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Oklahoma Genealogical Society

No Man's Land


Some information is taken from articles published in THE CHRONICLES OF OKLAHOMA
Published in The Oklahoma Genealogical Society Quarterly
Volume 30, Number 4, 1985


When the Territory of Kansas was created in 1854, its boundary was set at the 38th Parallel. When Texas, a slave state, came into the Union in 1845, it would not extend its sovereignty over any territory north of 36 degree 30' because such territory would be free - as specified by the Missouri Compromise.

This left a narrow strip of land 34 miles wide between Kansas and Texas, extending from the 100th Meridian on the east to the 103rd Meridian on the west... a total of 168 miles in length. At the eastern end of the area was the Cherokee Strip and at the western end was the Territory of New Mexico. As the area was claimed by no state, it soon became known as "No Man's Land".

Jim Lane, a freighter on the Santa Fe Trail, is credited with being the first permanent settler along the Beaver River in 1879, where he established a supply store.

In the mid-1880s a considerable number of settlers came into "No Man's Land". Many left heavily mortgaged farm lands in western Kansas and became "squatters" in what was to become the Oklahoma Panhandle.

These settlers were not long in realizing the necessity for law and order. Several townsites were organized; trade centers and villages began to spring up. Judges and law enforcment officers were selected. Although these settlers could not receive legal title to the land on which they settled, precedent in other territorial regions indicated the federal government would - in time - recognize "squatters rights".

A petition in 1882 brought about a Star Postal Route, established in April 1883. The mail route was from Dodge City, Kansas, south to Tascoso, Texas; east to west from Camp Supply, Indian Territory, to Springer, New Mexico. A Post office, called Beaver City, was on Lane's place with Peter T. Reep as postmaster.

Settlers began to think of the possibility of establishing a territory to provide territorial government for the area. In 1886, the first Board of Directors, to deal with the protection of rights and claims, consisted of O.G. CHASE, President - J.A. OVERSTREET, Secretery - J.C. HODGE, Treasurer - and the following members:

Jas. LANE

J. DONNELLY

L.G. EVERMAN

John RAPER

M.V.D. WILSON

J.W. LANCASTER

W.J. CORWITTE

Geo. SCRANAGE

J.C. MASSIE

J.J. LUTZ

M.C. VANCE

L.N. McINTOSH

F. TRACY

R.T.I. BARREFIELD

John WELLS

W.P. OLIVE

C.A. SELINGER

M. MAGANN

Noah LANE

T.P. MASSIE

F.E. PALMER

Joseph MULLIGAN

Mrs. Nancy KEITH

B.O. BERTHOFF

M.S. HUNT

Addison MUNDELL

J.S. DEYERLE

K.V. SMITH

W. KING

M. KING

J.A. HOGANS

D.C. WATSON

 



A Territorial Council was created and met in Beaver City on March 4, 1887. The delegates decided to ask Congress to make "No Man's Land" a territory named Cimarron Territory with Beaver City as the capitol.

Dr. Owen G. Chase was selected to go to Washington as representative of the proposed Cimarron Territory. Considerable attention was given to his proposals, but eventually Congress realized that the planned Cimarron Territory was not large enough in population and resources to justify the creation of a territory which, in times, would seek admission into the Union as a state.

The cattleman, who had their ranch houses and grazed their cattle on No Man's Land for many years, were at first friendly and welcomed the homesteaders. But when they began to see thousands of settlers in dugouts and soddies over the landscape, they became alarmed, knowing that this meant eventually the close of the cattle range. Some of the ranchmen believed the country was part of the Cherokee Outlet and not Public Domain. They made no effort to keep thier herds from overruning the fields of the newcomers. Trouble arose in some instances between cattlemen and settlers.

The settlers were generally quiet, law-abiding people, observing regulated conduct - yet having no government. There were no laws... no courts... no land offices... in this unorganized Public Land belonging to the Federal Government, making the situation of the settlers in No Man's Land unique... unlike any other in American History.

During early years of existence, the Oklahoma Panhandle was known by several names, including "No Man's Land" - the "Public Land Strip" - the "Cimarron Territory" and "Robber's Roost". The last name was coined because, after the Civil War, the region became a haven for cattle rustlers, outlaws, gamblers, and other undesirable persons.

The principal troublemakers were "claim jumpers", locally "road trotters". A "road trotter" - usually on horseback - would suddenly appear at a settler's soddie, stating that he had made a previous claim to the location, which he would relinquish only for a payment of money. The settler would have to give the sum named, in order to hold the claim, or else leave.

A typical "soddie" was a rectangular building with walls two feet think and a door at the front and rear. Windows, if any, were sometimes closed by wooden shutters. From whatever wood could be found along the streams, material was obtained for the ridge pole and rafters. A mat of green branches was spread upon the rafters and a sod roof was then laid. There was seldom a shed or lot for work animals. Horses and mules were staked out to graze. The wagon, harness and farming tools stood out in the weather.

Pioneer schools were usually held in small sod houses where the tuition for each pupil was $1.00 per month. Beaver City established the first school in No Man's Land; it opened in September 1886. Several preachers were in the Strip, some living on their claim and others locating in the towns.

Crops had been scanty in former years but in the spring of 1888 a great drouth spread over the land... no crops... no pasture... savings and supplies of homesteaders were exhausted. Devastating blizzards came during the winter of 1888/89. Spring brought news that the "unassigned lands" would soon be opened in the heart of Oklahoma where land titles could be secured and crops made to grow. In May 1890 this strip of neutral land was joined to the new Territory of Oklahoma.

With the opening of the Unassigned Lands, the Run of April 22, 1889, at least two-thirds of the population of the Neutral Strip [estimated at 12,000 to 15,000 in 1888] had left by the summer of 1889.

The Act which provided the organization of the Territory of Oklahoma was passed by Congress and approved by the President on May 2, 1890. It attached the Public Land - old No Man's Land - as County Seven/Beaver County to the new Territory. Squatters Rights were recognized.

At statehood, November 16, 1907, Beaver County was divided into three counties as they are today: Beaver - Texas - Cimarron.

 

Transcribed to Electronic form by Ronda Redden

 

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