I’ve been trying to follow up on a previous post about the “divorce industry” in Oklahoma Territory (1889 – 1907), but I keep getting sidetracked by odd search results and unexpectedly engaging-but-off-topic tangents. I’m finally admitting that my ADHD (Abstemiously Distracted History Dysfunction) has won, and figure I might as well share some of the results.
I’ve been looking into the “divorce industry” in Oklahoma Territory (1889 – 1907), and I spend more time than seems reasonable searching online newspaper archives for terms like “divorce” or “Oklahoma.” I’m not sure this makes me a crack researcher, but it has certainly led me down some weird paths.
Pick any topic – ANY topic – and start scratching at it. Something fascinating will almost always unfold… and yet leave you with a congress of unknowns, smirking and smug like Alice’s cat.
If for some strange reason you’ve not already read Part One several times already and copied favorite bits onto sticky notes to post around your bedroom and kitchen, I there waxed adoring over Helen Churchill Candee and her first extensive article about life in Oklahoma Territory, published in The Forum, June 1898. She wrote at least three other articles about O.T. in the time she lived there, all very positive towards her temporary homeland but varied in style and focus.
Helen Churchill Candee came to Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory (O.T.) in the mid-1890s, primarily drawn by its lax divorce laws. She brought her two children, Edith and Harold, and ended up staying for several years. I carried on at some length ]]last time about how fascinating I’ve come to find this enigmatic chronicler – particularly in terms of her empathetic pith and generous promotion of early Oklahoma.
It’s really quite unhealthy on my part, I’m sure.
Between the first “land run” opening up the “Unassigned Lands” of Indian Territory in 1889 and statehood in 1907, Oklahoma filled up rapidly.
There were a variety of reasons, of course. The “frontier” was rapidly closing and Oklahoma Territory was the last hope of true homesteading on the continent. Early reports suggested fertile soil and cooperative climate – descriptions which would later be recalled in wry reflection by those who'd embraced them. Then there was the sheer newness and unpredictability of it all – in a nation built on restlessness and possibilities, that alone was sometimes enough.
Oh – and of course, it was a great place to get a divorce.
The time between Indian Removal in the 1830s and the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861 was a comparatively peaceful – almost prosperous – era for the Five Civilized Tribes (5CT).
Then again, when you have a century of suck on either side of a generation, the bar for “Golden Age” status isn’t particularly high.
The first European nation to lay claim to what is now Oklahoma was Spain, via wanderings sent forth from New Spain – what today is Mexico.
After Coronado gave up on the Seven Cities of Whatever, he penned a missive to the King summarizing his experiences and discoveries. Ask yourself what tone and intent are suggested by his choice of words nearly six centuries later.
The full letter, a classroom edit, and printable versions can be found here.
I previously asserted that History is, by definition, a written record of the past. By that definition, the history of Oklahoma began in 1540 and Francisco Vásquez de Coronado was its first historian.
It had been less than a half-century since Columbus sailed the ocean blue and stumbled across this little roadblock to India. The British seemed in no hurry to settle the new continent – Jamestown was established in 1607, Plymouth in 1620, and the Puritans started arriving around 1630. Spain, however, wasted little time making their presence felt across Central America and Southwestern North America.