I’d like to thank the fillies of Petticoats and Pistols blog for inviting me to come blog with them again to celebrate the publication of the “Bridegroom Brothers” continuity series that takes place in the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889—and that historic event is what I want to discuss today.
Last February I was peacefully working on my latest installment in my “Brides of Simpson Creek” series for Love Inspired Historicals when my agent called with an exciting opportunity. Did I want to take part in a three-author continuity series for my publisher commemorating the opening of the Oklahoma Territory to settlers in 1889?
With visions from the exciting land rush scene in the old Tom Cruise movie “Far and Away” dancing in my brain, my whooped “YES!” probably could have been heard clear to her office several states away without benefit of the phone lines. With my yes, the whirlwind began. I would write the first book in the trilogy, while LIH authors Karen Kirst and Allie Pleiter would be writing the second and third books.
Our books concerned three brothers looking for a new start in a new land, and the women each fell in love with. I had to “bone up” on the Oklahoma Land Rush fast, as well as begin emailing my fellow authors in the continuity so that our stories meshed smoothly from the beginning. We set up an online loop and a private Pinterest page to pin images of the setting and the event, and began writing.
The first thing that I learned was that there was not one land run opening up all of Oklahoma to settlers, but several, each opening up a different area of land. Our books concerned the first land run, which took place in 1889 which settled the section of Oklahoma including modern-day Oklahoma City.
Why did the U.S. government, under President Grover Cleveland sign the Indian Appropriations Act, opening up the Indian Territories of Oklahoma to settlers, when those lands had been promised to the Native American tribes who were given reservations there?
Settlers, called “Boomers” had been clamoring for admission to this prime land, even sneaking onto the lands before the Homestead Act was signed. Many of the Indians,especially Cherokees in Texas, had sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War, and some say the US government opened their land in Oklahoma to white settlers in a long-delayed retaliation.
In any case, the new president, Benjamin Harrison, designated April 22 as the day for the first land rush. There would be 1.9 million acres in plots of 160 acres each. It is estimated that 50,000 men and women lined up for these homesteads, in wagons, on horseback, on bicycles, and even on foot.
Some settlers sneaked into the land early to find the best pieces of land, despite the efforts of the U.S. army to prevent them. They were called “Too-Sooners” or “Sooners” and Oklahoma is still known as the “Sooner State” today.
At noon on April 22, a shot was fired and bugles sounded, and the settlers raced in to stake their claims by driving in a stake, then remaining there to hold that land against all other claimants. Whole cities were founded in half a day, including Guthrie and Oklahoma City.
The new Oklahomans had to learn to live with their Native American neighbors, who still held land there, and our books cover this adjustment process with a romance between a Cheyenne woman and one of the Thornton brothers. Oklahoma still boasts a proud Indian heritage. Since I have Cherokee blood, it’s important to me that the Cherokees driven out of the eastern U.S. settled in northeastern Oklahoma, and made their capital at Tahlequa.
I hope this short account of the Land Rush of 1889 has made you want to read the books in the continuity. I will be giving away a copy of the first one of the trilogy, THE PREACHER’S BRIDE CLAIM, to one lucky commenter. It is out now (mid-April), and the other two books, THE HORSEMAN’S FRONTIER FAMILY, by Karen Kirst, will be out in May, with the final book, THE LAWMAN’S OKLAHOMA SWEETHEART, by Allie Pleiter, will come out in June.
Again, thanks for having me here—I love to visit Petticoats and Pistols!