On Monday, the State Senate unveiled a landscape painting depicting the historic event that put Oklahoma on the map, the Land Run of 1889. The work, by Oklahoma artist Wayne Cooper, was sponsored by Oklahoma City businessman Brad Naifeh.
The Land Run of 1889 began the dispersion of the federal public domain in Oklahoma. The basis for opening Unassigned Lands came in 1889, when the U.S. Congress amended the Indian Appropriations Bill to authorize President Benjamin Harrison to proclaim the two-million-acre region open for settlement. Under the Homestead Act of 1862, a legal settler could claim 160 acres of public land, and those who lived on and improved the claim for five years could receive title.
It was not long after Harrison’s March 23, 1889, proclamation that Oklahoma settlement colonies were being formed in major U.S. cities. A multitude of impoverished farmers were not along in their zeal to settle the Unassigned Lands. Across the nation, prospective settlers began loading their wagons, saddling their horses and catching trains to find the most advantageous point of entry.
On April 22, 1889, an estimated 11,000 agricultural homesteads were claimed. In the months and years following, there were hardships and many were forced to contest others who claimed the same farm or lot. A few sooner contests made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. One precedent-setting case was Smith v. Townsend (1892), claimants at Edmond Stations, in which it was determined that Alexander Smith, a Santa Fe worker, had acted illegally in his run from the railroad right-of-way. The high court’s ruling in this matter caused many old boomers, such as William Couch and his family, to lose valuable claims in Oklahoma City.
By setting the stage for non-Indian settlement of other sections of Indian Territory, the Oklahoma Land Run of 1889 quickly led to the creation of Oklahoma Territory under the Organic Act of 1890 and, ultimately, to the formation of the 46th state of the Union, Oklahoma, in 1907.
The oil painting was commissioned by the State Senate Historical Preservation Fund overseen my former State Sen. Charles Ford.
“This was the day that truly shaped our great state; and although, many faced hardships afterward this historic event gave birth to new hope for thousands of Americans and became an iconic image in the history of the West,” said Ford, Fund president. “I’m pleased that guests will now have the opportunity to relive that exciting event in their minds and teach their children about it. I want to thank Brad Naifeh and artist Wayne Cooper for bringing this historic event to life through this beautiful work of art.”
The painting’s sponsor Brad Naifeh is one of the owners of Central Wholesale Liquor, which is one of the leading wine and liquor distributors in Oklahoma. Today, there are five generations of Naifeh’s in the business. The company employs approximately 275 employees and owns a 250,000 square foot warehouse and distribution center in Oklahoma City. Brad has also been a dedicated community servant for the past 30 years through his volunteer work and support of Leadership Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma City Chamber, the Young President Association, Leadership Oklahoma Class XVII, White Fields, Children’s Medical Research Institute and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. He also serves on the board of the Oklahoma City Chamber and the Oklahoma State Chamber.
Born near Depew, Oklahoma, Wayne Cooper is an internationally known artist who specializes in Western Art. His upbringing in Oklahoma and Indian roots are the subject of many of his artistic creations. His professional career began in the early 1960s and continues today. His works, oils, water colors, charcoals, pencil, bronze sculptures, and lithographs are in many private and public collections worldwide. The Land Run of 1889 is his 19th work of art to hang in the Oklahoma State Capitol.
This and other art commissioned by the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund can be found on the Senate website at http://www.oksenate.gov/senate_artwork/artwork_index_full.aspx.