The Travel Oklahoma series runs the first Wednesday of each

month in the Today section. Topics range from quick jaunts

to longer journeys, from easy-to-reach places to the real

back roads. Oklahoma's scenery and history are rich, and

we invite you to sample them.

The Cherokee Outlet is among the strongest and most colorful

threads in Oklahoma's history fabric.

But we seldom call it by its correct name. It usually is

termed the Cherokee Strip, which was a different bit of

real estate. Even state museums in the Outlet area are more

likely to be called "Cherokee Strip."

When the Cherokee Indians were relocated to what is now

Oklahoma in the 1800s, they were given the northeastern

corner of the state as a homeland.

To provide them extra hunting room, especially access to

the great buffalo herds of the prairie, the government added

the Outlet, some seven million acres.

It extended 58 miles south from the Kansas border and more

than 200 miles east-west. The southern border went west

from a point on the 96th degree of longitude just northwest

of present-day Tulsa's downtown to the 100th degree, where

Oklahoma meets the Texas Panhandle.

The Cherokee Strip, just 2 1/2 miles deep from the Missouri

border to the 100th degree, was held in trust for the tribe.

Some say its origin came from disagreements over survey


The Cherokees eventually sold it to the U.S. government,

which ceded it to Kansas to form that state's southern boundary.

But the Outlet remained a key player in Oklahoma's story.

The eastern end ultimately was sold to the Osages. Today

the Osage Nation also is Osage County, Oklahoma's largest.

Much smaller areas were sold to the Kaws, Pawnees, Poncas,

Otoes and Missouris and to the Nez Perces. When the latter

returned to their Idaho roots, they sold their tract to

the Tonkawas.

The much larger western portion of the Outlet long had drawn

the attention of cattlemen. It was crossed by trails over

which Texas longhorns were driven to Kansas railheads.

Lands leased for grazing

Eventually ranchers formed the Cherokee Strip Livestock

Association and leased the Cherokees' lands for grazing.

The price: $100,000 a year initially, later $200,000.

But there were far more would-be settlers than cattlemen.

They demanded the Cherokee lands be bought from the tribe

and opened to homesteading.

Some accounts say the lands were surplus to the tribe. Others

say the Cherokees were forced to sell as punishment because

some tribesmen supported the Confederacy during the Civil


Whatever, in 1891 the Cherokees sold the majority of the

old Outlet to the government for more than $8.5 million.

On Sept. 16, 1893, the greatest of the five Oklahoma land

runs took place as at least 100,000 persons dashed into

northern Oklahoma in search of 40,000 claims. Cities such

as Enid, Perry, Ponca City, Blackwell, Alva and Woodward

grew from this run.

Conditions must have been chaotic. E.W. Jones, writing about

a place called Hell's Half Acre in his "Early Day History

of Perry," said:

"Could there ever again be such a mass incongruous, heterogeneous

and conglomerate humanity gathered together as there was

in that block?"

Rainfall patterns known

Someone knew Oklahoma's rainfall patterns when prices for

land were established. Settlers had to pay only $1 an acre

in the more arid lands west of 98 1/2 degrees, $2.50 in the

moister area east of 97 1/2 and $1.50 within the middle degree

of longitude.

Oklahoma has 77 counties. Eleven rest entirely within the

area of the old Outlet - Harper, Woodward, Woods, Major,

Alfalfa, Grant, Garfield, Kay, Noble, Pawnee and Osage -

plus the north half of Ellis and a bit of Payne.

Counties in those days often were given only a letter name.

One - K - retained it, but changed the spelling to Kay.

The old Cherokee Outlet, running from Tulsa's doorstep to

the High Plains and the Panhandle, has much to show the

visitor. And it has museums to tell its history and that

of the pioneers who populated it.

Four Cherokee Outlet museums - all free - can be visited

on an easy loop from Tulsa or while traveling to New Mexico,

Colorado or Kansas.


Museum of the Cherokee Strip

507 S. 4th St.

(on Owen Garriott, Oklahoma 15)

Phone 405-237-1907

Open Tue.-Fri. 9-5, Sat.-Sun. 2-5.

Closed Mondays and holidays.

Museum includes:

Information on cattle holdings and trails through the Outlet

and how land was opened to settlers.

Toys, clothing of pioneer days, including Wild West show


Displays showing kitchen, parlor and bedroom of 1895 and

1905 periods, with good collection of furnishings and "modern


Information on the railroad war, where Rock Island tracks

were dynamited and trestles destroyed in fights over location

of railroad depots so vital to towns.

Special display on astronaut Owen K. Garriott, who flew

in the Skylab program and is an Enid native.

Immediately behind the main museum is a building with a

good collection of farm implements, from scythes to ox yokes,

wooden thresher to blacksmith and carpentry tools. A 1926

Model T Ford and old glass-sided gasoline pump are other

highlights. Some venerable farm equipment is on the adjacent



Cherokee Strip Museum

1/4-mile east of I-35 on West First

Phone 405-336-2405

Open Tue.-Fri. 9-5, Sat.-Sun. 2-5.

Closed Mondays and holidays.

Museum includes:

Good display of how Cherokees moved west and map of the

Cherokee Outlet.

Pictures of land run, of homesteaders and early Perry and

a map showing the towns - still existing or long gone -

of Noble County.

Former Gov. Henry S. Johnston's law office in Perry, including

his ornate chair and early-day maps.

Memorabilia of Gov. Henry Bellmon's days as governor and

senator from Oklahoma. Both Johnston and Bellmon come from

Noble County.

Clothing displays and an old doctor's office.

In back of the museum are a deer pen, a well-labeled selection

of farm implements, including a buggy and wagon, old Kaw

City jail cells and various equipment.

Of special note is the Rose Hill school, most of it dating

to 1895. Moved from a country location several miles from

Perry, it has been at the museum since 1971. It is used

Tuesdays through Fridays during the school term as a working

museum for modern-day fourth-graders, who visit it for classes,

sit at its aged desks and write their lessons on slate.


Cherokee Outlet Museum

303 S. Main

Phone 405-363-0209

Open 1-5 Mon.-Sat.

Closed Sundays and holidays.

This museum, run by the Top of Oklahoma Historical Society,

is less structured than the other museums, which are run

by the state. But it has a wealth of interesting material.

This includes:

A collection of 75 years of Blackwell history through old

newspaper photos and clips, plus many pictures of the devastating

tornadoes of 1949 and 1955.

Many pictures of life in Blackwell and nearby areas, ranging

from early-day town bands to the forest of rigs in the Three

Sands oil field.

A large collection of old clothing, including dresses, children's

shoes and women's hats.

Turn-of-the-century kitchen, bedroom and parlor, with dressers,

chest, telephones, a bell-shaped crank gramophone, a tall

Edison Victrola, floor-pedal sewing machine, churns, lard

press and wood and coal-oil stoves.

A room includes a history of Blackwell High School, including

pictures of football, baseball and basketball players in

uniforms long outdated.

Among the many interesting odds-and-ends are a 1910 calendar

for Dr. Thacher's Liver and Blood Syrup and a box of cards

listing Ku Klux Klan memberships in the 1920s.

The building itself is a museum piece. The Blackwell Electric

Park Pavilion, complete with dome, was begun in 1912. The

structure needs substantial repair and there is debate as

to whether to tear it down.

Ponca City

Pioneer Woman Museum

U.S. 77 and Highland

Phone 405-765-6108

Open 9-5 Wed.-Sat. (November-March); 9-5 Tue.-Sat. (April-October);

1-5 Sun. year-round.

Closed Mondays (except when summer holiday falls on Monday),

Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's.

Across the street from the museum is the famed 17-foot bronze

statue of the Pioneer Woman and her son, a memorial to the

women who braved frontier hardships.

On museum grounds is a marker noting the original plans

for the Interstate Oil Compact Commission were drawn up

in December 1934 at the nearby mansion of E.W. Marland;

the mansion now is a museum.

The Pioneer Woman museum includes:

A fine collection of dozens of old pressing irons, including

some radical designs and ideas for easing that drudgery.

Two looms in working order.

Two highly contrasting displays, one of Oklahoma's three

Miss Americas, the other "Black Women Against the Odds,"

telling of their struggles in the land.

A wonderfully ornate Garland Stove plus a kitchen with many

period appliances and utensils.

A display and pictures of the 101 Ranch, once the first

name in rodeo.

An elaborate wreath of human hair, and machines with dangling

wires and clamps once used to give women permanents.

There is much more to these museums than can be listed here.

All tell stories of pioneer life in a pioneer land. They

have memories for folks 80, and eye-openers for folks 8.

They link us to our heritage.