation as now fixed threw open to settlement about 2.5 million acres of land, all the Seminole and creek lands except such as may be reserved by executive order for the use of the Indians.

So on April 22, 1889 roughly 50,000 prospective settlers (estimates range as high as 1000 thousand) gathered at the borders of the Oklahoma District, waiting for the signal - a gunshot - to begin their race to claim land. AT Noon the signal was given, and the men and women moved on foot, on horseback, by wagon, and by train to try to get to the best spots of land first.
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22 April 1889, The Gates of the Oklahoma Country

The Gates of the Oklahoma country were swung open precisely at noon 22 April 1889, and the inpatient Boomers were allowed to enter. General Merritt issued an order to disarm the settlers to prevent trouble. In other words, they took away their guns. The excitement would be intense.

Found on

This 1889 story was pulled from Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, Wheeling, West Virginia, Monday morning, April 22, 1889, front page headlines read: "The Gates of the Oklahoma Country."

Kansas City, Mo., April 21 (1889) -- A Times Arkansas City special said that it was reported there that General Merritt had issued orders to the troops to take possession of all guns and pistols carried by the "boomers." They were not to be confiscated, but the idea was to hold them until the excitement was over as a precautionary measure against bloodshed. it was also said that liquor would be rigidly excluded.

21 April 1889, the Union depot was thronged with as motley a crowd as was ever assembled in it. The Santa Fe, in addition to its two regular trains (which were jammed), sent out a special of eleven coaches, which represented nearly every line entering the city. The Roc Island also sent out an immense train. Innumerable cases of pocket picking had occurred during the past week, both in the depot and on trains. It was ascertained that three or four sharpers had been working a very smooth game. They would board an Oklahoma train, gain the confidence of a carload of boomers and finally suggested the organization of a colony. The sharpers would produce their pocket books and suggest a common fund and the settlers would follow suit. The common fund idea invariably failed of consummation, but the pickpockets improved the opportunity by noting the size of each man' purse and its place of concealment. The sharpers would ride out a hundred miles or more and by that time would have succeeded in reaping a harvest. No arrests had been made.

The Chicago Times correspondent at Purcell sent his paper a dispatch, telling of the last day int he Indian Territory prior to the final invasion of Oklahoma. He said: "Final preparations were made today for the exodus which will begin tomorrow."

Wagons were overhauled, supplies purchased and guns and tools given careful inspection. The supreme moment was so near at hand that the thousands who had spent weary months in waiting could hardly contain themselves.

At 8 o'clock that morning the public square contained a large assemblage and by 10 o'clock the throne had swelled to such an extent that the passage was exceedingly difficult. Several prominent men were induced to mount the platform and harangue the crowd on the great issue of the day.

A Graphic Description
The New York Herald correspondent had written a graphic description of the new country, from which the following brief extract was taken:

"Out in the heart of the Oklahoma country it is very much easier to appreciate the intense desire to possess the land which acetates the man who has once been there than it is for the average man, whose knowledge of the country is obtained wholly from he perusal of newspaper articles. The country is beautiful and the situation is romantic.

From a hilltop, the original site of the town of Ewing, where Captain Payne was captured by the soldiers, I saw a country as fair as eye could wish to rest on. The beautiful valley of the North Canadian River stretches for miles on either side of the stream, being especially broad on the south side, before, by gradual ascent, the uplands are reached, whence the gently rolling prairies stretch into boundless space."

A Garden Plot
The North Canadian Valley was the garden spot of the Oklahoma country - the Canaan of the boomers.Soil of the upmost fertility, water in abundance - rivers, springs, lakes - timber on the river banks and here and there over the prairies, giving the entire scene a park-like appearance, and a climate that knew not extremes, all combine to enhance the beauty of the country, and to assure in the future a land flowing with "milk and honey."

The trip from Wichita to Oklahoma City was a succession of surprises and revelations. Every mile or two after leaving the metropolis of Southwest Kansas trains of covered wagons were seen winding their way toward the Kansas line.

There was no mistaking the jumping off place into the Indian Territory. On the one side were the cultivated fields of Kansas, on the other the vast expanse of rolling prairie known as the Cherokee Strip. The first stop made was at Willow Springs. Soon after leaving this point we entered the Ponca reservation, situated near the confluence of the Salt Ford. There was plenty of timber surrounding this little gathering of dwellings.

From Ponca to Mendota, a station near the Black Bear Creek, the country grows more rolling and better timbered in the vicinity of the waterways.

A Pleasing View
The more rugged country in the neighborhood of Black Bear Creek soon gives way to the fertile valleys of the Oklahoma country, and by the time the fine trestle bridge across the Cimarron was reached the view from he train was one of great beauty and presented an immense tract of valley land of glorious fertility and as favored int he way of natural drainage, timber and water as perhaps any other lands within the domain of the United States. Soon we ran into Oklahoma City nd out again int the darkness, and it was during the run from here to Purcell that, for perhaps twenty miles, we paralleled a blazing wall of fire said to have been started by the boomers to starve out the cattle men.

The frontier tow Purcell stands on a lofty bluff overlooking the South Canadian River, and to the east a part of the Oklahoma country. A number of very primitive looking frame structures, tents, holes in the ground covered with canvas and every conceivable from of habitation that would serve for temporary protection were perched on the hillside, but as on passed these and reached the bluff there loomed up a gathering of more pretentious buildings which formed the business portion of the town, but which were evidently constructed with a view to their easy removal should it be deemed advisable to transfer the town to any point that might appear more suitable, the only structures of any permanency being the Catholic mission school and the church and school buildings of the Methodist, Presbyterian and Catholic denominations.

To the south of Purcell lie the Chickasaw and Pottawatomie countries, which may well be counted among the richest and most productive lands in the Union.

Unparalleled Fertility
Paul's Valley was one immense farm stretching for miles without sign of fence. A failure of corps was an unheard of things and corn often yielded a hundred bushels to the acre and sold for twenty cents a bushel in Purcell. Cotton was said to go a bale to the acre. The South Canadian below Purcell is almost dry, and presented a broad channel, whose dangerous quicksands had buried many a traveler and hidden many a murder.

Boomers in numbers were camped among the jack ohs fringing the banks, but as soon as the line was crossed into Oklahoma proper they're hard to find, not because there were none, because they were hidden in the breaks and in the belts of timber, fearful east they shall be seen by soldiers. The country here was broken and did not improve very much until, at Norman, the divide between the North and South Canadians was passed. Here the country grew more level until Oklahoma City. The buildings here were few and of the most unpretentious character.

Further up the river we crossed and struck the old Arbuckle trail, over which in days gone by much of the wealth of the Texas cattle rangers mounted the hilltop, the site of the town of Ewing, whence we viewed the magnificent North Canadian Valley in all its richness.

Oklahoma Harry Hill's ranch, which he staked out during the Payne raid, was near by and blow us in the woods, though we could not see them, we knew that hundreds of "boomers" were camped. Later became across several of them and found that entire section had been laid out in claims and that already much fighting had resulted bfs ownership.
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1889 - The Schemers Paralyzed

The town site schemers were surprised to discover that morning of 22 April 1889 placards posted about town bearing this inscription regarding the late order made at the regular meeting of the Oklahoma Legion:

"Resoled, that we again pledge ourselves to protect our brother members in their long respected rights on sealed claims and al town sites, and jumpers shall be dealt with in a summary manner. "Oklahoma Legion."

As the town was full of the gentry named in the notice much uneasiness had been caused. There had been any number of attempts to discredit the existence of the "Oklahoma Legion," but that it did exist and would wield a tremendous power was conceded by many.

In Purcell the night of 21 April 1889, the strain on the waiting thousands of boomers seemed almost unbearable. The situation in Purcell told the story for the whole southern border of Oklahoma. It was estimated that outside of Oklahoma that night that over 30,000 were camped in the darkness waiting for tomorrow's permission to "Go up and possess the land."

The excitement was intense but no trouble had occurred. The streams were now falling and the indications pointed to fine weather for tomorrow, 22 April 1889. The Emporia colony was 500 strong. It left that afternoon for the promised land under command of Captain George Cooper.

A Wichita, Kansas, special said: "The first train south on the Santa Fe, consisting of fifteen coaches, arrived that day, and there was not standing room in the coaches. People filled the spaces between the cars and clung to the steps. One enterprising boomer rode in on a cow-catcher."
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1889, Good Advice To Boomers

It was also in the newspaper out of Leavenworth, Kansas, Friday morning, March 22, 1889, with the following headlines: "Good Advice To Boomers." Congressman Mansur Admonishes them to obey the law.

Found on

Purcell, I.T., March 21 (1889) -- There was a great mass meeting of the Oklahoma boomers the day before and they listened to a good speech by Congressman Mansur of Missouri. Mr. Mansur advised them to obey the president's proclamation and said the country would soon be opened.

The settlers were daily increasing in numbers. They were anxious to enter the Oklahoma wilderness and put in a crop on which they could subsist for the season.

Mr. Mansur went to Arkansas City to address another meeting of the boomers. From Arkansas City he expected to go to Caldwell, Kansas. He was accompanied by General Jamison of Missouri, Judge Galloway of Texas and other distinguished gentlemen.

Significant Order
Washington, March 21 (1889) -- The following telegram was sent at 4:25 that afternoon: The Commanding General Division Missouri, Chicago:

"The act of congress, approved March 2, 1889, provides in substance that no person shall be permitted to enter upon and occupy the land recently ceded to the United States by the Creek and Seminole Indians until such lands are opened for settlement by proclamation of the president, and that no person violating this provision shall ever be permitted to enter any of said lands or acquire any right thereto. The president directs that the officers under your command cause the people to be fully informed to these provisions of the law and that they take and perceive the names of all persons who may enter the territory in violation of this provision, so that the same may be enforced by the land department when said lands are lawfully opened for settlement. [By order of Major General Schofield.] - J. C. Kelton, Acting Adjutant General.
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