May 30, 1997
We no longer have eyewitnesses who were here for the extraordinary openng of the Cherokee Outlet on September 16, 1893. In my childhood years, many pioneers of the great run were still around to provide first-person accounts of that hot, historic afternoon, but time has removed all of them. My contemporaries and I are now becoming the old-timers to the younger generations of today, and we have to rely on recollections of what we read or were told by those whose memory we now honor. Written histories left by the men and women who took part in the run become more precious with each passing anniversary of that fabled day more than one hundred years ago. Some of the best of these were bequeathed to us by Judge E. W. Jones, publisher of The Perry Republican, a weekly newspaper in the early days which eventually sired today's Perry Daily Journal.
I have often used Judge Jones' little Perry history books as a reference for many questions about the development of Perry after the run. Today I'd like to reprint an article from the front page of Judge Jones' newspaper of February 2, 1912, which he called a special "commercial edition illustrating Perry and Noble county progressiveness." Maybe this will help in our understanding of how things were, 'way back then. Here is part of Judge Jones' account.
"Perry, Oklahoma, is located about 60 miles south of Arkansas City, Kansas, on the Santa fe (railroad line) and the same distance north of Oklahoma City. It is not necessary to enter upon the details as to how the town came to be located, as that portion of our history has for the past 15 years been given at length in the stories of the opening of the Cherokee Strip by the magazines and authentic history writers until it would seem that every man, woman and child should know how, when and where the city came to be. Sufficient that at high noon on September 16, 1893, The Peerless Princess' came into existence with an estimated population at 3 o'clock in the afternoon of 40,000 people.
"The original townsite comprised 320 acres, located geographically NE 22 and NW 23-21-1W. This platted, exclusive of reservations for city parks and school reserves, made 625 residence lots of 50 by 140 feet. The settlers spread over the original townsite and to care for the immense throng of future residents five additions were proved up and platted and known as Northeast, North, Northwest, West and South Perry. The original town was enclosed in the space bounded now on the south by A street, on the east by First street, on the west by Ninth street and on the north by F street. The five additions added to the town 2,145 residence lots and all were absorbed in the year after the opening by extension of the corporate limits, becoming a part of the present city of Perry.
"As is generally known, the lots became the property of the first occupant after the hour of the opening. Of the wild scramble the photographs now shown of the famous 'horse race' give the uninformed a vague idea. There is nothing startling nor particularly of interest in connection with the various additions to the townsite proper except the story of their settlement.
"The quarter section upon which North Perry is located was claimed the first day by Henry Linn, he having tried to establish proof of his prior settlement and occupancy as against thousands who were upon the land staking and claiming lots within an hour after the opening. A contest of course resulted between Linn and the settlers, the same being instituted in the local land office. The case was fought to the departments at Washington with the result of the settlers winning after three or four years of expensive litigation.
"Linn was a speculative genius, a genuine Oklahoma rustler, and had been through the mill in the land openings for years prior to that of the Strip. Had he won this case it would have made him a handsome fortune as North Perry has since grown to be the fashionable portion of the city. After losing his contest, with his nerve his solitary asset, Linn drifted on farther west and when last heard of was exploiting a gold dredging scheme in the rivers of Idaho. Another homestead claimant for this quarter was one Miss Burke, but her part in the battle attracted but little attention as she never developed any strength in the litigation."
More of Judge Jones' story of Perry's earliest days in the next Northwest Corner.