Ever wonder how the “Sooners” got their name? It had to do with the Oklahoma Land Runs from 1889-1895. You might have caught sight of some “Sooners” in the movie “Far and Away” (with Nicole Kidman as “Shannon” and Tom Cruise as “Joseph”). This is a great movie about the Oklahoma Land Runs. Shannon’s parents were “Sooners” because they didn’t wait for the starting gun, but instead illegally snuck onto the land early, beating out the ones who obeyed the law.
The Oklahoma Land Runs were a series of runs set up as a way for the federal government to give away 160 acres of land to each settler in the western part of the state.
The first run was held on April 22, 1889. Potential settlers lined up along the Arkansas and Texas borders for the chance to run and stake a claim. As the clock struck noon, they raced across the land to stake their claim.
The land run featured in the movie occurred on 16 September 1893. One hundred thousand people showed up to claim six million acres. In the movie when Joseph claims his spot of land he declares, “This land is mine – mine by destiny.”
The last land run was 1895.
You can read all about the Oklahoma Land Runs at the Cornell University website “The Rush to Oklahoma.” The USGenWeb has a page dedicated to the land run as well. Google has posted images from this day, both photo and artists renditions.
If you have Oklahoma ancestors, you will love the new genealogy page on TravelOK.com. The site includes a fantastic map by the Oklahoma Historical Society Research Center concerning the Oklahoma Land Runs:
Oklahoma Land Run Claims are filed with the Land Entry Case Files (Inventory No. 22) at the National Archives.
Do you have any family members that may have participated in the Oklahoma Land Runs?
I’d like to acknowledge Dick Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter for August 13, 2011, which inspired me to include the above land map.