The Early History of Oklahoma!

Recently I got to hear a lecture about - of all things - the history of the state of Oklahoma. And I wanted to pass some interesting factoids onto you!

- In the early 1880s, The Oklahoma Territory was used as a place to move southeastern Native Americans when the colonists wanted to use their lands for farming. The relocation became known as the "Trail of Tears", since it was incredibly hard for the Native Americans to be forced out of their homelands. Towards the end of the 19th Century, the US government divided up the OK Territory, giving parts of it to the Native Americans, but opening up more than half of the Native American land for settlers and railroads.

- All open land was available for settlers during huge "land runs" (like in the movie Far and Away). During the largest of these runs in April of 1889, people came in droves from other states and lined up along Oklahoma's borders. At high noon, a shot was fired and everyone went to claim pieces of land. By the end of that day, the population skyrocketed. The city of Guthrie alone grew by 10,000 people that day. People could claim up to 160 acres and if they paid taxes, and worked on and improved the land, in 7 years they would own it.
Sounds like a good reality TV show, right?

- There weren't any cities or houses (or banks, sawmills, etc, etc) when the people claimed these lands, cities grew very quickly to accommodate all of the new people. I believe it was the fastest-growing state, and reached full statehood by 1907. Early Oklahomans had a lot of chances for land and business ownership, but they had a tough life building everything up from scratch. Most people lived in tiny (as small as 6' by 10') sod houses and farmed for a living.

- Since the land runs made it possible for anyone to own land, it provided excellent opportunities for minorities and immigrants. As a result, Oklahoma became an incredibly diverse state, with mostly Choctaw tribes in the Central West, blacks in the South, and Russian Germans in the North. People who had never lived close to other races and cultures found themselves in completely mixed communities. Although many residents were fine with this, OK became a segregated state at statehood conception.

That's all for now. Don't be surprised if you hear more from this blogger about Oklahoma, though. :)

For anyone who only knows of Oklahoma from the cheesy musical of the same name, I hope I've provided you with a different view!

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