The New International Encyclopædia/Oklahoma

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OKLAHOMA, ōklȧ-hō′mȧ. A Territory of the United States, lying in the south central division between 34° and 37° north latitude, and between 90° and 103° west longitude. It is bounded on the north by Colorado and Kansas, on the east by Indian Territory, on the south by the last and by Texas, and on the west by Texas and New Mexico. Its extreme north and south dimension is 205 miles, and its extreme length from east to west, including the long narrow western projection constituting Beaver County, is 383 miles, though its width farther south is only 190 miles. Its area is 39,030 square miles, of which 38,830 square miles, or 24,851,200 acres, are land surface. It exceeds in area twelve of the States, and is nearly equal in size to the State of Kentucky.

Topography. The surface is in general a rolling plain rising gradually from an elevation of about 800 feet in the extreme east to 2500 feet on the western boundary of the main portion, and to 5000 feet on the extreme western boundary of Beaver County. A range of hills known as the Chautauqua Mountains runs through the central portion. In the south the picturesque Wichita Mountains rise in a group of more or less isolated granite peaks to a height of 1000 feet above the surrounding plains. The western part of the Territory belongs to the region of the Great Plains rising toward the Rocky Mountains. The Red River flows on the southern boundary, and the southern part of the Territory is drained by its tributaries, chief of which are the North Fork and the Washita, the latter joining its main stream in Indian Territory. The rest of the Territory is drained by the Arkansas River, whose main stream flows through the northeastern corner. Several of its large tributaries traverse the Territory from west to east, namely, the Salt Fork, the Cimarron, and the Canadian River with its long North Fork.

NIE 1905 Oklahoma.jpg


County Map
 County Seat.   Area in 

1890. 1900.

Beaver A 2  Beaver 5,739   2,674  3,051
Blaine E 3  Watonga 941  ..... 10,658
Canadian F 3  Elreno 803   7,158 15,981
Cleveland F 3  Norman 545   6,605 16,388
[1]Comanche E 4  ... ....  ..... ......
Custer D 3  Arapaho 1,001  ..... 12,264
Day D 3  Grand 1,044  .....  2,173
Dewey D 3  Taloga 1,008  .....  8,819
Garfield F 2  Enid 1,086  ..... 22,076
Grant F 2  Pondcreek 1,004  ..... 17,273
Greer D 4  Mangum 2,393   5,338 17,922
Kay F 2  Newkirk 895  ..... 22,530
Kingfisher F 3  Kingfisher 891   8,332 18,501
[1]Kiowa D 4  ... ....  ..... ......
Lincoln F 3  Chandler 961  ..... 27,007
Logan F 2  Guthrie 749  12,770 26,538
Noble F 2  Perry 631  ..... 14,015
Oklahoma F 3  Oklahoma 713   11,742   25,854 
Pawnee G 2  Pawnee 542  ..... 12,366
Payne F 2  Stillwater 759   7,215 20,909
Pottawatomie F 3  Tecumseh 790  ..... 26,412
Roger Mills D 3  Cheyenne 1,191  .....  6,190
Washita D 3  Cloudchief 988  ..... 15,001
Woods E 2  Alva 2,749  ..... 34,975
Woodward D 3  Woodward 3,295  .....  7,469
Kaw Indian reservation G 2  ... ....  .....    768
Kiowa, Comanche and
 Apache Indian reservation  ....  Anadarko 4,643  .....  4,968
Osage Indian reservation G 2  ... 2,298  .....  6,717
Wichita Indian reservation  ....  ... 988  .....  1,420

Climate and Vegetation. The climate of Oklahoma is very favorable for agriculture, since, owing to the southern situation, the winters are not severe, and the rainfall is for the most part sufficient. There is, nevertheless, a considerable range of temperature, and the region is subject to severe and sudden cold waves. The maximum temperature recorded during eight years is 115°, and the minimum 25° below zero. The latter figure is, however, entirely abnormal, and the cold winter periods are of short duration, the mean temperature for the coldest month (January) being well above freezing (36.9°). The mean temperature for July is 81.2°, and for the year 59.5°. The average annual rainfall is 31.8 inches, evenly distributed through the year with a maximum in midsummer, but ranging in localities from 57 inches to a small amount, the smallest amount falling in the extreme northwest. In the western part generally the precipitation is very light for farming. The soil is formed by the decomposition of the underlying rock formations, and consists chiefly of red clay and sandstone material. In the river valleys these are mixed with a rich black alluvium, and the soils are generally of sufficient depth to be of almost inexhaustible fertility.

There are some forests of oak, walnut, and hickory in the east, but the western plains are generally treeless, and covered with grama, drop-seed, and bunch grasses, while in the extreme west are found sage-brush, yucca, and cactus. For Fauna, see paragraph under United States.

Geology and Mineral Resources. The surface rock in the greater part of the Territory is Triassic sandstone, on which here and there are small areas of Cretaceous deposits. The great central Carboniferous area of the United States covers the eastern part of the Territory, and the western part of Beaver County consists of Neocene deposits. The Wichita Mountains in the south present an intrusion of Archæan rocks flanked by the upturned Silurian strata. The principal minerals found are building-stone, gypsum, salt, petroleum, iron, gold, and silver. A little copper is mined in Beaver County, and a small amount of coal in Pawnee County.

Agriculture. Oklahoma is preëminently an agricultural and stock-raising region. The development of agriculture since the Territory was opened to settlement has been extraordinary. In 1900, 15,719,258 acres, or 63.3 per cent. of the total area, was included in farms, of which 35.1 per cent. was improved. The average size of farms was 251.5 acres. Cash tenants represented 8.2 per cent, of the farms, and share tenants 12.9 per cent.

The striking feature is the great variety of crops successfully grown. The cotton yield per acre is in excess of that of any other State or Territory.

Corn and wheat lead in importance. In 1899 there were 1,320,506 acres of corn and 1,279,826 acres of wheat. Other cereal crops in 1899 were: oats, 156,619 acres; Kafir corn, 63,455; barley, 16,453; and rye, 3501. Hay and forage for the same year had an area of 695,313 acres. Cotton is produced most extensively in the southern section. In 1899, 240,678 acres were devoted to this crop. The cultivation of potatoes, sorghum, melons, peanuts, castor beans, and broom corn receives considerable attention. Not a little fruit is grown. The peach trees in 1900 numbered 5,519,072, or over five-eighths of the total number of fruit trees. In 1900 there were 5,733,385 acres of vacant Government land in the Territory subject to homestead entry. A great part of this was in the arid Beaver County, formerly known as ‘No Man's Land.’ For the recent opening of land to settlement, see section History.

Stock-Raising. The western third of the Territory is given up to cattle-raising, which flourished before the region was opened to settlement. The number of cattle has increased prodigiously since that time. Horses, mules, and swine are also important, and some sheep are raised.

The following table gives the number of domestic animals on farms in 1890 and 1900:

1900 1890

Dairy cows 165,852 16,756
Other cattle  1,543,900     110,199  
Horses 303,631 25,554
Mules and asses  57,198  4,923
Sheep 48,535 16,565
Swine  584,878 21,962

Manufacturing. The total number of establishments in 1900 was 870; capital, $3,352,064; value of product, $7,083,934. The flouring and grist-mill industry is the most prominent, the number of mills being 55; capital, $1,080,661. Cotton-ginning and the manufacture of cottonseed oil are next in importance.

Railroads and Commerce. The development of Oklahoma was not delayed for want of railroad facilities. Railways were already constructed when the Territory was given over to the public, and they aided greatly in the rapid progress made. In 1900 there were 899 miles, divided between the following companies: Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe; Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific; Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf; Saint Louis and San Francisco. There are no navigable streams. Wheat is much the largest export. Cattle, corn, hogs, and cotton rank next in shipment in the order named. Coal and manufactured articles are imported.

Banks. The rapid economic growth of the Territory is also seen in the development of its banking facilities. There were only three banks when Oklahoma was organized. In 1892 there were 9 banks; in 1895, 57 ; and in 1902, 206. The banks are governed by a stringent banking law, passed January, 1898. It prohibits private banking, created the office of bank commissioner, makes quarterly reports obligatory, defines the minimum of capital and the liability of the officers. The condition of the various banks in 1902 is shown in the following table:


Number 67 152

Capital  $2,270,000   $1,248,000 
Surplus 237,000  194,000 
Cash, etc.  787,000  986,000 
Loans 7,796,000  4,584,000 
Deposits 9,482,000  7,535,000 

Government. Oklahoma has the usual Territorial form of government. (See Territories. ) The capital is Guthrie.

Finances. The budget grew during 1890-1902 from less than $40,000 to more than $1,000,000. A small public bonded debt was created in 1893 for purposes of construction, but besides this an excess of expenditure over receipts was a constant feature from 1890 to 1900. This resulted in an accumulation of $684,176 of unpaid and interest-bearing warrants. However, there was in November, 1902, a balance of $648,440 in the treasury. The main sources of income are a general tax and the rentals of public lands. The receipts from the latter source go mainly for support of the various educational funds. In 1902 the total receipts were $1,054,794; and the expenditures were $778,460, out of which 75 per cent., was devoted to educational purposes and current school expenses, schoolhouse construction, and the formation of permanent school funds.

Population. From 1890 to 1900 Oklahoma was a prominent centre for native-born American colonists. The great fertility of the land was an irresistible attraction to home-seekers. The population increased from 61,834 in 1890 to 398,331 (excluding Indians—13,873) in 1900, or 544 per cent. Kansas, Missouri, and Texas have been the largest contributors to the population. The opening of additional territory since the 1900 census was taken has resulted in a large increase to the total population. Naturally the urban population is small, only 5 per cent. being in cities of over 8000. Oklahoma City had a population of 10,037 in 1900 (since greatly increased); Guthrie, 10,006.

Indians. Since the opening of the Kiowa and Comanche reservations there remain only the Osage and Kansas Indian reservations—in all 2,469,246 acres. The Indians are slowly progressing, but in the main continue to live in idleness.

Religion. In 1900 there were about 900 church organizations, with a membership of 70,000. They owned church property valued at $500,000. The Catholic Church had a membership of 13,804. The Methodist Episcopal, Christian, Baptist, and Missionary Baptist churches each recorded a membership of nearly 8000, but the total number of adherents was much greater. The Methodist Episcopal South had 6340 members.

Education. In 1900 the illiterate population amounted to 5.5 per cent. of the total population ten years of age and over. Almost from the first Oklahoma has provided facilities for primary education equal to those of the most advanced States. The first public structure in almost every community was a schoolhouse. Two sections in each township were reserved for the use and benefit of the common schools. The income from the rental of these lands has increased annually, and in 1890 amounted to $189,486. The total expenditure for public schools in 1900 was $686,095, of which $385,856 was paid as salaries to superintendents and teachers. In 1900 there were 120,210 children between the ages of five and eighteen, of whom 99,602 were enrolled in the public schools, and 63,718 were in average attendance. In 1901 the Legislature granted authority to counties having a population of over 6000 to establish high schools. There are separate schools for colored children. In 1900 there were 1004 male and 1339 female teachers. Higher institutions of learning maintained by the Territory are as follows: University of Oklahoma, at Norman; an agricultural and mechanical college, at Stillwater; the normal school, at Edmond; Northwestern Territorial Normal School, at Alva; and Langston University (colored), at Langston. There are also four sectarian colleges, and not a few academies and private schools. The United States Government maintains schools for the education of the Indians. The largest of these is the Chilocco Industrial School, in Kay County.

Charitable and Penal Institutions. The deaf mutes and insane of the Territory are cared for in private institutions by contract. The insane are kept in a sanatorium at Norman, the contract allowing $200 per patient. Convicts are cared for by contract in the Kansas State Penitentiary. The cost per convict for 1899 was $123.

History. Oklahoma was a part of the Louisiana Purchase, and was included in the “unorganized or Indian country” set apart by Congress in 1834. The Creek Indians (June 14, 1866) ceded to the United Stales the western part of their domain in Indian Territory, for 30 cents an acre, while the Seminoles gave up their entire holdings for 15 cents an acre. The Sacs and Foxes, Cheyennes, and other tribes were settled upon part of these lands, but great tracts remained unoccupied. Though white men were forbidden by law to settle upon these lands, schemes for colonization were developed in 1879. President Hayes issued proclamations both in 1879 and 1880 forbidding settlement, but it was necessary to use troops to dislodge the ‘boomers.’ Congress in 1885 authorized the President to open negotiations with the Creek and Seminole Indians, for the purpose of opening these vacant lands to settlement. This was accomplished in 1889, and by proclamation of the President the lands were thrown open to entry April 22, 1889. The only governmental authority within the region was a United States court. Troops kept the expectant settlers in order until noon of the appointed day. A mad race for the best lands and town sites ensued. Canvas towns were laid out and each began to lay plans to secure the capital. There was at once a vast influx of settlers, and the population increased at an extraordinary rate. Additional lands were laid open to settlement in 1891, 1893, and 1901; and the scenes of the original opening were repeated. There was no government in the Territory until Oklahoma Territory was created (March 2, 1890). The first Legislature met at Guthrie, August 27, but spent almost the entire session quarreling over the location of the capital, which remained at Guthrie. The agitation for Statehood began in 1891, and a bill admitting Oklahoma as a State passed the House of the Fifty-seventh Congress, but failed to reach a vote in the Senate.

Governors of Oklahoma.
George W. Steele 1890-91
Robert Martin (acting)  1891-92
Abraham J. Seay 1892-93
William C. Renfrow 1893-97
Cassius M. Barnes 1897-1901
William M. Jenkins 1901
Thompson B. Ferguson  1901—

  1. 1.0 1.1 Organized since the last census was taken.