This map of Texas and New Mexico shows the impact of geography on human affairs, with the Gulf Coastal Plain and Interior Lowlands well settled while the High Plains area, the LLano Estacado - one of the largest mesas in North America, a treeless, almost completely arid sweep of geography larger than the state of Indiana- is as empty of settlement as it is of rivers.
It is in Texas that the seeds of the future American Southwest were sown. The Mexican Province of Coahuila y Tejas allowed immigration from the United States (1821). The Mexican population soon found themselves outnumbered, and the new settlers in 1836 gained independence. After being granted statehood by the United States (1845), a boundary dispute over the western boundaries of Texas led to the Mexican American War (1846) which resulted in the 1848 Mexican Cessation which ceded New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, parts of Colorado, and all of California to the United States.
In 1874, people from all over Texas gathered to witness the inauguration of Democrat Richard Coke as governor. The event would mark the end of Reconstruction and radical military rule in the state. Incumbent E. J. Davis, however, refused to step down, declaring the election invalid. He was supported by radical Republicans and eventually took control of the lower level of the old capitol building, increasing tensions to the point that any violence could easily trigger a destructive uprising. Davis sent a proclamation to the Legislature, which they ignored. Instead, they organized and secured control of the legislative chambers on the second level of the capitol building. The Legislature confirmed Coke's position and he was inaugurated on January 15th. Texas was now left with two governments holed up in one building. The state was in standoff. After repeatedly being denied military assistance from the federal government, Davis gave in. Reconstruction finally came to an end and Coke began a century long Democratic reign on Texas.
In 1881, Billy the Kid, "the Robin Hood of New Mexico", was shot in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Born William Henry McCarty Jr., Billy was a gunman turned frontier outlaw of the American Old West. Legend dictates that he murdered 21 men, but factual evidence suggests his total was between four and nine. Billy was described as blue eyed, and baby faced with prominent front teeth. At times, he was said to be quite personable and charming. Incredibly agile, he was cunning and incredibly skilled with firearms. Exceedingly intelligent, the boy was had a knack for manipulating people. Billy had been on the run since the age of 15. He was largely unknown until a price was placed on his head by New Mexico's governor, Lew Wallace, which catapulted him to fame in 1881. He became nationally famous, a mythical icon and symbol of American glory. The people he was fighting against were criminals, as Lincoln Country was in a state of near-anarchy. Billy the Kid's legend joined ranks with Jesse James and Butch Cassidy, also notorious criminals, symbolizing the American regard for violence as the most honorable and heroic form of action.
Archival print from high-resolution scan. 24" x 15"