The Cherokee Strip museum was our destination for the day. After stopping by Junction City for rations (groceries), we headed straight south on Hwy 77 through the middle of the Kansas Flint Hills to Arkansas City, Kansas. This is the same trip Dan's grandfather made over 114 years ago.
Although not as dramatic as the Flint Hills along and around I 70, through which we had just traveled to Junction City, it was still a very beautiful drive. Wide open spaces with farm land here and there between large expanses of native grass and clean, small towns. Winfield, Kansas, felt like we were driving into a burg right out of the 50s. The home of the annual bluegrass festival had a beautifully renovated downtown. County seat courthouses with their intricate architecture, have unexpected beauty in rural Kansas.
We pressed on as the museum closed at 5:00 and the afternoon was slipping away.
Dan’s grandfather, Fred, was an adventurous person. We know because he was one of more than 100,000 settlers who lined up to race by horseback or covered wagon for 42,000 claims in the 1893 Cherokee Strip Land Run or Rush.
Intended as an outlet to hunting lands in the west, the Cherokee Indians were given this 226 mile long and 58 mile wide parcel of land, called the Cherokee Outlet, in exchange for tribal lands in North Carolina. The Cheyenne, Arapaho and Comanche, also occupied the Cherokee land, were great hunters and recognized no boundaries. Conflicts arose and the land was relatively unused.
After the Civil War Texas cattlemen crossed the outlet along the Chisholm Trail, driving their herds to rail heads in the north. They often stopped to let their herds graze and fatten before continuing north. Soon they were staying too long for the Cherokee to ignore.
From 1883 until 1893 the Outlet was used to graze and fatten cattle because it was easier than driving them from Texas. The Cherokee Tribe received negotiated compensations, first from cattle ranchers then the Federal government.
Meanwhile, immigrants were flocking to the the East coast from Europe, many of them farmers hearing of promises of free land. It was during this time, the United States Government began talking to the Cherokee tribe about selling the Outlet. Finally, after believing they better sell rather than have the land taken, the Cherokee settled on $8.5 million. On the day before the deadline, congress appropriated $8.3 million.
The title cleared in May and on September 16, 1893, the Cherokee Outlet became the Cherokee Strip Land Rush.
As the story was told to me, Fred, a 22-year-old man who was not yet married or settled down, participated in the highly advertised land rush as speculative venture. He wanted eventually to buy a farm near his relatives in Kansas. Fred staked a claim, lived on it the prerequisite six months out of a year, sold it and purchased the farm where Dan’s father was raised near Junction City, Kansas.
We did not realize how fortunate Fred was to claim land. With less than one 160 parcel of land available for every two that rushed, many failed, some died.
Before the Rush, to avoid chaos, the Government opened four land offices inside the strip, one being Perry, which is where Fred filed his claim. He gave his address as Orlando.
It appears Fred traveled south through the strip and made his claim near Perry two days after the initial start. He gave his address as Orlando, Oklahoma, which makes me wonder he scouted his land selection before the rush. He might have been thorough, but he was not a "sooner." These were persons illegally staking a claim by hiding in the strip.
While the museum at Arkansas City, Kansas, was interesting, we did not find information as to the location of Fred’s settlement. Another time we will travel south to Perry Oklahoma to find their records. Our goal is to find the exact location of Fred’s claim.
The Oklahoma Historical Society is building a new Cherokee Strip museum at Perry with scheduled completion 2008. Although we won’t “rush” we will drive our modern day covered wagon to that location another time