Indian Territory Prior to 1900 Part I

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A Territory of the United States, situated nearly in the middle of the country. It is bounded on the north by Kansas and Oklahoma, on the east by Missouri and Arkansas on the south by Texas, and on the west by Oklahoma. Its area is approximately, 31,000 square miles (census of 1900).

Because the Indian Territory had been reserved for Indian tribes, it long remained practically unexplored, while the areas around it were surveyed and well mapped. A curious illustration of the fact that little was known about this large region was afforded by the survey of the lands of the Territory authorized by the National Congress in 1894. It had been assumed that the Territory was mainly an open, flat country, and that the survey might therefore proceed very rapidly. It was found, however, that about one-fourth of the Territory is mountainous, and that nearly two-thirds is woodland. As late as 1895 it appeared that while good maps of the drainage of the Chickasaw reservation had been prepared, its relief was not yet mapped; and that little was known either of the drainage or relief of the remainder of the Territory.

Various parts of the Territory differ much in their topography. South of the Canadian River, in the reservations of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations, the country is considerably broken, being traversed by the winding serpentine ridges forming the southern part of the Ozark Hills. These hills enter the Territory from Arkansas, and the summits near the Arkansas boundary reach an altitude of 2500 feet above the sea. Farther south they diminish in height till, in the middle of the Choctaw reservation, they are not more than 1000 feet above the general level of the country. The rocks of these ridges are, for the most part, quartzite, while the valleys between them are floored with limestone. This difference in the rock formations explains the topography. The quartzite ridges are the survival of the hardest rocks.

The northeastern part of the country, north of the Arkansas and Canadian rivers, is a plateau deeply scored by streams. West of this very broken region the Territory is broadly undulating. The eastern portion of the Territory, particularly in the hilly and mountainous regions, is heavily timbered. The southern part, including the Chickasaw reservation and the western portion of the Choctaw country, is a territory of timer and prairie, the timber predominating to the extent of nearly three-fourths of the area. The largest extent of prairie is in the Cherokee and Creek reservations of the north, where there is little timber except along the streams between the timber belt on the west and the hilly country on the east. Some Azoic rocks are found in the north, and the igneous rocks of the hilly and mountainous areas are above mentioned, but the predominant geological formation is Carbon-iferous; in this formation are the bituminous coal measures that will probably always be the chief mineral resource of the Territory. Coal is mined most largely in the southeast and is yielding nearly 2,000,000 tons a year most of the product being marketed in the Southern States. Gold and silver are also found in the mountain regions, and asphalt has been discovered, but is not yet of much importance.

As the drainage of the Territory shows, the general slope of the land is gently from northwest to southeast. The streams are numerous, but none of them is important for navigation. The Red River flows along the boundary of Indian Territory and Texas. The Canadian River, rising in New Mexico, flows east nearly across the Territory till it joins the Arkansas. The Washita River, emptying into the Red River, drains most of the southwestern part of the country. The Arkansas, passing through the Territory, and the Red River carry off all the drainage.

The whole Territory belongs to the humid area of the eastern half of the United States, with sufficient, though not superabundant, rainfall for agriculture. Lying, however, between the 33d and 37th parallels of latitude, the region has a warm climate, the main annual temperature being about 60 degrees F.


The Territory has the advantages of excellent natural conditions for the development of agriculture. The soil is fertile, and the rainfall is greater and more certain than it is in Oklahoma Territory to the west. In 1900, 36.6 per cent. of the land was included in farms. Most of the farms are owned by Indians, but there are also a number of negroes who own land, and also a certain number of whites who have secured land, principally by being adopted as citizens by act of the legislatures of the several Indian nations. However, the Indians do no, as a rule, cultivate their own farms, but rent them instead to the whites, the latter constituting seven-ninths of the total number of farmers. The average size of farms varies from 42.5 acres in the small Seminole Nation, to 329.2 acres in the Creek Nation.

The climatic conditions are such that a great variety of products, including those of both the temperate and semi-tropical regions, can be grown. The cultivation of the soil has thus far, however, been largely subordinated to stock-raising, and corn has consequently been the leading crop, comprising, in 1900, 1,181,439 acres. The areas devoted to wheat and oats for the same year were respectively, 247,247 and 160,457 acres, while the hay and forage crops exceeded 400,000 acres. Cotton produces abundantly and is rapidly becoming of great importance, the acreage devoted to its cultivation in 1900 being 442,065. Fruits and vegetables are also very successfully grown. The prairie lands of the Territory afford excellent and extensive pasturage for stock. The number of cattle in 1900 exceeded 1,500,000. In the same year the horses numbered 198,600; mules, 51,500; sheep, 12,600; and swine, 650,000.


Because of peculiar local conditions, especially the nature of the population, manufacturing has been slow to develop in Indian Territory. However, a good beginning has been made in the decade 1890 to 1900. During this period the number of establishments including hand trades and houses with a product of more than $500__grew from 20 to 789, the capital increasing from $204,329 to $2,624.265. The census of 1900 reported 348 establishments additional, having each a product of less than $500. The most important industries are cotton-ginning, flour and grist milling, the manufacture of cottonseed oil and cake, and the manufacture of lumber and planning-mill products. The greatest activity centers in the Chickasaw nation.


Website: The History
Article Name: Indian Territory Prior to 1900 Part I
Researcher/Preparer/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From my Collection of Books: The New International Encyclopedia; Dodd, Mead and Company-New York 1902 Total of 21 Volumes.
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