The Kickapoo Opening, Oklahoma's fifth land opening and the last by "run," occurred at noon on May 23, 1895. The opening of the Kickapoo holdings had been delayed since 1890, because the tribe opposed the allotment offers made by the Cherokee (Jerome) Commission, who had visited their reservation in June 1890 and 1891. There were two tribal factions, those acculturated Kickapoo who had gradually accepted white culture and those traditionalists who continued to refuse taking allotments. Through unscrupulous methods, federal officials gained the signatures of tribal leaders on a document authorizing allotment to individual Indians and sale of the undistributed region. Consequently, the Kickapoo Allotment Act was passed by Congress on March 30, 1893.
Surplus lands in the amount of approximately 184,133 acres were available for non-Indian settlement after each of 283 Kickapoo received eighty-acre allotments in 1894. Their reservation had consisted of 206,662 acres located between the Deep Fork and North Canadian rivers and bounded on the east by the former Sac and Fox reservation and on the west by the Indian Meridian. Within the surplus area, common school indemnity lands were set aside, leaving only 550 quarter sections (88,000 acres) available for homesteading.
On May 18, 1895, Pres. Grover Cleveland signed a proclamation authorizing the opening. Approximately ten thousand individuals competed in the run on May 23. Because there were not enough officials at the various starting points to signal the official noon starting time, many individuals had an early opportunity to stake a claim. Most of these illegal Sooners were arrested and taken before the U.S. commissioner stationed at Kickapoo Falls. They were fined one thousand dollars each. As in previous runs, women again participated. Abby Hull, Rusha Funk, and Kate McCormick and other claimants filed at the Oklahoma City land office. A few participants who had taken some fractional pieces of lands located on the north side of the Deep Fork River filed at the Guthrie land office. Oklahoma Territorial Gov. William C. Renfrow issued a proclamation that offered ninety thousand acres of school land to individual bidders to lease for five years beginning October 1, 1895. This provided an opportunity to those who were unsuccessful in the land run.
The Kickapoo opening increased the size of the contiguous Lincoln, Pottawatomie, and Oklahoma counties. Because this was a small opening in terms of land area, a large number of contests (law suits between individuals claiming the same piece of property) occurred. Only a few urban sites developed. In west central Lincoln County, Thomas Craddock staked a claim and deeded the land for the Wellston townsite. In southwest Lincoln County, the townships of Kickapoo and North Wichita were formed. In northern Pottawatomie County the towns of McLoud and Hagar established post offices in 1895 soon after the opening.
Due to the large number of land contests and the problem of Sooners in the first five openings conducted by run, future land openings in Oklahoma Territory were effected by auction and lottery. The next occurred in 1901 after the Kiowa, Comanche, Apache, Caddo, and Wichita received their allotments and the surplus was opened to non-Indian settlement by lottery.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Martha Buntin, "The Mexican Kickapoo," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 11 (March and June 1933). Chandler (Lincoln County) News, 24 May 1895. Berlin B. Chapman, "The Cherokee Commission at Kickapoo Village," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 17 (March 1939). Arrell Morgan Gibson, The Kickapoos: Lords of the Middle Border (Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1963). William T. Hagan, Taking Indian Lands: The Cherokee (Jerome) Commission, 1889-1893 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003).
Linda D. Wilson
© Oklahoma Historical Society