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Oklahoma City's '89er Trail' to tell story of city's birth

Markers planned to guide the way for an historic tour of downtown area
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: April 19, 2014 at 10:00 pm •  Published: April 19, 2014

Downtown property owner Chuck Wiggin, historian Bob Blackburn and author Michael Hightower are preparing to roll out a series of markers inspired by Boston’s Freedom Trail that will tell the story of the April 1889 founding of Oklahoma City.

The announcement is being made as Oklahoma City celebrates its 125th anniversary Tuesday. Oklahoma City was founded on April 22, 1889, when a single gunshot started a land run authorized by President Benjamin Harrison. By the end of that day, Oklahoma City grew from a prairie train depot to a town of thousands.

Wiggin, who owns the 101 Park Avenue Building, is hoping the installation of markers telling that story – the “89er Trail” – will begin later this year.

“It’s hard not to get excited about history in Oklahoma City,” Wiggin said. “This city was founded in such an unusual way. There is no other city that has such a great story about its beginning as Oklahoma City does.”

Wiggin said he and Blackburn have spent several years planning the project.

Wiggin worked with the Oklahoma City Community Foundation to set up a fund, and the markers will be installed and overseen by a new nonprofit organization. The research and text for the signs is being prepared by historian and author Michael Hightower.

“I moved here from Boston in 1978, and Boston is very famous for its Freedom Trail that encompasses a lot of sites downtown, most having to do with the Revolutionary War,” Wiggin said.

The Freedom Trail, established in 1951, provides a tour of 16 sites including the home of Paul Revere and the Park Avenue Church. The trail is traveled by thousands every year.

Wiggin hopes the story of April 1889, will draw similar interest. Currently, the story is told through only a couple of sites, including the Land Run Monument and the Pioneers of 1889 in Couch Drive/Kerr Park.

“We have all of our history here captured in photographs,” Wiggin said. “You can see them in books at the bookstore, but you can’t find them on the ground where the events took place. And that’s the aim of this trail, to tell this story with the help of these photographs.”

The project, still in conceptual design, calls for 30 of the markers to be placed throughout downtown. They will include photos, text and QR codes for visitors to pull up more photos and information online.

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's...
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