The Oklahoma Land Run Monument

The Great Land Rush of 1889                                       

It has been called the greatest rush for land in the history of mankind. More than 2 million acres of unassigned land in the heart of Indian territory were opened to settlement during this first Oklahoma land run. 50,000 hopefuls surrounded the area to stake their claim for less than 12,000 homesteads!

The participants included a cross-section of ethnic and vocational types from around the nation.  Families and farmers, merchants and bricklayers, widows, lawyers, cowboys and doctors: all wanted land, either for homestead acres or for a town site lot. Across the territory at high noon on April 22, 1889, blasts rang out from gun shot, cannon fire and bugle charge and the race started. By the time the red dust settled that evening, a new era had begun in Oklahoma.

In celebration of this historic run and in conjunction with the 100th Anniversary of statehood, the Oklahoma Centennial Commission has engaged renowned sculptor Paul Moore to create a dramatic reenactment of the event. Moore's sculpture commemorates the spirit and determination of those men and women who rode in Oklahoma's five land runs. This is truly a monumental project in both its massive size and tremendous undertaking. The work of art will be one of the world's largest bronze sculptures taking at least eight years to complete.

The main sculptural body is a racing mass of horsepower and humanity which will spread thirty feet across and cover a distance of one hundred yards. At a scale of one and a half times life-size, a single horse and rider will tower twelve feet above the ground.  Separated from this racing mass are two additional figure groups: soldiers with a cannon signal the starting point and a lone sooner waits with his horse ahead of the action. The entire length of this colossal work will stretch out longer than a football field!  Such a grand scale befits this epic drama. The impressive size suggests the monumental effort of those early settlers, but the real story is found in the details. All the frenzied energy and emotion from one instant during the 1889 run is captured in bronze - frozen in time and space for all generations. Through Paul Moore's masterful hand, a still and silent sculpture comes to life as an eternal, living presence.

Details explode with action. A determined cowboy jockeys for position with a doctor in his buggy.  Trunks and chairs spill from the back of bouncing wagon. A rider grips tight while his spooked mare reacts and another hangs on helplessly as his mount tumbles nose first into the debris. Just ahead, wide-eyed children stare through flapping canvas at all the chaos. A dog joins in the chase nipping at a wagon wheel.

Using his flag for a quirt, a farm boy transforms a lumbering plow horse into a racing stallion. A buckboard driver pulls hard to rein in hundreds of pounds of horse flesh as they fly towards the river's edge. Side saddle and bonneted, a proud woman leans into her horse as they struggle up the river bank towards solid footing.

These are just some of the participants. Each figure that Moore has included tells a separate story. In total, it is the timeless appeal of adventure and the struggle of man against man and man against nature.  It is Oklahoma's heritage and history, but it speaks a universal language.

Note: In total, this one and a half times life-sized sculpture consists of 38 people, 34 horses, 3 wagons, 1 buggy, 1 sulky, 1 dog, 1 rabbit and 1 cannon. Approximate dimensions: 365 feet long by 36 feet wide and over 15 feet high.

Article written by Kim Walker Ray

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For Map to Land Run site, Click Here.