"Colonel" Charles C. Carpenter holds some claim as the first Oklahoma boomer. A flamboyant imitator of Gen. George Armstrong Custer, Carpenter, too, wore his hair in long curls and dressed in fringed buckskin. Carpenter was supported by the Kansas City Times in its efforts to promote settlement of the Unassigned Lands of Indian Territory. He won this support by virtue of his organizing parties to invade the Black Hills of South Dakota, where settlement was forbidden by the federal government. The Cheyenne (Wyoming) Daily Leader had identified Carpenter as a "constitutional deadbeat" and a "drunken braggart," but a cartoon in the Kansas City Times portrayed him as Moses holding a rock tablet inscribed with the slogan "On to Oklahoma."
Carpenter and his wife established themselves on the Kansas-Indian Territory border where they began soliciting the support of local merchants for a price. The Arkansas City Traveler, which opposed white settlement of Indian Territory, opined that Carpenter was a "sore backed, crooked legged, cross-eyed cuss" who was leading would-be settlers into an ambush. Nonetheless, Carpenter's boomer invasion took place from there in May 1879 when a wagon caravan headed down through infant Tulsa to the Deep Fork River. The settlers established a token settlement called City of Oklahoma. On April 26, 1879, Pres. Rutherford B. Hayes issued a proclamation forbidding homestead entry of the Oklahoma lands. Soon after, troops from Fort Reno were sent to eject the Boomers and destroy their improvements.
Carpenter himself had remained safely in Coffeyville, Kansas, and Inspector John McNeil of the Indian Service was sent to order him to cease his activities. McNeil did so, reporting back that Carpenter was "the same bragging, lying nuisance that I knew him seventeen years ago when he infested Fremont's quarters." When confronted by McNeil, Carpenter quickly folded his tent and faded from the light of history.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Stan Hoig, The Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889 (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1984). Carl Coke Rister, "Free Land Hunters of the Southern Plains," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 22 (Winter 1944-45). Carl Coke Rister, "Oklahoma, Land of Promise," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 23 (Spring 1945).
© Oklahoma Historical Society