Cimarron: Concept of Panhandle state nixed by political squabbling

Okterritory

Of the many lonely stretches found across the United States, few match the 5,749-square-mile rectangle known as the Oklahoma Panhandle.

Composed of three counties, today the Panhandle is home to about 28,500 people, less than half as many as when Oklahoma gained statehood in 1907.

The region suffered the ravages of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s as severe drought and blinding dust storms led many to leave for greener pastures.

The Panhandle is a relatively isolated region, dotted with abandoned buildings and hearty residents. Today, it seems difficult to believe that there was once a serious push to make the strip of land a separate territory, with the ultimate goal of statehood.

Originally part of Texas, the strip was surrendered in 1850 as a result of the Missouri Compromise. Texas, a slave state, had to give up the swath of land because federal law under the compromise prohibited slavery north of the 36°30’ parallel.

As a result, the region became known as a “neutral strip,” and was without state or territorial ownership. As evidence that advertising agencies did not hold the sway that they do today, the area was officially called the “Public Land Strip” and was commonly referred to as “No Man’s Land.”

Without a legal authority to provide oversight, the ensuing 40 years were full of confusion and turmoil.

Ranchers began moving into the region following the Civil War but officially the land could not be settled until it had been surveyed by the US government. Still, settlers flooded in, with many coming from Kansas.

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California cemetery shows post-war migration

1854 official_map_of_california

A return to old haunts offered an indication of the melting pot makeup of 19th century California.

Evergreen Cemetery in Santa Cruz, Calif., along the Monterey Bay, dates back to just before the War Between the States. It not only includes graves from many of the area’s original Protestant pioneers, but the final resting place for an unusually diverse array of Union Army veterans.

Civil War soldiers from 15 states representing no fewer than 35 different units have official Veterans Administration markers in this graveyard, which is dotted by large redwood trees and also features the final resting place for ex-slaves, gold prospectors and Chinese immigrants.

Those at rest range from troops from numerous California regiments and men who served in territorial units from Nevada and Colorado to those who saw service in some of the conflict’s major battles as part of regiments from eastern and Midwestern states.

There is also at least one Confederate veteran buried in the cemetery.

And these are only the graves marked by VA stones. With more than 2,000 individuals resting in the cemetery, it’s almost certain that other soldiers are buried in the graveyard, as well.

The cemetery is different from that of many Southern and Eastern cemeteries of the same era, where the deceased are often from the state the graveyard is located in, the country they emigrated from, or, occasionally, a nearby state.

Evergreen, however, features Union veterans from the following states: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin.

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