Inside the Capitol

Sunday, January 08, 2012

1-11 NM and AZ not sister states

11112 AZ centennial

SANTA FE – At first glance, New Mexico and Arizona appear to be sister states. Both were claimed and explored by Spain in the 1500s. Both had equal periods of Spanish, Mexican and American rule. And both were granted U.S. statehood a month apart.
But otherwise, the differences were great. For nearly a millennium, New Mexico was peopled by peaceful Pueblo farmers. Arizona was controlled by marauding, nomadic Apaches. New Mexico was colonized in 1598. But Spain had little interest in the land that now is Arizona. It was hard to traverse because of that huge canyon blocking northern exploration and travel. It was left to the Apaches.
When Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, it began allowing non-Spanish settlers and traders. That began the Santa Fe Trail, bringing people of many cultures and ethnicities from the East and Midwest.
Most of them didn't keep moving west to Arizona where there was no protection from Apaches. Arizona's early migration came from the Southern states looking for farm land. But the farther west they got, the more arid the land became.
The interest in Arizona didn't start until the United States decided it wanted California. Thus, in 1846, Gen Kearny's California Column claimed Santa Fe, stayed for a while to establish a government and then continued down the Rio Grande and through southern Arizona to California.
New Mexico came close to gaining statehood in 1849 but the compromise of 1850, heavily influenced by the slavery issue, made us a territory. It took Arizona another 13 years just to become a territory. It petitioned the U.S. government five times.
After the formation of the Confederacy, Arizona petitioned twice and finally was accepted as a Confederate territory after the Confederacy invaded New Mexico and claimed both states. That caught Washington's attention, which made Arizona a U.S. territory in 1863 after turning back the Confederates at Glorieta.
Tucson fully expected to become the territorial capital but because of its Confederate leanings, Prescott was the first capital. Soon Tucson grabbed it away. Prescott got it back and it eventually ended up in Phoenix. Santa Fe has been New Mexico's capital for over 400 years.
Between 1875 and 1910, New Mexico and Arizona tried many times to gain statehood from Congress but they never worked together. Several times one house of Congress or the other approved statehood for one state or the other.
In 1906, Congress tried getting everything together. Both houses approved statehood for a combined state called Arizona. It was subject to approval by voters of both states. New Mexicans approved it 2-1. Arizonans defeated it 5-1.Did they fear domination by the bigger New Mexico?
Even though the two states never liked each other, they both were mutually disrespected by Washington. General Sherman's famous comment about declaring war on Mexico again and making it take New Mexico back, he also applied to Arizona.
Gen. Lew Wallace hated his 1878 appointment as New Mexico governor and couldn't wait to get out. John C. Fremont was appointed Arizona governor the same year. When told that meant that meant he had to live in Arizona, he resigned.
According to True West magazine, published in Cave Creek, Arizona, the McDowell Mountains east of Scottsdale, Fort McDowell and McDowell Road all are named for Gen. Irvin McDowell, noted in history for losing both battles of Bull Run.
Also according to True West, which has dedicated its February edition to Arizona's centennial, on Feb. 14, George Warren had drinking and gambling problems and was judged insane. He also lost the Four Queens Mine betting that he could outrun a horse. That didn't keep his likeness from appearing on Arizona's state seal.
So, at the beginning of 2012, we honor two of the most unusual states to be admitted to the union. Both have made outstanding contributions to our nation despite 66 years of misgivings by Washington.


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