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Early-day resident Fred Reed was a true Sooner. Born in 1869, he was just six months shy of the legal age of 21 when the news came to him in Larned, Kansas that land in the Indian Territory would soon be open for settlement to anyone with a fast pony, a wagon, and enough gumption to leave home and hearth behind and make a new start in a wild land.
In his memoirs of the trip to Oklahoma, Reed writes:
"We decided on covered wagons as the best way to reach our destination. For awhile everything went just fine until we ran into rain storms which caused swollen creeks, but finally we made it to Arkansas City."
The worst obstacle of the trek, Reed recalled, was the Salt Fork of the Arkansas which had jumped its banks because of the heavy rains. There were no horse or wagon bridges or ferries at the time, so Reed and company had to push their wagons across the railroad bridge, laying planks between the rails for the horses to walk on, leading the team a short distance, and then retrieving the planks to put them ahead of the wagons as they inched their way over the raging river, ever on the lookout for an oncoming train.
After that, the crossing of the Red Rock and Black Bear creeks seemed easy, although they, too, were in very dangerous condition, according to Reed. But after the trauma of the journey, the travelers made it to the line with three days to rest before the time set for the opening.
"There we waited for the time when the guns of the soldiers would officially proclaim Oklahoma to settlement," Reed writes.
Unfortunately for the young man, the guns sounded six months too soon. According to government regulations, a person had to be at least 21 years of age in order to stake a claim legally. But, if there was any unoccupied land at the end of the run, the underaged person could take over the claim as long as the right to the property went uncontested, Reed was told.
So a few days after the first crunch of settlers, the enterprising Reed found a claim unoccupied [near what later became Orlando in Logan County] and put his covered wagon on it, "just like any squatter would do," he writes, "and waited for developments."
A short time later, Reed was told that a man named Short had filed on the property, leaving Reed, in his words, "high and dry."
Without a claim of his own to work, Reed good-naturedly put in a lot of time behind the plow for his father, Emanuel Reed, and a Charles Teel, reserving plenty of time for two of his favorite hobbies, hunting and fishing.
In the latter part of June 1889, Reed moved to Norman, which at that time consisted of tents and some wooden buildings. He later attended the fledgling University of Oklahoma and became a licensed pharmacist and prominent drug store owner in Norman.
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Last Updated, 2009