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Ever since his first glimpse of photographs of the Land Run of 1889, Chuck Wiggin has been interested in the event and its connection to Oklahoma City history.
Over 30 years after his move to Oklahoma in 1978, Wiggin is close to bringing the ’89er Trail to OKC. It includes 28 historical markers placed at locations throughout downtown and commemorates events leading up to the 1889 Land Run and events that transpired the following year.
Each marker will be placed between downtown streets and sidewalks opposite their historical designation and will include text, photos, a map of other markers and website information. The website, 89ertrail.com, features more information, photos and auditory tracks of each marker’s text for the visually impaired.
“I think that will really bring these stories to life,” Wiggin said.
A city’s birth
He set out to tell 20-30 of the most interesting stories related to the formation of the city. The markers will depict chronologically and geographically important moments and show the progression from pre-land-run boomers to the formation of the territorial government with the May 1890 Oklahoma Organic Act.
The trail will designate significant sites such as Santa Fe Station, which highlights the importance of railroad travel in the city’s history.
While the land run and concepts of Oklahoma statehood are inseparable, Wiggin felt that the event’s connection to the city’s formation has gone unnoticed.
“This is a piece of history that’s lost to many Oklahomans,” Wiggin said. “There’s really very little evidence of it on the ground today.”
After becoming interested in land run history, Wiggin met Bob Blackburn, author and Oklahoma Historical Society executive director.
Working with Blackburn, Wiggin established a team of researchers and genealogists to help to bring the trail to life.
After several meetings, Wiggin had the historical background, but he still needed to translate his vision into a narrative.
“I put some money down at the Community Foundation for an ’89er Trail fund, and we contracted with [Oklahoma author] Michael [Hightower] to write a book and also to write the text for markers,” Wiggin said.
Wiggin decided to write most of the marker text himself and, along with Hightower, formed an editorial advisory board, which includes Blackburn, Anne Hodges Morgan and Larry Johnson, in order to ensure peer-reviewed historical accuracy.
Because the markers would likely cover locations relevant to both OKC administration and private property owners, Wiggin began discussions with multiple groups in late 2015, obtained funds in 2016 and received permits earlier this year.
The ’89er Trail will likely arrive sometime this summer.
Wiggin said it would probably take between two hours to half a day to cover the trail. As a result, he thinks people will interact with it organically, bit by bit.
“I think what’s going to happen is that people will encounter these one at a time,” Wiggin said. “There’s a story to tell in each one of these locations.”
Print headline: The ’89er Trail documents Land Run of 1889 history along sites in modern-day OKC