The First Two Years by Dan W. Peery presents a detailed account of the governmental and political issues faced by Oklahoma City and, in fact, by Oklahoma Territory as it then existed during the period from the April 22, 1889, Land Run through the completion of the First Territorial Legislature in December 1890.
Peery was an Oklahoma City “Land Runner” from Missouri. In city affairs, you will see that he was much more comfortable with the “Kickapoos” than with the “Seminoles” which jousted for municipal control during the first two years of Oklahoma City’s life. In his mini-book (I call it that since, depending on formatting, it is 73 to 86 pages in length), the resulting chaos of that time is brilliantly and engagingly detailed. You will also see that some wanted our county to be named “Couch County” instead of the “Oklahoma County” name that we know today.
Click on one of the images below to enter his realm to see the city in its infancy, either the HTML version (86 pages) or the PDF version (73 pages), the latter of which you can save to your computer and read on your next walk around the block or trip to Dallas. A few snippets from the combined article are presented after the links below to pique your fancy.
The May 2, 1890, federal Organic Act was the 1st action by the United States to recognize “Oklahoma” as a territory of the United States, and it was a small area consisting of the Unassigned Lands and the Panhandle, then called, “No Man’s Land.” The “Land Run” legislation did not establish that status at all. “Oklahoma” as an official U.S. territory occurred via the May 1890 Organic Act, and the area is shown in the Historical Atlas of Oklahoma (OU Press 2006) graphics below:
County names and borders did not exist before 1890
The “Oklahoma Territory” recognized by the 1890 Organic Act
Also Included the Panhandle with Beaver as its County Seat
Among other things, the Organic Act at last contained provisions for Oklahoma government, be it city, county, or territory, and it authorized the convening of a territorial legislature to establish order and organization in the new territory. Dan Peery was a key member of the Oklahoma County delegation to that first Territorial Legislature which met in Guthrie from August 27, 1890, through December 24, 1890. In that capacity, his action or inaction was part of the reason (or excuse) that the federally appointed territorial governor vetoed the Legislative Session’s adoption of Oklahoma City as the Territorial Capital. He explains, almost moment by moment, what occurred during that time, and he pulls no punches in stating his opinions. As an example, about a Payne County representative, he says,
The three men elected to the House from Payne County were: I.N. Terrill, Samuel W. Clark and James L. Mathews.
It is hard to understand the reason why seemingly intelligent people would elect such a wild-eyed, vicious, beastly anarchist as Ira N. Terrill to the Legislature. It is true he was rather a cunning talker who always posed as a friend of the people, but a man so crude in his methods that he could never deceive the people the second time. He would have been in his element in one of those anarchist meetings at the notorious “Hay Market” in Chicago.
The following is a snippet of the author’s experience in the 1st Territorial Legislature:
The writer of these lines ran to the depot as fast as he could to send some telegrams to Oklahoma City, telling them that the capital bill [naming Oklahoma City as the state’s capital] has passed both houses.
* * *
Just as I stepped out the front door I saw a great crowd on the street and the sidewalks were crowded clear up to the street corner. I noticed a commotion in the crowd about thirty steps from the front of the Council Chamber, where I had stopped. Daniels was in the center and I was told they had him down on the sidewalk, evidently trying to search him, when he cried out: “Peery has the bill.” Then it seemed the whole city of Guthrie started after me. They gathered around in scores, and were crying for a rope and made all manner of demonstrations, declaring that I had stolen the capital bill.
* * *
In the rush and excitement, the crowd failed to recognize me. I saw a friendly high board fence with a small door in it. I went through that door and shut it and into the back end of a butcher shop. The butcher was out in the chase, I suppose, so I got behind a large refrigerator in the back room of the butcher shop.
* * *
Along about three or four o’clock in the afternoon, I heard the butcher come in. He and another fellow were talking, and I was listening pretty carefully and I heard the fellow say,: “If they get that man Peery they will hang him,” and went on to say that “the last time I saw him he was going across the school section toward Oklahoma City.” The butcher said, “Damn him they ought to hang him; he stole the Capital bill.”
* * *
In a few minutes C.G. Jones came in. He was somewhat surprised to find me there and was much excited. He said: “It won’t do for you to go out on the front street. Come and go with me up to my room.” He took me down by the back way to the old Noble hotel, and we went up the back stairs to Jones’s room. He left me and said he would go down and reconnoiter. Jones came back in a few minutes and brought me a new forty-five Colts six-shooter. I stayed in his room while he went down to learn if there were any new developments. He came back soon and announced, the Oklahoma City crowd is here. When I opened the door, the hall was full of Oklahoma City people. There was Col. J.W. Johnson, Huger Wilkerson, Charley Colcord, Dick Brandon, W.W. Witten, and one Kennedy, whom the boys called “Sam Bass,” and fifteen or twenty more, some of whose names I do not recall.
They told me to come out and we would take in the town, and we did. We all gathered over at the old English Kitchen, almost opposite where the Ione Hotel now stands, and had a big supper prepared. Some of us were pretty hungry as we had had no dinner.
If that snippet doesn’t grab you, then you probably won’t want to read the full article. If it does, click the image below to open the html version … or click the PDF image to open and/or save the PDF file to your computer.