The 1890's saw a great depression rock the United States, financially
and emotionally challenging families. Out west the vast open territory
known as the Cherokee Outlet beckoned them with promise of providing
land to feed and shelter them.
Soon word spread across the land that the Cherokee Outlet would be opened. The opening would be a "run" which later became known as the "greatest horse race ever."
Immigrants and citizens from all over the United States, loaded their belongings into wagons and on the back of horses. They headed for the promised land where they could "...get land for nothing'" As these hopefuls swarmed the Kansas and Oklahoma Territorial borders, they impatiently waited for the Cherokee Outlet to be opened.
The Homestead Act of 1862 made surveyed lands obtainable to homesteaders. The act stated that men over the age of 21, unmarried women who were head of households (i.e. widows) and married men under the age of 21, who did not own over 160 acres of land anywhere, were citizens or intended on becoming citizens of the United States, were eligible to homestead. Homeseekers had to register in advance of the "run".
Participants were to provide their names, addresses, ages, and a description of themselves, along with their signature on an affidavit that they would not enter the Outlet before noon September 16, 1893.
Lines in front of registration booths grew long very quickly. Rain had not blessed the area during the hot summer months so high heat and dust were the order of the day, taking its toll on contestants.
Successful contestants had six months to prove up their claims. Most did not leave their claims unattended due to "claim jumpers". After five years, surviving claimants could secure a patent deed by appearing at the land office and making the final proof of residence, paying $1.25 to $1.50 per acre and a land office fee of $7.00.
Many claimants did not survive the five years required for ownership but instead left, discouraged and depressed. The hardships endured in the Cherokee Outlet were many. Those that survived saw Dennis Flynn's Free Homes Bill relieve them of final payments. These survivors saw the land of plenty, the Outlet provide for them. They were the pioneers who were the substance of Oklahoma history.