all or part of the present Oklahoma counties of
Canadian, Cleveland, Kingfisher, Logan, Oklahoma, and Payne.
LAND RUSH OF APRIL 22, 1889
John Harvey Miller made his first claim in Oklahoma Territory in present Logan County near the Cimarron River.
He was fifteen when the family came to Kansas; this is where he developed his love for hunting. As he grew older, he and some friends would go into Indian Territory on hunting trips that would last for a month or more. This is how he found his "SPOT" of heaven along the Cimarron River. John built a dug-out here to use while on his hunting trips.
John Harvey described the Indian Territory: "After you pass though the level high grass, the country becomes rougher as you approach the breaks that run along the Cimarron River. Here the soil turns to a rusty-red color,"--his eyes would light up--"you reach my "SPOT" and the soil turns to a rich, dark bottom land wrapped in a blanket of grass waist high."
The family said that when John and his friends would return from a trip into Indian Territory, he would have his supply wagon loaded down with all kinds of wild fresh meat, from quail to deer. Wild fruit when in season. He always brought paw-paws to a cousin who liked them.
Each time he went hunting into the Indian Territory he returned with new stories to tell: The railroad was being built, several campers were along the trail to the Cimarron River. John would stop and share his fresh meat with his new-found friends. Even sod houses had been built on the level lands just south of the Kansas border.
There began to be talk that the Indian Territory was going to be opened for settlement. John so hoped he could own the land where his dug-out was. On every trip John found more people, more tents, dug-outs; you could see the light from camp first at night. He felt he could make a living here so much easier that his brothrs and cousins did in Kansas.
The date, 22nd of April 1889, was set for the opening of the Indian Territory. John Harvey felt he could be a rich man if he could own his "SPOT." But, if he left his land and went back to Kansas to make the run, would some Boomer move in on his "SPOT"? John felt he had been coming here for so long that he had the right to first claim to his hunting ground.
As time grew near to the 22nd of April 1889, John became scared. The Homestead Act clearly stated, "No person entering upon or occupying land before 12 noon on the 22nd of April 1889 would be permitted to acquire land." He felt, if he left his land, some "ornery cuss" would get his dug-out; he want this land so badly. As the time grew closer, he decided to go back to the Kansas line and make the run, so he would have a legal claim to his "chosen spot of land."
John Harvey was lucky; he was able to make application No. 4095 for the S.E. 1/4 of Section 32 Twp 16N Range 4 W, near Guthrie. The family story is: John may have left someone on his "SPOT" to guard it for him while he was gone to make the run. John told his family, "No one will every know how happy I was to get back to my "SPOT," and it still be mine".
John Harvey went for his wife, Josephine, sons Holden and Elwood, daughters Olive, Birtha and little Velma, less that a year old. They loaded the covered wagon with all their household goods that the wagon would hold. Josephine had some of her mother's things; they meant so much to her, for her mother had been head just a few months. Josephine kept telling John to pack her mother's things carefully; John was in a hurry to leave. The boys were so excited; now they could see all the things that their father had been telling them about.
James, Josephine's father, was worried about what lay ahead for his daughter and her five children. He knew the trip and living in a dug-out would not be easy for them. Josephine was too young to remember how near her family came to starving to death the first winter they were in Kansas. But her father, James, could remember it all too well.
The family had gathered to tell them goodbye; they had all brought food for them to have on the trail. The family watched each other until they were out of sight, wondering how long it would be until they saw each other again. The first night on the trail, supper went well. The food the family had sent tasted so good, for they were all hungry. Sleep came slowly; the children were still excited.
Soon the hardest part came: crossing the river. They crossed not far from where Cottonwood Creek runs into the Cimarron River. The water was red and the soil was soft along the edges. The wagon looked top-heavy with its extenders. The horses didn't want to cross; they tried to turn back. Josephine held to Velma with an arm; she tried to hold Birth with the other arm. She told the boys to hold to Olive. This was her first experience of pioneer life; she was scared, tired and homesick. This was the first time she and the children had been more than twenty miles from home.
John Harvey got them across. He wasn't worried--adventure suited him. Nightfall found them at their "SPOT." John asked his wife, "Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?" All Josephine could see was the house in Kansas and the family telling them goodbye. But she didn't have time to feel sorry for herself; the children were hungry and sleepy. She set about cooking some quail that had been shot that evening down by the river. John milked the cow; he came in with the milk just in time for Josephine to make some gravy with the quail drippings. The next day was full, too; the dug-out needed a good cleaning and fixing up. The wagon was unloaded, but the dug-out didn't hold everything. John promised to make it larger.
In December 1889, tragedy struck. Their dug-out burned, burning everything they owned. The weather was cold, and Josephine was expecting a baby in February. Like the first time, the family went to work and started over. There was one good thing about John's hunting trips; the family always had meat to eat.
In May 1891, John Harvey went to the Kingfisher Stage Land Office to see what he could do to prove he had made an application for his land, since his receipt had burned. He was told that, without a receipt, he would have to sign his land back to the government. This was hard for him to accept; he felt they should have a copy of his application No. 4095. To him, a copy of his application should prove that he had been given a receipt. But, on May 10, 1891, he signed all his rights to his beloved "SPOT" back to the government. John Harvey felt hopeless and a little bitter. He was thirty-seven years old, had a wife, six children, and no home.
The family continued to live in this area for a number of years, renting land to farm. On November 7, 1898, a son was born; they named him Granvill Dennis T. Flynn. John Harvey named him after his friend, Dennis T. Flynn, the first postmaster at Guthrie. Flynn also had been editor of the Kiowa Herald in Kansas.
The family lived in this area until 1901, when the Wichita-Caddo and Comanche, Kiowa and Apache lands were opened for settlement. John Harvey was lucky; he drew claim No. 4458, a quarter-section now in Grady County. This land was all in trees; the family set about clearing land to be farmed. They built a two-room log house with a sleeping loft for a family of now ten.
John was happy; this new land was good for hunting.
(the above items are from issues of the OK GS Qtly)