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September 17, 2004

To the pioneers who made this home, we say thanks

When the pioneers who settled this area lined up for that epic land run into the Cherokee Strip on September 16, 1893, they probably had no idea of their place in history. They were part of a romantic, brave endeavor to establish homes, towns, cities, farms and other kinds of communities in a wild, almost desolate land where the normal niceties of society had not yet penetrated. They were hungry for a new way of life, one that would remove them from the list of poverty-stricken Americans and transport them into a new kind of prosperity that has always been everyone's dream in this land of immigrants..

They knew the rules of the game. They understood that winning a quarter section of land in this cornucopia would entail hard, back-bending labor for many years, and their entire family would be involved in that effort. Children were not excepted. They would join their elders in taming this hot, dusty, wind-swept land, where lush-green crops would someday enable the settlers to wrest a living.

They were merchants, professional people, blacksmiths, farmers...some trained in law, or the ministry, or in education, others simply hard-working, determined adults and young people willing to spend a few years here on the prairie in order to become owners of that precious commodity some of this rich Oklahoma soil.

Life was hard for them. They were sweating profusely in articles of apparel that were soiled by the red dirt of this promised land. The bare necessities of life could be purchased at a price that was sky high for those troubled days. The alternative was simply to live without them.

They gave little or no thought to their place in history. They just wanted to get that run over with and to begin carving out a new life for themselves and their families. They were good, strong men and women, and they had passed some of their moral values on to their sons and daughters. More of them came still later to help develop this frontier land. My own father came in 1895, two years after the "run," at the invitation of a pharmacist who had come here two years earlier. I am so glad both of them came when they did. My mother was a "latecomer," arriving with her parents and sister in 1902. She and my Dad were settlers as much as those who actually made the run, and they were content with their role in history.

Today, as we celebrate anew the opening of the Cherokee Strip to settlement, those of us who now make this our home can rejoice at the fortitude and patience of those who made it possible for us today to enjoy the promise of this wonderful part of the U.S.A.

Remembering what they did for the rest of us, let us silently but gratefully salute those hardy people who made the run here in 1893, and thereby made it possible for you and me to enjoy a part of the country that we now call home. Bless them all.