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Oklahoma is a state of the south-central United States. It was admitted as the 46th state in 1907. First explored by the Spanish, it was opened to settlement in 1889. The western part was organized in 1890 as the Oklahoma Territory, which was merged with the adjoining Indian Territory to form the present state boundaries. The Dust Bowl of the 1930s forced many farmers to move west as migrant laborers. Oklahoma City is the capital and the largest city. Population: 3,540,000.

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History

The Native American Heritage

Oklahoma Sooners

Oklahoma's Native American population is the largest in the nation—252,420 at the 1990 census. Several indigenous cultures existed in the area before the first European visited in 1541. Francisco Coronado almost certainly crossed Oklahoma in that year, and Hernando De Soto may have visited E Oklahoma. Later Juan de Oñate passed through W Oklahoma, and some other Spanish explorers and traders and French traders from Louisiana visited the region, but there was no development of the area. Tribes of the Plains cultures—Osage, Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache—dominated the west; the Wichita and other relatively sedentary tribes lived farther east. It is asserted that the first European trading post was established at Salina by the Chouteau family of St. Louis before the territory was transferred to the United States by the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, but the land remained in control of the sparse and nomadic native population. For the most part only traders, official explorers (notably Stephen H. Long), and scientific and curious travelers (among them Washington Irving and George Catlin) came into the present-day state.

Indian Territory

In 1819 the Adams-Onís Treaty with Spain defined Oklahoma as the southwestern boundary of the United States. After the War of 1812 the U.S. government invited the Cherokee of Georgia and Tennessee to move into the area, and a few had come to settle. Soon intense white pressure for their lands, with the approval of President Andrew Jackson, forced the Cherokee and the others of the Five Civilized Tribes (the Choctaw, the Chickasaw, the Creek, and the Seminole) to abandon their old homes east of the Mississippi and to take up residence in what was to become the Indian Territory. Their tragic removal is known as the Trail of Tears. They settled on the hills and little prairies of the eastern section and built separate organized states and communities. The Cherokee particularly had a highly Europeanized culture, with a written language, invented by their great leader Sequoyah, and highly developed institutions. Some of the Cherokee were slaveholders and ran their agricultural properties in the traditional Southern plantation pattern; others were small farmers. The Five Civilized Tribes clashed briefly with the Plains Indians, particularly the Osage, but they were for a time free from white interference, and they were able to establish a civilization that strongly affected the whole history of the region. The troubles of the whites did not, however, long escape them, and the Civil War was a major disaster. Although no major battle of the war was fought in present-day Oklahoma, there were numerous skirmishes. Most Native Americans allied themselves with the Confederacy, but Unionist disaffection was widespread, and individual violence was so prevalent that many fled, leaving their farms to desolation. As a punishment for taking the Confederate side the Five Civilized Tribes lost the western part of the Indian Territory, and the federal government began assigning lands there to such landless eastern tribes as the Delaware and the Shawnee, as well as to nomadic Plains tribes, who put up strong resistance before they were subdued and settled on reservations. The territory was plagued by lawlessness and served as a hideout for white outlaws. After the establishment of a federal court at Fort Smith, Isaac Parker became famous as the hanging judge.

Cattle, Railroads, and Boomers

Immediately after the Civil War the long drives of cattle from Texas to the Kansas railroad head began to cross Oklahoma, traveling over the cattle trails that became part of Western folklore. The best known was the Chisholm Trail. The cattle were fattened on the virgin ranges of Oklahoma, and cattlemen began to look on the grasslands with speculative and covetous eyes. The first railroad to cross Oklahoma was built between 1870 and 1872, and thereafter it was not possible to keep white settlers out. They came despite proscriptive laws and treaties with the Native Americans, and by the 1880s there was a strong admixture of whites. In addition, ranches were developed that were nominally owned by Native Americans, but actually controlled by white cattlemen and their cowboys. The region quickly took on a tinge of the Old West of the cattle frontier, a tinge that it has never wholly lost. In the 1880s land-hungry frontier farmers, the boomers, agitated to obtain the unassigned lands in the western section—the lands not given to any Native American tribe. The agitation succeeded, and a large strip was opened for settlement in 1889. Prospective settlers lined up on the territorial border, and at high noon they were allowed to cross on a run to compete in finding and claiming the best lands. Those who illegally entered ahead of the set time were the nicknamed the sooners. Later other strips of territory were opened, and settlers poured in from the Midwest and the South.

Oklahoma Territory and Statehood

The western section of what is now the state of Oklahoma became the Oklahoma Territory in 1890; it included the Panhandle, the narrow strip of territory that, taken from Texas by the Compromise of 1850, had become a no-man's-land where settlers came in undisturbed. In 1893 the Dawes Commission was appointed to implement a policy of dividing the tribal lands into individual holdings; the Native Americans resisted, but the policy was finally enforced in 1906. The wide lands of the Indian Territory were thus made available to whites. The Civilized Tribes made the best of a poor bargain, and the Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory were united in 1907 to form the state of Oklahoma, with a constitution that included provision for initiative and referendum. Already the oil boom had reached major proportions, and the young state was on the verge of great economic development. At the same time, cotton, wheat, and corn were major money crops, and cattleland holdings, although shrinking, were still enormous.

The Dust Bowl

In World War I the great demand for farm products brought an agricultural boom to the state, but in the 1920s the state fell upon hard times. Recurrent drought burned the wheat in the fields, and overplanting, overgrazing, and unscientific cropping aided the weather in making Oklahoma part of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Farm tenancy increased in the 1920s, and in both the east and west the farms tended more and more to be held by large interests and to be consolidated in large blocks. A great number of tenant farmers were compelled to leave their dust-stricken farms and went west as migrant laborers; the tragic plight of these Okies is the theme of John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath. With the return of rains, however, and with increasing care in selecting crops and in conserving and utilizing water and soil resources, much of the Dust Bowl again became productive farm land. The demand for food in World War II and federal price supports for agricultural products after the war further aided farm prosperity.

Irrigation and an Oil Boom

Large state and federal programs for conserving river water and, at the same time, meeting irrigation needs have resulted in such constructions as the reservoir impounded by the Kerr Dam on the Arkansas River. For the most part, these programs resulted in improved agricultural conditions and created new recreation areas. In 1971 the opening of the Oklahoma portion of the Arkansas River Navigation System gave the cities of Muskogee and Tulsa (at its port Catoosa) direct access to the sea. Oklahoma experienced another boom during the 1970s when oil prices rose dramatically. In the mid-1980s, however, Oklahoma's economy was hurt (as it had been in the 1930s) by dependence on a single industry, as oil prices fell rapidly.

Trivia

  • The world's first installed parking meter was in Oklahoma City, on July 16, 1935. Carl C. Magee, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, is generally credited with originating the parking meter. He filed for a patent for a "coin controlled parking meter" on May 13, 1935.
  • Vinita is the oldest incorporated town on Oklahoma Route 66 being established in 1871. Vinita was the first town in Oklahoma to enjoy electricity. Originally named Downingville. The towns name was later changed to Vinita, in honor of Vinnie Ream, the sculptress who created the life-size statue of Lincoln at the United States Capitol.
  • During a tornado in Ponca City, a man and his wife were carried aloft in their house by a tornado. The walls and roof were blown away. But the floor remained intact and eventually glided downward, setting the couple safely back on the ground.
  • The Amateur Softball Association of America - a volunteer-driven, not-for-profit organization based in Oklahoma City, OK - was founded in 1933 and has evolved into the strongest softball organization in the country.
  • A statue entitled "Hopes and Dreams," in downtown Perry was created by local sculptor Bill Bennett and placed there on a massive granite pedestal as a Cherokee Strip Centennial memorial. The statue portrays an early-day couple coming to the newly opened western frontier.
  • Turner Falls Park in Davis is the oldest park in Oklahoma. Many springs from the world famous Arbuckle Mountains form Honey Creek that cascades down a seventy-seven foot fall to a natural swimming pool making the majestic Turner Falls the largest waterfall in Oklahoma.
  • There is an operating oil well on state capitol grounds called Capitol Site No. 1.
  • Anadarko is home to the only authentic Indian City in the United States. It is located in the beautiful Washita river valley in southwest Oklahoma.
  • In 1998, a life size statue of a cattle drive, titled "On the Chisholm Trail," was set in place in Duncan as a monument to the American Cowboy.
  • Phillip H. Sheridan, George A. Custer and William T. Sherman were the founders of the USA's main artillery fort at Fort Sill.
  • Born in 1879 on a large ranch in the Cherokee Nation near what later would become Oologah, Oklahoma, Will Rogers was first an Indian, a cowboy then a national figure. Will Rogers was a star of Broadway and 71 movies of the 1920s and 1930s, a popular broadcaster and wrote more than 4,000 syndicated newspaper columns.
  • A life-size statue stands in honor of Astronaut Thomas P. Stafford in Weatherford.
  • Boise City, Oklahoma was the only city in the United States to be bombed during World War II. On Monday night, July 5, 1943, at approximately 12:30 a.m., a B-17 Bomber based at Dalhart Army Air Base (50 miles to the south of Boise City) dropped six practice bombs on the sleeping town.
  • Choctaw is the oldest chartered town in Oklahoma. Choctaw gained status as a town in 1893.
  • Okmulgee owns the world record for largest pecan pie, pecan cookie, pecan brownie, and biggest ice cream and cookie party. Each June, Okmulgee rolls out the welcome mat to thousands of its closest friends as the annual Pecan Festival comes to town.
  • The National Cowboy Hall of Fame is located in Oklahoma City.
  • The town of Beaver claims to be the Cow Chip Throwing Capital of the World. It is here that the World Championship Cow Chip Throw is held each April.
  • An Oklahoman, Sylvan Goldman, invented the first shopping cart.
  • Known as the Antique Capital of Oklahoma, Jenks is home to the state's best variety of: Antique Stores, Gift Shops, Galleries, Museums, Crafters Malls, and Collectible Retailers.
  • The first capital of Oklahoma was in Guthrie, but was moved later to Oklahoma City following a vote of the people.
  • Originally Indian Territory, the state of Oklahoma was opened to settlers in a "Land Rush" in 1889. On a given date, prospective settlers would be allowed into the territory to claim plots of land by grabbing the stakes marking each plot. A few of these settlers entered to claim land before the official start of the land run; these cheaters were called "Sooners".
  • Tahlequah, Oklahoma is the Tribal capital of the Cherokee Nation.
  • Located on the south shores of Grand Lake O' the Cherokees between Langley and Disney. The Pensacola Dam was built in 1940 and is still the World's Longest Multiple Arch Dam. Length of dam/spillway ... 6,565 feet. Length of multiple-arch section ... 4,284 feet. Pensacola Dam was the first hydroelectric facility in Oklahoma.
  • Bob Dunn a musician from Beggs invented the first electric guitar 1935.
  • Spiro Mounds, Oklahoma's only archaeological park, is a 140-acre site encompassing 12 southern mounds that contain evidence of an Indian culture that occupied the site from 850 A.D. to 1450 A.D. The Mounds are considered one of the four most important prehistoric Indian sites east of the Rocky Mountains.
  • Garth Brooks was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He grew up in Yukon, Oklahoma.
  • WKY Radio was the first radio station transmitting from west of the Mississippi River.
  • A Spanish Colonial Revival building serves as the backdrop for Ponca City's Centennial Plaza, dedicated during the 100th anniversary celebration of the 1893 Land Run. The Plaza features the Centennial Monument by Jo Saylors, surrounded by 7,000 named bricks, a statue of E.W. Marland, a War Memorial Fountain, Fire Station No. 1 and City Hall.
  • State Motto: Labor Omnia Vincit {Labor Conquers All Things}
  • Belle Starr one of the most famous women outlaws is buried in an isolated grave southwest of Porum, Oklahoma near the Eufuala Dam.
  • Originally the "Normal School," University of Central Oklahoma was Oklahoma's first public school of higher education. It began as a teachers college, and is now a premier institution of education in this region of the United States.
  • In Gurhrie nearly 20,000 lighters and "fire starters" are displayed at the National Lighter Museum. The nation's only museum devoted to the collection of lighters.
  • Oklahoma's four mountain ranges include the Ouachitas, Arbuckles, Wichitas and the Kiamichis.
  • Foress B. Lillie was a participant in the land run of 1889, and set up a tent for business as soon as shots were fired. Lillie's Drug was the first drug store established in Guthrie. Lillie was issued the No. 1 license certificate when the new state of Oklahoma registered him as a practicing pharmacist.
  • Oklahoma was the setting for the movie "Twister".
  • Oklahoma is bordered by six states: Texas to the south and west, Arkansas and Missouri to the east, Kansas to the north and Colorado and New Mexico at the tip of the northwestern Oklahoma panhandle.
  • Antlers bill itself as "The Deer Capital of the World and gateway to Southeast Oklahoma."
  • On the evening of March 25, 1948, a tornado roared through Tinker Air Force Base (AFB), Oklahoma, causing considerable damage, a few injuries, but no fatalities. However, the destruction could have been much worse. A few hours earlier Air Force Captain Robert C. Miller and Major Ernest J. Fawbush correctly predicted that Atmospheric conditions were ripe for tornadoes in the vicinity of Tinker AFB. This first tornado forecast was instrumental in advancing the nation's commitment to protecting the American public and military resources from the dangers caused by natural hazards.
  • The slogan "Buckle of the Wheat Belt" designates Kingfisher. Kingfisher was the largest wheat market in America and is still perceived as such today.
  • Oklahoma is one of only two states whose capital cities name includes the state name. The other is Indianapolis, Indiana.
  • Clinton Riggs designed the YIELD sign. It was first used on a trial basis in Tulsa.
  • Oklahoma's state wildflower the Indian Blanket is red with yellow tips. It symbolizes the state's scenic beauty as well as the its Indian heritage. The wildflower blooms in June and July.
  • Oklahoma has more man-made lakes than any other state, with over one million surface acres of water.
  • On April 22, 1889, the first day homesteading was permitted, 50,000 people swarmed into the area. Those who tried to beat the noon starting gun were called Sooners. Hence the state's nickname.
  • Oklahoma's state bird the Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher is a somewhat quiet bird with beautiful plumage and a long sleek tail that is twice as long as its body. The deeply-forked tail resembles a pair of scissors.
  • Oklahoma has the largest Native American population of any state in the U.S. Many of the 250,000 American Indians living in Oklahoma are descended from the 67 tribes who inhabited the Indian Territory. Oklahoma is tribal headquarters for 39 tribes.
  • Oklahoma City National Memorial honors the victims, survivors, rescuers, and all who were changed forever on the site of the bombing in Oklahoma City April 19, 1995.
  • Springs, streams and lakes are the attractions at Chickasaw National Recreation Area, the first national park in the state of Oklahoma. Chickasaw lies in a transition zone where the Eastern deciduous forest and the Western prairies meet.
  • Sequoyah's Cabin in Akins is a frontier house of logs, occupied (1829-44) by Sequoyah (George Gist), the teacher who in 1821 invented a syllabary that made it possible to read and write the Cherokee language.

External links

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Oklahoma United States OK US