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1893 Cherokee Strip Land Run
It’s Saturday night, September 16, 1893, in Hutchinson, Kansas, at the Reno County sheriff’s residence, 15 Avenue East. Roscoe, 3; Ethel, 10; Victor 12; Bud (John Jr.), 13, and Mabel, 15, are in bed. John, 37, and Jennie Jones, 35, take a minute to reflect on the day.
“This would have been a bad day to count noses for a census,” said John. “I wonder how many families we’ll lose to the Strip.”
“Those with claims today have a long row to hoe,” said Jenny. “They expect fortune and happiness, not disappointment and suffering. You and I know a thing or two about settling in a new country. It sounds easy until you arrive.”
In 1875, John Wesley Jones, single, born in Macomb, Illinois, drove his covered wagon west of Langdon into Grove Township, and established a homestead. A year later, Eliza “Jennie” Johnson, with her parents, arrived in Reno County, having migrated from Illinois and then Missouri, before planting deep roots in the Langdon area.
John, 21, and Jennie, 19, married October 3, 1877.
“Between those visiting the World’s Fair in Chicago, and those either participating in, or observing the land run today, our town’s half-asleep,” said Jenny. “I saw a number of closed signs at businesses.”
“Our office stayed open,” said John, “but let’s hope the wild ones are busy staking claims. The Boomers will have some lawless days and nights ahead even though most of the participants have an honest desire to provide for themselves and their family.
“The settlers will knock together a house in which to pass the winter, will gather what prairie hay has been left by the prairie fires and hot winds, and will begin to transform the country into a community.”
“During this financial depression and labor troubles, the land rush is appealing to many,” said Jennie. “But, with this drought, when the going gets tough or they run out of money, they’ll return here looking for work.”
Jennie recalled a recent conversation she had with Eva Belle Dix Potter, 19, wife of James Chamellis Potter, 28.
“For some time, ‘Mellis’ and his brother, Elmer, have been planning on participating in the Land Run. They chose not to be part of the first Oklahoma land rush in ‘89, but this time they had their minds set on it.
“Eva said that land fever runs in the family,” continued Jennie. “Their father, Adam, visited here in 1872 when the county was just started. He was impressed with the buffalo herds and fertile prairie. Adam caught the Kansas fever. In 1877 he pre-empted a quarter section of land in Loda Township. The following spring, he and his wife, Rosannah, arrived. That’s when three of their children also pre-empted a quarter section each.”
“I had the fever, too,” said John. “At least the Boomers already have railroads in the country for delivering building supplies.”
“Eva asked Mellis if they were going to live in a dugout or a soddie,” said Jennie.
“What did he say?” asked John, imagining Eva encountering bedbugs and a leaky roof until a proper dwelling was built.
“Mellis promised Eva that he’d dismantle their house in Loda, haul it to the Strip in wagons, and reassemble it on their claim,” answered Jennie. “But it still means she’ll be leaving her parents, siblings, and neighbors.”
Click on the link to see the house that James C. Potter built in Loda Township, Reno County, Kansas, and rebuilt near Jet, Oklahoma, after claiming 160 acres in the 1893 Cherokee Strip Land Run. Homestead near Jet Oklahoma in 1900
“I hope they find some good land,” said John. “The eastern part of the Strip is the rich farmland, with water and timberland. It costs $2.50 an acre. The middle portion is fair land for $1.50 an acre, and the western division is good for little but cattle grazing, so it costs $1.00.”
“They were planning on entering the Enid Land District,” said Jennie. “They planned to register at Cameron for a certificate. After staking out a homestead, they will go to the land office in Alva to file their claim. I just hope Sooners don’t get there before them.”
“It sounds like those who watched the start of the Land Run today were pleased with the experience, except for the burning sun and packed train cars,” said Eva. “As the time approached noon, the sightseers said they kept looking back and forth from their watches to the crowd of Boomers. Finally, the revolvers of the U.S. Army officers fired their guns and a white flag was raised.
“Some of the Boomers were mounted on thoroughbred racers, others on sure-footed cow ponies, and a few on safety bicycles. Many started the race in buggies, wagons, or on foot.”
“Trains were also a choice,” added John, “especially if they wanted land near the railroad.
“Even though I wasn’t there,” John continued, “I can imagine the pandemonium, the shouting of Boomers, neighing of frightened horses, cracking of whips, creaking of prairie schooners, rattling of wheels, clatter of hoofs, and the explosion of firearms.”
“And I can see, smell, and taste the dust,” added Jennie, as the tip of her tongue protruded from her mouth, testing the air. “I’m glad we’re home.”
“Do you miss the excitement of a new start somewhere else?” asked Jennie, already knowing her husband’s answer.
“Oh, no,” answered John, “I promised you. I’ll settle for wrapping up this sheriff’s job in the next four months and going home to Grove County to raise crops and stock. No more political campaigns for me. Four years is enough, don’t you think?”
Historical Note: Technically, the 1893 Land Run (or Rush) referred to the Cherokee Outlet, not the Cherokee Strip. There was a difference, although back in 1893 the term “Cherokee Strip Land Run” was the most common name. The Cherokee Strip was actually just two miles wide. It became the southern edge of Kansas. The Cherokee Outlet, just south of the Strip, was 225 miles long, 58 miles wide, encompassing six million acres. This is the area where the 1893 Land Run took place with over 100,000 people participating.
Another Note: The 1893 Land Run was not offered to the Boomers for free because the US government had purchased the land from the Cherokee. The Outlet was “purchased,” by the US government but it was a forced sale. In 1890, after President Benjamin Harrison forbade all grazing on the Outlet, the Cherokee were prevented from profiting on leasing the land to cattlemen any longer. The law had already stated that the Cherokee could hunt, but not live on the Outlet. With the tightening restrictions, the Cherokee recognized they’d been down this trail before when they had lived in the southeastern US, and were finally forcibly removed in 1838. In the Oklahoma Territory, the Cherokee chose to sell the land before it was stolen by gradual encroachment by whites.
Until next time, happy writing and reading.
Hal Ottaway says
I loved this….wow…Thanks Jim for writing and sharing this with everyone here. “This is GREAT”….as Tony the Tiger would say.
Jim Potter says
Thanks, Hal. It was fun. I’ve said it before, but I knew my great-grandfather. He was born during the Civil War!
Jim Potter says
Hal, you probably know that in 1905 Prettyman sold his studio and thousands of his negatives to George M. Cornish. Many of the negatives were taken over several years of Native Americans in the Oklahoma Territory. These photos are a treasure to understanding the Native American culture.
Miriam Iwashige says
Jim, do you have more information on the Prettyman who had a studio in town? One of our daughters-in-law was a Prettyman from Washington state. I didn’t know anyone by that name ever lived in this area. I think her father told us that his ancestors traveled west from Wisconsin to Washington.
Jim Potter says
I don’t know that he ever lived in Reno County. I think it was Maryland to Emporia to Ark City to the Territory. He was amazing in that he made friends with the Indians and took many photos of them in their cultural element. Those photos are an important source of pride to the Natives and helpful in historical research. What’ s the first names of her Prettyman grandparents?
Miriam Iwashige says
I’ll see what I can find out. I actually met her grandfather but I don’t remember his name!
Jim Potter says
William Seldon Prettyman (1858-1933) was born in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland. His wife’s name was Mary Emma (1866-1916). They had three boys: Donald Harry, Ross William, & Raymond Thomas. They married in 1885. In 1895 they lived in Arkansas City, KS. In 1900 the family lived in Blackwekk, OKlahoma.
Miriam Iwashige says
I’ll relay this information to the Prettymans I know. Thanks.