Monday, February 19, 2018

US Army in Oklahoma--A True Tale of Cowboys and Indians Part 3

Fort Gibson, 1870's Wikipedia, public domain
By Alanna Radle Rodriguez and Judge Rodriguez

Thank you for joining us this month in our discovery of the effects that the different branches of the U.S. military have had on the development of the state of Oklahoma. For the last two months, we have delved into the history of the US Army, up to the end of the War Between the States (WBtS).

This month, we cover the time period after the WBtS going to the land runs/ lotteries.

On the national level, the time period just after the WBtS is known as the reconstruction period. This period is a time of social change and military occupation, particularly in the south. In the Indian Territory, the tribes had split, one side for the United States, the other for the Confederate States.

In 1867, following numerous raids, the Department of the Interior, at the insistence of the newly formed states of Kansas and Nebraska, formed a series of treaties that created the Cheyenne-Arapaho and the Kiowa-Commanche reservations. This helped to frustrate the already closed-in feeling tribes. The plains tribes resisted the move to the reservations, and tensions increased. The army was tasked with being a peace keeping force in the territory. They protected not only the eastern tribes from the plains tribes, but also the white settlers that were moving through the area.

Tensions rose steadily, however, as not all tribes ascribed to the war-like ideals of the plains tribes. In 1874 war broke out in the conflict now known as the Red River War. In one of the first conflicts, Lieutenant Colonel Custer led a raid against Chief Black Kettle’s camp. Tragically, or rather ironically, Black Kettle was known as a “peace chief”.

The Red River War lasted through into 1875, ending in the “Sand Hill Fight” on April 6th 1875. In 1887, the Dawes Severalty Act ended the reservation system in the Indian Territory, and opened up the lands reserved for the tribes, thus leading to the Land Runs, which began in 1889.

There were 5 major land runs, and several smaller ones throughout the next 13 years. The 1st of the major land runs occurred on April 22nd 1889, where the “Unassigned Lands” were opened to settlement. This land run opened up what became Canadian, Cleveland, Kingfisher, Logan and Oklahoma counties. This is what is commonly referred to as the “Oklahoma Land Run”, however it was only the first in the series of them.

The 2nd major land run was in fact 3 smaller land runs occurring between September 22nd and 28th of 1891, and opened up the settlement of what eventually became Lincoln, Pottowatomie, and Seminole counties.
The 3rd was the Cheyenne-Arapaho reservation lands, occurring in April 19, 1892, and opened up the lands that would become Blaine, Custer, Dewey, Washita, and Roger Mills counties.

The 4th was the Cherokee Outlet on April 19th 1893--also mistakenly referred to as the Cherokee Strip Land Run--which opened the lands of the entire Cherokee Outlet. This area ranged from essentially lands east of current day Enid, all the way to current day Woodward, thus opening close to 1/8th of what would become the state of Oklahoma.

The 5th and final major land run on May 23rd of 1895, was the opening of the Kickapoo lands, which opened the remainder of current-day eastern Oklahoma and western Pottowatomie counties. After this land run, a critical change was made and, other than several considerably smaller land runs, was the end of the “Land Run Experiment”, and was considered to be an inefficient way to distribute the land.

While it is commonly held that after the Kickapoo land run, the land was distributed by lottery, and bids, there was actually one more minor land run, which allocated land in the current town of Arcadia, Oklahoma. That land run occurred on August 8th 1901.

During each of these land runs, and the settlement directly afterwards, the U.S. Army was tasked with keeping the peace, as well as preventing the “Sooners” from being able to claim jump the most choice lands, and to help keep down theft of the lands for the claimants. Unfortunately, corruption ran a bit rampant, and there are many stories of not only Sooners, but also of claimants being wiped out by claim jumpers.

It was during this time frame that the U.S. Cavalry, and by extension the Army, held ultimate authority of law in the land. There were several U.S. Marshals in the territory, such as Bass Reeves, and Frank Dalton. When the cards were on the table, however, each of these marshals had the authority to call in the cavalry, to put down any insurrections, etc. if it was deemed necessary. Each of the towns had their own marshal, as well as many (like Oklahoma City, Edmond, Guthrie, Stillwater, and Norman) had their own police force enforcing the edicts of the city ordinances.

Join us next month as we explore the history of the U.S. Army, and its effects on the history of this grand state, known as Oklahoma during its statehood, and afterward.

Born and raised in Edmond, Oklahoma, Alanna Radle Rodriguez is the great-great granddaughter of one of the first pioneers to settle in Indian Territory. Alanna loves the history of the state and relishes in volunteering at the 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse in Edmond. Her first published story, part of a collaborative novella titled Legacy Letters, came out September 2016. Alanna lives with her husband and parents in the Edmond area. She is currently working on a historical fiction series that takes place in pre-statehood Waterloo, Oklahoma. 


  1. Thank you for this fascinating post!

    1. Glad you found it so, Caryl. Hope you come back next month.

  2. Thank you for sharing your very interesting post!

  3. Thanks for illuminating this part of Oklahoma history!

    1. Thanks, Barbara. I find more and more interesting tidbits the deeper we dig into this wonderful State's history. Come back next month for part 4!