The Long Fight to Become a State

knute-nelson-minnesotaAs early as the 1870s Arizonans began pushing for statehood. Haunted by their notorious past, of cattle rustlers, Indian wars, feuds in places with names like Pleasant Valley and gunfights near somebody’s corral, it would be a long struggle before the raucous territory achieved statehood. They held constitutional conventions in 1891 and 1893 but both bills died in Washington committees.

The balance of power in the U.S. Congress was shifting west and the more established parts of the country were determined to hold the number of new western senators to a minimum. They looked desperately for excuses to deny statehood to western territories. Senator Albert Beverage, Indiana, Chairman of Committee on Territories, led the charge against Arizona calling the place a bleak “desert.”

Senator Thomas Bard of California declared the people of Arizona and New Mexico were not intelligent enough to have statehood.

Beverage supporter, Norwegian-born Senator Knute Nelson of Minnesota addressed this un-American area in a thick Norwegian accent saying, “Ay tank dose fellairs en Arizona not beene goot enofe Americaines. To bay goot seetyzain, a fellair moost bay Ameracaine.

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