Oklahoma History: Pioneer Life in Early Oklahoma

Settling Oklahoma


"Staking a site": Oklahoma land rush in 1889.  Guthrie, Oklahoma Western expansion reached Oklahoma in the late 1800’s in a way that was unprecedented in the history of the United States. In 1889, a choice portion of Indian Territory in Oklahoma was opened to white settlement, and the early settlers in Oklahoma engaged in various “land runs” throughout the territory. At this point in history, Oklahoma was still mostly void of all things considered civilized. The only visible elements of civilization was a railroad line that crossed the territory, and water towers and other requirements for steam rail operation were located at intervals along the tracks that connected Arkansas and Texas. Beyond that, early pioneers to Oklahoma Territory had to make do with what they could bring or build on their own.

The first settlers arrived in their covered wagons with very few necessities and no luxuries of life. They usually brought enough grain with them to plant crops. Wild turkeys, geese, deer, elk and prairie chickens were plentiful so meat was provided in abundance.

Oklahoma Pioneer Homes

The settlers’ first homes were very crude one-room houses built out of raw timber.  Occasionally, if one could afford the time, a small shed was built to house their tools.  Floors were made of logs where only the top portion was skimmed flat.  The floors were loosely joined together and cracks in between the logs ran the length of the house.  These early Oklahoma pioneers had a rough time keeping their houses warm in the winter, even though they kept a small fireplace burning throughout the winter months.  In addition to providing heat, these fireplaces provided a means of cooking.  The settlers later built two story log houses with a hall in the center, which contained the stairway leading upstairs to the bedrooms.

The houses were rarely plastered, but sometimes they would be weather boarded inside.  During the summer months, flies and fleas invaded these homes like an army.  In addition to being made of crudely cut logs and unsealed against the elements, most homes had no screens at the door.  Windows were square places left in the logs and covered over with greased paper.  In many cases early settlers in Oklahoma simply chose not to even have windows.

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