American artist John Steuart Curry painted this mural of the Oklahoma Land Rush almost 50 years after the event. Curry has idealized the rush, which was really a mad dash for free land in what is now Oklahoma. (Yes, there were even bicycles!)
Mural by John Steuart Curry, courtesy Library of Congress

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    On April 22, 1889, thousands of Americans rushed into unclaimed territory in what is now known as the Oklahoma Land Rush.
    About two million acres of what the government called “Unassigned Lands” had recently been opened for settlement. These lands had previously been “Indian Territory” occupied by the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole people. 
    The Oklahoma Land Rush drew about 50,000 people. At noon, they rushed into the Unassigned Lands on foot, on horseback, on bicycles, and in wagons. Some people actually cheated and hid in the Unassigned Lands before they officially opened for settlement—these were the “Sooners,” now a nickname for Oklahomans.
    Sooners and other settlers were rushing to establish homesteads. Settlers could claim up to 160 acres for a homestead. As long as the settler stayed on the land and improved it—through agriculture, residency, or industry—they would own it.
    The population in what is now the state of Oklahoma swelled. The towns of Oklahoma City and Guthrie did not exist before April 22. By the end of the day, they each had 10,000 residents. Within a month, the region had working schools, banks, and newspapers. Within a year, the region was renamed the “Oklahoma Territory.”
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    agriculture Noun

    the art and science of cultivating the land for growing crops (farming) or raising livestock (ranching).

    Encyclopedic Entry: agriculture
    establish Verb

    to form or officially organize.

    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    homestead Noun

    area of land including a dwelling and any outbuildings, such as barns.

    industry Noun

    activity that produces goods and services.

    previous Adjective

    earlier, or the one before.

    region Noun

    any area on Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.

    Encyclopedic Entry: region
    settlement Noun

    community or village.

    territory Noun

    land an animal, human, or government protects from intruders.