The Oklahoma City Land Run Monument

 

April 22, 1889, was a day of chaos, excitement, and total confusion in Oklahoma.  This was the day of the incredible, and notorious, first Land Run, when 50,000 people rushed into the Unassigned Lands of Oklahoma Territory to stake their claim for free land.  Over two million acres in Oklahoma, both farm land and town lots, had previously been measured out by the government.  The vast crowd of hopeful settlers massed all along the border.  All were armed with a flag, to claim their stake -- farmers and scholars, Yankees and southerners, the rich and the poor, black and white, soldiers and laborers, even women riding side-saddle.  At the sound of a cannon shot at noon, the anxious settlers surged forward in a tumultuous avalanche of wagons and horsemen all in one breathtaking instant.  Many did not achieve their dream; in the chaos of the mad dash, people were crushed, horses fell, wagons toppled, and fights ensued.  Besides, hundreds, maybe thousands, of settlers had already snuck in over the border a day or two sooner, to claim the choicest land.  These "sooners", pretending to be exhausted from the mad dash, even having run their horses around in circles to get them all sweaty beforehand, made a show of slamming their flags into their chosen ground just as the first legitimate settlers appeared in the distance.  Dozens of the U.S. surveyors, in spite of it being illegal, had also already staked their claims, prompting years of court cases afterwards, some of which even went to the Supreme Court.

In spite of the ridiculous debacle of the 1889 run, several more land rushes were held in later years for other parts of the Oklahoma territory -- the one of 1893 having over 100,000 participants.  Even though these were perhaps a bit less of a mess than the first, the runs were eventually phased out for more sensible and orderly means of settlement.  But to this day, the great Land Runs are remembered as the most dramatic moments of Oklahoma's history.  Millions of Oklahomans have been able to proudly trace their ancestry back to an original participant.  There is even now a certain perverse pride at being descended from a sooner! 

In commemoration of the state's most iconic event, which was most likely the largest gathering of people the country had ever seen up until then, a grand Land Run Monument is being constructed in Oklahoma City.  When completed, it will be the largest series of sculptures in the world, consisting of 47 statues spread across a distance of 365 feet.  All are cast in dark bronze, at one-and-a-half life size... so a standing human would be almost 9 feet tall, and a horse and rider over 12 feet.  In all, there will be 38 people portrayed, plus 34 horses, three wagons, a cannon, a dog, and a frightened jackrabbit.  They are sculpted in an extremely realistic style that anyone can appreciate, with amazing detail clear down to the wood grain on the wagons and the leather designs on boots and saddles. The sculptor is Paul Moore, of Norman, Oklahoma, a fifth generation Oklahoman whose great-grandfather participated in the 1889 Land Run.  During his career he has sculpted more than 100 commissions, with works in both the U.S. Capitol and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

-- Galen Berry

 

 

It started with a cannon shot.

 

 

 

Horseshoe prints!  

 

This was the first sculpture installed, and the artist Paul Moore modeled himself as the wagon driver.

 

Lost his hat!

 

Hanging on tight.

 

 

 

A country gentleman:

 

A close-up.

 

Another wagon.

 

 

Riding sidesaddle!

 

 

 

Chasing the wheels.

 

 

This barefooted farm boy can't seem to get his unsaddled old plow horse to go the right direction.

 

The country doctor -- recently installed.

 

 

 

The scale of all the statues is 1 life-size.


Me in the wagon!