The Parts Of SW Oklahoma That Once Belonged To Texas
I think we've talked before about how Oklahoma has belonged to a handful of other nations in our storied past.
From the earliest recorded Oklahoma history when Spanish Conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado came through on his mission for Spain in the mid-1500s, leaving some of their treasure behind...
The tales of French fur trapping and trading posts in what was once the territory of Louisiana fifty years before America declared independence from England... Spain again, then Mexico, and finally the Republic of Texas... but that wasn't the end of the story.
Even after Texas agreed to statehood as part of the United States, the Lone Star State held a boundary deep into what became Oklahoma's iconic border.
Most people commonly know that the Oklahoma panhandle was originally part of Texas, but Texans surrendered it due to our nation's laws concerning slavery above 36°30′ latitude. There's a storied past with the panhandle too, from being its own territory to becoming public lands, then no man's land... That story is for another time.
Today's interesting tale of how Texas owned a bit of Oklahoma hits down in the Southwestern most corner of the state, and the story starts in 1819 when President Adams bargained a treaty to define the borders between US territory and Spain.
Even in the earliest days, the border that divided what would eventually be Texas and Oklahoma was always the Red River... but the further you go west, the less defined that border gets.
It's all about river forks.
If you follow a map, the Red River extends from the Gulf of Mexico up through Louisiana, across the Oklahoma/Texas border, on into the Texas Panhandle to a canyonland called Palo Duro Canyon. This is where the headwaters of the Red River technically start, but it's defined as the Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River... but there is another further down the river.
If you've ever driven down Highway 62 to Altus, you may have noticed a big river crossing just before you get there. That's the North Fork Red River, and it meanders from the southern border with Texas and extends north and arches to the west, providing the confusion between the US and Spain.
By the time the Adams-Otis Treaty defining this border was signed, Mexico had already won independence from Spain, but Mexico accepted the treaty equally in order to move on being their own recognized nation, keeping Spain's North Fork Red River border.
Even as Texas won its independence from Mexico, tried to be a republic on their own, and eventually accepted they couldn't do it without the US, that mistaken North Fork border stayed the same.
Welcome to Greer County, Texas.
Truth be told, nobody much cared about this 1.5million acre piece of land until the United States started planning the land runs into Oklahoma Territory, on our way to combining these lands with Indian Territory into a state. At least, that's what national celebrities like Will Rogers and Wiley Post were campaigning for.
The United States filed a lawsuit for these lands in 1886 and Texas fought it... but because Texas was now a state and part of the union and the US Adams-Otis Treaty originally had this border drawn, it only took a judge two months to decide the federal government had a case and ordered Texas to give back the land since it only belonged to Spain, Mexico, and subsequently Texas by a mistake in map reading.
When Oklahoma officially gained statehood in 1907, "Old Greer County" was divided up into Harmon, Greer, Jackson, and parts of Beckham County making for some interesting and unique Southwest Oklahoma family legacies.
There are families that live in our Southwest counties where different generations were born in the same houses, on the same piece of land, but in two different US states a generation or two apart... How's that for crazy family stories?
It remains today just an interesting lesser-known footnote in the history of Oklahoma, and I'm glad you at least found it fascinating enough to read on this far. Five points to Gryffindor.