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It’s not what you know, it’s who you know

Posted by: tdt -

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know

By Jonna Bridgman
Special to the Dalhart Texan

If you look closely at a map of the Texas Panhandle, it will be interesting to note how the lines don’t match up where Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico meet. Some have called that ‘jog’ the worst survey error in US History. Later, I will go back to when our part of the country was first surveyed.

Congress did not create Texas, Texas created Texas. As the famous theme park suggests, our state has been under six flags: Spain, France, Mexico, Republic of Texas, Confederate States of America, and the United States of America.

Now, take a look at the entire Texas map. Our state name was originally Tejas, which means allies in the native American language. Only five of the Texas borders are straight lines (or almost straight). The Rio Grande, Red, and Sabine rivers plus the Gulf coast make up the rest.

The biggest conflict between New Mexico and Texas regarding statehood was a disagreement over slavery. Texas was a proslavery state and the New Mexico Territory already had laws against the owning of people. Essentially, the compromise of 1850 allowed the federal government to buy part of the New Mexico Territory from Texas. Texas had many financial problems after its time as an independent country. That land with the rest of the area later became the free state of New Mexico.

In 1859, a man named John Clark ( a p o l o g i e s to his descendants) was hired to do the survey of the northsouth state line between Texas and the New Mexico Territory. He started to the south and c o n t i n u e d north until the water became very scarce. We all know about the lack of water in west Texas. No problem, he thought, I will just go to the north end and continue south and everything will be fine. The only problem was that he started a few miles too far to the west. Before long, the natives attacked him. He had to quit again. This state line was supposed to run along the 103rd meridian. Now, I know exactly nothing about the subject of surveying, but Mr. Clark was being paid for his work and should have been an expert.

Clark connected the dots and turned in his work. This would be similar to a student turning in the test answers on a paper when he really only ‘borrowed’ them from a classmate. He didn’t do the research or hard work to get the answers.

Some time passed during which the War Between the States was fought with the south being the loser. New Mexico was interested in becoming a state. Someone realized that the Clark survey was wrong. The people at the future state capitol knew that New Mexico was going to lose over 942 square miles. Another person was aware and that was John Farwell, an original investor of the XIT Ranch. Mr. Farwell realized that the ranch was going to lose hundreds of thousands of acres plus the mineral rights.

Here’s where the story gets interesting. John Farwell had gone to Yale University with President William Howard Taft. Mr. Farwell paid a visit to his old college buddy. The president was more than willing to help and with some members of congress, was able to make the Clark survey the state line between Texas and New Mexico. If the New Mexico Territory wanted to become a state, they would have to abide by the ruling of Congress.

Again, it’s not what you know, but who you know!

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