Red Dirt Groundbreakers
Students will read about various people throughout the history of Oklahoma who laid the groundwork for the success of agriculture in Oklahoma.
No one knows the name of the first person to clear a patch of ground for planting in the land we call Oklahoma. By the late 13th Century farming had grown from small patches of native plants (sunflowers, amaranth, etc.) to a well-coordinated system of community fields. The ancestors of the Caddo and Wichita grew beans, squash and corn along river banks. Plains Indians came later, using fire to clear grazing areas for the huge bison herds.
The Five Civilized Tribes brought sophisticated farming and ranching traditions that were disrupted by the Civil War. After the war returning soldiers became cowboys, and the cattle industry grew. Unoccupied lands were opened to pioneer farmers, and when Oklahoma became a state, agriculture was a central concern. Critics called the authors of the Oklahoma constitution "corn field lawyers" because of the importance they attached to agriculture in the constitution.
Oklahoma's groundbreakers were men and women of many cultures. Some worked the land; some were promoters who encouraged others to migrate here and farm. There were farmers, cattlemen, businessmen, scientists, inventors, educators and entertainers. In the pages that follow are the stories of only a few.