September 16, 2008


by Vickie McDonough

When I first started writing, I kept hearing people say “write what you know.” So, having been born and raised in Oklahoma, it was natural to write stories set in my home state. The only problem with that is I’m mainly a historical writer, and Oklahoma doesn’t have the long history that other states have, which made things difficult. Oklahoma just celebrated its centennial last year. In fact, just 101 years ago, the land that I live on was in the heart of Indian Territory and part of the Creek Nation.

A large part of Oklahoma was settled by land runs, which have become one of the most dramatized events in western history. Who can forget the exciting scene in Far and Away where Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise raced for the land they’d traveled half way around the world to obtain? If you need a reminder, click on this link to view the race on You Tube:

The initial opening of Indian lands, over two million acres, was of great interest to people across the United States in the late 1800s, because it was some of the last free land in America. The first land rush took place at high noon on April 22nd, 1889. The Unassigned Lands (this term refers to Indian land that wasn’t assigned to a particular tribe) were laid out in 160-acres homesteads, also called quarter sections. A number of individuals entered these lands early and hid out until the legal time of entry to lay quick claim to some of the best homesteads. These people came to be identified as "sooners."

The Unassigned Lands were finally opened to white settlement in the "Run" for farms and town lots. Places like the Guthrie Station, which was nothing more than a Santa Fe train depot and watering tank on the morning of April 22nd, swelled to towns of 10,000 people by night fall. Streets had been laid out, town lots staked off, and steps had been taken toward the formation of a municipal government. Many settlers immediately started improving their new land. Children sold creek water for five cents a cup to homesteaders waiting in line to file their claim, while other children gathered buffalo chips to provide fuel for cooking. By the second week, schools had opened and were being taught by volunteers paid by pupils' parents until regular school districts could be established.

Life was often rough for these early land seekers, but many Oklahomans today still live on land their ancestors won in one of the land rushes, and their stories make exciting books and movies.

I have a trilogy set in the pre-statehood days of Oklahoma. In Sooner or Later, my first Heartsong novel, my hero rides in the land rush of 1889. It was a fun story to write, and I hope an enjoyable tale for readers to experience.

Editor's note: Vickie has three book's coming out this fall! To find out more, please head on over to her website at:


Lena Nelson Dooley said...

Very interesting post, Vickie. I really enjoyed it.

Jeanne Marie Leach said...

Great information, Vicki. I loved that movie, Far and Away. My favorite part was when Tom Cruise jumps off the railroad car when he sees the wagon train heading west. His boss asks him where he was going, and he replied, "I was on the wrong road!"

I never knew where the term "sooners" came from, and now I know. Thanks for your post.

Margaret Daley said...

I can't believe you are blogging. Way to go, Vickie.