1803: The United States acquired most of the area that is now Oklahoma as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The panhandle remained under Spanish control. The Quapaw, Osage, Oto, and other Indian tribes arrived about this time.
1812: Most of present-day Oklahoma became part of the Missouri Territory.
1819: Most of what is now Oklahoma became part of the Arkansas Territory.
1821: Mexico declared its independence from Spain and the panhandle came under Mexican control.
1830: The western part of the Louisiana Purchase, including the Arkansas Territory, was designated as the Indian Territory. The Indian Removal Act set aside lands west of the Mississippi River for Indian settlement and allowed for the removal of Indians from the eastern states to be resettled in this Territory.
1845: The United States annexed the Republic of Texas, including the present-day Oklahoma panhandle.
1850: The United States government purchased the panhandle lands from Texas. The panhandle became “No Man's Land,” and was unattached to any state or territory. During the 1850s, much of the land in the Indian Territory was not assigned to any specific tribe. Railroad companies, some federal officials, and white settlers pressured to have these “Unassigned Lands” opened for settlement.
1854: The Indian Territory was limited to the area of what is now Oklahoma.
1860: Greer County was created by Texas in present-day Oklahoma. This sparsely-settled area was claimed by Texas and the United States until it was added to Oklahoma in 1896.
1861: The Five Civilized Tribes sided primarily with the Confederacy and raised the Confederate Indian Brigade and the Indian Home Guard. They fought in battles in the Arkansas and Oklahoma area. Some Indians enlisted in Union regiments early in the war.
1866: New treaties with the Five Civilized Tribes realigned boundaries and allowed the federal government to move other tribes there. Almost two million acres were designated as “Unassigned Lands” in central Oklahoma.
1872: Railroads now crossed the territory.
1889: The federal government purchased the “Unassigned Lands” from the Indians and opened them for white settlement. The first land rush attracted about 50,000 people. For historical accounts of the land run of 1889, see Stan Hoig, The Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889. Oklahoma City, Okla.: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1984. (FHL book 976.6 H2hs.)
1890-: The Organic Act of 1890 established the 1906 Oklahoma Territory. This act organized seven counties in the “Unassigned Lands” and the Oklahoma panhandle (“No Man's Land”) and provided for the organization of additional
counties as Indian governments were discontinued and surplus land was opened to settlers. During this time, the Oklahoma Territory expanded to fill western Oklahoma by gradually absorbing the following areas:
- Several reservations in central Oklahoma (1891)
- Cheyenne and Arapaho land (1892)
- The “Cherokee Outlet” (1893)
- Greer County (1896)
- Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache lands (1901 and 1906)
- The eastern portion of the area continued as Indian Territory.
1893: 100,000 immigrants were attracted to northwestern Oklahoma when the “Cherokee Outlet” lands were opened.
1897: An oil boom began at Bartlesville and thousands of new settlers arrived.
1907: The Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory, known as the “twin territories,” were combined to become the state of Oklahoma. A helpful book about the many boundary changes in Oklahoma is John W. Morris, ed., Boundaries of Oklahoma. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1980. (FHL book 976.6 E3b; fiche 6,051,502.)
The Family History Library collects town, county, and state histories. For general background, you may want to study the following:
Hill, Luther B. A History of the State of Oklahoma. 2 vols. Chicago, Illinois: Lewis Publishing, 1908. (FHL book 976.6 H2h; film 1,000,353 items 1-2; fiche 6,051,224.)
McReynolds, Edwin C., et al. Oklahoma: The Story of Its Past and Present. Rev. ed. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971. (FHL book 976.6 H2mc.)
Gittinger, Roy. The Formation of the State of Oklahoma (1803-1906). Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1917. (FHL book 976.6 H2gi; fiche 6,125,891.)