Recently Dr. Bottorff gave me a xerox of a newspaper, THE DEMOCRAT, printed at Albion, Indiana, Thursday, September 21, 1893, containing an article relative to the land rush in 1893. It is in very small print, which at times appears to be broken. There was also a map showing the “Cherokee Strip.” MAW February 20, 2002.
WILD RUSH FOR LAND.
CHEROKEE STRIP BESIEGED BY THOUSANDS.
Unrivaled Scenes Before the Opening.
Lines of Applicants Numbering Thousands.
Characteristics of Their Future Home—Fair as the Garden of the Lord.
Any Way to Get There.
Talk about “rushes” for free land! The scenes just enacted at the opening of the Cherokee Strip surpassed anything of the kind ever known. For a week a constantly growing crowd surged about the registration booths: for no one could secure land without having first registered. Men, women, and children, to the number of 20,000 or 25,000, formed in lines and remained there day and night. Many were overcome by the heat and died; some died from exhaustion. Anything eatable commanded World’s Fair prices, and water was 10 cents per cup. Still the mass of humanity waited and grew, restrained from premature encroachment by United States marshals and cordone of soldiers. There were half a dozen places for registration along the northern boundary of the Strip, and the scene at one was but a duplicate of the others.
When the last moment arrived, and the word “Go” was given, with a yell that tore a hole in the heavens the crowd started: some on horseback, some afoot, some with wheelbarrows loaded with goods, some on bicycles, and thousands in the picturesque prairie schooners.
Flowing with Milk and Honey.
Comparatively little is known of the Cherokee Strip or “Outlet” by the average American, despite the fact that it lies almost in the very midst of the nation, at the thresholds of five great States of the Union—Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Colorado, and Texas. And yet it is pronounced by experienced judges to be the finest body of land of its size on the whole American continent, with soil of surpassing richness and depth, mineral resources of great value and inexhaustible quantity, natural scenery that is unrivaled, and a climate of delicious mildness and salubrity. The temperature there in winter varies from 35 to 48 degrees, and in summer from 77 to 82. All the extravagant things that have been written in rapturous praise of Oklahoma are said to be more than true of the Cherokee Strip, for it is regarded as equal in its entirety to the very choicest portions of Oklahoma, while its best lands are said to be veritable garden spots.
The strip is 200 miles long and 56 miles wide. It lies between the 96th and 100th parallels of west longitude, with the southern border line of Kansas as its northern boundary and the Creek country and the Territory of Oklahoma as its southern. Topographically it is rolling, broken up hills and uplands, and interspersed with valleys and Eden-like bottoms. Its many water courses are skirted with fine timber, oak, walnut, cedar, ash, beech, and hickory. The soil of the bottom lands and prairies is soft and loamy, black as ink, and of marvelous fertility. Upon the ridges and divides the land is not so well adapted to agriculture, but as the forest growth is slight, they furnish splendid grazing pastures for sheep and cattle, being profusely clothed with succulent “bunch grass.” Owing to this self-cured “bunch grass” and to the mildness of the climate and the abundance of water, the hilly regions are claimed by old sheep-growers to afford the best sheep country in the world.
Prospective settlers in the strip may now prepare to get acquainted with the Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, and other tribes or nations of Indians in the Territory, who, with the white homesteaders of Oklahoma, will be their nearest neighbors. They are as tribes exceedingly wealthy, and are now rapidly adopting American manners, customs, usages, and garments. The Cherokees number about 20,000, the Choctaws 16,000, the Creeks 15,000, and the Cheyennes and Arapahos 7,000, and all the other tribes 22,000, making altogether 80,000 Indians resident in the Indian Territory.
The price to be paid the Cherokees by the government is $8,595,736. There being 8,144,682 acres of the land, the net price per acre is $1.05.
Each settler on the new lands, before receiving a patent, is required to pay, besides fees, the sum of $2.50 per acre between parallels 96 and 97½, the sum of $1.50 per acre between 97½ and 98½ , and the sum of $1 per acre between 98½ and 100, together with four per cent from the date of entry until the final payment. Some of the lands between parallels 96 and 97½ are worth $50 per acre in the wild state. They are splendidly watered and within easy distance of several thriving towns in Kansas and Arkansas, and every foot of it is capable of cultivation.
Another article from the same paper on the same date follows.
An Interesting Letter From Herbert Neufer.
A Description of What He Saw the First Day of the Opening of the Cherokee Strip.
Men, Women and Children Killed.—Lots, Way Up.
The following letter from Herbert Neufer, better known as “Bert” to his many friends here, to his sister, Mrs. John I. Cooper, will be read with interest. Bert is a member of the regular army, with headquarters at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and was present at the time of the opening of the Cherokee Strip, some weeks ago. The following which are extracts from the letter, read:
FORT SILL, Okla., Oct. 3, 1893.
DEAR SISTER: Your esteemed and highly appreciated letter received with unbounded gratitude. Your several letters received some time ago would have been answered sooner, but I must say I have been away from the post since June, returning September 10. We received orders to prepare for heavy marching at once so I had no time then to answer your letter, so I concluded to delay until we arrived at our destination and that was the strip you have read so much about and no doubt have conversed with your neighbors considerably, and that was the old Cherokee strip, sixty miles wide and two hundred and fifty miles in length. We arrived there, Friday, September 15, and pitched our tents in a comfortable but isolated locality. We were located at a small town called Enid, eighteen miles from the line. The 11th of September at 12 o’clock the gun was fired and the rush commenced. Only thirty-eight minutes were consumed from the time the gun was fired at Henisee, eighteen miles away, until the first horse hovered in sight and then others followed thick and fast in all kinds of conveyances imaginable until by sunset there were 17,000 people on the ground. But the grandest sight I ever seen was a stock train of seventeen cars so covered with people that you could not see a bare spot on any of the cars, even the insides were filled with people but many of them suffered miseries untold because they jumped from the moving train. Women with arms and legs broken, men with fractured skulls, and many breathing the last agonies of death, all because they wished to receive a claim. I wish you could have seen the rush. I am sure you would have said it was one of the grandest sights you ever seen. You have witnessed many a horse race but they were nothing compared to the rush. Rich men had bought fast horses for the run, and I am confident in saying there were 1,000 horses with riders in the rush besides the vehicles, bicycles, and other conveyances. The fifth person on the grounds was a woman. She received a fine city lot, which she sold in five hours for $750. . . . I made about $200 in writing homestead applications and affidavits. So you see, I was benefitted by the Strip. Everything passed off quietly at the land office, but the surrounding country was filled with dead men as well as horses, men quarreling over claims, horses dying from being overheated. You can imagine how many were killed when there were forty-seven coffins ordered in one day.
The day of the opening, the town we were in, had 17,000 inhabitants; at the time we left it had some over 30,000. Lots selling from $300 to $3,000, and readily at that.
I had a real nice time in the mountains. I killed seven deer, two bears, and a large number of turkeys, rabbits, prairie chickens, and wild hogs.
The following article was printed in the ALBION NEW ERA, December 12, 2001.
A WINDING ROAD.
Albionite At The Cherokee Strip.
By Mike McCoy.
Early settlement within Noble County took place gradually over time. Rather than a flood of folks, the influx was more of a trickle. Yet, other parts of this great nation were literally settled in a stampede of land seekers. The rush for claims within the Cherokee Outlet or Strip in the old Oklahoma Territory was “wild west” at its pinnacle and one of Albion’s own was there to witness it.
The Cherokee Strip was a parcel of land spanning roughly 250 miles in length from east to west and 60 miles in width from north to south. It was bordered on the north by the state of Kansas and was centrally located, east to west within what is now the state of Oklahoma. If you are so inclined to go to your map, look for the Oklahoma counties of Kay, Grant, Woods, Woodward, Garfield, Noble, Pawnee, Alfalfa, Harper, Ellis, and Major.
Under the authority of the U. S. Government, the Cherokee Indians were assigned to lands within the northeast corner of the Oklahoma Territory. The Strip was deeded to them in 1828 as an outlet of which they could freely cross into their hunting grounds to the west.
Although never actually settled by the Indians, the Strip soon became a hot commodity. Its grassy prairies were ideal for grazing cattle. Raising stock on the Strip soon became a promising alternative to driving the herds of longhorns up the infamous cattle trails from Texas. Being closer to the railroad hubs of Kansas and ultimately the markets in the east, the Strip was prime ranch real estate. The 1880s saw cattlemen rent literally millions of acres from their Indian landlords, the Cherokee. The arrangement was a win-win for both parties.
But, as has so often been the case in our nation’s history, these successful times for the Indian were short lived. Under pressure from railroads, land speculators, and would-be settlers, the U. S. Government forced the Cherokee Nation to sell the Strip. 8,144,682 acres were purchased in 1893 for $8,595,736, at a $1.05 per acre. After sixty-five years of Cherokee ownership, the Strip was now available to the general public. The stage was set for one of the greatest shows in history.
Albion resident, Herbert Neufer, was a regular in the U. S. Army, stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He was one of thirteen children born to York Township’s Samuel and Mary Eschelman Neufer. In September of 1893, while in the Oklahoma Territory, his outfit was detached to Enid, Oklahoma, for duty at the Cherokee Strip Land Rush. Shortly after the Land Rush had been completed, Herbert described the events in a letter to his sister, Mrs. John L. Cooper of Albion. In an effort to enlighten her community, Mrs. Cooper allowed the letter to be printed in the October 12, 1893, issue of the Noble County Democrat.
Neufer and his fellow soldiers were not only there to keep the peace, but also to register eager applicants. Without a certificate, one would not be eligible to enter the Strip or file a claim. As you might imagine, getting a certificate was almost as daunting a task as securing a parcel of land. As the September 21, 1893, Noble County Democrat reported, “Men, women, and children . . . formed in lines and remained there day and night: many were overcome by the heat and dust; some died from exhaustion. Anything eatable commanded World’s Fair prices, and water was 10 cents per cup. Still the mass of humanity waited and grew, restrained from premature encroachment by United States marshals and cordone of soldiers.”
On the morning of September 16, 1893, more than 100,000 eager participants toed the borders of the Cherokee Strip. Whether on foot, horseback, buggy, wagon, or train, the throngs of claim seekers waited with baited breath for their shot at the American dream. In the most literal sense, the Cherokee Strip Land Rush was a race for claims. The first person to secure the marker from its respective parcel would be entitled to ownership. They had come this far, it was now time to seal the deal.
In describing the Land Rush, John Edward Hicks in a September 14, 1968, article for the Kansas City Times, wrote, “ . . . the signal was given, the crowd burst over the line with a roar. Horsemen were unseated, wagons overturned, pedestrians trampled. There were cries of angry men, neighing of panic-stricken horses, shouts, curses, clatter of hoofs, and the rattle of wagons. It was truly pandemonium.
“The trains started, too, but with restrictions. They were allowed to travel only 15 miles an hour, with a stop every five minutes.
“Chivalry died that day on the prairie. When a stop was made and train doors were thrown open, men clambered over men to get out and stake a claim. Women were not spared, being sometimes trampled and their clothes torn.”
Albion resident, Herbert Neufer, was equally shocked by the wild scene aboard the trains. He wrote to his sister, “. . . the grandest sight I ever seen was a stock train of seventeen cars so covered with people that you could not see a bare spot on any of the cars, even the insides were filled with people but many of them suffered miseries untold because they jumped from the moving train. Women with arms and legs broken, men with fractured skulls, and many breathing the last agonies of death, all because they wished to receive a claim.”
By the end of day, the population with the Strip ballooned. Existing cities grew exponentially, while tent cities, some as large as 25,000 inhabitants, arose from virtual nothingness. Instant inflation permeated throughout the Strip. Lots which started the day ranging from $1.00 to $2.50 per acre were now being sold for $300 to $3,000.
The setting of that mid September sun brought a close to one of the wildest days in American history. Herbert Neufer summped up the day’s events as follows, “. . . the surrounding country was filled with dead men as well as horses; men quarreling over claims, horses dying from being overheated. You can imagine how many were killed when there were forty-seven coffins ordered in one day.” Whether participants, spectators, or Army personnel, none involved would ever forget that day, the day of the great Cherokee Strip Land Rush.
Accompanying the McCoy article were photographs with captions.
#1: Wagons Ready-Sept. 16, 1893. Cherokee Strip Land Rush. (Photo contributed by Bill Bottorff)
#2: Ready For The Run-Sept. 16, 1893 Cherokee Strip Land Rush (Photo contributed by Bill Bottorff)