How the Sabbath Came to the Cherokee Strip Part 1 of 3
(Oklahoma Territory Land Run 1893)
by Bryan Burrell
It was September 17, 1893. A small town near what would become the city of Fairview, in the Indian Territory, on the edge of the Cherokee Strip, was overrun with people from all over the world. Immigrants to the United States had joined with multitudes from all over the nation and had stationed themselves at strategic points on both sides of a narrow strip of land in the Cimarron country, through which the Cherokee Indians had been permitted to travel between their reservation to the east and their hunting grounds in Colorado. This strip of land was to be opened for homesteading, and the rush was about to start. Many knew little about the farm and certainly knew little about pioneer life but this chance to have free land for their families brought the people to the Strip. Word had spread of the success of the run into Cheyenne Territory in 1889. Everett Shelton had made the ’89 run and had urged his brothers-in-law, Joe Bousman and Ed Webster to make this race.
This Saturday morning, September 17, 1893 Shelton was helping Bousman and Webster to find their places when he noticed a covered wagon parked apart from the rest of the crowd. The horses were unharnessed and tied, and there was no sign of activity about the wagon. “H-m-m-m,” he mused, “That wagon must belong to a seventh-day man.” “I wonder,” he said as he looked at the idle wagon, “if that could be Junis Wells from Kansas.”
Shelton had been teaching school in southeastern Kansas when he became acquainted with Wells and they had spent many hours in pleasant conversation and study of the Bible, which they both loved. Junis Wells was a man of many strange ideas, and Shelton had set out to change his ideas and even called upon his minister to help him out. But Junis Wells was too much for them and they gave it up.
The time was drawing near that the starting gun would be fired and the rush would be on, so Shelton and Webster hastened to their places. Then the sound of the starting gun set the sea of men and horses to rolling forward into the Cherokee Strip, one of the most dramatic scenes in our nation’s history. Out of that memorable day have come many stories of heroism, romance, violence and intrigue.
Ed Webster started with the rest in the mad scramble for a piece of land. He was in no wise a horseman. He could make the horse run, and he could make him walk, but those were the only two speeds he could get out of the beast. Seven miles in he came to a place where some cattlemen had built a fence, but fire had destroyed most of the posts. He jumped from the horse and threw the lines over one of the charred stumps and there he set his stake.
The next day was Sunday and Shelton saw the covered wagon that the day before had set idle, now moving out across the Strip, quietly picking its way. Webster had returned from staking his claim and was ready to file but had to wait for his number to be called. Bousman staked a claim and while he was waiting for his number to be called, a claim-jumper filed on his claim. He could have fought it but he returned to Missouri.
We will continue next time!
Bryan Burrell is a Board Member and Treasurer for the BSA.