Boomer Movement

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BOOMER MOVEMENT, a term applied to attempts of white settlers to occupy an area in Indian Territory from 1879 to 1885. The so-called Five Civilized Tribes of American Indians, driven from the Southeast in the 1830s, had settled on a reservation extending to the boundaries of the present state of Oklahoma, excluding the Panhandle (see Cimarron, Proposed Territory of).

In 1866, as punishment for having participated in the Civil War on the side of the South, they were compelled to cede the western half of their domain to the United States as a home for Indians of other tribes. During the next ten years several tribes were given reservations on these lands, but a fertile region of some 2 million acres near the center of Indian Territory was not assigned to any tribe and came to be known as the "unassigned lands" or Old Oklahoma.

Early in 1879 Elias C. Boudinot, a railway attorney of Cherokee descent, published a newspaper article stating that this was public land and so open to homestead entry. Widely reprinted, this article created great excitement. Later in the same year, a colony of home seekers under the leadership of Charles C. Carpenter sought to enter Indian Territory and occupy this area but were prevented by federal troops under General John Pope.

In 1880 David L. Payne organized the "Boomer" movement and charged a small fee for membership in his "Oklahoma colony." During the next four years he and his followers made eight attempts to settle the region, but in each case they were ejected by soldiers. Upon Payne's death at Wellington, Kansas, in 1884, his lieutenant, W. L. Couch, led an expedition to the forbidden area that was promptly removed by the military. The struggle was then transferred to the national capital, and on 22 April 1889 the unassigned lands were opened to settlement under the provisions of an act of Congress. Some white settlers, called "Sooners," had already entered the territory illegally and had established farms. At noon on 22 April thousands of white men, women, and children on horseback, in wagons, and sometimes on foot rushed into the interior of the former Indian Territory to stake out their homesteads.


Joyce, Davis D., ed. "An Oklahoma I Had Never Seen Before": Alternative Views of Oklahoma History. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994.

Morgan, H. Wayne, and Anne Hodges Morgan. Oklahoma. New York: Norton, 1977.

Edward EverettDale/a. r.

See alsoCivilized Tribes, Five ; Indian Territory ; Sooners .