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As a "rider" to the Indian Appropriations Act for 1890, the Springer Amendment began the process of placing the Unassigned Lands of Indian Territory within the federal public domain and open to homesteaders.

William M. Springer, U.S. Representative from Illinois and chair of the House Committee on Territories, advocated organizing the unoccupied Unassigned Lands of Indian Territory into a new administrative unit, Oklahoma Territory. In this he was supported by David L. Payne, William L. Couch, Samuel Crocker, and others within the Boomer Movement. In 1888 Springer sponsored a bill to create Oklahoma Territory. The Springer bill was not enacted; revived in the next session of Congress, it met approval in the House but stalled in the Senate. Bypassing the roadblock, Springer and other "boomer" supporters devised amendments to the pending Indian Appropriations Bill, hoping that would accomplish their aims. Section 12, added by Rep. Samuel W. Peel of Arkansas, allocated funds to settle the Creek and Seminole claim to the land. Section 13, added by Springer, authorized the president to issue a proclamation opening the lands for settlement. The amended bill passed the Senate and was signed into law by Pres. Grover Cleveland on March 2, 1889. Pres. Benjamin Harrison, who took office on March 4, accordingly issued the appropriate proclamation on March 23, 1889.

William Springer (1836-1903) is noted for delivering a speech in which he stated on the floor of Congress that he "would rather be right than be President." Springer later moved to Oklahoma, residing in Muskogee and later in Vinita. From 1895 through the time of his death he held a federal judgeship, presiding first over the Northern District Court and later as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Indian Territory.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Stan Hoig, The Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889 (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1984). Dan Peery, "Colonel Crocker and the Boomer Movement," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 13 (September 1935).

Dianna Everett

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