Thursday, December 13, 2007
As the hour for the opening approached, great crowds waited on the border, while mounted soldiers stood on guard to turn back intruders. At noon bugles (cornetins) sounded, then guns were fired as a signal that the land was open. Men raced in on horseback, on foot, in covered wagons, hanging to every available hold on the slowly moving trains, all trying to outstrip their fellow "Boomers" in the scramble for "claims."
When a homeseeker found a tract of land to his liking, he drove a stake as evidence of possession and held it as best he could against other claimants. On the same day lots were staked in the townsites, and men engaged in feverish promotion.
Tents appeared everywhere. By the end of the day Oklahoma City was a city of about 10 000 tent and wagon dwellers, (habitantes) and other cities had sprouted on the prairie: Kingfisher, El Reno, Norman, Guthrie, and Stillwater. Many of the streets were marked. Within hours, the new town had a mayor and city council, elected before The Run, in many cases. Flickering camp fires dotted the prairie as far as one could see, in all directions. Also, hundreds of broken rigs littered the plains that night. Many an 89er did not live to see the end of the day he had been so anxious to begin.
Some children set up their own business outside the land office: selling creek water for 5 cents a cup to homesteaders who were waiting to file. Other children gathered buffalo chips to provide fuel for their mothers' cooking fires.
Dentists, doctors, and lawyers immediately hung their shingles on their wagon or tent. Merchants brought merchandise in their wagons to start a store in a new town. Stores opened in the backs of wagons, then moved to a tent after a day or two, until a building was ready. Building material came in the wagons, too, or shipped by train. Complete buildings were unloaded, with the lumber cut, notched, and ready to be nailed.
Schools opened in tents the following week. Most were taught by volunteers who were paid by the pupils' parents until the cities and counties could establish regular school districts. Part of the land in each township had been reserved by law for school use.
The weeks following that first Run of homesteaders were busy ones on this newest of American frontiers. Within a month, Oklahoma City had five banks and six newspapers. Hotels were opened, and by summer, greengrocers were doing a thriving business. In Oklahoma City, fresh tomatoes sold for 15 cents a bushel, (35 L) eggs at 3 cents a dozen, and home-churned butter for 6 cents a pound. Some of the most substantial business firms in Oklahoma point to this time as the date of their founding.
For thirteen months, the settlers were without any organized government, yet good order prevailed.
Frontier living conditions were too rigorous - and money was too scarce - to attract outlaws. The only government during this period was that created and maintained by common consent. In May, 1890, Congress passed the Organic Act, providing for a territorial government, with executive and judicial officers appointed by the President, and a legislature to be elected by the people. The active new town of Guthrie was designated as the capital, and in spite of the bitter rivalry of its ambitious neighbor, Oklahoma City, it remained the seat of government throughout the territorial period.
Posted by GPC at 10:20 PM