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El Paso almost left Texas in 1899

Lost State

It's no secret Texas has talked about leaving the United States, but did you know El Paso almost left Texas to form its own state?

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The year was 1899.

El Paso was booming.

"[El Paso] was growing faster than any other community in the southwest. Hands down we were the place to go, to grow," said local historian Bernie Sargent.

Sargent said it would still be years until Arizona and New Mexico would become states of their own.

"In 1900, [El Paso] was the seventh-busiest port of entry in the country," said Sargent.

With a bright future and feeling distant from Austin, rumors began to swirl about breaking off a new state.

"The potential was great for what they thought was a very large economy, a big state, and El Paso would have been the capital," said fellow historian Melissa Sargent.

Melissa Sargent said one the biggest supporters of annexing El Paso was a man from San Francisco Harry Block.

"He saw an opportunity to make money to become a part of a growing community," said Melissa Sargent.

Plan for growth

"We were looking at six counties from New Mexico and two from Arizona being part of what somebody said they would call Montezuma," said Bernie Sargent.

A lot of people jumped at the plan.

"Really Austin kind of ignored El Paso. We were as far west as you could get. So I think we did not have much representation. We were ignored and I think that was part of our problem. We felt like we wanted to have an impact on our own part of Texas," said Melissa Sargent.

Just like politics in 2017, the divisiveness played out in the press.

"Newspapers back in the day were the same as today, depends on which one you read, which slant you get on it," said Bernie Sargent.

Talk of the new state was a juicy story in 1899. The coverage went national. Articles appeared in the Houston Daily Post, the Chicago Tribune, and as far as Washington, D.C.

Eventually it was time to make a decision.

"The convention was actually brought [to El Paso] and happened in the old courthouse and they met and had quiet a furor," said Melissa Sargent.

But El Paso Mayor Joseph Magoffin didn't want to leave Texas. So he stacked the convention with his friends to outnumber the people wanting a new state.

"Because he was a Democrat and he wanted to keep El Paso in Texas, which was Democrat at that time. He didn't want to lose control of that area," said Melissa Sargent. "It was really a political ploy more than anything else."

"Joseph Magoffin looked at the big picture and said 'if we do this, the Democrats would lose some control' which they would have," said Bernie Sargent.

"You always hear the term, the good old boys. They were the good old boys of that time. They were controlling the town," said Melissa Sargent.

Even if the plan had cleared the convention in El Paso it would have been an uphill battle convincing the legislators in Austin, but you can credit Joseph Magoffin for keeping El Paso in Texas.


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