Home Up Contents  

Russett, Oklahoma

Area History

from Oklahoma GenWeb

During the 1700's the Caddo, Pawnee and Wichita tribes were already residing in the area now known as Oklahoma. In 1803, the government acquired land west of the Mississippi with the Louisiana Purchase nearly doubling U.S. lands.


Most of present-day Oklahoma was included in the Louisiana Purchase. The panhandle of present-day Oklahoma remained under Spanish control. About the same time as the Louisiana Purchase the Quapaw, Oto, and Osage tribes began migrating to the area. In 1812 the area became part of the Missouri Territory.


In 1819 it became part of the Arkansas Territory. In 1821 Mexico declared its independence from Spain. Consequently, the panhandle came under Mexico's control. In 1824, the government created the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to oversee Indian programs. In 1830, the Indian Removal Act set aside lands west of the Mississippi River for Indian settlement. The area was designated as Indian Territory and thus began the removal of the eastern tribes (The Five Civilized Tribes) and the westward migration of white settlers.


The Five Civilized tribes, the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole were removed by treaty to Indian Territory. The land given to the tribes were divided into sections each a self-governing nation. The Chickasaws and the Choctaws were removed to what is now the Lake Texoma area.

In 1837, the Chickasaw Nation and the Choctaw Nation were created in Indian Territory. The Chickasaw Nation was divided into four counties, Pickens, Pontotoc, Tishomingo, and Panola. The Chickasaw Nation included whole or part of the following present counties: Carter, Love, Marshall, Garvin, Grady, Stephens, Jefferson, Murray, Johnston, Pontotoc, McClain, Coal and Bryan. Pickens County.


Indian Territory included the following counties: Carter, Love, Marshall, and portions of Garvin, Grady, Stephens, Jefferson, Murray, and Johnston. In September of 1844, the first newspaper in Oklahoma/Indian Territory was published the Cherokee Advocate. It was printed in both English and Cherokee.


In 1845, the government annexed the Republic of Texas, which included the panhandle of Oklahoma. In 1850, the panhandle became known as "No Man's Land", because when the government purchased the land from Texas it was not attached to any state or territory. Finding individuals before statehood is not an easy task for several reasons. The earliest federal census of the area that is now Oklahoma is the 1860 census of Arkansas, which included what was then Indian Territory. This census lists free and slave inhabitants in the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole nations not Indians.


However, before 1889 only a few thousand non-Indians lived in the area. Non-Indians needed permission from the Indians to live in the area, although some white settlers moved into the area without permission. After the Civil war in 1866, new treaties with the Five Civilized tribes allowed the government to move more tribes to the area. The new treaties realigned tribal land boundaries and the land allotted to the Five Civilized tribes were almost cut in half. Thus creating "unassigned lands" which would later be opened to white settlers for settlement.


Sadly, the 1870 and 1880 censuses for present day Oklahoma were lost and the 1890 federal census was destroyed.

The land runs of the Unassigned lands began in April of 1889. Land not assigned to Indian tribes in Indian Territory became part of the public domain. The land was surveyed by the government and opened for settlement by Non-Indians creating what is known as "land runs." Large amounts of land were opened for settlement on a certain day and were claimed on a first-come basis. This created "runs" to stake claims to sections of land. Individuals could claim the land through cash purchases or by homesteading the land.


The Homestead Act went into effect on January 1, 1863, which was a major incentive for many individuals to settle in the west. The Homestead Act stated that the individual staking the claim had to be either the head of a family, 21 years old, or a veteran of 14 days of active service in the U.S. armed forces. Also, the homesteader had to be a citizen or had to have filed a declaration of intent to become a citizen before acquiring a tract of land in the public domain not exceeding 160 acres.


To acquire a title to the land the homesteader, was obliged to settle on or cultivate the homestead for five years. The first land offices were established in Guthrie and Kingfisher. Additional land was opened to land runs in September of 1891, April of 1892, September of 1893, and May of 1895.


Some of the lands opened for the land runs were previously parts of reservations of various Indian tribes in the western part of the state. The panhandle known as "No Man's Land" was added to the public domain and opened for settlement in 1890. The railroad companies and white settlers were behind the pressure on the government to open "unassigned lands" for settlement.


Oklahoma Territory was created in 1890. From 1890 to 1906, Oklahoma Territory expanded to include, several reservations in central Oklahoma, Cheyenne and Arapaho land, the Cherokee Outlet, Greer county, and Comanche, Kiowa , and Apache lands. The government conducted a census of the Chickasaw Nation in 1890. Also, in 1890, the federal government conducted a census of Union Veterans and Widows in Indian Territory.


In addition, to the federal territorial censuses, a separate census was taken in 1890 of the Oklahoma Territory. In 1900, the government conducted a census of Indian Territory. In 1901, some western reservation land was distributed by land lotteries. In 1907, the "twin territories", Oklahoma and Indian Territory were combined to form the state Oklahoma. Oklahoma divided the Chickasaw and Choctaw lands into several new counties. Bryan, Atoka, Choctaw, Coal, Haskell, Latimer, Leflore, Pushmataha, McCurtain, and Pittsburg County were all formed in 1907 out of Choctaw Lands. Bryan County was named for William Jennings Bryan. Marshall, Carter, Johnston, Pontotoc, Murray, McClain, Love, Garvin County were all formed in 1907 out of Chickasaw Lands.


Census records are available to find individuals living in Oklahoma in or after 1900.


Copyright 2007, 2008 ISC, Inc.

Last modified: 05/27/07