Monday, June 13, 2022

Oklahoma Land Run of 1893 - What was the Rush?

By Kimberly Grist

What does the firing of a cannon, soldiers with fixed bayonets, and perhaps as many as 100,000 eager and many impoverished hopeful landowners bring to mind? You would be correct if you guessed the Oklahoma land run of September 16, 1893.

Photo: “One Minute Before the Start,” Oklahoma Land Run, September 16, 1893. Credit: L. D. Hodge; Wikimedia Commons.

The U.S. economy had been devastated by the Panic of 1893 and undergoing an economic depression. As a result, many were out of work, and hungry. They were starving for an opportunity, and more than six million acres of free land was an enormous temptation.

Many waited in line for days to register at the land office in Arkansas City, Kansas, probably similarly crowded as those pictured above at the land office in Perry, Oklahoma Territory, another registry location for the Cherokee Strip land run.

The chaos that preceded and followed the shot of the cannon at noon on September 15, 1893, mirrored the desperation of many of the pioneers who participated in the event in hopes of staking a claim for 160 acres of free

(Scene from the 1931 movie Cimarron)

According to a New York Herald article published on September 17, 1893:

“More than fifteen thousand persons wanted to go in on the first train from Orlando, which had a capacity for fewer than two thousand. With a wild shout, the crowd rushed forward. The soldiers on the ground were swept from their feet, and for a moment, it seemed as if the mob would capture the train, for men and women were around and over the engine and tender, upon and under the platforms, and even upon the roofs of the coaches.

The blue-coated guardians soon recovered, however, and with fixed bayonets, cleared the train and compelled everybody to show certificates before entering.

On every side, men and women fought and struggled to get near the cars. Women had their clothes torn off, and men were knocked down and trampled upon. Scores of persons were injured, yet the struggle kept up until the train was filled, and it was repeated on a smaller scale with each succeeding train.”

Orphaned as a young girl, Ella longs for a life she’s only read about in books. To escape a desperate situation, she heads west as a mail-order bride, narrowing her choice of spouse to three brothers, a millwright, a businessman, and a horse trainer, all searching for a marriage of convenience which will provide the inheritance that will finance the family’s business venture in Oklahoma.

Newspapers claim the unchartered territory is a land where streams flow with milk and the heavens rain down a supply of honey. Will her road lead to the Promised Land?

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  1. Thanks for posting today! How crazy is it that I can envision this easily because of the chaos created nowadays for the newest Iphone or computer watch, etc? And the land rush made thousands of times worse because it was for actual survival for many people!

    1. I have participated in quite a few Black Friday Events in my day, so I can imagine the intensity. But can you imagine adding the incentive of free land? But I think I would probably have been adventurous or crazy enough to try myself!

  2. Me too! I think I would have been right there with them. lol From my research, it seems most went away empty handed.

  3. Thanks for this post. And, your book sounds interesting. Congrats on the new release.

    1. Thanks Michelle - I really enjoyed researching the OK Land Runs and had a lot of fun writing this story.