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Ponca City Information

Ponca City History

1891

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1891 — Prior to the "run" of 1893, there were thousands of home seekers who were looking forward to the opening of the Cherokee Outlet. Since no official date had yet been announced, they watched the newspapers closely for any announcement. The favorite topic of conversation was speculating when the government would make the date known. As the time passed, hundreds of covered wagons kept the roads dusty as they moved toward the "New Country," the land of promise where those who qualified hoped to homestead a quarter section of land. These folks wanted to be close to the line in case of any sudden development.

Background — The Cherokee Strip extends 226 miles from east to west and 58 miles north to south. Thirteen northern counties and 9,400 square miles make up Oklahoma's portion of the Cherokee Strip, historically designated as the Cherokee Outlet. This area is as diverse as America itself, with rolling Osage prairies in the east to gypsum sand dunes and the rugged Glass Mountains in the west.

  • 1828 — The United States guaranteed to the Cherokee Nation that this seven million acres of land would be their perpetual outlet west for tribal hunting grounds. The "assigned lands" for the Cherokees were in north-eastern Oklahoma (then Indian Territory), so they never actually lived in the Cherokee Strip area.
  • 1866 — The United States asked the Cherokees to sell portions of the Strip to "friendly" Indians. Tribes or parts of tribes settled in the region, including Osage, Pawnee, Kaw, Ponca, Tonkawa, Otoe, and Missouria.
  • 1883 — The Cherokee Strip Livestock Association was formed. They wanted to fatten their cattle on the rich grasses in the Strip before taking them to railheads in Kansas, so they leased six million acres from the Cherokees.
  • 1890 — Land hungry settlers viewed the cattlemen's use of the area as a waste of fertile farmland and pressured the government to purchase the Cherokee land from the tribe.

Congress eventually paid $8.5 million (about $1.40 an acre) to the tribe and President Benjamin Harrison ordered the ranchers to remove all cattle from the Strip. Plans were being made to open the expansive ranch lands for settlement by eager pioneers.

The Strip was to be settled by the horse-race method. To eliminate "sooners," they set up makeshift offices just outside the Cherokee Strip borders. Pre-race registration sites in Kansas were Arkansas City, Cameron, Caldwell, Hunnewell and Kiowa, and in Oklahoma Territory, at Goodwin, Hennessy, Orlando, and Stillwater. Homesteaders were to register and produce filing fee affidavits to be eligible for the run. They then waited for the cavalry soldiers' gunshots to start the land rush. Each person who staked a claim would receive 160 acres. Tribes living in the outlet area were sold individual allotments not to exceed 80 acres, half of the allotment amount offered to settlers who made the run.

Prior to the run, the government also established county seats. The seven original counties were O, L, K, P, Q, M and N. They were later renamed Garfield, Grant, Kay, Noble, Pawnee, Woods, and Woodward. Four land offices were opened in what is now Enid, Perry, Alva and Woodward. After they staked their claim, homesteaders were to go to these offices and pay a filing fee ranging from $1 to $2.50. The fees were based upon the quality of land.