Considered worthless desert some years before 1893, on Sept. 16 of that year, 100,000+ people gathered in the Cherokee Strip of Oklahoma to claim land the US Government had given to the Native Americans in a forced relocation better known as “The Trail of Tears”.
With one gunshot (that was probably heard by only half the people present) it began. Pioneers hungry for land raved on horseback and in carriages to stake their claims. Fighting broke out, but not too much was done – or could be done – about it.
“By 1885, a diverse mixture of Native American tribes had been pushed onto reservations in eastern Oklahoma and promised that the land would be theirs “as long as the grass grows and the water runs.” Yet even this seemingly marginal land did not long escape the attention of land-hungry Americans. By the late nineteenth century, farmers had developed new methods that suddenly made the formerly reviled Plains hugely valuable. Pressure steadily increased to open the Indian lands to settlement, and in 1889, President Benjamin Harrison succumbed and threw open large areas of unoccupied Indian lands to white settlement. The giant Cherokee Strip rush was only the largest of a series of massive “land runs” that began in the 1890s, with thousands of immigrants stampeding into Oklahoma Territory and establishing towns like Norman and Oklahoma City almost overnight.”