Boomers and Sooners: 89er’s Day Celebration in Lexington
The sun slowly inched its way up to its summit in the Oklahoma sky on April 22, 1889, and thousands of hopeful settlers jostled against each other in the heat of the day, awaiting the signal to advance upon the prairie and claim their share of the 10,000 homesteads that were up for grabs.
The settlers waited behind various lines on the border of the Unassigned Lands of the Oklahoma District, the first of five such government-sponsored land grabs that transformed the tribal lands of Indian Territory into the present State of Oklahoma.
Horseback riders jostled prairie schooners, high-wheeled bicycles, and sprinters, all wanting a piece of the pie.
Over 14,000 wagons and 15 trains full of immigrants converged on the prairie to stake their claim in the west. The “Boomers” awaited the signal at high noon. Excitement was at a feverish pitch and tensions were running high.
Over 50,000 settlers exploded onto the Oklahoma prairie and by the time that evening fell, every available piece of property had been staked off. Some of the less scrupulous of the bunch snuck onto the Unassigned Lands days before the run was to commence and staked off some of the best spots for themselves, earning a name for themselves in the process: Sooners.
At the end of the day, the towns of Oklahoma City, Norman, Kingfisher and Guthrie had been founded, and the fight over land ownership had begun. According the Journal of Southern History, “Harper’s Weekly, the popular newspaper of the day said, ‘The run of ‘89 was an international sensation, unlike Rome, the city of Guthrie was born in a day.’”
Lexington, Okla. celebrates the anniversary of the historic land grab each year, beginning with a car show and the high school marching band parading down Main Street, followed closely by hot-rods and show horses.
Festival-goers thronged the streets, carnival rides and food vendors lined the thoroughfare, and local bands played their music in the park until the cows came home for three fun-filled days.
Many small-town residents return to the Lexington-Purcell area after graduation because they want to give back to their community and it is a great place to raise a family.
The center of Lexington is 36 miles from the campus of OCCC but community members were in attendance.
Many small-town residents return to the Lexington-Purcell area after graduation because they want to give back to their community and it is a great place to raise a family. I caught up with Becky Lewis, a young mother of two small boys, who said that she was planning to attend OCCC (Oklahoma City Community College) in the fall.
“My great-grandfather staked his claim in the land grab, so I feel like it’s personal. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the country,” Lewis claimed.
Ami Meyers, an Oklahoma City Community College nursing student with roots in the Lexington area, plans to work in her community after she earns her associate degree in science. “The 89er’s Day Festival is probably the most exciting thing to happen all year in Lexington,” she said. “My daughters and I wouldn’t miss it for the world, it’s a blast!”