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Posts Tagged ‘Oklahoma No Man’s Land’

Guymon, Hooker and “No Man’s Land,” Oklahoma

Posted by graywacke on April 2, 2016

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-four-or-five days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2257; A Landing A Day blog post number 687.

Dan:  Yet another OSer (and 6 of my last 10 landings have been OSers), as I landed in OK for the third time since changing my random lat/long procedure (41 landings ago).  Check out “About Landing (Revisited)” tab if you care about what I just said but don’t understand.

Here’s my regional landing map:

landing 1

And my local landing map:

landing 2

I had to use Google Earth (GE) for my watershed analysis, so it’s time for my GE spaceflight into the OK Panhandle.  Click HERE, enjoy the trip, then hit your back button.

I managed to land only about two miles from a road with GE Street View coverage:

ge sv landing map

And here’s what the orange dude sees:

ge sv landing

As for my drainage:  you can tell from the above photo that it’s very flat here on the Oklahoma Panhandle.  Using the GE elevation tool, I was able to ascertain that downhill was generally to the southeast.  After traversing about 9 miles, I came to a low spot that had drainage going in, but no drainage going out.  Here’s a GE shot, with the cluster of pins being the low spot:

ge 1

And of course, here’s a close-up of the low spot:

ge 2

You can see that the elevation of the low spot (according to GE) is 3037.  You can also see that I could go all around the low spot, and everywhere find an elevation of 3045.  So if it rained and rained and rained, the low spot could fill up to an elevation of 3045, making a much bigger lake.

See the north-south line (road?) to the southwest that has a 3045 pin in it?  Just south of that point, the elevations start going down again, so that would be how the lake would drain if it filled much higher than 3045.

So I had a choice.  I could make this an internally-drained watershed, or I could follow the drainage further south (where I’d end up in the Beaver River, which drains into the Optima Lake you can see on my local landing map).

My final decision:  this is an internally-drained watershed, which is the first one for the state of OK! 

Just for the record, here’s my scorecard of internally drained watersheds:


And yes, I did have drainage go south of the border (see “MX” above).  This happened when I landed in AZ about 3 miles north of the border, with drainage headed south.

Looking back up at my local landing map, Optima, Hough and Mouser are teeny; nothing to say about them.  I featured Hooker a while back (February 2013).  That post includes an interesting discussion of American state panhandles, an up-close look at a massive feedlot, the town of Hooker, and a huge dam that failed miserably (by failure, I mean it failed to create the lake that the designers/builders expected).  It’s a great post; check it out by typing Hooker in the search box. 

Just for the heck of it, I lifted three Hooker photos from that post.  First this, from TripAdviser.com:

hooker 1

And then this, from RoadsideAmerica.com:

hooker 2

And finally this, from Nevco.com. 

hooker 3

No comment.

So, of course I looked at Guymon.  Even though it’s a way bigger town (pop 11,500), I couldn’t find much of a hook.  I did notice that the town has a museum called “No Man’s Land Museum.”  I’ve run across that term before in reference to the Oklahoma panhandle, but never dug into it.

So here’s the story.  When Texas became part of the United States, the 37th parallel had already been established as the southern boundary of both Kansas and Colorado.  So anything north of that was off-limits for Texas (even though Texas made outrageous territorial claims including parts of NM, CO, KS and WY). 

Texas was going to enter the US as a slave state, and, according to the Missouri Compromise, no lands north of 36’ 30” could be slave.  So that left a 34-mile strip of land between Texas to the south and Colorado and Kansas to the north that, in 1850, was designated the “Public Land Strip.”  The boundary between TX and NM was also set at this time, making the Public Land Strip 170 miles long from east to west.

No one called the strip of land anything other than No Man’s Land.  The land remained No Man’s Land for a remarkable 40 years, until 1890.

In 1890, the Oklahoma Organic Act was passed, which made the panhandle part of the territory of Oklahoma.  “Organic Act?”  Wiki:

An Organic Act is a generic name for a statute used by the United States Congress to describe a territory, in anticipation of being admitted to the Union as a state.

I found a piece from HistoryNet.com entitled Bad Men in No Man’s Land.  Although I only copied some choice excerpts, this is still a little long by ALAD standards.  Obviously, I think it’s worth the read:

The first Anglo occupiers were mostly cattlemen, tough, adventurous types willing to fight anybody for free grass and water. But the cattlemen soon had rivals for this big, empty country. After passage of the Homestead Act in 1862, No Man’s Land was surveyed and laid off into townships: The boundaries were marked with little domes of zinc, called ‘pot lines.’ Kansas newspapers published rhapsodic stories of new towns and free land; the embryonic town of Beaver [about 50 miles east of Guymon] would be called the ‘new metropolis of the plains.’ Most of this stuff was pure moonshine, but it sounded good.

Most folks lived in sod houses, for wood was hard to find on those wind-swept plains. The typical’soddie’ had turf walls about 2 feet thick, with a sod roof laid across timber rafters and a mat of green branches. There was a door, of course, or maybe two, and perhaps even a couple of inside walls to create separate rooms. There might or might not be windows, and if there were, their closures were likely to be wooden shutters, since glass was scarce and expensive. All around these isolated soddies lay the empty prairie.

At first there was much hard feeling between cattlemen and settlers. The range, once clear and open, was no longer so, and there was a good deal of fence-cutting and crops eaten and trampled by stock. On the other hand, many ‘nesters’ were not above supplementing their meager diet with beef, which often belonged to somebody else.

Any collection of more than two buildings qualified as a town in No Man’s Land. ‘Most towns,’ according to one account, ‘were made up of three or four sod houses grouped around a larger sod structure housing a country stock of merchandise. Only Beaver reached the dignity of a village.

Beaver was also a major collection point for much of the riffraff of the area. Crime was rampant, including murder.  The law didn’t care about murder, because there was no law.  Criminals simply went unpunished, unless an irate citizenry could organize in time to deal with them.

Along with the hard-working nesters and cattlemen, large and small, came the grifters, the bullies and the thieves.  A persistent pest was a highly specialized breed of con man called the ‘road-trotter.’ These lowlifes filled their bellies by making specious claims on other people’s land, either occupying the claim in the owner’s absence or producing a forged instrument of title. They would generally go away if the owner bought them off.

In addition to the general run of no-goods, No Man’s Land was amply supplied with liquor sellers.. There were a good number of liquor establishments, thanks in large measure to ax-wielding Carry Nation and her Anti-Saloon League. Carry’s depredations up in Kansas had pretty well dried up the Sunflower State, and the nearest place to get a legal drink for many Kansans was No Man’s Land.

Liberal, just across the Kansas line, was an especially thirsty town. To accommodate Liberal’s taste for booze and other more intimate indoor sports, a little town popped up just over the border in No Man’s Land. It called itself Beer City.

There was nothing much in Beer City but saloons and dance halls. It never had a church or a school or even a post office. Many of the ladies of the evening who staffed Beer City’s houses commuted from Liberal, traveling between the two towns in the daily horse-drawn hack.

Predictably known as the ‘Sodom and Gomorrah of the Plains,’ Beer City knew no holidays, for its business was constant merriment. The entrepreneurs who ran the Elephant, the Yellow Snake and the other saloons advertised their town as the only place ‘in the civilized world where there is absolutely no law.’ They staged dances, horse races, boxing and wrestling matches, and Wild West shows to keep their customers amused between drinks. Some of them even furnished ‘drunk pens,’ wire enclosures in which a sodden cowboy could sleep it off without getting rolled for any money he had left.

The town had other kinds of entertainment, too, much of it unplanned and violent. There was, for example, the day on which Pussy Cat Nell, madam of the house above the Yellow Snake Saloon, ushered town marshal Lew Bush into the next world with her shotgun. The cause of their falling out is not recorded, but there is no evidence that Pussy Cat Nell’s impulsive act was regarded as worthy of censure. Besides, she ran an essential service, and Marshal Bush had been rustling on the side.

Since Beer City and its competitors were a very long way from any kind of real distillery, and since cowboys seldom cared much what sort of booze they drank, the liquor supply, such as it was, tended to come from local sources. Thus the making of white lightning became a favorite — and semirespectable — occupation for a good many residents of No Man’s Land.

In time, enthusiastic residents of No Man’s Land formed a provisional government, as they called it. They had a great seal made and used it to fire off petitions to Washington, D.C., for territorial status. They grandly called their new land Cimarron Territory, in fact, in the forlorn hope that the name and their activity would move the Congress to favorably consider their ambitions. They sent a couple of competing representatives to Washington, too, and even found some allies in Congress, but the area would remain an orphan until the Oklahoma Organic Act of 1890 made it part of brand-new Oklahoma Territory.

For many (most?) residents of No Man’s Land, the living was lonely and farming was a hardscrabble life. Wheat prices were not high enough to make much money, and the nearest railheads were still up in Kansas. There was a severe drought in 1888, and as a last straw the supply of beef and buffalo bones was nearly exhausted, and so too were buffalo and cow chips, the staple fuel. A mournful nester jingle went:

Pickin’ up bones to keep from starving,
Pickin’ up chips to keep from freezing,
Pickin’ up courage to keep from leaving,
Way out West in No Man’s Land.

Getting back to Guymon – this, from OKGenWeb:

Since 1933 the signing or the Organic Act has been celebrated in Guymon, OK. The act combined No Man’s Land and Oklahoma Indian Territory to form Oklahoma Territory on May 2,1890. The celebration (known as Pioneer Days) continues today in May with the nation’s largest outdoor professional rodeos, parades, bar-b-ques, and much more.

Here are a couple of shots of the 1934 Guymon Pioneer Day celebration (from OKGenWeb):


pioneerday2-1okgenweb 1934

Wow.  A big deal, eh?

I’ll close with a couple of pictures.  First this, from the FDR Library at Marist University, of a horse-drawn scraper removing wind-blown silt from a road during the 1930’s dust bowl era:

removing drifts of soil fdr library, marist.edu

I couldn’t find much in the way of GE Panoramio shots; just this near Hooker, by Black Mesa Images:

pano black mesa images

That’ll do it . . .




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