Vol. 12


Boomer Sooner

1889, 1954; Ash Creek,1 near McAlester, Oklahoma, USA

It all started with my great-great-great-uncle Charlie’s dad, Harrison. In March of 1889 my four-times-great-uncle heard an announcement from President Benjamin Harrison. He was opening up the Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma to settlers to stake and claim. The only requirement to get a 160-acre tract of land was to make improvements on the land over a five-year period. After the five years, the settler would receive a deed for the land in his name.

Harrison decided to seize this opportunity. He left his family behind in Nebraska, mounted his fastest horse, and rode all the way to the Kansas border. When he got there, the troops that were guarding the land stopped him. Instead of letting settlers go straight to Oklahoma, the troops directed them around the Kansas border.

It definitely wasn’t an easy journey. There were several times when it would have been easier to turn around and give up. Harrison was traveling with several other settlers when he came to a flooded river. The path to Oklahoma was completely blocked off; there was no way around it. Instead of accepting defeat, though, the settlers joined together and came up with a solution: They took boards from a railroad station and built a bridge. By working together, everyone was able to cross!

On the day before Easter in 1889, my four-times-great-uncle arrived at the Indian Territory. It was not the opening day yet, so he waited and passed time with the other settlers by playing games and running races. April 22 finally arrived, and the settlers all started to line up. My uncle lined up very early. While he was waiting, he got thirsty, but he didn’t want to lose his spot in line. Little girls came by selling spring water for five cents. He thought that was way too much for a cup of water, but he bought it anyway.

At the strike of noon a gun went off, which signaled that they could finally enter the Indian Territory. Harrison and his horse were going as fast as they could. Once he found the land he wanted, he staked his claim, registered it, and immediately began making improvements. He dug a well and cut down trees to start building a house. Over the next five years, my four-times-great-uncle would make several more trips between Nebraska and Oklahoma. After the five years were up, he moved his entire family to Oklahoma.

The land run was a huge opportunity, and my uncle Charlie was happy to be part of the boomer generation. It wasn’t until 1954, when my uncle Charlie met my great-great-grandpa Charles from the other side of the family and they began talking about their roots, that my uncle Charlie learned that Charles had moved to Oklahoma during the land run, too! Charles told my uncle Charlie that he had some Indian friends in the territory so he had come two weeks early and had just pretended to arrive when everyone else did. He was happy to have arrived soon enough to get the land he wanted. My family truly is a boomer sooner2 family!

Abigail Wilson; Missouri, USA


1. Ash Creek was a small mining community.

2. “Boomer” and “sooner” are terms used for early settlers in what is now the state of Oklahoma, nicknamed “the Sooner State.”



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