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Gov. Murray once tried to colonize Bolivia, and failed



Former Oklahoma Gov. William H. "Alfalfa Bill" Murray once led an army of Oklahoma families into Bolivia in the Twenties in order to set up a series of colonies.

In 1922, he obtained a land grant of 42,000 acres for $1,800 on condition he settle 25 families there by the end of 1925. The colonial lease would be in the Murray name for 99 years.

He scrutinized his applicants carefully. The Ten Commandments was to be the law of the colony with Murray as judge and jury. By 1924, 41 families " 150 people " were accepted, paying 60 cents an acre. The colonists included Murray's own sons.

On May 4, 1924, the first 15 families followed Murray south.

As soon as the Oklahomans arrived, it became clear Murray had not read the fine print in his agreement with Bolivia. He held title to the land excluding tracts that already were leased. Murray had failed to mention ticks, lice and bloodsucking gnats. Roaming panthers were scaring the children and adults. One family was attacked by indigenous people using knives, but survived.

Murray became a focal point for colonists' frustration. All but four families returned by the end of 1924. Murray lost the colony's only doctor when he cursed the man's wife over how to raise chickens.

The colonists claimed Murray had misled them. Murray countered by saying they were unwilling to do the work it would take to build a life in a wilderness. "Mike Coppock


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