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Cherokee Strip Land Run

On September 16, 1893, more than 115,000 people raced to claim one of 42,000 parcels of land in the largest, most spectacular, and last land run in American history.

the land run begins
the land run begins with a shot

Where was the Cherokee Strip? In the northwest section of what is now Oklahoma. Its northern border was the Kansas/Oklahoma line.

map of Indian Territory with the Cherokee Strip outlined in red
map of Indian Territory with the Cherokee Strip outlined in red

How large was the Cherokee Strip? It was 58 miles wide and 228 miles long (approximately 6 million acres) -- larger than the states of Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island combined. Thirteen Oklahoma counties were carved out of the area.

Why was it called the Cherokee Strip? The land had originally been given to the Cherokee Nation. It was originally called the Cherokee Outlet because it was the Cherokee's outlet to their hunting grounds in the Rocky Mountains. The "Strip" was originally a strip of the Outlet that extended north of the Kansas/Oklahoma border. Because of two different surveys, Kansas, the U.S. government and the Cherokee were unsure who owned the "Strip." The "Strip" that was finally purchased from the Cherokee included a part of Kansas, and the Cherokee Outlet was renamed the Cherokee Strip.

Who could race in the Land Run? According to the Homeseekers Guide for the Run, "Any person (man or woman) the head of the family, or 21 years old, may take a homestead, provided they had not already enjoyed the benefits of the homestead act." They also had to be a citizen of the United States to get their final patent for a piece of land. Native Americans (the original "owners" of the Strip) were not considered citizens of the United States at this time, so were not allowed to race.

How did people make the Run? People had to go to one of nine registration points, register for the run and then line up on the north or south border of the Cherokee Strip. To register, people had to stand in line (some stood in line for a week) at the registration booth, pay a $14 registration fee, and sign a registration certificate.

Where were the registration points? There were nine registration points for the run. Four booths were set up on the southern border of the strip: 1) Stillwater, 2) Orlando, 3) Hennessey, and 4) Goodwin. The other five booths were set up on the Kansas/Oklahoma border: 5) Kiowa, 6) Cameron, 7) Caldwell, 8) Hunnewell, and 9) Arkansas City.

close-up diagram of the Cherokee Strip showing the registration points

Where was the largest registration point? Arkansas City, with over 30,000 persons registered for the Run. More than 75,000 people moved into Arkansas City during the two years prior to the Run. On the day of the Run, there were approximately 100,000 people in town. Three days later, only 5,000 remained.

How many people were in the Run? There were 115,000 people registered for the Run. Some racers took their families or friends with them, so the total number of participants was approximately 150,000 people.

Who were the Boomers and Sooners? Boomers were the promoters who wanted to settle in the Indian Territory south of Kansas which became Oklahoma. Sooners were the racers who tried to settle on the land before the actual race started. Many were caught, but many more were not.

How did people file their claims? After a racer had literally staked out his claim, he had to make his way to one of four claim offices established by the government -- at Perry, Alva, Enid and Woodward -- and pay a filing fee ranging from $1 to $2.50 per acre (depending on the quality of the land). As long as the racer made improvements to the land, was not found to be a Sooner, had no one contesting his right to claim the land, and stayed on the land for more than six months he received the deed to the land.

How much land could a racer claim? Each participant could claim a quarter section (160 acres).

How successful were those who participated in the Run? Only about 20 to 30 percent of those who filed claims actually survived the six-month residency requirement and received their official deeds.

LINK OF INTEREST
Cherokee Strip Museum
http://www.cherokee-strip-museum.org/index.html

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The Robinson Library >> American History >> United States: Local History and Description >> The West >> Oklahoma

This page was last updated on February 10, 2017.