In 1889 the Boomers won a victory that cleared the way for White settlement of Indian Territory. The U.S. Congress passed an act that rejected all Creek and Seminole claims to a large region of land in the middle of Indian Territory. This area called the Unassigned Lands attracted huge numbers of settlers who lined up on the border and waited until 12:00 noon on April 22, then rushed into the territory in a frantic race to claim a 160-acre homestead.
Settlers began to build farms and towns overnight on the open prairie. Prettyman witnessed one of the earliest “boomtowns” in 1889 with the startling growth of Guthrie. “Businesses” on Main Street were small tables and tents that were quickly assembled to lay claim to future buildings. Frames for houses and shops appeared soon thereafter and candidates for mayor gave impassioned speeches from the back of wagons while voters stood in line behind their choice for office.
Prettyman had followed theses large throngs of hopeful settlers from his home in Kansas. He documented the wagons on the prairie, dangerous river crossings, success and failures of settlers, and the overnight birth of a city. But most importantly Prettyman captured a turning point in the history of Indian Territory, as it transitioned from a space for American Indians, to scene of the great cattle drives, to finally the homesteads, farms and cities that would eventually become the state of Oklahoma.