Race for Free Land Led to Settlement

Cherokee Strip Land Run opened area for settlement, and thousands waited on horseback and in covered wagons for race for free land.

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When I was about 9 years old, the Cherokee Strip in Oklahoma was being opened for settlement. Most old folks will remember that great race for free land. Days and weeks before the date, people on horseback, in buggies, covered wagons and vehicles of every sort were camped on the Kansas border to make ready for the race.

My father and my oldest sister's husband decided to leave our homestead in northern Nebraska and make the race. They took a horse each and started for the Kansas border.

They left my mother, my oldest sister, a grown brother and six younger children to pack and bring the belongings if they won some land. A few days after the race, we received word that Father had won a tract of 160 acres.

There was a lot of scrambling around. We had raised our own wheat and had flour ground at the mill. One wagon was loaded mostly with 100-pound sacks of flour. My sister, about 20, drove one wagon. It was slow traveling, and we averaged about 20 miles a day.

We'd never seen apples growing on trees, and when we passed orchard country we thought we were in the land of promise. I remember how we spread a cloth on the ground to eat, and we children sat on the wagon tongue with our food.

After a long, hard trip we landed in Blackwell, Oklahoma, where my father had bought some town lots and built a small house while we were on the road. We lived there until he had time to make a dugout on the land he had won in the race.

Mrs. J.L. Veatch
Dalhart, Texas

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then CAPPER’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.