The Indian Territory, now about the area of present-day Oklahoma, developed rapidly between 1870 and 1889, led by ranching, railroad building, and mining. In the early years of the cattle industry, the area was a highway for Texas herds bound for Kansas. Trails that crossed the Indian Territory included the East Shawnee, the West Shawnee, the Chisholm, and the Dodge City, or Great Western Cattle Trail. When previously open range was enclosed with barbed wire during the 1880s, ranchers turned to Indian Territory where they leased Native American land. The Cheyenne-Arapaho Stock Growers Association and the Cherokee Strip Livestock Association were the biggest stock-raising combinations during this period.
Both companies made money by allowing independent stock growers to lease huge tracts of land at favorable prices. The Cheyenne-Arapaho lease gave seven Texas companies the right to graze 200,000 head of cattle on 1.2 million hectares (3 million acres). Similar arrangements with the Cherokees were used to feed 300,000 animals per year.
Extensive postwar railroad construction accelerated economic development among the Native American nations. In 1870 the Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad began construction from Chetopa, Kansas, across the Indian Territory. In January 1873 it had crossed Red River at Colbert’s Ferry to become the first line to span what is now Oklahoma from north to south.
Other important railroad lines in Indian Territory were the Atlantic and Pacific, called the Frisco; the Fort Smith and Western; the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf; the Santa Fe; and the Rock Island. Mining also changed Indian Territory. Native American laws allowed tribal citizens to mine all the coal they discovered and could use. A mining industry developed rapidly. James J. McAlester, a Confederate veteran who had married a Choctaw and become a member of the Choctaw Nation, discovered a thick coal seam in 1871. He organized the Oklahoma Mining Company and leased coal-bearing land to mining companies, which paid the Choctaw Nation royalties on each ton of coal mined.
By 1900 the central portion of the Choctaw Nation was a maze of mining camps. The principal centers were at McAlester, Hartshorne, Haileyville, Krebs, Coalgate, Lehigh, Dow, and Alderson. Immigrants from Russia, the Balkans, Greece, Italy, and Wales worked the mines, and many of their descendants still live in the territory of the old Choctaw Nation. "Oklahoma" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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