Oklahoma History

John Ross vs. the 1835 Treaty of New Echota (from "Well, OK Then...")

Chief John Ross was a “mixed-blood” Cherokee who nevertheless became the best-known and arguably the most effective tribal leader of his generation. His supporters tended to lean traditional – they were conservative, and old-school – wanting little or no contact with whites and uninterested in their version of “progress.” 

Because he would not agree to voluntary removal, the U.S. found others in the tribe who would. They plied them with land and money and the argument that this was going to happen one way or the other – so they might as well make it as painless as possible. The signers of the Treaty of New Echota (1835) violated the most sacred of Cherokee laws while lacking the status to even speak for the tribe to begin with.

This Land Is Whose Land? (From "Well, OK Then...")

People wonder why to this day Oklahoma is one giant inferiority complex, with a side of paranoid delusion. Texas proudly waves its ‘six flags’ representing various stages of its history. Oklahoma had three prior to statehood, playing ‘hot potato’ with us like the homely friend of the popular girls they were really looking to – um… "homestead."

But finally, a nation that needed us! That could appreciate us! Say what you like about the early U.S., they were some exploring and expanding fools! President Jefferson sent out Lewis and Clark and Co., who began mapping the entire area of – 

Hey! Where are you going? Meriwether! Bill! Down here, big fellas! It’s me, Okla –

*sigh*

Land Ownership and the Foundations of Democracy, Part One (What Made This Particular Destiny So Manifest?)

So we have two issues in play as the Founders wrestle with outlining this new government – the connection between paying into the system and thus earning a voice in the running of that system, and the practical challenges of who exactly “consents” to that government on behalf of the whole. Little wonder our progenitors might try to reconcile them in concert – hopefully without overtly dialing back those fancy new ideals they’d been proclaiming to justify the entire project. 

They weren’t starting from scratch. There were some longstanding assumptions about land ownership – or the lack thereof – with which they could begin.

Rabbit Trails: Criminal Intimacy & Pernicious Polygamy

Role ConfusionI’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.

Rabbit Trails: Mary Sallade & The One-Eyed Pickpocket

George AppoI’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.

Helen Churchill Candee & Oklahoma Boosterism (Part Two)

HCCIf 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 & Oklahoma Boosterism (Part One)

HCC1Helen 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.

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Nuptial Benedictions (The Divorce Industry in Oklahoma Territory)

Walking Away

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 Civil War in I.T. (From "Well, OK Then...")

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. 

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