Friday, February 20, 2009

The Oklahoma Land Rush

“As noon approached, thousands of buggies and wagons edged up to the starting line. Black smoke rolled from the stacks of locomotives…” (McMahon, 1968 p72). Imagine the feelings coming over thousands of future homesteaders as they wait for the gun to signal the new beginning of their lives as future landowners.

By Stacy Kristek
Southeast Community College

Through the different texts I have learned a lot of information about the Oklahoma land rush that I would like to share with you. I would like to inform you about the Oklahoma land rushes that were made in the 1880’s and 1890’s. We will talk about the several different land rushes that were made into the Oklahoma territory, how the settlers made the rushes, and what they had to do to keep the land.

There were several land rushes into Oklahoma. The first was on April 22, 1889 at noon (McMahan, 1968). There were 11,000 quarter sections to claim (Newsom, 2001). This land rush got many people interested in the Oklahoma lands and in homesteading. According to Lucy Neumann in her book titled The Lust for Land, the lands in the April 22, 1889 rush are now know to us as Guthrie, Kingfisher, Edmond, and Oklahoma City (2000, p. 126).

The biggest land rush was on September 16, 1893 at noon. More than 100,000 people were lined up to race for the land (McMahan, 1968). There were 6,500,000 acres available for homesteading and that was split into 160 acres apiece (Newsom, 2001). The last race for land was a small one in 1895 (McMahan, 1968).

You may be asking yourselves just how these future homesteaders were able to make the land runs. There were many ways of transportation. Can you imagine being on the starting line on a horse or covered wagon waiting for high noon and the cannons to go off?

Oklahoma rushers traveled by fast saddle horses (McMahan, 1968), these rushers were in the lead of the pack (Newsom, 2001). Other rushers traveled by covered wagons. The wagons were loaded with their belongings and family members and usually pulled by old work horses. And other rushers traveled by the Santa Fe Rail Road (McMahan, 1968). The railroad was running slow trains through the district for the people who didn’t have a horse or buggy to use (McMahan, 1968). The railroad sold around 7,000 tickets but the cars were loaded with over 10,000 people (Neumann, 2000, p. 127).

So now you know just how rushers were able to go out and run for the land they wanted to homestead but what did they have to do to keep their land?

In order to keep their land, land rushers had to meet the criteria to be eligible. They could not already own more that 160 acres in any state or territory. They had to be a citizen of the U.S. or have filed intentions to become a citizen. They had to be the head of household or over 21 years of age (Doughty, 1998). The rules to keep the land once it was claimed included establishing within six months of the claim residence in a house upon the land and cultivation of the land continuously for five years (Doughty, 1998).

So, that is how the Oklahoma land rush was achieved in the late 1880’s and 1890’s. Now you know just how the pioneers made the run into the Oklahoma territory to participate in the land rush and what they had to do to keep their land. I can see it now:

Noon has passed and the smoke has cleared. Thousands of new homesteaders now have a stake in the land, so they rush off to the land office to file their claim.


Doughty, G.W. (1998). The homestead laws. Ponca City, OK: North Central Oklahoma Historical Association.

McMahan, I. (1968). Highlights of American history. NY: Golden Press.

Neumann, L. (2000). The lust for land. Arkansas City, KS: Jayhawk Publications.

Newsom, D. (2001). The Cherokee Strip. Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press.

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