Guthrie, OK

"The White People Living There Were a Whole Lot Worse Than the Indians," Says Indian Territory Settler

Indian Territory ended in 1890Photo byTimeship on Pixabay

An estimated 50,000 people surrounded Indian Territory before the Oklahoma Land Rush began on April 22, 1889. Also known as "Eighty-niners," "Boomers" and "Sooners", within hours towns that would be named Oklahoma City and Guthrie each had populations of over 10,000.

John Northrip's parents came to Indian Territory in two covered wagons that year. He remembers that the trip took several weeks because there were no official roads. He'd never seen a real American Indian before and the only thing he knew was stories that had been passed around:

It seemed to me that it was a long ways out here and that the Indians were pretty bad for we had not seen any Indians before but when we finally got here and got located it was not bad at all to what I expected. What few white people who were living here at that time were a whole lot worse than the Indians.

20-year-old John worked with his parents farming and raising cotton and corn. After moving around and working on several farms in different counties, the family settled in Pushmataha County. When he was 40 years old, John met and married Elizebeth "Lizzy," who'd just turned 20. John went on to describe what good neighbors tribal members were at the time:

...I have lived among three different tribes of Indians, the Chickasaws, Seminoles and Choctaws and I think they are all good people. I have never had any trouble with any of them. I have traded with them, rented land from them and they always treated me fine. They have come right up and paid what they owed, I did not have to run after them to get my pay for anything. They were all honest, straight and law abiding people and they sure are the best neighbors for they won't come to see you but once in awhile.

John and Lizzy were married for 39 years. They became parents to two sons and two daughters. John saw a son and a daughter marry into the Indian tribes, and only had good things to say:

My boy married a Choctaw Indian woman and they are getting along just fine and one of the Indian boys married one of my girls and they are also doing well. It seems that the Indians get along better with their wives than most of the white people; they are not getting divorces like the white people do these days.

John died in 1948 at the age of 69 and was buried in the Antlers City Cemetery.

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Judy Derby has worked in the surrounding communities as a social worker and advocate. providing resources and information to help local families meet their basic needs. She's been writing about social issues and related topics for over 10 years.

Antlers, OK

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