Under the blanket of a cloudless blue sky, thousands of land-hungry settlers waited with restless patience, eager for a jump-start on opportunity.
At noon, April 22, 1889, a bugle sounded, a cannon roared, and a gunshot rang out, signaling the start of Oklahoma Land Rush.
Some said the ground shook as horses, wagons, and men, women, and children on foot kicked up clouds of red dust stampeding across what was once known as Indian Territory.
Waiting beyond the horizon were more than two-million acres of land for non-Indian settlement on a first-come basis.
Fifty-thousand hopeful settlers, from all walks of life and ethnic origins, raced hell-bent-for-leather to stake claims, even thought there were less than 12,000 homesteads available.
On March 23, 1889, newly-elected President Benjamin Harrison declared the two-million-acre parcel of Unassigned Lands open for settlement.
The borders of this region, situated in the central part of Indian Territory, came about through a series of treaties with Indian tribes.
Under the provisions of the Homestead Act of 1862, a settler could claim 160 acres of public land, and could receive title if they lived on and improved the land for five years.
The settlers aiming to stake claims were known as Boomers.
The ones who sneaked into the territory early, and illegally, to register choice sections of property with land offices were dubbed Sooners, who often occupied the most favorable sections of land.
The bitter disputes over the land were often settled by violence. Many court cases over the disputed land dragged into the 20th century before the U.S. Dept. of Interior got the go-ahead to settle them.
The land rush proved so successful that by the end of the day it started, April 22nd, entire cities sprang up, and others experienced population explosions.
Guthrie grew from a railroad station to a town of 10,000. And, settlers established Oklahoma City the same day, also with a population of about 10,000 residents.
According to Harper's Weekly, in about a one-half day, "…streets had been laid out, town lots staked off, and steps taken toward the formation of a municipal government."
Sixteen years later, white Americans owned most of the land in Indian Territory. In 1907, the territory entered the Union when Oklahoma became a state on November 17, 1907.
Except for the panhandle, all of Oklahoma previously had been set aside for the Indians displaced from other part of the country. Among them, the Five Civilized Tribes - the Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole - so named because of their willingness to abide by white laws.
The Land Rush of 1889, and two subsequent land grabs, made the Indians casualties of this enormous occupation juggernaut, which forced them onto reservations.
Washington took our lands and promised to feed and support us. Now I, who used to control 5,000 warriors, must tell Washington when I am hungry. I must beg for that which I own…My heart is heavy. I am old, I cannot do much more.
—Sioux leader Red Cloud, as an old man, recorded by anthropologist Warren K. Moorehead who spoke with the chief at his home in Pine Ridge.