New Mexizona???

The Territory of New Mexico was established on Sept. 9, 1850. At that time, the territory included a vast swath of land in the Southwest, including all of our current state and what is now Arizona, the southernmost portion of Nevada and a portion of Colorado which included the headwaters of the Rio Grande.

The map below shows what an immense territory it was. Santa Fe was the designated capitol.

Map (ca 1850) of New Mexico Territory

I’ve seen this map before and wondered what a spectacular state, geographically it would have been had it been left this way. It would have included the Grand Canyon. The highest point in the state would have been more than 14,000 feet high in the Sangre de Cristo range of what is now central Colorado. The San Luis Valley would have been part of New Mexico.

Las Vegas, Nevada, would have been in the state, confusing everyone since there would have been two towns with the same name. Hoover Dam and Lake Mead would have been in New Mexico.

The red rocks of Oak Creek Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, Humphrey’s Peak and the Flagstaff area would have all been in the Land of Enchantment.

And of course we’d still have our spectacular Sangre de Cristo mountains, Sacramentos, Gila country, beautiful plains, White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns and the Rio Grande valley — among many other geographical features.

And to top it off, it would have been bigger than Texas. Take that, Lone Star State!

But things were afoot in Washington at the time that led to the separation of the western part of New Mexico into what became Arizona territory. The Civil War and the issue of slavery played into the drama of granting statehood to either state. President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation in 1863 — during the height of the Civil War — called the “Organic Act” which designated Arizona as a separate Territory.

The two states finally joined the Union in 1912 — New Mexico on Jan. 6 and Arizona on Feb. 14 — but not without a last-minute effort to join the two states again.

The then Speaker of the House, John Gurney Cannon of Illinois, was behind the effort to re-unite the two states. Known as someone who ruled the House with an “iron fist” and often referred to as “Czar Cannon,” the Illinois lawmaker failed to gather the 33 additional Republican votes he needed to merge the states.

No doubt his failure to achieve his goal led to this famous quote, possibly referring to some lawmakers who failed to support him on the issue:

“Sometimes in politics one must duel with skunks, but no one should be fool enough to allow skunks to choose the weapons.”

Even then, Arizona’s road to statehood was bumpy because of a provision in their proposed constitution which allowed judges to be recalled. There was also speculation that New Mexico’s path to statehood was delayed because of its large Spanish-speaking population that some politicians back East felt were not worthy of being U.S. citizens. The political cartoon below shows some of the thinking at the time. Note the snake with the words “judiciary recall” attached to the Arizona character and how the New Mexico character is represented in a Mexican sombrero.

Political cartoon ca 1905

I also ran across another bit of information in the 1905 Santa Fe New Mexican, which said then territorial Gov. Manuel Antonio Ortero was planning a month-long vacation to California to recover from what he said was an exhausting session of the New Mexico Legislature. On his way back from California, he said he traveled through Arizona and talked with residents of that state about the possibility of the two states being joined again. He said he found “little interest” in the concept.

So the die was cast and New Mexico and Arizona retained their own identities. It’s hard for me to imagine us being one state these days. Of all our bordering states, my opinion is that we have less interaction with Arizona than any of the others. And in past years, I think we’ve become increasingly separated by political ideology.

In retrospect, it’s probably good that we remained separated. But wow, what spectacular and beautiful state we would have been.

3 thoughts on “New Mexizona???

  1. Las Cruces by Gordon Owen, page 113: Stephen B Elkins went to congress to lobby for statehood. He walked into congress just as a speaker delivered a barn-storming speech denouncing the KKK and the South in general. The speaker bumbled into Elkins and he, noticing the rousing and approving response, vigorously shook the speaker’s hand. Southerners noticed this and ended any hope of statehood for the next thirty years by only seven votes.


  2. This was great information. I did not know about this. Thank you. I hope you are doing well. Victor



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