NOTES ON THE 1889 LAND RUN BY A HARPER’S WEEKLY CORRESPONDENT

Excepts from the contemporaneous description by William Willard Howard at Harper's Weekly, May 1889:

"After the horsemen came the wagons, as thick as they could crowd together. The Canadian River is so treacherous, even at the fords, that horses and wagons must keep moving or run a great risk of being lost in the quicksands. The fear of the quicksands, added to the desire to reach the chosen lands, made the crossing on that quiet noonday particularly lively and stirring. The leaders ran a gallant race, but one by one they fell into deep holes in the river-bed, and for a time floundered about at imminent risk of drowning. A young woman, who pluckily held her place in the lead half-way across the river, went into a pool with a mighty splash. Even in the midst of his excitement the nearest boomer, who was racing with her, checked his horse and assisted her out to dry land, thus losing his place among the leaders. A big bay horse held the lead three-quarters of the way across the river, each furious jump giving him more and more of a lead over the others. In an unlucky moment he went into a deep pool head-first, and threw his rider half stunned upon the yellow sand. While the rider was gathering himself together in a half-dazed condition, the bit horse stood and looked at him a moment, and then started on again. He soon took his place at the lead of the race, and kept it there until the whole cavalcade had passed out of sight. Lieutenant Adair, who had watched this episode with quickening pulse, galloped up to the wet and discomfited rider.

'See here,' said he, 'I haven't much money about me, but if you'll take $250 for that horse, here's your money.'

'No, lieutenant,' said the man, with a weary smile; 'you needn't make me an offer, because you haven't got money enough to buy him.'

* * *

The best lots in Oklahoma City, like the valuable locations in Guthrie, were seized by the deputy United States marshals. The actual home-seekers were compelled to take what was left. In their haste to secure desirable lots, the town-site settlers failed to pay as much attention to the geometrical lines of the streets as they should have done, with the result that two, and in some cases three, different streets and blocks were laid out on the same ground. During the first week the discomforts of hunger and thirst were well-nigh forgotten in the anxiety of the people to get their town site properly laid out. The excitement was not at any time as great as that at Guthrie, for the reason that the population was not more than two thousand even at its highest point on Monday afternoon. Nearly the same state of affairs existed at Oklahoma City as at Guthrie, with the exception that the red dust was not so deep and water not as scarce. The new citizens, however, seem to have as much faith in the future of their town as their neighbors at Guthrie. This is probably due to the fact that Oklahoma City has the most desirable town site in Oklahoma, and also to the fact that the land round about is considered to be better than the land in the northern part of the district. The comparative wealth of the two parts will not be definitely known until a practical test of the soil is made next year. Good judges of bad land declare that the country tributary to Oklahoma City will raise no better crops than the soil surrounding Guthrie. If this be true, the outlook for Oklahoma City is certainly not brilliant. A man who hid out in the brush all day Sunday and Sunday night, in order that he might be first on his claim Monday morning despite the disfranchising conditions in the opening proclamation, declared to me that after a search of three days he found no land in the southern part of Oklahoma that he would care to file a claim upon. The upland he found to be worthless red sand, and the river-bottoms to be composed of buffalo wallows and a short wiry grass, which indicated to him the presence of land similar to some of the worthless lands of Kansas. He returned to his farm in Kansas without attempting to make a new settlement."