Oklahoma History Timeline

Important Dates, Events, and Milestones in Oklahoma History

Offers a chronological timeline of important dates, events, and milestones in Oklahoma history.

The Spiro Native Americans arrive in 500 CE, eventually building burial mounds filled with exquisite artwork. They are present in the region until about 1300. 1012 (November 11) Viking explorers visit eastern Oklahoma and leave their mark on a large flat stone near the town of Heavener.  The land that today makes up Oklahoma was added to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

Oklahoma became the 47th state in 1907, following several acts that incorporated more and more Indian tribal land into U.S. territory.

16th Century Oklahoma History Timeline

1541 - Francisco Vasquez de Coronado first explored the region for Spain

18th Century Oklahoma History Timeline

1714 - Saint Denis from New Orleans ascended the Red River along the southern boundary of Oklahoma.

1717 - The Spanish under Padilla marched from the Spanish settlements on the Rio Grande across the Great Plains to punish the Comanche for making warfare on them. They fought a hard battle on the western border of Oklahoma and captured seven hundred prisoners.

1719 -

  • French explorer Jean-Baptiste de la Harpe explores Oklahoma, claiming it for France.
  • Bernard de la Harpe, under direction of Governor Bienville at New Orleans, set out from Natchitoches on the Red River to explore the valley- of that stream. He passed over Southern and Southeastern Oklahoma.

1723 - New Orleans was proclaimed as the seat of government for the territory of Louisiana. Etienne Venyard du Bourgmount crossed Oklahoma, visiting the Pawnee, Kaw, Osage, Missouri, and then the Comanche on the Arkansas River in what is now Central Kansas. He loaded the Indians with presents in an effort to win their attachment to the French, thus beginning the rivalry with the Spanish for the Great Plains region.

1739-40 - Two brothers named Mallet and four companions ascended the Missouri River to the Platte, following that river to the Rocky Mountains. Skirting the mountains, the party went to Santa Fe, N. M, where they spent the winter, separating in the spring, three members of the party returned overland to the Missouri, while the other three passed down the Arkansas through Oklahoma.

1760 - Brevel, a French Creole trader from New Orleans, visited the Wichita Mountains in company with the Caddo Indians. He reported the Spaniards to be engaged in mining operations in the mountains at that time. Spanish priests were also present among the Indians.

1763 - The territory of Louisiana was secretly ceded to the Spanish by the French to prevent its falling into the hands of the British.

19th Century Oklahoma History Timeline

1800 - Before settlers enter the region, several tribes of Native Americans live in or range over the land. The Plains Native Americans include the Kiowa, Apache, Ute, and Comanche in the western part of the land. They are nomadic hunters who follow the huge herds of buffalo that graze on grasslands. In the east, the Wichita live in houses thatched with grass and cultivate crops like corn, beans, pumpkins, and melons. Of the original tribes that ranged throughout Oklahoma prior to settlement, only the Ute remain. A large portion of Oklahoma's Native American population is made up of descendants of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole, who were forcibly moved to Oklahoma by the U.S. government between 1820 and 1842.

1803 - The US acquired most of Oklahoma in 1803 in the Louisiana Purchase from France

1819 - Adams-Onis Treaty with Spain defined Oklahoma as the southwestern boundary of the United States.

1824 - Fort Gibson was the first fort to be established in Oklahoma.

1830s - 1840s - The Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole (called the Five Civilized Tribes) are encouraged and then forced to relocate from their native lands (by the US government) into Oklahoma, known then as the Indian Territory. Thousands of native Americans lost their lives on the bloody marches to Oklahoma.

1834 - Set aside as Indian Territory

1842 - Remaining Seminole Indians (from Florida) move to Oklahoma
1845 - Western Panhandle region became US territory with the annexation of Texas
1860s - After the Civil War, because the Indians had sided with the Confederacy, they faced ruin and forfeiture of their lands
1870s - An additional 25 tribes were moved to Oklahoma to reside on federal lands
1870 - 1872 - First railroad to cross Oklahoma was built between 1870 and 1872

1889 -

  • Land in Indian Territory was opened to white settlement by land runs, lotteries, and auctions. The territory was split in half, and the western half became Oklahoma Territory.
  • The first land run was held April 22nd. At exactly noon, a cannon boom signaled the start of the run which opened the Unassigned Lands for settlement.

1890 - May 2 - Region was divided into Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory

1891 -September 21 - The Sac and Fox, Pottawatomie-Shawnee Lands, located just east of the original run site, were opened.

1892 - April 19 - The Cheyenne and Arapaho lands in western Oklahoma were opened.

1893 -September 16 - The largest and most spectacular run in northern Oklahoma, the Cherokee Strip, was held.

1895 -May 23rd - the Kickapoo Land Run was held in central Oklahoma

20th Century Oklahoma History Timeline

1907 - November 16 - Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory were combined to make a new state, Oklahoma. Oklahoma became the 46th state to join the Union.

1921 - The Greenwood neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, housed one of the most successful Black economies in American history. The area is, now, commonly referred to as “The Black Wall Street.”  Most of the businesses and homes were burned down  when on May 31 and June 1, 1921, a white mob started the Tulsa race riot, attacking residents and businesses of the African-American community of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in what is considered the worst incident of racial violence in United States History.

1930's - Oklahoma part of the Dust Bowl

1935 - May - Rural Electrification Administration established

1937 - Route 66 which is also known as "The Mother Road," "The Main Street of America" and "The Will Rogers Highway" was paved end to end.
1990 - Oklahoma's Native American population is the largest in the nation -252,420

1959 - Alcohol prohibition is repealed in the state
1971 - Opening of the Oklahoma portion of the Arkansas River Navigation System gave the cities of Muskogee and Tulsa (at its port Catoosa) direct access to the sea.

1990 - Oklahoma becomes the first state to limit the terms of legislators

1995 - Terrorist bomb blows up the Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, and injuring hundreds more

21st Century Oklahoma History Timeline

2000 - Dec 28, In the US recent bad weather was blamed for 41 deaths: including 22 in Texas and 11 in Oklahoma.

2001 -

  • Two Oklahoma State basketball players, six staffers, broadcasters associated with team killed in plane crash during snowstorm in Colorado;
  • Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, executed

2002 - 12 people killed when barge struck bridge, caused collapse into Arkansas River on Interstate 40

2004 - Oklahoma City bomber co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, found guilty on all counts

2008 - Tornado struck Picher, killed six, destroyed 20-block area (clean-up efforts complicated by town's status as one of most polluted sites in nation -

2010 - Tornadoes, rainstorms killed two, injured hundreds, damaged more than 1,485 homes and businesses

2011 - Tornadoes struck in several areas of the state, killing five

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