It all started with the Homestead Act in 1862, which provided that a legal settler could claim 160 acres of public land, and those who lived on and improved the claimed land for five years could receive the title to it. As most of what would become Oklahoma became settled, there was a large spot in the middle where land ceded to the United States by the Muskogee and Seminole Indians after the Civil War, and on which no other tribes were resettled. These became known as the Unassigned Lands.
This lead to the a group that would become known as “Boomers,” settlers who favored the opening of unassigned lands in the Oklahoma Territory. They would lobby the government, promoting “Boomer’s Paradise,” The Boomers planned raids, into the area and surveyed townsites, built homes, and planted crops. The United States would troops to round them up and expel them. The Boomers tried to get a legal opinion as to the status of the public lands, but the government charged them under the Intercourse Act.Finally, in United States vs. Payne in 1884, the United States District Court at Topeka, Kansas ruled that settling on the Unassigned Lands was not a criminal offense. The government refused to accept the decision and the raids continued.
In 1889 an amendment to the Indian Appropriations Bill allowed President Benjamin Harrison to proclaim the Unassigned Lands open for settlement. The amendment, however, denied the settlers their squatter’s rights. The lands were to be settled by a land run, and the original settlers were rounded up and expelled.
One of the few rules to claiming a lot of land was that all participants were to start at the same time. On April 22, 1889, the Oklahoma lands were settled by what would later be called the Run of ’89. Over 50,000 people entered on the first day, among them several thousand former slaves and descendants of slaves. Those who went too soon were called “Sooners”. Sooners were often deputy marshals, land surveyors, railroad employees, and others who were able to legally enter the territory early to mark out choice pieces of land for themselves or others.
OU athletics teams were originally named Rough Riders or Boomers before the current Sooner nickname emerged in 1908.
Listen to “Boomer Sooner”
76 more days until college football kicks off!
Our countdown started with the history of different school nicknames:
Friday – Demon Deacons
Saturday – Eagles
Monday – Falcons
Tuesday – Gators
Wednesday – Hokies
Thursday – Jayhawks
Friday – Knights
Monday – Lobos
Tuesday – Minutemen
Wednesday – Nittany Lions (Sick Thursday and Friday)
Monday – Owls (Sick Tuesday)
Wednesday – Pirates
Thursday – No team starts with Q
Friday – Ragin’ Cajuns
Sources: WikiPedia and SoonerSports.com