It is cheaper to lease land than to own land. It will be remembered that of these lands those in Kiowa, Comanche, Caddo, Washita, Roger Mills, Custer, Blaine, Dewey and Day counties all belonged to the different tribes of Indians, and the best lands were allotted to them, 160 acres for each individual. Along the rivers and creeks, and wherever there was timber, these allotments were taken. They have never failed to make good crops of corn. The upland makes good cotton, wheat and oats.
There is but a small per cent of this land in cultivation, but it can be leased under five year contracts, the lessee being required to put up the necessary buildings, fence the land, and pay from $50 to $65 per year in two payments, one on the first of January and the other on the first of July. If the place has timber, you can cut enough of it for fence-posts and whatever improvements are needed on the place, and you can also cut what wood you need for household purposes.
This is cheaper than owning land, paying taxes and buying wood. In this part of Oklahoma when an Indian dies his allotment is put up for sale through the Indian agent and Interior Department, and extra fine bottom land will often sell for from $1200 to $2000 for a quarter section. There is room for thousands of families up and down these Oklahoma water courses.
In Oklahoma all contracts made with the Indians are made through the Indian agent of the respective tribes, while in Indian Territory the contracts are made directly with the Indians, for everything, excepting the sale of lands. In this case application must be made to the Indian agent at the Union Agency, Muskogee, and on his approval the application is sent to the Secretary of the Interior, and the person buying the land receives his deed from the Interior Department. This is generally an easy process when the Indian is not a full blood and when the price paid for the land is about the actual valuation.
Beginning at the Kansas line in the Cherokee country the land varies from $15 to $50 per acre, while down through the Osage and Cherokee line, where are the great oil fields, the land runs even higher. This is on the west side of Grand River down to the Creek line, while on the east side along the line of Arkansas and west of Grand River agricultural land varies from $10 to $20 per acre. This is a timbered country, with flint rock or limestone land, with small prairies scattered about among the hills. The rougher land, which grows good orchards, vegetables and corn, sells for as low as $2.50 per acre. This is a well-watered country, very healthy, thinly settled at the present time, and with considerable game, a few deer and turkeys, lots of foxes and squirrels. There are lots of hickory nuts and huckleberries, while it is the home of the diamond rattlesnake and the ground hog. There are many charming streams filled with fine fish. My advice would be, however, especially to white settlers, to stay away from the river and creek bottoms. Colored people stand the malaria much better than white people.
This is the condition of the country until you get south of the Arkansas River. Along the river the land is very rich, and held at a high valuation. The bottoms are principally adapted to corn, cotton and potatoes, while the uplands grow corn, cotton and strawberries.
The Creek and Seminole nations are alike in that a large proportion of the population is made up of colored people. They live principally along the water courses, while the upland and mountain sections are but thinly settled. The best land ranges from $15 to $50 per acre, and unimproved upland sells at from $5 to $15. This is not much of a wheat country, being better adapted to corn, cotton and oats. There are good coal fields in the southwest part, in the north there are fields of oil and gas, and in the west there is considerable game.
The Chickasaw country has more good land in proportion to acreage than any other section of the country. The soil is adapted principally to corn and cotton. The land sells from $15 to $50 per acre. Rough land in smaller amounts brings from $3 to $10 per acre.
While the Choctaw country has lots of unimproved land, it is known principally for its great deposits of coal and asphalt. This is the greatest coal field west of the Alleghanies, and I believe will someday be equal to Pennsylvania. Beginning at the northwest corner of the Choctaw country, the settlements are along the South Canadian River, Gaines creek and other water courses. Going south you enter the Sansbois Mountains, where you can travel for half a day without seeing a house. In this country there are hickory flats and black jack. This would be a good country to colonize, but I would not advise people to go there unless in sufficient numbers to protect one another, for there is much complaint of thieves.
There are many ridges, rocky canyons, and lots of rough country that is fit only for range, while along the streams there are canes, green grass and wild onions all winter. Further east are other mountains, much like the Sansbois, only they have more pine and cedar, and appear to be fuller of coal. Then the Poteau and Arkansas River bottoms are reached, full of malaria, though in spite of this fact some white people are living there. They have, indeed, lived there many years, and claim it is a good country, but I would advise anybody going there to be careful about malaria. The land is very rich.
Coming back to the west line of the Choctaw County and going south McAlester is reached. Going east from here to the Arkansas line one scarcely for a moment loses sight of the coal mines that line the way. Some of the coal towns are good-sized, but they are mining towns purely and simply, and are not supported by the country round them. Wilburton is among the largest mining towns east of McAlester, and is located on the Choctaw railroad, on the west side of Pushmelean creek. It is situated in a gap on the south side of the Sansbois Mountains, north of the Kiamitia Mountains. It is a good-sized town, but the country, right up to the town limits, is but very thinly settled.
Any of these towns offers a good opening to the man who wants to keep a few cows and sell milk, or to raise poultry or vegetables. The stock can run at large, and the grass costs nothing, and the towns themselves are a good market for anything to eat.
Leaving the Choctaw railroad and going south at and point east of McAlester you will be in the very thinly settled Kiamitia Mountain section. Bearing to the southeast, you will strike the head waters of the Kiamitia River, which is in the center of the game country. On Jack Fork of the Kiamitia you will find considerable beaver, black bears, deer, and turkeys in abundance. This is a good country for colonizers, as land is very cheap and the country is thinly settled.
If, however, you are hunting big wolves, turkeys, wildcats and other small game, don’t go any farther than the Winding Stair Mountains or almost anywhere else in the brakes of the Kiamitia mountains. I went over this country not very long ago, and know what I am talking about. If you go any ways soon and don’t find things as I have stated them to be, let me know.
Source: Puckett, J. L. and Ellen. History of Oklahoma and Indian Territory and Homeseeker’s guide. Vinita, Oklahoma, Chieftain Publishing Company, 1906.