January 22, 2003
Arresting behavior this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.
Hello, Iím Steven Knoche Kite.
It seems that almost every stage of Oklahomaís development as a state involved some sort of illegal
or immoral activity, and the initial attempt at settling the unassigned land is a perfect case in point.
Land taken away from the tribal lands sat for almost thirty years in the middle of what is now Oklahoma
unused and virtually abandoned by the US Government, tribal nations were forced to vacate the area as
part of their punishment for siding with the south during the civil war, and Euro-Americans were not allowed
into the area.
Many people felt that these unassigned lands, once called Americaís desert, were now prime farm sites
and should be put to good use. "Boomers," as they were called, utilized legal and illegal means
in an attempt to force the US government to open this island of unused land.
The most notable of this group was David L. Payne. Payne, using Kansas border towns as headquarters,
organized groups of interested Boomers, or "squatters," and led them to various locations in
what is now Payne, Lincoln and Oklahoma counties. One of the preferred sites of the Boomers lay on the
southern edge of present day Stillwater. The reliable water source at that location provided the creek,
and eventually the town, with the name Stillwater, as in, "there is still water there."
These forays and settlement attempts made by Payne and his followers were in every sense of the word,
illegal, and at times gun battles erupted between the determined Boomers and U.S. Military forces sent
to return them to Kansas. Dug-in and well armed, government forces in some instances were forced to call
in batteries of artillery to displace the trespassers.
Payne led dozens of settlement trips into what is now Oklahoma, and in this week, in 1882, he led his
followers on an attempt to establish what he thought would be the capital of the new land. Oddly enough,
he chose as his capital site the exact location of present day Oklahoma City. It was in this week of 1882
that Payne and others invaded the region and began platting out the new city. Lots were surveyed, a stockade
built and wells dug before the cavalry discovered the intruders forcing them back to Kansas. The determined
Payne died two years later in 1884, five years before his precious unassigned lands opened for settlement
Boomer Sooners in trouble with the law, once again, this week on the Almanac.
I'm Steven Knoche Kite.
The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of the Oklahoma State University
Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.