The First Eight Months of Oklahoma City.
SUNDAY BEFORE MONDAY, APRIL 22d. 1889.
When the bright sun rose in a cloudless sky Sunday morning, April 21, 1889, a special train was side tracked on the switch near the section house, south of the Oklahoma City depot. It had arrived late Saturday night carrying four companies of United States infantry, who were to preserve peace on the following day, for it was the time set apart in the President's proclamation for the opening of Oklahoma Territory-which lies almost in the heart of the Indian Territory about equally distant from Kansas and Texas.
Oklahoma City on that Sunday morning contained but seven houses, viz: the depot, section house, post office building, a government building, home of the railway agent, boarding house and an old stockade used by a stage company for an office. A beautiful and un-broken stretch of greensward lay in the bend of the North Canadian River and everything was remarkably serene and quiet. It was the calm before the storm.
Brigadier-General Merritt-commanding the department of the Missouri-with his staff, in a private car, smoked good cigars and complacently surveyed the scene.
After the lesser lights of the great military arm of the government had breakfasted upon cold beans and hard bread, they were ordered out of the cars; made to unload their tents and trappings; fall in, and march up the hill
north-east of the depot, where they went into camp. A troop of the Fifth cavalry occupied the high ground just east of the infantry, and in a short time horsemen and footmen were mingling together and sympathizing with one another in the mutual distress of eating hard tack and sleeping on the beautiful green ground that glowed with centipedes and sparkled with wet, wet dew.
The Sabbath wore away till about three o'clock in the afternoon when the Santa Fe railroad officials became visibly pregnant with the idea that the boomers, who were collected on the southern borders of the territory, were going to burn the road's bridge across the South Canadian river. They communicated this wonderful idea by telegraph to General Merritt, who communicated it to one of his aides, who communicated it by messenger to the battalion commander who communicated it to his adjutant, who ordered his sergeant major-officers never communicate with enlisted men-to make out a detail of two non-commissioned officers and four privates, commanded by a lieutenant-with orders that they repair by first train to the bridge in question, and there, with the stars and stripes majestically floating from the ramrods of their rifles, guard, preserve and protect-on half rations-in the great name of the peace and dignity of the United States, the Santa Fe's bridge across the dark and tempestuous waters of the South Canadian.
The south bound train was three hours late that evening and it was after dark when it arrived. It was loaded down with eager, excited people and many of them at-tempted to get off-but the guard of soldiers at the depot kept them in the cars-although it is believed a few escaped to the timber in the darkness. Long freight trains arrived almost every hour in the day and left the side tracks packed with cars filled with lumber, household goods, houses in sections, merchandise of all kinds-sent on before, by persons in the various states and territories, who expected to arrive at noon the next day. Sun-day night a guard consisting of one non-commissioned officer and two privates, was placed around the car of the department commander and this was continued till the general and his staff withdrew from the country some two weeks later. There were no services of a religious character held that day from the simple fact that no one in the place at the time felt capable of "leading the meeting."
The soldiers held a kind of open air concert in the woods that afternoon, but it cannot be said that this choral demonstration was in strict conformity to the rules of church discipline. The day was spent by those having
nothing to do in speculation as to what the morrow would bring forth and it did surely bring forth more than had been expected, for, when it came, and the word was passed around that it was noon-twelve o'clock-there was such a rush and roar of excited humanity as was never before heard or seen in all the rack and jam of this old world. The storm was on.