Oklahoma is nicknamed the Sooner State

November 28, 2012 3:00 pm

Can you imagine thousands of horses snorting and stamping their hooves? The horses were lined up on the prairie, waiting for a race to begin. At noon on April 22, 1889, the signal was given to start the Oklahoma Land Rush. Horseback riders, wagon teams, and people on foot raced to claim land. Over 50,000 settlers found a home in Oklahoma that day.
Facts About Oklahoma
Oklahoma City
3,620,000 people
Rank among states in population
Major cities
Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Norman
69,900 square miles
181,000 square kilometers
Rank among states in area
November 16, 1907, the 46th state
State nickname
The Sooner State
Name for residents
State bird
Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher
State flower
State tree
Oklahoma is nicknamed the Sooner State. Sooners were people who cheated during the Land Rush. They got there sooner by going to their land claims before the race started. At first, it wasn’t nice to be called a Sooner. In time, though, the meaning of the word changed. Today, a Sooner is someone who gets things done quickly.
Oklahoma lies in the southern , midway between the country’s East and West coasts. Most of Oklahoma is part of the Great Plains region. Hills and low mountains break the plains in places. Mountains rise in the eastern part of the state. The Red River winds along Oklahoma’s southern border with Texas. Most of Oklahoma has short winters and long, hot summers. Thunderstorms and tornadoes sometimes howl across the plains in spring and summer.
Oklahoma City is the state’s capital and largest city. You can learn about cowboys and frontier life at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Tulsa, the second largest city, was once known as Tulsee Town. Today, many oil companies have headquarters there. Oil wells dot the state and are even on the grounds of the State Capitol.
A narrow strip of land called the Panhandle sticks out from the northwestern part of Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Panhandle once belonged to Texas. Texas gave up this land when it became a state in 1850, because the Panhandle lies above the 36th parallel of latitude. Slavery was not permitted then in new states above that line. From 1850 to 1890, the Panhandle was a lawless area known as No Man’s Land. In 1890, the U.S. government made this land part of Oklahoma.
Native Americans provided the state’s name. Oklahoma means “red people” in the Choctaw language. Beginning in the 1830s, Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole peoples moved to Oklahoma. The United States government forced these five Indian nations to leave their homes in the southeastern United States. Their slow, painful journey to Oklahoma was called the Trail of Tears. Many of the Native Americans had to walk. Thousands died on the way.
Oklahoma was called the Indian Territory after the Native Americans arrived. The five Indian nations built towns, schools, farms, and ranches there. By 1861, each nation had a written constitution.
During the American Civil War (1861-1865), most Native Americans in the Indian Territory sided with the South. When the North won, the U.S. government punished the Native Americans by taking much of the Indian Territory. It made other Indian peoples live in the remaining territory. Many outlaws came to the area during this time. Frank and Jesse James hid in the Indian Territory between robberies.
Oklahoma became a highway for cattle after the Civil War. Herds of Texas cattle were driven through Oklahoma to railroad stations in Kansas. The Chisholm Trail and other cattle trails crossed the Indian Territory. Ranchers leased land from the Native American tribes so their cattle could graze.
Land-hungry white settlers began to eye the Indian Territory greedily. They pressured Congress to let them move in. In 1889, Congress opened part of the Indian Territory to settlers. Because so many people wanted homesteads in the newly opened Oklahoma Territory, land was claimed by means of a race. This race became known as the Oklahoma Land Rush.
After the Land Rush, the population in the territory grew quickly. In 1907, the state of Oklahoma was created from the Indian and Oklahoma territories. Oklahoma became the 46th state of the Union.
By 1907, Oklahoma already had a lot of farms. Many more farms were started during the 1920s. Much of the prairie was turned into fields. In the 1930s, very little rain fell for several years. The newly plowed fields turned to dust. Wind blew the soil away in huge dust storms. Oklahoma and other states in the southern Great Plains were called the Dust Bowl. Thousands of farmers and farmworkers left Oklahoma to seek a better life elsewhere.
On April 19, 1995, a huge bomb exploded in Oklahoma City. The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was destroyed, and 168 people were killed. This event was one of the worst cases of terrorism in American history.
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