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In 1814 Francis Scott Key penned a poem. After moderate revision the verse was named and put to tune, “The Star Spangled Banner”. Between 1814 and 1931 the United States of America had a flag that, too, had several revisions. The Act of April 4, 1818 provided for 13 stripes and one star for each state, to be added to the flag on the 4th of July following the admission of each new state, signed by President Monroe.

US flag 1

When pioneers, by horseback, on foot, or in a wagon seat, lined up along the border to take part in the Oklahoma Land Run some of them had the flag alongside. Before the elegant lyrics were declared our National Anthem several valued and cherished attributes in this country were noticeable of which the Land Run participants were evidence. Home of the brave – what courage it took to leave family and dwelling to ‘run’ for unclaimed land? Land of the free – ride like the untamed wind to the spot of choice and place a stake in a parcel of earth at no monetary cost (some paid with their limbs and others with their lives).

After holding the property for a number of years the claimants, and their witnesses, were obligated to travel to a General Land Office to register; for some the trip took several days. For those who lacked the ability to read and/or write the process called, once again, on bravery as a lengthy form, Homestead Proof – Testimony” was to be completed. Requirements were in place and stipulations must be met to be granted free land; “To secure Homesteads of Actual Settlers on the Public Domain” meant establishing a home, noting family that had lived continuously on the land, how much land was cultivated, what crops were raised in each season, and what improvements had been made to the property.

For my ancestors these improvements included a house with the 12×14 hand-dug stone basement, a granary with an attached stable, a corn crib, a small sod house, fence around the farm, 2 acres of orchard, and 1,000 forest trees for windbreak. The Claimant and his Witnesses were asked “give total value thereof.” $300.00 (photo of house after several additions and remodels)

Ratzlaff farm house

The settlers poured all their energies into mere survival in order to hold on to the earth under those claims. They worked from dawn until the lantern no longer provided light; they worked in the dirt, as wind hurled they ate dirt, and they lived in houses made of dirt. Their bravery was rewarded as stated in a certificate signed by Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States of America – “Now know ye, that there is, therefore, granted by the United States unto said Andrew Ratzlaff the tract of land above described; To have and to hold the said tract of Land, with the appurtenances thereof, unto the said Andrew Ratzlaff and to his heirs and assigns forever.”

When writing “Defense of Fort McHenry” Mr. Key was unaware of historical events that would take place after 1814; neither did he realize his poetry, when set to song in 1931, would gain the respect of a Nation. There is more to the original script written two-hundred and one years ago of which we may be less familiar; the verse unequivocally proclaims the needs of today’s America!

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,

Between their lov’d homes and the war’s desolation;

Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land

Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,

And this be our motto: “In God is our trust”

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

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