Ross to Thomas J. Brackenridge,
April 24, 1886
The Red River had been recognized the northern boundary of Texas below the Panhandle since the 1819 Adams-Onís treaty between the United States and Mexico. A discrepancy in the treaty led to a border dispute between Texas and the United States over part of present-day Oklahoma. The treaty defined the Red River as the boundary as far northwest of the 100th meridian, as shown on the Melish map, an authoritative map of the day. However, the Melish map showed the 100th meridian inaccurately, leaving a gap of 16,000 square miles. The Red River itself was also inaccurately drawn, without showing a fork in the river in the area. Texas claimed that the north fork was the true river and thus the true border.
According to a strict construction of the Adams-Onís treaty, this territory belonged to Texas. However, the matter was complicated still more by the fact that Texas had agreed to the Compromise of 1850, which used the true meridian to define the Red River border, not the Melish map, and Texans and others had treated this as the boundary of Texas ever since.
Nonetheless, Texas decided to lay claim to the territory. In 1860, the legislature passed an act forming Greer County out of the disputed area. The Civil War and its aftermath interfered with pursuing the matter further until 1884, when Texas leased the land to a cattle company and began settling people in the area and constructing a county government. In 1886, Texas established a Boundary Commission to define the problem and build its case. In this letter, Sullivan Ross, who would be elected governor later in the year, gives an account of an 1858 frontier experience that bolsters Texas' position in the dispute.
In 1891, the United States government filed suit against Texas to settle the dispute about the ownership of Greer County. The Supreme Court ruled against Texas in 1896 and Greer County became part of Oklahoma.
Waco, April 24th 1886
Maj. Thos J. Brackenridge
I was enabled at a later period, to satisfy
I have the honor to be your obt servt
Ross to Thomas J. Brackenridge, April 24, 1886, Boundary Papers (State) 1837-1911, Texas Secretary of State, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.