Vickie McDonough and the Land Rush

When I first started writing, I kept hearing people say “write what you know.” So, having been born and raised in Oklahoma, it was natural to write stories set in my home state. The only problem with that is I’m mainly a historical writer, and Oklahoma doesn’t have the long history that other states have, which made things difficult. Oklahoma just celebrated its centennial last year. In fact, just 101 years ago, the land that I live on was in the heart of Indian Territory and part of the Creek Nation.

My newest release is out this month called Oklahoma Brides. It features three impulsive women who have only themselves to rely on when trials wreck their dreams for tranquil futures. Rebekah finds herself racing westward, away from the stepfather who is willing to barter away her virtue. Katie is widowed and pregnant and about to wed a man who is hiding a criminal lifestyle. Sasha leaves the theater world in New York City to find her only remaining relative in Indian Territory. Will these women slow down long enough to find faith and love waiting for them on the Oklahoma prairie? I had a wonderful time writing this book. I love settings that embody the spirit of the Sooner state.

A large part of Oklahoma was settled by land runs, which have become one of the most dramatized events in western history. Who can forget the exciting scene in Far and Away where Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise raced for the land they’d traveled half way around the world to obtain?

If you need a reminder, view the race on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqrxX_ebl7Q

The initial opening of Indian lands, over two million acres, was of great interest to people across the United States in the late 1800s, because it was some of the last free land in America. The first land rush took place at high noon on April 22nd, 1889. The Unassigned Lands (this term refers to Indian land that wasn’t assigned to a particular tribe) were laid out in 160-acres homesteads, also called quarter sections. A number of individuals entered these lands early and hid out until the legal time of entry to lay quick claim to some of the best homesteads. These people came to be identified as “sooners.”

The Unassigned Lands were finally opened to white settlement in the “Run” for farms and town lots. Places like the Guthrie Station, which was nothing more than a Santa Fe train depot and watering tank on the morning of April 22nd, swelled to towns of 10,000 people by night fall. Streets had been laid out, town lots staked off, and steps had been taken toward the formation of a municipal government. Many settlers immediately started improving their new land. Children sold creek water for five cents a cup to homesteaders waiting in line to file their claim, while other children gathered buffalo chips to provide fuel for cooking. By the second week, schools had opened and were being taught by volunteers paid by pupils’ parents until regular school districts could be established.

Life was often rough for these early land seekers, but many Oklahomans today still live on land their ancestors won in one of the land rushes, and their stories make exciting books and movies.

I have a trilogy set in the pre-statehood days of Oklahoma. In Sooner or Later, my first Heartsong novel, my hero rides in the land rush of 1889. It was a fun story to write, and I hope an enjoyable tale for readers to experience.

I’m giving away a three-book set of my Oklahoma series: Sooner or Later, The Bounty Hunter and the Bride, and A Wealth Beyond Riches to one lucky person today.

     click on covers to order from Amazon!

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42 thoughts on “Vickie McDonough and the Land Rush”

  1. Hi Vickie!
    What an interesting post. I have never been to Oklahoma so I like the idea of a story set there since I get to visit through the story. I never knew what Sooner referred to so I learned something new today.

  2. HI Vickie, you know I always wondered how people laid claim to land back then. I read westerns where someone had land and lost it in a poker game or were killed and that person just took the deeds. So now this gives me a little better understanding how they got it in the first place before someone else took it 🙂 Thanks for sharing! Crystal

  3. Good morning Vickie! I haven’t been to Oklahoma either, but enjoy learning about new places. Thanks for the great post!

  4. Love your post, Vickie! I just looked up the Oklahoma Land Rush the other day after I referenced Far and Away (one of my favorite movies) in another blog here at P&P. Your books sound wonderful and interesting. Especially with my new knowledge about how that land was settled.

    Have great weekend!

  5. Hi Vicki-with-an-ie, My husband and I are headed to Oklahoma in mid November. My youngest son is graduating from Basic Training at Fort Sill, so we’ve booked are flights, etc.. I have an off-topic question . . . How cold will it be? I need to figure out what to wear : )

    I enjoyed your blog. Given the changes in our world, it’s amazing to think of families living on the same land for a hundred years. I live in Northern VA / metro DC. On average, 20% of the population moves every year. What a contrast!

  6. Great post. I loved the movie Far and away. It is so neat to hear about how people got land and what they sometimes went through went they got it, or how they might have lost it.

  7. Hi Vicki, I love that movie. Your post was very interesting I wondered how they claim their land back then. Great post thanks!
    Penney

  8. I enjoyed your post, and your books sound wonderful. Also, your book covers are so pretty. Please include me in the drawing! 🙂

  9. I loved the movie Far and Away! A week or so ago, hubby and I watched an older movie about the Oklahoma land rush!

    Sad that so many perished in their quest for land but wouldn’t that have been exciting…just stake it out and it is yours!

    Wow.

    Great post.
    PamT

  10. Hi Vickie!

    Welcome back to P&P. We love to have you on here. Such interesting topics you come up with. I love stories about the Oklahoma Land Rush. It was a unique time in American history. I think the movie, Far and Away, really depicted it accurately.

    Love the cover of your new book. It hooked me.

  11. Hi Vickie, I loved that movie also. It wasn’t long ago I watched it again. You have a great post today. Your books sound fasinating, I would love to read them. I have never been to Oklahoma but would love to go. Thanks for sharing with us today.

  12. Your stories sound great. I have read several books with the land rush as the story line and have loved them. Can’t wait to read yours.

    thanks Sherry

  13. Hi Vickie! What an interesting post! I’ve never been to Oklahoma and never knew what the name “Sooner” meant. It’s great to learn new things. Thank you for blogging here today!

  14. Hi Vicki. Stopping in to visit. I’m suppose to be taking care of my chores, but I’d rather spend my time here. lol

    I haven’t been to Oklahoma, either, and it’s a place I would like to see. Maybe someday I’ll get to go. I would love that.

  15. Can you imagine that land was given away!!! Boy have times changed. I know they had to work hard but still…I love anything historical and enjoy hearing stories about our own country’s beginnings.

  16. I loved FAR AND AWAY… can you imagine how people felt and acted during that time… Enjoyed the info you shared!!! 🙂

  17. Hi Vicki. Great post. I loved the movie Far and Away. I think it is interesting how the land was given away.

  18. Interesting post, Vicki. Being from the South, I’ve never learned much about how the people claimed their land out West (or why y’all are the Sooner State). Learn something new every day, as my dad says!

  19. Hi Vickie, what a great post. Oklahoma may not have a long history but it sure has a fascinating one. My mom was born in El Reno but her minister father brought the family to California during her childhood.

    Your books sound great! Congrats!

  20. Hi Vicki, I loved the movie “Far and Away” and watched it again recently. Have also enjoyed the old black and white movies about the land rush. I recently finished “A Recipe for Romance” and loved it. Looking forward to reading more.

  21. Hi Vickie,Just hearing about Oklahoma makes me want to go there,havent ever been but thru your books I can,thanks

  22. So very interesting, Vickie! I love reading about these older times, and love that I can experience a little of it through stories. My kids and I are reading the Little House books right now, and it’s amazing to read about what life was like for these early settlers!

  23. We travel through Oklahoma every year, but ride the motorcycle instead of horse or buggy. Bet the roads are quite different too. This is a great time era to write books about and they sound like page turners for sure. Thanks for the information and the pictures to watch for.

  24. Evening Vicki, I’m a little late but wanted to stop by and say, “hi.” The Oklahoma information was great. I’ve been several times and find the history fascinating!! Can’t wait for your books, they are the kind I LOVE!
    Take care,
    ~Caroline
    Oh, BEAUTIFUL covers!!!

  25. Hi Vickie
    One thing I love about books is that they take me to places I’ve never been and, in the case of historicals, teaches me about the history of that area. So I am glad you “write what you know”.

  26. In my thinking, the land rush days had to be so
    very confusing. Yet you tell of towns organized
    and governing bodies set up by nightfall. There
    had to have been an awful lot of organizing going
    on prior to the day of the rush!!

    Pat Cochran

  27. Hey y’all,

    Thanks for your kind comments about my post. I’ve been gone the whole day and am just now getting a chance to respond back. As many of you have said, Far and Away is one of my favorites, too. Lots of yummy conflict! Not to mention Tom Cruise.

    Victoria, Like Will Rogers said, “If you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma, just wait a minute.” So far this fall has been near perfect. Ft. Sill is pretty far south, so I wouldn’t think it would be too cold, but you never know. I’d check the weather just before coming – and prepare for wind. It’s pretty wide open in that area.

    Jeanne, I’m pretty sure that in states up north like Montana, that you can still homestead for land. Don’t know if it’s free, but my sil did it for a while. Being a native Okie, though, it was too cold for her and her husband. He’s Cherokee, and they were actually living in a tipi.

    Tanya, I wonder if your parents migrated to California during Oklahoma’s dust bowl days. That was depicted in the movie, The Grapes of Wrath.

    Pat, There had to have been lots of planning before the land rushes. The area of the land runs was divided into square mile sections, and each of those divided into four equal square parcels. The city of Tulsa, where I live, is set up on a square mile grid. The streets run alphabetically north and south and numerically east and west. Makes it easy to find your way around.

    Vickie

  28. I just finished a couple of Merline Lovelace’s books about the clearing of Indians to Oklahoma. Pioneers sure were a brave breed but the rewards were hopefully worth it for most of the settlers.

  29. Vickie, I’m a day late in welcoming you back to Petticoats & Pistols. Thank you for giving us your weekend and for providing us with another fascinating aspect of the Old West, as always!

  30. Fascinating post, Vickie! I enjoyed reading about the Oklahoma land rush. Thank you for posting about such an interesting topic!

  31. Now that you said that about being on the land – I’m wondering if it has to do with his Indian lineage. I have a friend who has a sister who is married to an American Indian and I think they did something like that too. It wasn’t Montana but out “west” somewhere. Living in the east I am really ignorant about some things lol.

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