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 previous
ly 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 homestead
s. 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.”