Up until this point, El Paso del Norte’s distance from other densely populated areas had somewhat insulated its inhabitants. Which could be a good thing in a sense, like when colonizers are too exhausted by their traveling to fight [i.e. Oñate]. But it can also be a bad thing, like when you’re too far away from the action and allies see you as expendable. Such is the case with the Compromise of 1850.

Spanish officials in El Paso del Norte’s northern capital were aware of their property rights from the beginning of the 1848 treaty, and started planning their next move. Hispanics managed to keep the Anglos out of Santa Fe –– for the time being anyway –– by agreeing to give up their land 300 miles away. Rather than keep fighting, the US began shifting its focus on clearing a path through Spanish territory. A transcontinental railroad would be more valuable than any single piece of land. The agreement would stop Texas at Doña Ana and create straight boundaries that edge the northwest side of the state. That is how Texas’ “panhandle” and the far-out western limb were created.

Even though it satisfied US interests, some of the first Anglo settlers of West Texas were against being tied to a state whose capital is based so far away. In fact, there was a “Constitution of the State of West Texas” written as an attempt to succeed from itself (a right granted to the state in their terms of admission into the Union). In 1847, Isaac Van Zandt ran for governor promising to divide Texas into as many as four states. He saw growing support for his plan and might have even gotten his wish, had he not died a month before the election.

Life on the Fringe