Oklahoma Panhandle

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"Neutral Strip" redirects here. For the area in Louisiana known as the Sabine Free State or Neutral Strip, see Neutral Ground (Louisiana).
Oklahoma Panhandle

1850–1890
Location of "Cimarron Strip" or "No-man's Land"
The three counties of the Oklahoma Panhandle
Capital Beaver City
36°48′N 100°31′W / 36.800°N 100.517°W / 36.800; -100.517Coordinates: 36°48′N 100°31′W / 36.800°N 100.517°W / 36.800; -100.517
Government Provisional, unelected, unrecognized[1]
President
 -  1886–1887 Owen G Chase
History
 -  Texas Republic founded; includes Panhandle area March 2, 1836
 -  Texas Republic surrenders claim; Panhandle becomes "unattached" territory 1850
 -  First petition for territorial status sent to Congress February 1887
 -  Second petition for territorial status sent to Congress December 1887
 -  Attached to Oklahoma Territory 1890

The Oklahoma Panhandle is the extreme western region of the state of Oklahoma, comprising Cimarron County, Texas County, and Beaver County, from west to east. Its name comes from the similarity of its shape to the handle of a cooking pan.

The three-county Oklahoma Panhandle region had a population of 28,751 at the 2010 census, representing 0.77% of the state's population. This is a decrease in total population of 1.2%, a loss of 361 people, from the census of 2000.

Geography[edit]

State welcome sign on the New Mexico border of the Panhandle

The Panhandle, 166 miles (267 km) long and 34 miles (55 km) wide, is bordered by Kansas and Colorado at 37°N on the north, New Mexico at 103°W on the west, Texas at 36.5°N on the south, and the remainder of Oklahoma at 100°W on the east. The largest town in the region is Guymon, which is the county seat of Texas County. Black Mesa, the highest point in Oklahoma at 4,973 feet (1,516 m), is located in Cimarron County. The Panhandle occupies nearly all of the true High Plains within the state of Oklahoma, being the only part of the state lying west of the 100th Meridian, which generally marks the westernmost extent of moist air from the Gulf of Mexico. The North Canadian River is named Beaver River or Beaver Creek on its course through the Panhandle. Its land area is 5,686.56 square miles (14,728.12 km²), which is larger than that of the state of Connecticut, and comprises 8.28 percent of Oklahoma's land area.[2]

The area also includes Beaver Dunes State Park with sand dunes along the Beaver River and Optima Lake, the home of the Optima National Wildlife Refuge.

Demographics[edit]

As of the 2010 census, there were a total of 28,751 people, 10,451 households, and 7,466 families in the three counties that comprise the Oklahoma Panhandle.[3] The racial makeup of the region was 80.26% white including persons of mixed race, 59.46% non-Hispanic white, 1.34% African American, 1.21% Native American, 1.18% Asian, 0.12% Pacific Islander, 15.53% from other races, and 2.78% from two or more races.[3] Hispanic and Latino Americans made up 35.85% of the population.[3]

As of the 2000 census, 7.7% of the population was under the age of five, and 12.5% of the population exceeded 65 years of age. Of the population under the age of 5, 54.95% were non-Hispanic white, 41.12% were Hispanic of any race, and 0.80% were African American alone. Of the population 65 years of age and over, 95.29% were non-Hispanic white, 3.52% were Hispanic, and 0.03% was African American. Of the non-Hispanic white population, 16.45% were 65 years of age or older.

As of the 1990 census, 89.40% of the population was non-Hispanic White, 9.11% were of Hispanic of any race, and 0.27% were African American. 6.72% of the population was under 5 years of age, and 14.7% were 65 years of age or older.

The median income for a household in the region was $34,404, and the median income for a family was $40,006. Males had a median income of $27,444 versus $19,559 for females. The per capita income for the region was $16,447.

Cities and towns[edit]

Major communities[edit]

Other communities[edit]

History[edit]

Map of Oklahoma Territory, Indian Territory and the "neutral strip"

During its early history, the area contained no permanent settlements. With the arrival of horses from Spain in the 16th century, nomadic Indian tribes were able to increase their use of the area for hunting, and for traveling from summer to winter quarters.[citation needed]

The non-Native American history of the Panhandle traces its origins as being part of the Spanish New Spain empire. The Transcontinental Treaty (Adams-Onís Treaty) of 1819 between Spain and the United States set the western boundary of this portion of the Louisiana Purchase at the 100th meridian. With Mexican independence in 1821, these lands became part of Mexico. With the formation of the Texas Republic, they became part of Texas. When Texas joined the U.S. in 1846, the strip became part of the United States.[4]

The Cimarron Cutoff for the Santa Fe Trail passed through the area soon after the trade route was established in 1826 between the Spanish in Santa Fe and the Americans in St. Louis. The route was increasingly used during the California Gold Rush. The Cutoff passed through what is now Boise City, Oklahoma and on to Clayton, New Mexico before continuing toward Santa Fe.[citation needed]

The 1845 Texas annexation included the area of the future Oklahoma Panhandle

When Texas sought to enter the Union in 1845 as a slave state, federal law in the United States, based on the Missouri Compromise, prohibited slavery north of 36°30' parallel north. Under the Compromise of 1850, Texas surrendered its lands north of 36°30' latitude. The 170-mile strip of land, a "neutral strip", was left with no state or territorial ownership from 1850 until 1890. It was officially called the "Public Land Strip" and was commonly referred to as "No Man's Land."[5][6]

The Compromise of 1850 also established the eastern boundary of New Mexico Territory at the 103rd meridian, thus setting the western boundary of the strip. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 set the southern border of Kansas Territory as the 37th parallel. This became the northern boundary of No Man's Land. When Kansas joined the Union in 1861, the western part of Kansas Territory was assigned to Colorado Territory, but did not change the boundary.[6]

Cimarron Territory[edit]

After the Civil War, cattlemen moved into the area. Gradually they organized themselves into ranches and established their own rules for arranging their land and adjudicating their disputes. There was still confusion over the status of the strip and some attempts were made to arrange rent with the Cherokees, despite the fact that the Cherokee Outlet ended at the 100th meridian. In 1885, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that the strip was not part of the Cherokee Outlet.[7] In 1886, Interior Secretary L. Q. C. Lamar, declared the area to be public domain and subject to "squatter's rights".[8]

The strip was not yet surveyed, and as that was one of the requirements of the Homestead Act of 1862, the land could not be officially settled. Settlers by the thousands flooded in to assert their "squatter's rights" anyway. They surveyed their own land and by September 1886 had organized a self-governing and self-policing jurisdiction, which they named the Cimarron Territory. Representative Daniel W. Voorhees of Indiana introduced a bill in Congress to attach the so-called territory to Kansas. It passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives but was not signed by President Grover Cleveland.[7]

The organization of Cimarron Territory began soon after Lamar declared the area open to settlement by squatters. The settlers formed their own vigilance committees, which organized a board charged with forming a territorial government. The board enacted a preliminary code of law and divided the strip into three districts. They also called for a general election to choose three members from each district to meet on March 4, 1887, to form a government.[9]

The elected council met as planned, elected Owen G. Chase as president, and named a full cabinet. They also enacted further laws and divided the strip into five counties (Benton, Beaver, Palo Duro, Optima, and Sunset), three senatorial districts (with three members from each district), and seven delegate districts (with two members from each district). The members from these districts were to be the legislative body for the proposed territory. Elections were held November 8, 1887, and the legislature met for the first time on December 5, 1887.[7]

After the meeting in March, Owen G. Chase went to Washington, D.C. to lobby for admission to Congress as the delegate from the new territory. He was not recognized by Congress.[10] A group disputing the Chase organization met, and elected and sent its own delegate to Washington.[11] A bill was introduced to accept Chase but was never brought to a vote. Neither delegation was able to persuade Congress to accept the new territory.[12] Another delegation went in 1888 but did no better.[10]

Settlement and assimilation[edit]

In 1889, the Unassigned Lands were opened for settlement and many of the residents went there. The population was generously estimated by Owen Chase at 10,000 after the opening. Ten years later, an actual count revealed only 2,548.[13] The passage of the Organic Act in 1890 assigned No Man's Land to the new Oklahoma Territory, and ended the short-lived Cimarron Territory aspirations.[10]

Old Beaver County encompassed the whole Panhandle from 1890 until statehood

In 1891, the government completed the survey and the remaining squatters were finally able to secure their homesteads under the Homestead Act. The new owners were then able to obtain mortgages against their property, enabling them to buy seed and equipment. Capital and new settlers came into the area and the first railroad, the Rock Island, built a line through the county from Liberal, Kansas to Dalhart, Texas. Agriculture began changing from subsistence farms to grain exporters.[6]

No Man's Land became Seventh County under the newly organized Oklahoma Territory, land was soon renamed Beaver County. Beaver City became the county seat. When Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory joined the Union in 1907 as the single state of Oklahoma, Beaver County was divided into the present Beaver, Texas, and Cimarron counties. The Oklahoma Panhandle had the highest population it has ever recorded at its first census.[6]

Dust Bowl[edit]

The Panhandle was the part of Oklahoma that was most adversely impacted by the drought of the 1930s. The drought began in 1932 and created massive dust storms. By 1935, the area was widely known as the Dust Bowl. The dust storms were largely a result of poor farming techniques and a plow-up of the native grasses that held the fine soil in place. Despite government efforts to implement conservation measures and change the basic farming methods of the region, the Dust Bowl persisted for nearly a decade. It was claimed to have contributed significantly to the length of the Great Depression in the United States.[14] The U. S. census showed that each of the three counties experienced a major loss of population during the decade 1930–1940.

Economy[edit]

The Panhandle is rather thinly populated (when compared to the rest of Oklahoma) making the labor force in this region very small. Farming and ranching operations occupy most of the economic activity in the region, with ranching dominating the drier western end. The region's higher educational needs are served by Oklahoma Panhandle State University in Goodwell, 10 miles southwest of Guymon, the Panhandle's largest city.[15]

Politics[edit]

The Oklahoma Panhandle is one of the most universally Republican areas of the United States. None of the three counties in the region have supported a Democrat for president since 1976.

In the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, the three counties gave a weighted average of 87.5% of their votes to John McCain and 12.5% to Barack Obama, with McCain carrying the state over Obama 65.6% to 34.4%.[16] Also, in 2006 the Oklahoma Panhandle counties were the only three where the majority voted against the successful Democratic incumbent, Governor Brad Henry.

In 2012, Democratic voters in the Panhandle voted for Randall Terry, a Pro-Life activist, over incumbent Democrat Barack Obama in the Democratic Presidential primary.[citation needed] Terry had not earned enough ballot spots in the state primaries to win the Democratic nomination, rendering votes for him to effectively be protest votes.[citation needed]

Points of interest[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

Gallery[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Oklahoma State archives OK Encyclopedia
  2. ^ NetState.com
  3. ^ a b c American FactFinder, United States Census Bureau. (accessed September 3, 2013)
  4. ^ Gibson, Arrell M. Oklahoma: A History of Five Centuries. Retrieved May 11, 2013. Available on Google Books.[1]
  5. ^ "Oklahoma Panhandle: Badmen in No Man's Land". Wild West magazine. 2006-06-12. Retrieved 2012-11-30. 
  6. ^ a b c d Turner, Kenneth R. "No Man's Land". Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved 2012-11-30. 
  7. ^ a b c Richter, Sara and Tom Lewis. Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. "Cimarron Territory." Accessed April 13, 2013.
  8. ^ Wardell, p. 83
  9. ^ Wardell, p. 84
  10. ^ a b c "Beaver County – No Man's Land". Annual Reports of the Department of the Interior for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1904. U.S. Department of the Interior. 1904. pp. 463–465. Retrieved November 30, 2012. 
  11. ^ Wardell, p. 86
  12. ^ Wardell, p. 83
  13. ^ Wardell, p. 885
  14. ^ Library of Congress. "America's Story from America's Library: The Dust Bowl of Oklahoma." Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  15. ^ Goins, Charles Robert and Danney Goble. "The Oklahoma Panhandle, 2000." In: Historical Atlas of Oklahoma. Available on Google Books.p. 206. Retrieved January 19. 2014.
  16. ^ US Election Atlas

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Christman, Harry E. (editor-original manuscript by Jim Herron). Fifty Years on the Owl Hoot Trail: The First Sheriff of No Man's Land, Oklahoma Territory. Sage Books: Chicago, 1969.
  • Lowitt, Richard. American Outback: The Oklahoma Panhandle in the Twentieth Century (Texas Tech University Press, 2006) . xxii, 137 pp. ISBN 0-89672-558-8

External links[edit]