starting line in the Land Run

Behind Every Great Whiskey Lies a Great Story

Every state has a unique history… and Oklahoma is no exception.

Unassigned Lands

Cherokee Outlet Map


It was the late 1800s and the winds of change swept across the American landscape.  A large section of “Unassigned Lands” sat in the middle of what would become modern-day Oklahoma. Despite the relocation of Native Americans to portions of the state following the Civil War, the Unassigned Lands remained open and ready for settlement.

Like most historical events, the stage for the Oklahoma Land Run of 1893 was set long before the sun rose on that fateful day brimming with possibilities. An amendment to the Homestead Act of 1862 initiated an extraordinary journey of transformation, charting a path for settlement by distributing individual land parcels among Native Americans and designating the remaining lands as surplus. The act marked a shift towards a more structured system of land ownership at a time when improved agricultural and ranching techniques helped many recognize the value of the land. The rapid expansion of railroads across the United States fueled the desire to settle the territory further. With the Unassigned Land becoming increasingly accessible, the desire to settle the territory grew more irresistible than ever.   

Prior to the official opening of the Unassigned Lands, a movement known as the “Boomers” emerged, advocating for immediate settlement. These pro-settlement groups, eager to claim land, began encroaching on the Unassigned Lands illegally, and had to be removed by the military. After years of raids and pressure by farmers, businesses and railroad officials, President Benjamin Harrison proclaimed the Unassigned Lands open to settlement through a long series of authorizations, each known as an Oklahoma Land Run. The impact of the land runs was immediate, transforming the landscape almost overnight.  


In all, five land runs took place in Oklahoma beginning in 1889, but 1893’s was the big one. Although often compared with other land runs because of the similarities in scope and structure, this land run was drastically different due to the intense competition, poor planning, and inadequate enforcement by federal agencies. The fourth and largest land run in United States history, the Land Run of 1893 emerged as a catalyst of hope, unlocking a large portion of the Unassigned Lands, with over six million acres of settlement opportunities in the Cherokee Outlet.

The opening of the Cherokee Outlet spurred a wave of enthusiasm and aspiration, as a remarkable chapter of the story that shaped America began to unfold on the land that would later become the fifty-eighth state. A beacon of hope and endless possibility, the availability and prospect of owning land sparked a mass influx of people from all walks of life. In the weeks leading up to the land run, people came from near and far for a shot at a new life and a better future. Land-seekers had to register to take part in the land run. Citizenship was not a prerequisite, and despite the lack of legal voting rights for women, they too were permitted to join in

Tens of thousands of prospective settlers gathered around makeshift booths on the prairie. There was little shelter or access to necessities, just a relentless drive to pursue a better life. With a limited number of booths and officials, lines stretched for miles as hopeful settlers waited to register for entry in the land run. The most determined stood their ground, enduring days without water while dry weather, suffocating dust storms, and smoke from nearby prairie fires created more complications. Still, for many, their determination remained, fueled by their desire for their very own plot of land.  

On September 16, 1893, an estimated one hundred thousand land-seekers from all corners of the United States gathered at the Kansas-Oklahoma border, eager to claim land to call their own. Among the crowd of hopeful settlers were families, gamblers, honest home seekers, adventurers, spectators, and land sharks. One thing was certain, with 40,000 homesteads available, there were far more people than homesteads. 

Although it was an extraordinary display of the grit of American settlers who pushed boundaries and took risks in pursuit of freedom and opportunity on the American frontier, the Land Run of 1893 was also plagued by greed and fraud.


If you participated in the event, you would beknown as a “Boomer.” With the demand for land far exceeding its supply, some snuck into the territory before the start of the race. These land-seekers were dubbed “Sooners.” Between the Boomers and Sooners, an atmosphere of confusion, disorder and unpredictability prevailed. Some participants had no idea what they were getting themselves into, while others knew precisely what they wanted and where to find it. The competition was fierce, and some resorted to desperate tactics such as blocking roads, cutting fences and using weapons to get ahead and claim land before anyone else. Additionally, their journeys were marked by natural hazards including storms, flooding, and stampedes caused by wild animals. Some stayed and made their homesteads, others went home, discovering this life was not for them.

The Land Run of 1893 introduced a system for development that provided people from diverse backgrounds with a chance to acquire land that they would have otherwise been unable to obtain due to economic limitations or gender and racial inequality. This ultimately changed the course of history by enabling these settlers to create new lives for themselves in an area that was previously unexplored. As success stories spread throughout the United States, thousands more were inspired by the promise of opportunity in the Unassigned Lands, setting the stage for a monumental wave of settlement.  

Despite the risks involved, pioneers like the ancestors of Land Run Distillery, Henry and Herman Engelking, managed to arrive at their destination safely and secure a piece of land during this remarkable time in history. These early settlers played an important role in shaping Oklahoma, forging new communities and laying the groundwork for the infrastructure that would support them. Today, their legacy can be seen and felt in the cities and towns that stand as a living testament to the lasting impact of the Land Run, a tribute to the pioneers who seized the chance to shape their own destinies and build a future in the heart of the American West.  

The Land Run of 1893 stands as a transformative milestone in the westward expansion of America, forever changing the course of the Unassigned Lands and leaving an indelible mark on the history and heritage of Oklahoma. This momentous event ignited a powerful spirit of growth, resilience and progress that continues to shape the very fabric of the state, leaving it with a legacy of ambition, opportunity and unwavering resolve.  

As we reflect on this period of history, it is fitting to raise a glass of fine bourbon, a spirit that embodies the spirit of innovation, determination and adventure that is at the heart of the American story. 

Special Thanks

Cherokee Strip Land Rush Museum, Arkansas City, Kansas

Land Run Logo

The horse and rider depicted on our logo represent those who raced to claim land during the Oklahoma Land Run of 1893. Our rider holds a flag bearing the Bar E Ranch’s brand, a symbol of our roots, history and ranching community.

Henry Engelking headshot

Henry Engelking

Land Run 1893

Community Impact

Reviving The Spirit