BY DAVID PERRYMAN
There is a story that circulates among Oklahoma real estate attorneys about a Dallas banker who had been approached to lend money on land in the Sooner state. As the story goes, the banker had his attorney review the abstract and the title appeared good, however, it only showed the record back to the 1902 Land Patent. Wanting more verification about the ownership of the land, the banker demanded that the abstractor prepare an abstract showing all prior owners.
The abstractor who prepared the Abstract of Title responded, “I note that you wish to have title extended further than the 111 years covered by the abstract. I was unaware that anyone in this part of the country, even someone from Texas, did not know that this land was purchased from France in 1803 as a part of the Louisiana Purchase.”
The abstractor continued, “For the edification of you and other uninformed bankers and bureaucrats, the nation of France acquired the land of the Louisiana Purchase by Right of Conquest from Spain. The land came into possession of Spain by Right of Discovery made in the year 1492 by a sea captain named Christopher Columbus, who had been granted the privilege of seeking a new route to India by the then reigning monarch, Isabelle.”
“The good queen,” said the abstractor, “being a pious woman and being almost as careful about real estate titles as is your bank, took the precaution of securing the blessing of the Pope before she sold her jewels to fund Columbus’ expedition. Now the Pope, as I’m sure you know, is the emissary of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And God, it is commonly accepted, created the entire world, including, that part of the world now named Oklahoma. I believe it is safe to presume that He, therefore, would be the owner of origin. I hope you find His original claim to be satisfactory.”
Aside from the tale of the confused banker, the history of Oklahoma is really a pretty interesting story and involves a twist and turn, or two, that makes it even more unique. This weekend marks the 106th birthday of the State of Oklahoma.
Incredibly, the pan shaped state now known as Oklahoma nearly did not exist. As early as 1889, a bill had been introduced in Congress providing for a portion of Indian Territory to be admitted as the new state of Columbia. Problematic was the fact that the tribal governments in Indian Territory held all land in common ownership and until the real estate was divided and allotted to individuals, statehood would not be granted.
But the residents of Oklahoma Territory – comprised of that area west of Chickasha and Duncan and the area that includes Oklahoma City, Enid and Stillwater – began pressing for separate statehood in 1891 or before. Primarily, about the only thing that the residents of Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory could agree upon was that they both wanted to be separate states.
Locally, residents of Oklahoma Territory held conventions and proceeded as if they would be admitted as the state of Oklahoma. Likewise, residents of Indian Territory held conventions and proceeded as if they would be admitted as the state of Sequoyah. Maps were prepared; county lines were drawn in and county seats were selected. But it was not to be.
As with most matters of government, final decisions on whether there would be double or single statehood was politically motivated. Despite strong feelings in the territories for double statehood, nationally, there was never more than a remote possibility of the triumph of double statehood.
A Republican president and a Republican Congress were determined to join the Twin Territories to form a single state. Legislators from those states east of the Mississippi were unwilling to add four United States senators from this part of the west, especially when it seemed likely that they would be Democrats.
According to the account contained in the archives of the Oklahoma Historical Society, there was little fanfare in Washington as Oklahoma became the 46th state of the union.
On the morning of Nov. 16, 1907, at exactly 15 minutes after 10 o’clock, the door leading to the executive office was thrown open and President Theodore Roosevelt stormed in. A minute later he quickly signed Proclamation 780 with a quill pen that can be seen at the Oklahoma History Center. A painting by Mike Wimmer memorializing this event now hangs in the Oklahoma Capitol.
Despite the politics and chicanery surrounding Oklahoma joining the union, without a doubt, Oklahoma’s sunsets, fields of wheat, rivers, lakes, mountains and forests have been making the United States of America a more beautiful place to live for the past 106 years.
Happy Birthday, Oklahoma.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives
Photo by Wesley Fryer/Flickr