— The '89er Trail —
The race for free land began at noon on April 22, 1889, with an estimated 50,000 participants from all over the world.
At high noon on a bright and clear Monday, April 22, 1889, a drama roared to life when mounted soldiers fired their guns and blew their bugles to signal the Run of 1889. An estimated 50,000 people began the race from the perimeter boundaries of the Unassigned Lands.
Station Master A. W. Dunham, who was standing on a box car at noon at Oklahoma Station, saw settlers almost immediately. "My astonishment was complete - people seemed to spring up as if by magic as far as the eye could reach. I could see them racing in every direction, some on horses, some in vehicles, and a greater number on foot." The settlers he saw had clearly not started from the perimeter boundaries.
Legal settlers began arriving by rail and horseback about 1:15. Those who had started the Run from inside the perimeter boundaries, later dubbed "sooners," had already staked the choicest claims.
By the end of the day, nearly every townsite lot and homestead claim was occupied. Some claims were legal and some were not. Without officially sanctioned territorial government, settlers were on their own to make sense out of the chaos.
Top left: Settlers camped for weeks at the Kansas border
to make preparations for the Run of 89.
Western History Collection, OU Libraries
Middle: The Run. This photo is often attributed to the April 22, 1889 run, but was actually taken of the run into the Cherokee Outlet in 1893.
The scenes would have been virtually identical. Research Division of the Oklahoma Historical Society
Top right: Prior to the land run, settlers were prevented from entering
the Unassigned Lands by troops from Fort Reno. Settlers
gathered in Caldwell and Arkansas City until troops escorted
them to the borders of the Unassigned Lands on April 19. Fort Reno and the Indian Territory Frontier by Stan Hoig (University of Arkansas Press, 2005)