Kansas Historical Quarterly - Gateways to the Promised Land
The Role Played by the Southern Kansas Towns
in the Opening of the Cherokee Strip to Settlement
by Jean C. Lough
Spring 1959 (Vol. 25, No. 1), pages 17-31
Transcribed by Harriette J. Jensen; HTML editing by Tod Roberts
Digitized with permission of the Kansas Historical Society;
numbers in brackets refer to endnotes at the bottom of the article.
FOR A BRIEF WHILE, in 1893, southern Kansas was the focus of attention throughout the United States. Thousands of people flocked to the area. Correspondents for the great Eastern newspapers were present, sending out dozens of dispatches daily. The cause of this tremendous interest was the opening of the Cherokee strip, Indian territory, to settlement.
Elsewhere in the United States lay millions of uninhabited acres, but the interest was in this strip of land -- roughly 58 by 150 miles -- where the very atmosphere was reputed to be "electric and full of life-giving properties." 
There were many reasons for this interest in the Cherokee outlet, or "strip," as it was called. Perhaps the greatest was that the land was forbidden. It had been supposed it would be the home of the Indian forever. Three railroads crossed it, but no settlement was permitted within it. The areas to the north and south were well populated. The homesteader wished to save the strip for civilization; he wished to break the power of the great cattlemen's combine, which, until 1890, had been using it. The railroads wished to see it settled, in order to increase their own profit.
The southern border towns of Kansas of course saw possibilities for great financial gain. They saw the strip as a vast new trade territory which would necessarily be dependent upon them for goods and services of all types. They also, expected the advent of many new residents -- preferably "capitalists."
When the Indian appropriation bill of March 3, 1893, was finally approved by congress, it contained the legislation necessary to carry out the cession of the Cherokee outlet from the Cherokee nation to the federal government, to pay the Cherokee nation the sum agreed upon, $8,595,736.12 and to open the lands to public settlement. Specifically, the outlet was a strip of land directly south of and parallel to the southern Kansas border, bounded on the east by the Arkansas river and on the west by Beaver county and Texas. To the south were the Cheyenne and Arapaho reservations, the Creek nation, and the territory of Oklahoma -- or "old Oklahoma."
"Old Oklahoma" had been settled in 1889, ten years after the first boomers came to sit upon the Kansas border and gaze at Indian territory with longing eyes. David L. Payne, the boomer's most militant leader, had been fond of quoting -- "The Lord commandeth unto Moses: Go forth and possess the Promised Land," and it became the watchword of the boomer campaign.  Naturally, the presence of an area of land in the middle of Indian territory, unassigned to any one tribe, had invited the greed of the land-hungry. Once this land was opened, most of the rest of the Indian's "permanent" home quickly went, piece by piece. Two years later the boomers were again camped on the Kansas border, looking southward, and the congress of the United States was in the process of negotiating for the cession of the Cherokee outlet.
The outlet was not actually occupied by Cherokee Indians. It had been Comanche and Kiowa territory,  which had been taken from them by the government and given to the Cherokees, in exchange for lands taken from the Cherokees in Georgia. The Cherokee nation resided upon a rectangular tract to the east of the outlet. The outlet gave them access to the hunting grounds to the west. For several years it had been leased by cattlemen for the grazing of their herds. These cattlemen, united in the Cherokee Strip Livestock Association, as well as the railroads, had tried unsuccessfully to buy the strip. The federal government had prohibited it.
Public opinion had become so strong, however, for the opening of the strip to settlement that the government eventually renounced its treaties with the Indians, and virtually forced them to sell. The official position was that the support which the Five Civilized Tribes (erstwhile owners of Negro slaves) had given the Confederate cause during the Civil War had automatically abrogated the treaties made with the tribes.
When the news reached Kansas that settlement had finally been arranged with the Indians for the cession of the outlet, the Weekly Republican Traveler, of Arkansas City, said:
For years a little band of faithful men in this city have worked in season and out of season for the consummation of the end which we are celebrating today. Money has been expended in large sums in a legitimate way and the rewards of these sacrificing men have too often been curses and misrepresentation ... 
Now there was hope of more substantial rewards.
The little town of Hunnewell was already receiving benefits. During the early 1890's, after the government had ordered all cattle removed from the strip, thousands of head of cattle were driven to the stockyards at Hunnewell for shipment to market or to other grazing grounds. There was a Santa Fe branch line terminus at Hunnewell, and the Frisco built an extension down from South Haven, three miles to the north.  The population of the town multiplied. It was a roaring cowtown in the tradition of the earlier shipping centers.
The nation of course expected an immediate Presidential proclamation setting the time of the opening of the strip, but it was slow in coming. Details needed to be taken care of, and an attempt was made to find a more satisfactory method of settlement than the "run" system used in the three previous openings.
While the government was studying, railroads and southern Kansas towns were acting. Promotion went into high gear. Boomer literature was printed and widely distributed. Businessmen's clubs and committees raised funds for advertising, and solicited names of people to whom they could send literature. Maps of the strip sold for 15 cents apiece. The homesteaders began arriving in increasing numbers.
Part of the influx was due to the Panic of 1893. Money was scarce. Banks were closing. Farm prices were dwindling steadily. The farmers of Kansas were in revolt, and were upsetting Kansas' political traditions by voting for Populist candidates instead of Republicans. The great boom of the 1880's had burst, and continued drought, small crops, and low prices, coupled with mortgage foreclosures, caused many to seek cheap land and a new start. The boomers were sometimes able to earn a little money by working for the farmers in the region, but more often they had to rely upon hunting and fishing to sustain them while they waited.
The Kansas towns which were closest to the border and the most likely to be the nucleus for would-be-settlers were Arkansas City, Cale, Hunnewell, South Haven, Kiowa, Anthony, and Ashland. Of these, Arkansas City and Caldwell had by far the greatest attraction. The two main-line railroads which crossed the strip were the Santa Fe at Arkansas City, and the Rock Island at Caldwell. The best land was at the eastern end of the strip, priced at $2.50 an acre. West of the meridian of 97° 30' at $1.00 an acre -- the latter figure 25 cents an acre less than the government paid the Indians for it.
Arkansas City had a population in 1893 of 9,264 people, an increase of almost 1,000 since 1892. Caldwell had 2,138 residents in 1893, and increase of around 140 persons. Doubtless these increases were attributable to the arrival of the earliest boomers, who found jobs and settled into the community, and the arrival of new businesses, preparing to take advantage of the great crowds expected and the anticipated business.
Waiting for the opening of the Cherokee Strip (or Outlet)
at a camp near Arkansas City, September, 1893.
Photo courtesy Walter D. Hutchison.
It was on August 19, 1893, that Cleveland finally issued the long-awaited Presidential proclamation. The strip was to be opened to settlement at 12 noon, September 16, 1893. The "run" system was to be used. At a given signal all participants would rush forward, and the first person to arrive at a location could drive a stake bearing his flag and lay claim to that homestead.
In an effort to prevent fraud, especially by people crossing the line sooner than the legal opening time, nine booths were to be erected -- five on the Kansas border and four on the border of Old Oklahoma -- where people were to register and receive certificates. These certificates were to be shown before legal entry could be made to the strip on opening day, and they must also must be shown when filing claims. The booths were to open on September 11, remain open ten hours a day, and continue until closed by order of the secretary of the Department of the Interior. Three officers were to work in each booth.
In order to be eligible for a homestead, a person must be 21 years of age or the head of a family: this caused a few hasty marriages. He (or she) must be a citizen of the United States, or have declared his intention of becoming one, must not have exhausted his homestead right, and must not be a "sooner" -- one who crossed the line too soon. . A married woman could not take her land if her husband did. No restrictions were put on registrants because of race.
Certain areas were withheld from the public settlement. A maximum of 70 allotments were open to members of the Cherokee nation -- 68 being finally approved. Land was set aside for the Camp Supply military reservation, for the Chilocco Indian Industrial School, for four government land offices, and for county courthouses, schools, parks, universities, agricultural colleges, and other public purposes.
The area had already been divided into counties, given temporary alphabetical designation (K through Q), and county-seat locations had been established. A strip of land 100 feet wide around and immediately within the outer boundaries of the entire Cherokee strip was set apart for opening purposes, to allow the people to assemble without impediment just before the run.
Soldiers were patrolling the borders as well as the interior of the strip, looking for sooners. The railroads were also guarded, but the number of soldiers available was totally inadequate for the magnitude of the job at hand. Many, many sooners slipped through. Those who were caught were escorted out of the territory, sometimes held in custody until after the run, and they lost their right to homestead upon the strip. A few sooners were killed by the soldiers. Some of the soldiers could be bribed, however. One man paid a soldier $25 to hide him in a hole on a claim the Friday night before the opening. He emerged at 12 noon, Saturday, and found four other men had already staked on the claim. 
After the Presidential proclamation setting the date for the opening of the strip, migration increased tremendously. The New York Times carried an article from Topeka, on September 5, saying that the "movement toward the Cherokee Strip is increasing all the time. There has been a daily average of 100 teams passing through this city, with from two to six men to the team. This has lasted now two weeks, and it is yet nearly two weeks until the opening." It added that the first newspaper in the strip would be a daily at Perry, to be published by a John W. Jacks of Missouri, "who has his presses and materials already there." At least 60 newspaper plants in Kansas were reported to be boxed up and ready for shipment to the newly-settled territory. Twenty of these were said to be headed for Perry, which was believed by many to be "the coming city.."
Along the border, stores were selling out their stocks and reordering almost daily. Prices were not higher in Kansas, but Guthrie, Indian territory, reported shortages of supplies and prices rising.  Milk sold regularly for five cents a quart, bread for five cents a loaf, eggs for five or ten cents a dozen, and coffee from 25 to 30 cents a pound. 
The Weekly Republican Traveler of Arkansas City increased in size from four to eight pages. The Caldwell News said bluntly on September 7: "We are too full of strip business to pay much attention to politics till the gates swing open to the promised land."
The post office at Arkansas City had to put on three extra men to handle and distribute the mail.  Bakers at Wichita were working overtime to furnish bread to Caldwell, Kiowa, and Hunnewell, where the great number of boomers was causing a shortage. 
Warnings were issued to watch out for pickpockets and thugs of all kinds, as the towns were full of them. Many and bitter were the protests of having been taken at the old shell game.
Horses were put into training, and these were some complaints about racing through and near the towns. Harness was tested and strengthened, and wagons were gone over and repaired. An enterprising man from Wichita brought down a carload of horses to sell. 
Farmers received many requests from homesteaders wishing to camp upon their lands. One man built a temporary house with a door on the state line, so that he would be ready to go at a moment's notice. The campers were so thick along the border, and the weather so dry, that the soil was eventually churned to dust. Water was soon very scarce; wells were pumped dry, and streams and water holes dried up. Washing was almost an impossibility. Water sold for a dime a cup.
Once the registration was begun, hardships multiplied. The booths opened only five days before the run was to be made. Thousands of people stood in line before each booth, day and night, awaiting their turns. The heat was intense, and numerous cases of heat prostration and sunstroke, with some deaths, were reported. Those who had families could rely on them to bring food and water, which was often shared with others in the line. Woman were usually ushered to the head of the line, the last piece of chivalry most of them were to see for some time.
In spite of all precautions, fraud was still possible at the booths. People joined the registrations lines, only to sell their places for from five to 25 dollars. Many certificates were sold or obtained in other illegal manners. Some of the soldiers guarding the booths were bribed to take registrants in the back door; booth officials sometimes obliged acquaintances by selling them certificates after hours, in the hotels. At Orlando, Oklahoma territory, the registration booths were robbed of certificates and the official stamp, and by the next morning thousands of forged certificates were on the market. 
The cattlemen had a meeting in Arkansas City on September 14, and sent a wire to President Cleveland protesting the booth system of registration as carried out at Booth No. 9, south of Arkansas City. The wire said, in part: "7,000 people are now in line and thousands more arrive on each train. A conflict between parties that are not registered and the troops is imminent unless the system is abandoned... The conduct of the soldiers at Booth #9 is despicable ..." 
PREPARING FOR "THE GREATEST RUN OF THE CENTURY"
Registration area near Arkansas City, September 14, 1893.
Photo courtesy Jessy Mae Coker.
That same day between 4,000 and 5,000 persons were in line before the booth at Caldwell. Hunnewell reported being "over-pressed," also. Orlando, Indian territory, had around 22,000 boomers, and the intense heat and bad water caused an epidemic of dysentery there.  Many people had shipped their horses, bedding, and camping equipment by railroad from Kansas, across the strip, in hopes of finding less crowded conditions and having a better chance in the run from there.
The Cherokees set a telegram to Secretary of the Interior Hoke Smith requesting permission to put well diggers to work on the Indian allotments "that water may be in readiness for the crowds that will run into the new country on Saturday, and who will certainly suffer intensely from thirst."  The request was denied.
The appeal for help on the registration problem was heeded, however, Extra booths were opened and many new clerks were added, in a last minute attempt to alleviate the hardships of registration.
Among the hundreds of people arriving daily were several special groups with plans for establishing colonies of their own. One such group was comprised of 500 Presbyterians, reportedly on its way from Colorado.
Two hundred Scandinavians arrived in Arkansas City under the management of one Oscar Johnson of McPherson county. Their colony was chartered by the state of Kansas. 
Annette Daisy was also on hand. She had taken an active part in the three former openings. This time she organized a colony of single women, widows, and spinsters, dedicated to the purpose of building a community "across the sacred borders of which no man shall pass." . Thirty-four women had signed up by opening time.
In Guthrie, a colony of several hundred Negroes arrived. Each one of them had a printed certificate granting him a farm upon his arrival. These certificates had been bought in Louisiana for ten dollars apiece, and were obviously worthless. 
Other people had bought tickets entitling them to draw for the land, paying several dollars for that privilege -- which was not to be granted.
Many of the people who traveled to the Kansas border before the opening day became disgusted with the crowds, the registration procedure, the dust and hot winds, and returned to their former homes. Their places were quickly filled by new arrivals. Fortunately, although the settlers had come from almost every part of the United States and from abroad, the great majority of them were from the Middle West, particularly Kansas, where climatic and drought conditions were not too different from those of the "promised land." These people were better able to endure the hardships prior to the opening.
On September 14, 1893, a Rock Island train crossing the strip was attacked, and despite desperate resistance from the trainmen, the Pullman cars were robbed of all their ice and water. The train crew was reported to bear the marks of fierce fighting. 
Thirsty sooners were not the only desperadoes loose in the strip. The Dalton and Starr gangs were making their headquarters there -- as well as many less well-known train and bank robbers. Trains were frequently held up, and the gunmen appeared in Kansas boldly and apparently at will.
On the day before the run a scout appeared in Arkansas City, having just come from the Osage country, and notified all the banks that the remnants of the Dalton-Starr gang were camped about 30 miles south of the town. They were planning to rob the banks once the people had left town for the opening. A strong posse was organized to protect the banks, as almost the entire police force was going to make the run. The rain never actually took place. 
Hunnewell was having troubles of its own. A town of approximately 250 people, it was greatly overrun. Waiting lines were everywhere, at the hotels, restaurants, stores, post office. Feeling ran very high when it was discovered that four race horses had been killed and seven others had been hamstrung.  There was strong suspicion that someone planning to make the race afoot was responsible.
Violence and death were not unusual during these days. Men were killed for their money, or for their certificates. More often, they fought, and killed, over gambling, women, and even attempts to crash the waiting line at the registration booths. By far the vast majority of the boomers, however, were honest, hard-working people who behaved in an orderly manner -- until the run started.
In Arkansas City the press seized its opportunity to extol the virtues of the town before a captive audience. Articles were printed enumerating the economic possibilities of the area, the water supply from two rivers, the three railroads, three newspapers, three mills, four banks, stockyards, streetcar lines, electric lights, and telephone exchange. The industries included a reclining chair factory, a canning factory, and makers of bricks, carriages, mattresses, and wind machines, as well as a wholesale grocery. 
As the Canal City Dispatch, of Arkansas City, said: "We have the location, the water power and everything else necessary to make a city ... people ... will return ... buy property ... Inside of the next year Arkansas City's population will be three times what it is at present. It will be the supply point for the south."  Fifty thousand people were in or near Arkansas City before the run was made.
At Caldwell the press was also busy promoting the town. There was one gloomy note. The Caldwell journal kept printing a notice saying: "We have on our books the names of a great many who owe us from one or two dollars on subscription. In all it reaches several hundred dollars. Many of these men will go into the strip without thinking of paying us. We can't afford to lose this money and ask all to call at once and settle."  The editor finally solved his problem by selling the paper and going into the strip himself to live.
For the last few days before the opening, prairie fires raged across the strip. Several sooners were believed to have burned to death. It was said that "If a crow attempted to fly the Cherokee Strip he'd have to take his own grub along."  A song was sung to the tune of "After the Ball is Over":
After the strip is opened,
After the run is made,
After the horses are buried
After the debts are paid;
Many a sucker'll be kicking,
Many will have lost their grip,
Many will wish they'd been hung,
Ere going to the strip. 
At last the great day arrived. Well over 100,000 people were assembled on the northern and southern boundaries. For hours they waited; gambling, singing, praying -- -even preaching. Finally, at 12 noon (five minutes earlier on the Hennessey stretch of line) a shot rang out and was relayed along the line from soldier to soldier. The eager settlers, straining their eyes, could see the puff of smoke from the distant rifle before they could hear the sound of the shot. All along the line the horses leaped forward, and the great race was on. The horsemen and bicyclists were easily in the lead, followed by the heavier carriages and wagons. In the rear were those who were going in afoot. In one place, at the first steep ravine -- an 18-foot embankment -- the bicyclists were forced to quit. The horsemen, unwilling to lose time by looking for a more favorable spot to cross, in many cases leaped their horses down the embankment, often crippling them so that they had to be abandoned. Clouds of dust obscured the vision of the strippers, and one heavy wagon, loaded with six men, was accidentally driven over the same embankment. One man on the wagon suffered a broken leg. 
There were many accidents. People fell off horses and were in danger of being trampled in the rush. A Mrs. Charles Barnes of El Dorado was killed under a falling horse.  Several other women, some of whom rode "clothes-pin fashion" were also injured. Broken arms, legs, and necks were not uncommon. Some who didn't fall from horses or wagons, or drive off cliffs, managed to fall off the overloaded trains which made the run, or be accidentally shot in the uproar. Sooners were shot by soldiers, and at lease one soldier was shot by a sooner. 
As the horsemen established a good lead over the rest of the boomers, some of them dismounted and set fire to the prairie, so that those behind them could not advance. Other fires were set by claimants trying to burn off the grass and uncover their boundary markers. A number of people were burned to death, including a colored man named Tom Jameson  and a Mrs. Elizabeth Osborne of Newton, Mo.  Some of those burned to death could not be identified.
The fine race horses imported for the occasion did not hold up too well. They made good starts, but couldn't stand the distance or the terrain. Many dead horses littered the prairie the next day. One man had a most uncomfortable ride when his thoroughbred race horse became excited in all the turmoil and ran uncontrollably for 24 miles before dropping dead. 
The trains which made the run were jammed to the roof. At Caldwell, although very crowded, the business of loading the Rock Island trains proceeded in a fairly orderly manner.
As tickets were procured, the purchaser passed on from the east to the west side of the tracks, received successive numbers, were put into companies under captains, and placed in a position along the track ready, each company to board a car when the train came along. The train was made up of Montgomery Palace Cattle cars -- 35 cars -- and it was loaded with 5,200 persons who bought tickets and several hundred marshals and others, and officers of the road. 
In Arkansas City things did not go quite so well. The trains didn't pull out of the Santa Fe yards until long after 12 o'clock, and the jam then was terrible. "At least 15,000 people, including most of the population of Arkansas City, were there to board the trains. Special trains from Wichita, Winfield and other points came in loaded with sightseers ... Engineers were instructed to run carefully, for it had been said attempts would be made to tamper with the trains."  Already spikes and straps had been removed from the rails and bridges, but were fortunately discovered before any accidents resulted. Trains also made the run from the south.
The trains had to stop at every station, and slow down or stop every five miles. They were forbidden to travel faster than 15 miles per hour. As a result, the men on horses arrived before the trains.
Many of those who made the run by train were town lot seekers, or investors in town lot companies, such as the Ponca Town Company and the Cherokee Town Site Trust Company.
At Orlando, Oklahoma territory, between 20,000 and 25,000 people were gathered for the race to the town site of Perry -- a distance of ten miles. It took 45 minutes for the trains to get to Perry, and by that time there were approximately 1,000 horsemen there. By two in the afternoon there were 20,000 people in Perry, many of them without food or water. 
Some enterprising people made the run with improvised "water-wagons" and sold water for a dollar a bucket. Fortunately the weather was not as hot as earlier in the week.
Besides the difficulties of the run itself, there were the sooners and the claim jumpers to deal with. The leaders of the race frequently arrived, on sweaty horses, at a likely spot, only to find someone already there, with an unmarked horse, sometimes plowing a field near a partially-erected house. A whole town was reported stolen by sooners. Men made the run from the east side, contrary to instructions. Many cases were later taken to court, but it was difficult to prove a man a sooner. Nearly every sooner had two friends to swear that his claim was legitimate and his certificate legal.
In many cases men dropped out of the run and staked land unaware of the fact that someone else had already done so, or was doing so at that very moment. Some of these cases were settled on the spot, with a gun. Other claims were deliberately jumped.
Alexander Gillespie was staking a claim near Arkansas City when another boomer with a Winchester rode up and dismounted upon the same claim. "We will play a game of checkers for it," said he. "I've jumped and it's your move." When he raised his Winchester, Gillespie moved!" 
An estimated 30,000 people made the run from Arkansas City, and 10,000 from Caldwell, with a number going in from other Kansas border towns and the Oklahoma territory.  By nightfall many of them were on their way out again. Some merely went in to see the show. Others were too late to stake a claim.
While the excitement was going on in the Cherokee strip, the surrounding towns were practically deserted. The banks were closed and business was at a standstill. Everyone who possibly could had gone to see the run. However, within four hours of the start of the race, orders began to roll into Arkansas City for lumber and supplies. The eagerly awaited market had been opened.
One of the most successful profiteers form the opening of the Cherokee strip was a lawyer who went into the strip several hours before the opening, but without attempting to get land. Instead, he collected evidence against some 200 or more sooners and had no trouble in getting "an army of clients." 
The local press was shocked at the depopulation created by the opening of the Cherokee strip to settlement, but was pleased that it had "at last been wrested from the powerful cattle syndicate which for many years held dominion over it and would permit no home-seekers." 
Throughout the nation, though, criticism was rising over the manner in which the run had been conducted, and over the idea of having a horse race with the stakes a part of the public domain. The New York Times editorialized on September 17:
The whole trouble has arisen from the fact that our homestead laws have been bequeathed to us from a period when the Government and the Nation were greatly interested in making sure that the public domain was occupied and utilized. That period is past. What there is left of the public domain is a national possession of great and increasing value that should be made to yield to the Public Treasury all that it is fairly worth.
A homestead of 160 acres of the best land, which sold for $2.50 an acre, would cost the settler around $516, including his fees and four percent interest for five years. 
The New York Times editorial expressed the current but curious view towards the Cherokee strip and public lands:
The Cherokee Strip may be called the last remnant of the public domain. The United States of America do still own some land in various outlying parts, but this is the last great tract that is thrown open to settlement. It is upon that count the more disgraceful and calamitous that the settlement of it should be attended by the outrageous scenes that have been witnessed during the last few days, and that are likely to be followed by scenes more disgraceful still.
To back up this prophecy, the Times carried a front page story on September 19, with numerous titles and subtitles as follows:
Baptism of Blood and Fire.
Flaming Passions and Prairies
In Cherokee Strip.
Homemakers Abandoning their Outfits and Fleeing for Their Lives -- Thousands of them Hastening Back from What a Few Days Ago Was the Promised Land -- Tent Towns Demolished by a Fierce Gale -- A Harvest of Corpses -- Quarrels of Racers and "Sooners."
Conditions were bad, but it is doubtful if they were that bad! Many boomers did leave the strip very quickly. The weather, the burned-over earth, and the apparently endless winds encouraged the less resolute to leave. Some managed to sell their claims before filing, and turn a quick profit. Others were not so fortunate. Claims were advertised for sale in the local newspapers.
Perhaps the most frustrating experience was that of Jacob Lorenson. An Article in the Canal City Dispatch on September 22 said:
Jacob Lorenson is the name of the young man who cut his throat at Perry yesterday. He came here from Saginaw, Mich., and bought a lot for $500, which proved to be on the public square. He staked another lot for which he was offered $250 but refused the offer. It turned out that the lot was in the alley. Moneyless and discouraged, he cut his throat but was alive this morning, according to the report.
One group of unsuccessful homesteaders -- a would-be colony from Illinois, which made the run on foot and secured nothing -- had this to say: "We are glad to get back ... We honestly would not take a claim in the new country as a gift now, after what we saw of the country and its people." 
The trains running north out of the strip were overloaded. The railroads were doing exceedingly well, and continued to do so, for over their lines rolled the goods to build and stock not only stores but cities. Passenger trade was heavy, but as it slackened the freight trade increased.
Arkansas City was doing well economically. The orders rolled in, and Arkansas City boasted that it was supplying every city in the strip located on the Santa Fe line. In addition, an estimated $250,000 had been left there by the boomers. The city did suffer a marked loss in population to the strip, but held firmly to the belief that the people would come back, and that others, becoming disenchanted with the strip, would settle there.
Caldwell did not fare as well as Arkansas City. It, too, was a supply center, but it was so seriously depopulated that it was necessary to hold a special election. The councilmen for the first, second and third wards had left the state of Kansas. 
The population of Arkansas City fell from 9,264 in 1893 to 7,120 in 1894. Caldwell went from 2,138 to 1,386 in the same years. Kiowa fell from 1,358 people to 504. There were similar losses all along the border. These losses cannot be attributed entirely to the opening of the Cherokee strip, as the current depression undoubtedly contributed. It was estimated, however, that the opening of the Cherokee strip cost Kansas some 50,000 populist votes.
The opening of the Cherokee strip to settlement was an event for which the adjacent towns had long worked, propagandized, and invested. In return they expected substantial city growth and economic prosperity. Their goals were only partially attained. Temporary economic gains there were, but also the loss of residents. The losses were not quite as severe as they seemed, when it is realized that boomers were gathering for the expected opening as early as 1891, and those who got jobs locally were accepted and counted as part of the resident population, when in fact and intention they were not.
Those towns which were basically sound, with sufficient water, good railroad connections, and some local industry, survived the Cherokee strip opening and experienced a slow but steady recovery and growth. Others, which had had several rewarding years because of the strip boom, but which had no firm economic basis, never recovered. The hotel at Hunnewell has been torn down and most of the business houses have disappeared. On the site of Cale stands a lone grain elevator.
The people had exercised their traditional American prerogative, and moved on into the new frontier -- looking, as always, for the "promised land" beyond.
MRS. JEAN C. LOUGH, who received an M.A. degree in history at Colorado University, Boulder, in 1958, is a resident of Arkansas City.
1. W.S. Prettyman, Indian Territory: A Frontier Photographic Record, selected and edited by Robert E. Cunningham (Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1957), p. 120.
2. Ibid., p. 10.
3. Marquis James, The Cherokee Strip: A Tale of an Oklahoma Boyhood (New York, Viking Press, 1945), p. 10.
4. Weekly Republican Traveler, Arkansas City, March 9, 1893.
5. Homer S. Chambers, The Enduring Rock (Blackwell, Okla., Blackwell Publications, Inc., 1954), p. 12.
6. James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789-1902 (Washington, Bureau of National Literature and Art, 1905), v. 9, p. 417.
7. Ibid., pp. 409-411.
8. Weekly Republican Traveler, October 26, 1893.
9. New York Times, September 14, 1893.
10. Chambers, op. cit.
11. Arkansas Valley Democrat, Arkansas City, September 1, 1893.
12. Jennie Small Owen, annalist, The Annals of Kansas 1886-1925 (Topeka, Kansas Historical Society, 1954), v. 1, p. 156.
13. Martha Jefferson Boyce, History in the Making: A Story of the Cherokee Strip (Beatrice, Neb., Franklin Press, 1948), p. 6.
14. Weekly Republican Traveler, March 16, 1893.
15. New York Times, September 17, 1893.
16. Ibid., September 15, 1893.
19. Ibid., September 15, 1893.
20. Ibid., September 17, 1893.
21. Ibid., September 15, 1893.
22. Ibid., September 15, 1893.
23. Ibid., September 16, 1893.
24. Caldwell News, September 14, 1893.
25. Weekly Republican Traveler, May 11, 1893.
26. Canal City Dispatch, Arkansas City, September 15, 1893.
27. Caldwell Journal, August 24, 1893.
28. Chambers, op. cit., p. 22.
29. Ibid., p. 23.
30. New York Times, September 17, 1893.
31. Weekly Republican Traveler, September 21, 1893.
32. New York Times, September 17, 1893.
34. Canal City Dispatch, September 22, 1893.
35. Weekly Republican Traveler, September 21, 1893.
36. L.R. Elliott, as quoted in "The Greatest Race of the Century," The Kansas Historical Quarterly, v. 23 (Summer, 1957), p. 207.
37. Denver Republican, September 17, 1893.
38. New York Times, September 17, 1893.
39. Canal City Dispatch, September 22, 1893.
40. New York Times, September 17, 1893. These figures coincide with those given in the local papers at the time. Recent figures are much greater, giving Arkansas City 70,000 boomers.
41. Canal City Dispatch, September 22, 1893.
42. Arkansas Valley Democrat, September 22, 1893.
43. Ibid., September 8, 1893.
44. Denver Republican, September 18, 1893.
45. Caldwell News, November 2, 1893.