Today in 1907 Oklahoma became the 46th state in the Union.
It’s one of a few states that has a panhandle: Oklahoma’s is on the state’s western edge.
It’s 166 miles long and 34 miles wide, and it has a complicated history that includes a time when it was known as “No Man’s Land.”
The area has been home to Indigenous communities for centuries.
The Spiro Mound builders were known to live there as early as the year 500 C.E., and there were hunting/gathering communities on the land for thousands of years before that.
Much of what is now Oklahoma was land set aside for Native peoples when the US forcibly removed them from their lands in eastern North America.
The land in the panhandle was later under Spanish and Mexican control, and in the 19th Century became the northernmost part of the Republic of Texas.
When Texas became an American state, the Compromise of 1820 was in place.
It set a geographic line above which slavery was banned.
So Texas gave up the stretch of land above the line.
A few years later, Congress set the southern border of Kansas 34 miles north of the northern tip of Texas, meaning there was land that was not part of any organized state or territory.
It was officially called the Public Land Strip, sometimes called the Neutral Strip or the Cimarron Territory, but since it wasn’t under any particular jurisdiction a lot of people called it No Man’s Land.
This was a time when mobs were clashing in the organized Kansas territory, and those who wanted to hang out somewhere even more lawless just went south to the Public Land Strip, some of the wildest parts of the Wild West.
There was even a place called Beer City, where all manner of sordid behavior went on.
In 1890, Congress added the land to the Oklahoma Territory, and in the early 20th Century combined all of that land with the areas known as Indian Territory into what is now the state of Oklahoma.
And no, if you’re wondering, Beer CIty is not there today.
Coming up this Saturday in Luther, Oklahoma, it’s the Luther Pecan Festival.
The two day event includes food trucks, music, 5K runners, and lots of pecan pies.
You just might go nuts for this event.
The Secret History of the Oklahoma Panhandle (Conde Nast Traveler)