Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 1, No. 1
THE HISTORY OF NO-MAN’S LAND, OR OLD BEAVER COUNTY
MORRIS L. WARDELL
Old Beaver county (No-Man’s Land) represents the history of the United States. It has been included in many cessions of territory,
being tossed here and there at the will of kings, consuls, presidents and private individuals. It is what was left after the
great land adjustments in North America. It was truly the remnant of empires, and being not far from the geographical center
of the United States, it was the last territory to be given final claims and ownership.
It is a long and complicated story to follow if one attempts to learn all the facts connected with old Beaver county. Many
are possibly non-essential and hold no interest for the casual reader, but for him who wishes to know intricacies of history,
here is a rich storehouse. To make mention of a treaty incorporating a transfer of land seems not sufficient yet that, in
many cases, must serve the purpose of this paper. To say that an early explorer crossed this No-Man’s Land must carry with
it the fact that many pages of narration and description are needed to tell of his intrepid and daring spirit. The trails
of the early trader crossed this narrow strip of land and could he relate his many experiences they, too, would be but a part
of the history of No-Man’s Land.
Prior to the middle of the eighteenth century the claims of the countries—Spain, France and England—to land in North America
were very conflicting. Each nation sending out discoverers and explorers made claim to wide extents of territory—so wide that
boundaries meant nothing. Time alone could determine the bounds of each claimant.
Very early Spain allowed Florida to include all her continental holdings. Later as the country was explored names were applied
to the new lands. These Spanish explorers went
far into the interior of what is now the United States in search of gold and wealth so eagerly sought by all of them.
Coronado was sent out by Mendoza, the viceroy of New Spain, in the early months of 1539. For three years he tramped over Mexico,
Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and New Mexico. After having gone into what is now Kansas he returned to his station, Tiguex, far
north on the Rio Grande. This return expedition was directed southwest from central Kansas and crossed Old Beaver county.
Of course, it is impossible to determine exactly at what points he entered and went out.
It is to Spain that credit must be given for the early explorations of the country that lies west of the Mississippi river
and based on these just claims may be made. At the beginning of the seventeenth century France was able to make good her claims
to land in the new world. It is well known that the St. Lawrence river afforded ingress to the lands to be colonized. England
was making the Atlantic seaboard the seat of colonizing schemes, so nothing was left for France to do but enter the St. Lawrence—and
later the Mississippi.
By 1680 La Salle had opened the way for trade in the great lake country and was pushing his way down the Mississippi river.
He took possession of all the land drained by that river and France was able to sustain this right for almost a century. This
great waterway used by the French served as a check to westward advance of the English. The English “sea to sea” grants grew
to be of less and less importance from this time, and by 1763 they were no longer considered as extending west of the Mississippi.
When France laid claim to land which Spain justly held trouble ensued. Following 1680 La Salle returned to France and there
was able to interest the King to such an extent that the colonizing of the lower Mississippi valley was planned. Sailing from
France, La Salle entered the gulf of Mexico and landed on the coast of Texas. Here at San Bernardo on February 18th, 1685
he proclaimed France the
rightful owner of the coast—if building a small fort guaranteed such rights. French claims now came nearer old Beaver County.
Spain had done but little to colonize the land north of the Rio Grande but to have rivals so near was not good policy. Accordingly
in the spring of 1689 by Spanish authority Captain Alonzo de Leon was sent into the Texas country to “hunt out” all foreigners.1 He reached the site of La Salle’s fort April 22, 1689 and on the 24th he went to the bay. He found nothing here that could
give him alarm and on the 22nd of May, the same year, he informed the viceroy of Mexico that the country was free of foreigners.
France could not rest so long as there was a chance to lay claim to the country that appeared so valuable. In 1714 Louis St.
Denis and three other Frenchmen secured passports from the governor of Louisiana to go into the Spanish territory and buy
cattle at the Missions. Their work was suspected to be that of political observation and at San Juan Baptista on the Rio Grande
they were arrested and sent to the city of Mexico. St. Denis finally escaped and reached the French post at Natchitoches.2
To guard against the encroachments of the French from the Mississippi valley—especially from Louisiana westward—San Antonio
de Bexar was given fifty light infantry. About 1718 and 1719, when France and Spain were at war. the western part of what
is now Louisiana was the seat of frontier warfare. The Spanish attacked the French at Adaes in 1719 to which place they had
advanced from Natchitoches. When Adaes was again in the hands of the Spanish it was strengthened and made the outpost to prevent
the farther advance of their rivals. The territory which lies to the north and west along the Red river was jealously guarded
and there is no evidence that the French were able to advance up this river into land along the south bank. Since Spain was
able to dispute the progress of the French along the Red river it began to appear that it might be considered the mutual
boundary between these rivals. A century later Spain was able to maintain this boundary in a treaty with the United States.
In 1720 the Mississippi Company, taking over the patent Crozat had secured from Louis XIV, sent out a small detachment of
men to the site of the old fort that La Salle built in 1685 on the shore of San Bernardo Bay—now Matagorda Bay. The year following
Bernard de la Harpe was given the empty title of commandant and here he reasserted the French rights to the Texas country.
The settlement failed and was the last effort made to colonize in this disputed territory.3
After Leon had pushed back the French at Adaes in 1719 and strengthened the frontier with forts, the history of the Texas
country is “only a dreary register of petty territorialsquabbles, barbarous feuds, and feats of monkish strategy.”4
In the final struggle between England and France here in America the latter nation was afraid that all possessions might go
to England and to save at least a portion of her once large empire a treaty was made with Spain. On November 3, 1762 by a
secret treaty Spain was ceded the western Mississippi valley. The boundaries were not carefully determined and became a source
of annoyance for future negotiators. The only boundary that might be said to be determined was the Red River and that was
not so stated. Whether or not Old Beaver county was considered French or Spanish territory can not be determined, it would
lie within disputed areas. But from this date until 1800 it was wholly under Spanish jurisdiction, which is saying almost
nothing for Spain wanted this Texas country entirely within her grasp to use as a buffer state. The rich Mexican domains were
to be defended from the Americans and to have a broad expanse of territory was the best safeguard.
On October 1, 1800 by the treaty of San Ildefonso, Spain retroceded the western Mississippi valley to France.
This territory may be called Louisiana. The extent of this territory in this treaty was the same as in 1762—still undetermined.
The United States on April 30, 1803, purchased Louisiana from France. When the former country asked the extent of the territory
no definite answer could be given, only the stipulations of former treaties could again be repeated: “* * *the colony or province
of Louisiana, with the same extent that it now has in the hands of Spain, and that it had when France possessed it, and such
that it should be after the treaties subsequently entered into between Spain and other States.”5
During the first twenty years of the nineteenth century Spain and the United States had many difficulties arising between
them. A treaty of February 22, 1819, finally ratified and made effective February 19, 1821, adjusted many differences. The
boundary between Spanish and the United States territory was agreed upon, and now for the first time Old Beaver county had
one side of its extent defined. The part of the treaty affecting it is as follows: * * * then following the course of the
Rio Roxo (Red River) westward, to the degree of longitude 100 west from London and 23 from Washington; then, crossing the
said Red River, and running thence, by a line due north, to the river Arkansas; * * *.6
The meridian 100 degrees west from London marks the boundary on the east side of Old Beaver county, and the same is true of
the Beaver county of today. From this date, 1819, the territory was clearly within Spanish jurisdiction and remained so until
Mexico becomes a republic at which time it passed into the hands of that country.
It was plainly seen after 1803 that the United States was to be more or less connected with the history of the Texas country.
In fact, it was held by many that Texas ought to
be a part of the Louisiana purchase, but the treaty of 1819 determined otherwise. Nevertheless many Americans took part in
the revolution which resulted in Spain’s losing this country.
In 1812 organized expeditions began to go from the United States into Texas and there joined the forces fighting to gain independence
from Spanish rule.7 After much hard fighting and many bloody battles the revolutionary forces of Mexico declared their independence February
24, 1821. In 1824 the Federal Constitution of the Mexican Republic was made the law of the land.8
On May 7, 1824, before the promulgation of the Constitution, it was declared that Texas should be annexed to Coahuila, until
it possessed the necessary elements to become a state, at which time the union was to be dissolved and an independent state
legislature given to Texas. (1) Since the Mexican states were granted many privileges and took many more the history of the
state of Coahuila and Texas is the history of Old Beaver county. On March 11, 1827, the state constitution was properly recognized
by the Mexican authority, altho prior to this time the state had carried on the business necessary to a state government.9
By the organic decree which enabled Coahuila and Texas to become a state its representatives pledged it “to obey and sustain,
at all hazards, the Supreme Federal powers, andits own union with the rest of the States, and the constitutional independence
of all and each one of them.”10
This oath meant but little when the time came for resistance, even before it had been sworn to there was an attempt in the
Nacogdoches department to make Texas an independent republic. This occurred in 1826.11 The time was not ripe for this and even Stephen Austin, a colonizer
of Texas lands, helped to put it down. Yet the armed resistance met by the authorities to suppress the uprising merited the
name of “The Fredonian War.” The proposed republic was to be named Fredonia.12
Regardless of the interests of Texas, Coahuila was allowing the legislature to squander the public lands that lay within the
province of Texas. This would bring disaster to Texas if ever it should become a separate state. In 1830 the people of Texas
began to resent this action and sought redress. No satisfaction could be obtained. The seeds of Texan independence were beginning
to grow, and Mexico was soon to lose a part of one of the states of the Republic.
During all this time the United States was trying to acquire Texas. Under the date of March 26, 1825, Mr. Clay, secretary
of state, directed a letter to Mr. Poinsett, minister to Mexico, instructing him to induce that country to shift its boundary
nearer the capital. In 1829 Mr. Poinsett was to be instructed to attempt a purchase—five million dollars might be offered.
This man had made himself obnoxious to the Mexican government and he was recalled before the letter reached him. American
history in the southwest might have been quite different had Mr. Clay’s ambitions been realized.13
By a decree of October 3, 1835, over the signature of the Mexican president, by Miguel Barragan—acting president, all the
states of Mexico had their legislative powers abolished.14 This became the breaking point and in Texas a crisis was soon reached. By the first of December a provisional government
had been organized, and, led by men of ability, a successful revolution was soon under way.
On November 30, 1835, Stephen Austin submitted a report to the provisional government setting forth grievances of the Texan
colonists caused by the decree of October 3rd.
That Austin was very considerate is shown by the following paragraph taken from his report:
“The object of the Texans, therefore, in wishing a separation from Coahuila, and the erection of their country into a state,
was to avoid a total separation from Mexico by a revolution. Neither Coahuila, nor any other portion of the Mexican nation
can legislate on the internal affairs of Texas. This country must either be a state of the Mexican Confederation, or must
separate IN TOTO, as an independent community, or seek protection from some power that recognizes the principles of self-government.
I can see no remedy between one of these three positions and total ruin.”15
The Texan declaration of independence was agreed upon March 2, 1836. This was the second time Anglo-Saxon people had declared
for a republic in the new world. The declaration reads not unlike that of its predecessors: “* * * We * * * do hereby resolve
and DECLARE that our political connexion with the Mexican government has forever ended * * *”16
With this step, supported by armed resistance, the republic maintained its body politic. The independence was recognized by
England in due course of time, the United States having given recognition by a resolution March 3, 1837. It is interesting
to note that this resolution was one of the last official documents to be signed by Jackson while president. This same year
Texas began to make efforts to secure annexation to the United States.
THE EMPRESARIO LAND SYSTEM 17
Prior to the nineteenth century Spain had worked out a land system which had undergone many changes by 1820. Many efforts
had been made to induce settlers to go into the Texas country, but with no success. It remained for a Connecticut Yankee,
Moses Austin, to evolve a scheme whereby settlement in Texas would receive attention. His colonizing plan was, of course,
based upon the land laws prevailing in the Spanish new world. It is the old Spanish theory of colonizing, Austin’s plan, and
modifications of each, that will be given attention.
Old Beaver county, being included within the territory of Texas, was affected by this land system. It was incorporated within
some of the early grants made between the years of 1820 and 1840. The latter date closes no particular period of land history.
Moses Austin had first gone into Spanish territory in 1799. Securing permission from the Spanish minister at Washington and
armed with a passport from this official, he settled in what is now Washington county, Missouri. This was the first step that
later led him into Texas, where he found land that was well worth colonizing.
On January 17, 1821, he secured rights allowing him to settle three hundred families on land that he might select in Texas.
He had selected a stirring time to undertake such a task, for Mexico was in the atruggles of a revolution, yet Spanish authority
Stephen Austin, upon the death of his father, Moses Austin, who died June 10, 1821, continued the work of colonization. After
Mexico had declared herself independent it became necessary to have the right of January 17, 1821, con-
firmed under the authority of the new government. On February 18, 1823, this confirmation was secured and the progress of
settlement once more began. Land between the Colorado and Brazos rivers was selected, also extending eastward across the latter
river. Here was the nucleus of the empresario land system by which millions of acres were parceled out to promoters of colonization.
The men agreeing to promote the colony were called empresarios.
The granting of land was left to a great extent in the hands of the state officers. The most important land law passed was
that of March 24, 1825. This law of the state of Coahuila and Texas authorized the governor to accept proposals from empresarios
to settle a certain number of families within stipulated limits, in the term of six years. A brief outline of method of procedure
by which this land was secured is well given in the following: 18
“The first step towards a settlement was the presentation of a memorial from the contractor, praying for permission to colonize
under the conditions of the law, stating the number of families proposed to be introduced, and defining the limits of the
land on which he desired to locate them. Usually to afford ample choice to settlers, a tract, greatly exceeding the appropriations
to be made, (containing often millions of acres) was indicated in the memorial, and temporarily conceded by the government.
The articles of the contract provided for the obedience to the Federal and state laws, and the legal conditions of colonization—respect
for all legal titles to land that might have been previously held within the limits of the grant—retention by the state of
the right of property over all the lands which should remain, after laying off those belonging to the settlers and the ‘premium
lands’ of the Empresarios—abstinence from the sale of arms and ammunition to the barbarous Indians, and the purchase from
them of mules and horses, without the assurance of the same having been properly acquired—the organization of a militia whenever
there was adequate male population—the use of the Spanish
language in all official communications, instruments, deeds, and other public documents; in every other matter not provided
for or expressed, the Empresarios, or the new settlers holding under them, were to abide and be governed by the Federal constitution,
and the particular laws of the state. It was likewise stipulated that the Empresarios should be at liberty to enter into a
new contract with the government, for the settlement of the surplus lands within the grant; after locating the specified number
of settlers, and laying off their own portions of premium lands.”
The length of time allotted the empresarios for the settlement of the land was six years. Many never fulfilled the conditions
required and the land was lost to them—going back to the government. There were many slight modifications made in the laws
after March 24, 1825, but they are details, and the general stipulations were never changed. The inducement to the empresario
was the premium land which he got for his trouble and expense, as well as the land speculation that was made possible when
such immense tracts were held. Much fraud, deceit, modern crookedness and land scheming were practiced. Within less than ten
years after the passage of this law the whole state of Texas was covered with empresario grants.
The land that lies around the headwaters of the Rio Grande, Red, and Canadian rivers had never been surveyed. Nothing definite
was known concerning it and yet this land was taken by men who supposed there was a chance to make money in some way or other.
According to the conditions imposed upon the empresarios the land must be surveyed before settlers should be brought in. These
schemes were gigantic ones and could not be carried thru by small concerns. Big land companies were organized and undertook
the work of colonization.In 1832 the New Arkansas and Texas Land Company entered into a contract with the state of Coahuila
on the one part and John Charles Beales, M. D., and Jose Manuel Royuella on the other. This contract called for land north
of the thirty-second degree of north latitude and west of the hundred and second meridian west longitude. The surveying party
that worked in this territory kept field notes that tell interesting things experienced at that early date on the Texas plains.
The work took them into Old Beaver county, a part of which was included in the grant. This is the first surveying that was
ever done in this country, but from this date until the county was surveyed by the United States government there were changes
in the lines run as was necessary whenever a change in ownership demanded it. A number of entries are taken from these field
notes—those made while the party wars in or near Old Beaver county.
Sep. 16th.—N. along the E. boundary of section 12. At three miles we crossed a small branch running N. E.; and at four miles
we crossed the north fork of the Canadian. Here is a large bold stream from fifty to sixty feet wide, with a large and extensive
bottom, well-timbered with oak and hackberry; undergrowth, plum bushes, and grape vines. The country we passed over was of
a good quality; generally timbered. Game plenty. We made twenty miles.20
Sept. 17th.—N. along the E. side of section 12. Today we made twenty-five miles, to the supposed corner of section 12, and
the N. E. boundary of the grant. We camped on a small creek running S. E.
Sept. 18th.—We proceeded N. to ascertain the true distance to the Arkansas river. Here we found it to be fifty-five miles
north of the supposed. The river here is upwards of a half mile wide, with a large bottom and well-timbered with oak, hackberry,
and elm; undergrowth, grape vines, &c. On the 19th the hunters killed a buffalo.21
Sep. 22nd.—We returned to the N. E. corner of the grant, and established about half in distance N. of the temporary corner
before established. On the 21st we saw a large party of Indians to the W. The country between this corner and the Arkansas
River is generally good. On the 24th our horses strayed, or were driven away by the Indians, and were gone two days.
Sep. 27th.—W. along the N. boundaries of section 12. This time we ran on a supposed parallel line with the Arkansas River—say
W. 10° N. we this day made twenty miles over a land of superior quality; a part of the way well timbered. We camped on a small
creek running S. E. About midnight we were attacked by a party of Snake Indians; we all prepared for battle and made a manful
resistance. The action lasted but a few minutes, when the enemy fled, leaving on the ground nine of their party dead. We have
to regret the loss of three men killed and one slightly wounded. The men killed—McCrummins, Weathers, and Jones; Thompson
Sep. 28th.—We were occupied this day in burying our deceased friends, which we did with as much decency as our situation would
admit of. We encamped on the field of action at night.
Sep. 29th.—W. 10° N. along the side of section 12. We this day made twenty-four miles over good land and well situated; mostly
prairie. We encamped on a small stream of fine water running S. E.; some of the hunters killed four buffaloes and one deer.
Sep. 30th.—W. 10° N. along the N. side of section 12. Today we made twenty-six miles over a level and rich prairie. We passed
some ponds of stagnant water, but encamped all
night, after running until a late hour, without any. Two buffaloes killed.24
Oct. 1st.—W. 10° N. along the N. side of section 12. We to-day made twenty-one miles. At four miles we crossed a creek ten
or fifteen yards wide, running S. E., with a good bottom of land, timbered with oak, hackberry, and cottonwood. At the distance
of four miles we passed a creek running N. E. The land that we passed over was generally good. We encamped on a branch running
On account of the inaccurate maps prior to 1850 it is somewhat difficult to determine just where all the boundaries of the
grants really were. Other surveying parties soon worked in this region and laid out other grants, some of which included Old
The map here given shows that in later years the Beale and Royuella grant was no longer bounded on the north by the line that
was first surveyed—running west by 10 degrees north—,but by a line that ran due west from the hundred and second meridian
west longitude, with its origin a little north of thirty-six degrees and forty-five minutes north latitude. The original north
line inclined to the north on account of the attempt to survey it parallel with the Arkansas river which was at that time
the northern boundary of the Texas territory, having been made so originally by the treaty of February 22, 1819, between the
United States and Spain.
Other grants were soon made. Wilson and Exter’s grant was immediately north of the Beale and Royuella grant and included that
part of Old Beaver county which lies north of the limits of the latter. The Chambers grant had in it that
part of No-Man’s-Land which lies between meridians one hundred one and one hundred two west longitude, except a small irregular
portion that was bounded on the north by the thirty-seventh degree of north latitude. East of this grant was that of Dominguez
extending north to the Arkansas river and east to the hundredth meridian—the eastern boundary of the Texas territory north
of the Red river. The four grants named included all of Old Beaver county except a small portion north of the Chambers grant.
It is hardly possible that any attempt was made to locate settlers on this land since it was too far from a base of supplies.
Santa Fe was the nearest town and no well travelled road led to it. Moreover, the Indians still roamed these regions the same
as if it was their own, in fact, there was nothing to keep them from doing this. It was many years later when they were subdued,
and then by the United States troops.
THE SANTA FE TRAIL.
So long as the Spanish controlled the Texas country there was but little opportunity to carry on trade on the part of the
American traders. After 1821, which marked the end of the Spanish regime, the trade in the southwest rapidly grew into gigantic
The founder of the Santa Fe Trade and the father of the Santa Fe Trail was William Becknell of Missouri.26 As early as 1811 he was trading with the Comanche Indians on the western plains.27 In 1813 he determined to go to Santa Fe and trade with the New Mexicans of that country. He did this and found it very profitable.
This first organized expendition to Santa Fe was not without incident. The thirty men, with five thousand dollars invested
in merchandise, were under the direction of Becknell, When he followed up the Arkansas he conceived the idea of going directly
across to Santa Fe instead of taking the circuitous route by the way of Taos. Accordingly he left the Arkansas at “The Caches”
and proceeded to the southwest. There is a wide stretch of dry country between the Arkansas and the Cimarron rivers and to
cross this unknown region was a foolhardy adventure. No water was found in the streams and no springs supplied the country.
As soon as their small supply of water was exhausted they began to suffer and when near the Cimarron they would have perished
had it not been for a buffalo which had come from this river. They were thus directed to the water of the river, and after
supplying themselves decided to go back to the Arkansas and follow the surer route to Taos. Had they known the region they
could have soon reached Santa Fe by following the Cimarron
and saved many days of travel. This was the first attempt to make the “cut-off” to Santa Fe.28.
Becknell continued to make these trips to the southwest and in the spring of 1823 he, with Braxton Cooper, and a third man
picked up on the Arkansas, made a successful trip by the way of the “cut-off”. This expedition was made up of twenty-one men
and three wagons.29
Quoting from Chittenden for a brief statement of this trip, the importance of it is well seen:30
“This journey is of historic importance in that it was the first which led directly to San Miguel by way of the Cimarron river
instead of following the Arkansas to the mountains; and it was also the first that made use of wagons in the Santa Fe trade.
To William Becknell, therefore, belongs the credit of having made the first regular trading expedition from the Missouri to
Santa Fe; of being the first to follow the route direct to San Miguel instead of by the way of Taos; and the first to introduce
the use of wagons in the trade.”
It was across Old Beaver county that this journey was made. After this first trip the newly opened trail was the route of
many caravans carrying goods to Santa Fe and returning with gold, silver and furs. The trade was profitable and many were
induced to enter this industry. In May, 1824, an expedition was organized at Mt. Vernon, Missouri, went to Santa Fe, traded
the goods, and returned to Franklin, Missouri, September 24 of the same year. Four months and ten days were used for this
trip. There were eighty-one men, one hundred fifty-six horses and mules, twenty-five wagons, and about thirty thousand dollars’
worth of merchandise in the party going to Santa Fe. They brought back as a result of their trade one hundred and eighty thousand
dollars in gold and silver and ten thousand dollars’ worth of furs.31
When the trade began to be of so much importance there was necessity of an established trail. Senator Benton promoted the
plan of having the route surveyed and in June of 1825 the task was begun.
Old Beaver county was the scene of many adventures as this trade was carried on with the southwest country. The Kiowa, Comanche,
and. Arapaho Indians were a constant source of annoyance. To lessen this difficulty troops were sometimes sent with the caravans.
But many times small parties did not wish to wait for such protection and made the long journey without it. Even the men became
careless and strayed away from the caravan which afforded protection. As a result they sometimes paid for it with their lives.
Such an incident occurred in the western part of the county—on McNees creek.
In 1826 two young men, McNees and Munroe, had left their caravan and having plenty of time they lay down to sleep on the bank
of a small stream. While they were asleep a party of roving Indians came upon them and killed the former and left the latter
badly wounded. McNees was buried here and Munroe was taken on with the party. But little medical attention could be had and
he died by the time the party reached the Cimarron and near this river he was buried.32
Along the Cimarron river were fought several bloody battles with the Indians. So Old Beaver County is not without its stirring
Indian scenes in the early history. When one reviews the trade across the plains and finds that scores of caravans loaded
with thousands of dollars’ worth of goods and large quantities of gold and silver passed over this trail, he finds that much
interest is centered about this No-Man’s-Land—the traders’ “Cimarron Desert.”
The Cimarron river region was known as the “Cimarron Desert” to the early traders. There was nothing that would show there
was any possibility of the country’s sustaining a
population. But today there are farm homes and ranches here and there over the whole area.
The first expeditions had difficulty in making a trail that could be followed and many were often in doubt as to the way to
go. In 1834 there were rains that made the prairies very wet. Then the wagons that passed over the trail left their tracks.
Others following soon cut a road that could be followed and from this date there was no trouble in finding the way leading
across the “Cimarron Desert.”
If one travels over the western part of Old Beaver county today he can well see how the roads were cut. The section lines
are travelled by the farmers as they go to the railroad stations and their wagons leave a trail thru the prairie followed
by another and another until, with the help of wind and rain, the roads are made very plain.
In travelling over the northwest portion of this region an old road can be plainly seen. It looks as if it might have been
an ancient canal. In places it is fifteen or twenty feet wide and one to three feet deep. It has been made so by the many
wagons and pack trains passing over it. The rains and wind helped to wear it deeper and deeper. Then it sodded with the “buffalo”
grass and is nothing more than a shadow of the past. This is the Old Santa Fe Trail.
POLITICAL HISTORY (Continued)
The ruling population of Texas was the Americans who had gone there. Resulting from this the desire for annexation to the
United States and on March 1, 1845, this was made possible by a resolution approved by President Tyler.33 A provision of this resolution stated that the adjustment of boundary disputes with other governments should be left to the
jurisdiction of the United States.
Since the Texas territory was large, there appeared the necessity of making more than one state. Provision was made for this,
and growing out of it came a great deal of legislation culminating in the year of 1850. Texas as a republic permitted slavery
in all its territory, and when restrictions were imposed in the resolution it was apparent that land adjustments would have
to be made. In making these Old Beaver county was included in territory given up by Texas. The clause leading to this is as
“ * * * New States, of convenient size, not exceeding four in number, in addition to the said State of Texas, and having sufficient
population, may hereafter, by the consent of the said State, be formed out of the territory thereof, which shall be entitled
to admission under the provisions of the Federal Constitution; and such States as may be formed out of that portion of said
territory lying south of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes north latitude, commonly known as the Missouri compromise line,
shall be admitted into the Union with or without slavery, as the people of each State asking admission may desire; and in
such State or States as shall be formed
out of the territory north of said Missouri compromise line, slavery or involuntary servitude (except for crime) shall be
On July 4, 1845, Texas formally consented to annexation: After the process thru which she had to go in order to become a member
of the Union, the United States on December 29, 1845, formally admitted her.
Old Beaver county, at this date a part of Texas, was subject to all Federal laws as applied to states. In a sense it was “in
After the western United States was acquired by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, boundary disputes arose between the Federal
government and the state of Texas. To settle these claims the Texas and New Mexico Act was approved by the president September
9, 1850. Provisions of this Act were to determine what is now the boundary of Old Beaver county. The north boundary of Texas
was defined in part as follows:35
“The State of Texas will agree that her boundary on the north shall commence at the point at which the meridian of one hundred
degrees west from Greenwich is intersected by the parallel of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes north latitude, and shall
run from said point due west to the meridian of one hundred and three degrees west from Greenwich. * * *”
When the limits of Texas were completely defined provision was made for the cession of all territory exterior to these limits:
“The State of Texas cedes to the United States all her claim to territory exterior to thelimits and boundaries which she agrees
to establish. * * * ”36
In accordance with this Act the Texas legislature on November 25, 1850, withdrew ownership to lands that included
Old Beaver county, and on December 12, the same year, the United States formally accepted the right to jurisdiction.
Part of this territory was to be erected into the territory of New Mexico when “the boundary between the United States and
the State of Texas shall be adjusted.” As stated above, this was accomplished, and then New Mexico had her boundaries defined.
As the southern boundary of Old Beaver county was determined by the northern Texas boundary, so the western boundary was made
by the limits of New Mexico. The provision reads:37
“* * * thence east with said degree to its intersection with the one hundred and third degree of longitude west of Greenwich;
thence north with said degree of longitude to the parallel of thirty-eighth degree of north latitude.”
But one more step remained for the complete isolation of Old Beaver county. This came when the Kansas-Nebraska Bill of May
30, 1854, created Kansas territory. In part the boundary of Kansas is made to read:38
“* * * beginning at a point on the western boundary of the State of Missouri, where the thirty-seventh parallel of north latitude
crosses the same; thence west on said parallel to the eastern boundary of new Mexico. * * *”
This piece of legislation marked the final limits of Old Beaver county. States or organized territories bounded it and in
the decade following they were too busy to take notice of this narrow strip of land that had been legislated out of the Union,
cut off from jurisdiction, or, at least, from consideration, and left to care for itself.
OLD BEAVER COUNTY—NO-MAN’S LAND—PUBLIC
This narrow strip of land that had so much difficulty in finding a resting place, a political body that would take and keep
it, extends over three degrees of longitude—100°—103° W. Long—and thirty minutes of latitude—36° 30’—37° N. Lat. It is a little
more than one hundred and sixty-eight miles long, by a fraction more than thirty-four miles wide, and contains 5738 square
miles. It is larger than the State of Connecticut by one hundred and twenty-six square miles; more than four and one-half
times the size of Rhode Island.
When it became a part of the Public Domain of the United States it had to be surveyed, as the surveys made under the empresario
grants were incomplete and of little value. About the time of the passage of the Homestead Act of 1862, Judge N. C. McFarland,
who was Commissioner of the General Land Office, had a survey made. It was laid off into townships, the lines were marked
with zinc markers. On each of these is a symbol of marks which enables one to locate the land defined by them. Locally these
township lines are known as “pot lines” since the metal markers as they are partially buried in the earth resemble pots. The
survey system in itself is complete, the base line being that of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes N. Lat., and its prime
meridian—Cimarron Meridian—one hundred and three degrees W. Long. This seems to be the first Federal consideration given the
In 1885 a Supreme Court decision stated that this land was not a part of the Cherokee Outlet. Consequently, about 1886 settlers
began to go into the region more as a venture than for serious attempts at settlement, the settling of western Kansas at this
time led to the former. Letters were directed to L. Q. C. Lamar, Secretary of the Interior, asking him the status quo of the
land and the settlers’ rights in taking
homesteads. He stated that it was public domain and subject to “squatters’ rights”. This was encouragement and occupancy was
The cattleman prior to this date had well occupied the country and he lent no aid to the settlement proposed by the newcomers.
It seemed that priority of residence was to determine ownership and if this was to be the case the cattleman had the nine
points in law. More than this, there were no laws applicable and consequently no protection could be guaranteed the settler.
Yet the ever westward movement was sure to bring the pioneer farmer, to be followed with laws at some time. As has always
been the case, the pioneer will provide regulations whereby he can govern and be governed. Old Beaver county was no exception
to the rule.
The settlers experienced difficulty enough. Whenever a claim was “staked out” and it looked as if the squatter intended making
it his home, some member of the lawless element who roamed the prairies would ride up and state that he had already taken
the claim. The only way this “road trotter”, as he was locally known, could be disposed of was to pay him a sum of money—which
he named—and remain in possession of the claim or leave. If the latter was done he had another chance to exact money from
some other prospective settler who would soon come in. These lawless plainsmen or desperadoes were always able to assert their
so-called rights with the “six-shooter,” which was their Blackstone. On the other hand, there were settlers who had the necessary
“nerve” and met these “road trotters” at their own game. In one instance the gang composed of outlaws was severely punished
in a shooting which took place. But this was not a satisfactory way to settle and hold the land.
Vigilance committees were organized and tried to make regulations that would meet the emergencies. Groups of sets tiers banded
together and made the best of the conditions.
During the summer of 1886 these vigilance committees grew41 strong enough to organize a Respective Claim Board, which was a step nearer united effort towards making laws. This board
divided the strip of land into three districts according to meridian division. The first district was what is today the Beaver
county and it was given four members, each of the other districts were given two members. When these members were chosen they
were to meet at Beaver City, a town that was growing up on the Beaver river, and determine the steps necessary to provide
themselves with laws.
Pursuant to a call that had been sent out in November, a number of the representative men of the territory met at Beaver City
on the twenty-ninth of this month and prepared to organize themselves into a deliberative body. A code of laws was drawn up;
a resolution to call an election February 22, 1887, for the purpose of electing nine councilmen—three from each meridian district—to
meet at Beaver City on March 4, 1887. These councilmen were to act as a territorial council and proceed to organize a territorial
form of government.42
The election was duly held. Seven councilmen appeared for the meeting. These men canvassed the election returns and found
that two were ineligible and their places were filled by the men receiving the next highest number of votes. O. G. Chase was
elected president of this council, with Merret Magann secretary.43
The business of the meeting proceeded. The territory was divided into three senatorial districts by meridian lines and into
seven delegate districts by township lines. Then an election for November 8, 1887, was called to elect nine senatorial councilmen,
three from each district, and fourteen delegate councilmen, two from each delegate district. At this same meeting there were
laws made regulating marriages, mortgages, etc.44
The November election was held and the twenty-three councilmen were elected. They met at Beaver City and on
December 5, 1887, went into session as a legislative body. There was but little work to do that demanded all their time, but
there was no adjournment until spring. During this long legislative session O. G. Chase was in Washington trying to get recognition
as a delegate from Cimarron Territory and to keep up appearances he had instructed this territorial council to continue its
meetings until he secured some kind of a result from Congress.
When Chase went to Washington he induced Mr. Springer, representative from Illinois, to take up his cause. Mr. Springer did
this since he had before this time interested himself in Old Beaver county, known in Congress as The Public Land Strip or
by some as No-Man’s-Land.
On December 12, 1887, Mr. Springer submitted a petition proposing to admit 0. G. Chase as delegate from Cimarron Territory.
This petition, the product of Mr. Chase’s pen, recited the history of Old Beaver county, giving the45 area, natural resources and probable cultivated products, and telling of the political proceedings as far as the time of
submitting the petition. It was an exaggeration of everything except the area. Mr. Chase was an adept at calculating the population
of his Territory—no census had ever been taken—he estimated that 10,000 people were to be found in the new land and that all
were bona fide citizens. As much as ten years later there were but 2,548.46
After the House members debated the proposition and the situation was fully explained, Mr. Springer offered a resolution,
which was finally tabled and never again heard of. The resolution reads as follows:47
“Resolved, That the petition and certificate of election of Owen G. Chase, claiming to be elected a delegate from the Territory
of Cimarron, be referred to the Committee on Territories, when appointed; and that pending the consideration of
the organization of a Territorial government for said territory, Mr. Chase be entitled to the privileges of the floor of the
House, the same as is now accorded to contesting members.”
During the time Mr. Chase and his machine were at work another convention had met at Rothwell, a new town a few miles up the
river from Beaver City. Here a number of ambitious men who were not able to secure what they considered their share of the
spoils organized themselves and elected John Dale delegate from Cimarron Territory to represent them at Washington. This was
in July, 1887. Mr. Dale went to Washington and was no more successful in his efforts than was O. G. Chase.49
On January 25, 1888, Mr. Springer presented a memorial from the citizens and the Territorial Council of Cimarron Territory
praying for an organization of the Territory. This was referred to the Committee on Territories. At the same time he presented
two memorials of Chase and Dale claiming to be delegates. The proposed new Territory was well represented—possibly too well.
Nothing ever came from these memorials.47 Dale was able, however, to secure postoffices for the new land.48
When Dale and Chase returned home they had nothing to bring that was encouragement to Old Beaver county—which the two men
had christened Cimarron Territory. It is likely that their efforts had secured more attention than they knew, for the question
of providing some form of government for this anomalous land was given much consideration in the year following. They no longer
had the desire to face Congress again, so a man by the name of Hubbard aspired to the office of territorial delegate. In fact,
a corps of territorial officers was elected in 1888 and there followed a show of actual territorial government. This may have
been a good thing in that Congress was compelled to take action at some time. This effort to make a government and then ask
Congress to recog-
nize it was not a novel idea. California and other states had done this very thing, and since it had been done before there
was reason for thinking it could be repeated. This argument was brought up on the floor of the House in Washington, but it
was given little countenance.
Hubbard was furnished a certificate of election and then proceeded to Washington. It seems that he made a favorable impression
upon some of the members of Congress and was able to induce them to consider the real problem that was being faced in his
territory. Mr. Steele, who was later governor of Oklahoma Territory, was much in his confidence. They travelled on the same
train to the Oklahoma Territory when Mr. Steele came to organize the government in 1889. It was at this time that Mr. Hubbard
was rewarded in receiving consideration in the organization of Beaver county.
Congress could never be brought to see that a territorial form of government should be given the proposed Cimarron Territory,
but there were champions of the cause of the people, who were really suffering for lack of laws. Mr. Burnes of Missouri, as
early as February 1, 1886, introduced a bill to organize the Territory of Cimarron. It was lost in the proceedings of the
Again on July 12, 1886, a bill was introduced to annex it to New Mexico. It was referred to the -Committee on Territories
and there buried. If there be monuments in this Committee for all the efforts to organize this land there is room for nothing
else. 51 There had also been an effort made to extend judicial jurisdiction from Garden City, Kansas, so as to punish criminals escaping
to this region.
At the beginning of the session of the Fiftieth Congress the Secretary of the Interior urged that prompt attention be given
the Public Land Strip.52 In his report he said in part:
“It is simply a part of the public domain, over which the land laws have not been extended, and within the limits of
which no tribunal, civil or criminal, has jurisdiction to protect property or punish crime.”
September 24, 1888, an appropriation bill carried an amendment from the Senate which provided for the Circuit Court for the
Kansas district to extend jurisdiction over No-Man’s-Land. It further provided, in case all parts of the amendment carried,
for the opening of the land to homestead entry.53 The appropriation bill went to the House with the amendment, but it was lost. At this time the Oklahoma Bill providing for
the opening of the Indian lands was receiving attention and it is evident that the Public Land Strip could at some time be
attached to Oklahoma Territory when it should be organized. On October 3, 1888, the amendment was debated from every angle
and the true condition of the people suffering for laws was exposed. The representatives from the bordering states were very
much interested in the amendment. They alone saw the necessity of law and order since criminals fleeing from justice made
this their rendezvous.
During one of the debates the true status was told by Mr. Peters, who represented the Kansas district that joins Old Beaver
county. In the course of his remarks he said:54
“At the present there is no legal machinery by which they can acquire title to the lands upon which they have settled. There
is no law to protect them in the property which they may take with them into the territory; there is no law that protects
them or their persons or property from violence while in the territory; there is no law in that section by which they can
collect any debt or obligation which may be contracted, and there is no law by which the people of Kansas, or of New Mexico,
or of Arkansas, can collect any obligation that may be contracted with a settler upon this No-Man’s-Land. There is the utmost
need of some legislation touching this land, for it is virtually outside of the pale of the law, and outside of the United
States in that respect, although geographically within its limits. * * *”
On April 22, 1889, that part of Oklahoma which is generally known as “Old Oklahoma” was opened to settlement and there was
no further effort to organize Cimarron Territory. On May 2, 1890, the president approved the territorial form of government
that had been proposed for the Territory. This Act embodied a clause that forever ended the suspense of the people who had
so long tried to govern themselves: In defining the extent of Oklahoma Territory a clause read thus:
“* * * together with that portion of the United States known as the Public Land Strip, is hereby erected into a temporary
government by the name of the Territory of Oklahoma.”
With this Act Cimarron Territory became history and No-Man’s-Land again found a home. It had experienced various forms of
government during the century. Between the years 1821 and 1850 inclusive it was first under Spanish jurisdiction; second,
a part of the Mexican Republic; third, it was a portion of that land incorporated within the limits of the Republic of Texas;
fourth a part of Texas as a state of the Federal Union; fifth, legislated from the jurisdiction of any political organization—other
than being held to be a part of the Public Domain of the United States, yet without laws applied to it. In 1890 a sixth step
was experienced when it became a part of the Territory of Oklahoma; seventh, and last, on November 16, 1907, when Oklahoma
was admitted into the Union it was divided into three counties—Cimarron,Texas, and Beaver.
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