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Development of the Two Territories

The same act of Congress which had made possible the settlement of the Oklahoma country also provided for the establishment of a Federal court for the Indian Territory. Before that time all Federal court cases from the Indian Territory had been taken to Fort Smith (Arkansas, Paris (Texas), or Whichaita (Kansas) for trial. The nuumber of Federal judges in the Indian Territory was increased to three, then to four and finally to eight.

In 1893, Congress provided for a permanent commission to treat the people of the five civilized tribes for the purpose of inducing them to abandon their tribal governments, accept allotments of land in severalty and become citizens of the United States. This commission, which was commonly called the Dawes Commission (former United States Senator Henry L. kDawes being its chairman), was a prominent factor in the Indian Territory from that time on until the Indian Territory was merged ianto the state of Oklahoma. The Dawes commission negotiated an agreement with the representatives of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations which was signed at Atoka, April 23, 1897. This document, which became popularly known as the Atoka Agreement", was the beginning of the end of tribal relations for the Choctaw and Chickasaw people. In June, 1898, Congres passed an act (commonly known as "the Curtis Act"), which made some sweeping changes in the Indian Territory. the tribal courts were abolished; provisions were made for the determination of the rights of tribal citizenship and the allotment of lands to the individual Indians, and for the appointment of townsite commissions in each of the tribes to survey and plat the sites of towns and villages and sell lots therein; the organization and incorporation of municipal governments was authorized; rules and regulations for the leasing of agricultural lands and of mineral deposits were prescribed. It was expressly provided that the tribal governments shoudl continue for eight years longer. Congress also provided that the scholls of the Indian territory should pass to the control of a Federal superintendent and subordinate supervisors.

Governor Seay was removed from office by President Cleveland, who filled a vacancy thus created by appointing William C. Renfro, of Norman, as governor of the Territory of Oklahoma, in May, 1893. At the end of Governor Renfrow's administration, President McKinley apponted Cassius M. Barnes, of Guthrie, who also served as governor of Oklahoma for the full term of four years. In 1901, President McKinnley appointed William M. Jenkins of Perry, )who had served during the preceding four years as secretary of the Territory), to the governorship. Governor Jenkins was removed from office by President Roosevelt after having served only seven months, and Thompson B. Ferguson, of Watonga, was appinted governor. At the expiration of Governor Ferguson's term of four years, President Roosevelt appointed Captain Frank Frantz, of Enid, who was the last governor of Oklahoma Territory, serving until the end of the territorial period.

In 1892, Dennis T. Flynn, of Guthrie, the republicn nominee, was elected as territorial delegate to Congress. Mr. Flynn was re-elected. In 1896, James Y. Callahan, of Dover, Kingfisher County, who was the nominee of both the Democratic and Populist parties, was elected as delegate to Congress. In the 1898 and again in 1900, Dennis T. Flynn was re-elected to the position. In 1902, Bird S. McGuire, of Pawnee, the republican nominee, was elected as delegate to Congress and, two years later, was re-elected, serving until the end of the territorial period.

In the First Legislative Assembly, which was in session for five months, beginning August 27, 1890, three political parties, namely Democratic, Republican and Farmers' Alliance, were represented. However, political lines and differenceswere practically forgotten in the struggle over the location of the capital. In the Second Legislative Assembly, which convened in January, 1893, and in the Third Legislative Assembly, two years later, the republicans controlled both houses. In the fourth, Legislative Assembly, which was in session at Guthrie, in 1897, the democrats adn populists were in overwhelming control. In the Fifth Legislative Assembly, in 1899, the republicans had strong majorities in both houses. In the Sixth Legislative Assembly, in 1901, the democrats had a majority in Council and the republicans controlled the HOuse. During this session occurred the struggle over the proposed location of a number of state institutions which caused much better feeling. The "Public Building Bill", as the measure was called, proposed the establishment of the Southwestern Normal School, the University Preparatory School, a penitentiary, and several other institutions. After the longest and bitterest struggle in territorial legislative history since the memorable fight on the location of the capital in the First Legislative Assembly, the "Public Building Bill" passed both houses but was finally vetoed by Governor Barnes. In the Seventh Legislative Assembly, in 1903, the republicans organized and controlled the Council, while the democrats had a working majority in the HOuse of Representatives. The republicans had a strong majority in both houses of the Eighth Legislative Assembly, which was the last in the territorial period.

The surplus lands of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indian reservations were opened to settlement on April 19, 1892. The Cherokee Outlet (or Cherokee Strip, as it was commonly called) and the surplus lands of the Pawnee an Tonkawa Indian reservations were thrown open to settlement on September 16, 1893. The surplus lands of the kickapoo Indian reservation were thrown open to settlement by executive proclamation on May 25, 1895. The opening of the Cheyenne and Arapaho country added six new counties to the organized part of Oklahoma Territory, which were designated by letter as counties "C", "D", "E", "F", "G" and "H". These counties were afterward named Blaine, Dewey, Day, Roger Mills, Custer and Washita. The opening of the Cherokee Outlet added seven new counties to the Territory, which were designated by letter as counties "K", "L", "M", "N", "O", "P" and "Q". These were afterward named Kay, Grant, Woods, Woodward, Garfield, Noble and Pawnee. Ther surplus lands of the Kickapoo Indian reservation were opened to settlement May 25, 1895. The Greer County case having been decided against the claims of the state of Texas, by the United States Supreme Court, in March, 1896, Greer County was reorganized under the laws of Oklahoma shortly afterward.

The Sac and Fox, Iowa, Pottawatomie-Shawnee, Cheyenne-Arapaho, Pawnee, Tonkawa and Kickapoo Indian reservations and the lands of the Cherokee Outlet were all opened at a given hour and in each case there was a wild race and scramble for the most desirable homestead claims. Conflicting claims, disputes, quarrels and lawsuits were so numerous that it was determined that the method of opening other reservations to settlement should be on a different plan. So when the Indians of the Comanche-Kiowa and Wichita-Caddo reservations were induced to take allotments and permit the surplus lands of those reservations to be thrown open to settlement, it was arranged that each intending settler should register at the Government land offices in El Reno and Lawton; that the names of each should be enclosed in large boxes, to be mounted on axes so that they could be shuffled and mixed and that, then, as they were drawn out, the persons should be permitted to select and file on their homestead claims in order as their names were drawn. This unique "land lottery", as it was called, practically closed the homesteading era in Oklahoma. From the lands of these reservations three new counties - Caddo, Comanche and Kiowa - were organized.

 

Ann Maloney, Bartlesville, OK.
Copyright © 1998 Ann Maloney all rights reserved.  

 

 

 

 

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