Careening into Oklahoma

It looked like a cross between a gigantic camp meeting and the gathering of the lost tribes of Israel. First singly, then in twos and threes, finally by the trainload, land-hungry Americans gathered along the edges of a stretch of the Oklahoma Territory known as the Unassigned Lands. Through most of April 1889, soldiers patrolled the edges of the area to keep anyone from crossing into the territory prematurely.

The occasion was the opening of nearly 3,000 sq. mi. of the Oklahoma Territory to settlement. For decades, the U.S. Government had been content to...

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