|Territory Northwest of the River Ohio|
|Organized incorporated territory of United States|
|o Type||Organized incorporated territory|
|o Motto||Meliorem lapsa locavit|
"He has planted one better than the one fallen"
|Arthur St. Clair|
|Charles Willing Byrd|
o Northwest Ordinance
|July 13 1787|
o Affirmed by United States Congress
|August 7, 1789|
o Indiana Territory created
|May 7, 1800|
|March 1 1803|
The Northwest Territory in the United States (also known as the Old Northwest) was formed after the American Revolutionary War, and was known formally as the Territory Northwest of the River Ohio. It was the initial post-colonial Territory of the United States and encompassed most of pre-war British colonial territory west of the Appalachian mountains north of the Ohio River. It included all the land west of Pennsylvania, northwest of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River below the Great Lakes. It spanned all or large parts of six eventual U.S. States (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and the northeastern part of Minnesota). It was created as a Territory by the Northwest Ordinance July 13, 1787, reduced to Ohio, eastern Michigan and a sliver of southeastern Indiana with the formation of Indiana Territory July 4, 1800, and ceased to exist March 1, 1803, when the southeastern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the state of Ohio, and the remainder attached to Indiana Territory.
At its inception the Territory was a vast wilderness sparsely populated by Indians including the Delaware, Miami, Potawatomi, Shawnee and others; there were only a handful of French colonial settlements, and Clarksville at Falls of the Ohio. At the territory's dissolution, there were dozens of towns and settlements, a few with thousands of settlers, mostly in Ohio chiefly along the Ohio and Miami Rivers and around the Great Lakes.
The region was ceded to the United States in the Treaty of Paris of 1783. The Congress of the Confederation enacted the Northwest Ordinance in 1787 to provide for the administration of the territories and set rules for admission of jurisdictions as states. On August 7, 1789, the new U.S. Congress affirmed the Ordinance with slight modifications under the Constitution.
Initially, the Territory was governed by martial law under a governor and three judges, but as population increased, a legislature, the Territorial General Assembly, was formed. Administratively, the Territory was divided into a succession of counties, eventually totaling 13.
Conflicts between settlers and Native American inhabitants of the Territory resulted in the Northwest Indian War culminating in General "Mad" Anthony Wayne's victory at Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. The subsequent Treaty of Greenville 1795 opened the way for settlement of southern and western Ohio.
The Northwest Territory included all the then-owned land of the United States west of Pennsylvania, east of the Mississippi River, and northwest of the Ohio River. It incorporated most of the former Ohio Country except a portion in western Pennsylvania, and eastern Illinois Country. It covered all of the modern states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as the northeastern part of Minnesota. Lands west of the Mississippi River were the Louisiana Province of New France (acquired by the United States in 1803 by the Louisiana Purchase); lands north of the Great Lakes were the British Province of Upper Canada, and lands south of the Ohio River constituted Kentucky County, Virginia, admitted to the union as the state of Kentucky in 1792. The area included more than 260,000 square miles (670,000 km2) and comprised about 1/3 of the land area of the United States at the time of its creation. It was inhabited by about 45,000 Native Americans and 4,000 traders, mostly Canadien and British. Among the tribes inhabiting the region were the Shawnee, Delaware, Miami, Wyandot, Ottawa and Potawatomi. Notably, the Miami capital along with British trading posts was at Kekionga at the site of present day Fort Wayne, Indiana. Neutralizing Kekionga became the focus of the Northwest Indian War, the driving events in the early evolution of the territory.
Integration of the Northwest Territory into a political unit, and settlement, depended on three factors: relinquishment by the British, extinguishment of states' claims west of the Appalachians, and usurpation or purchase of lands from the Indians. These objectives were accomplished correspondingly by the American Revolutionary War, provisions in the Articles of Confederation, and various treaties preceding the Northwest Indian War including Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1784) and Treaty of Fort McIntosh (1785). The treaty process would extend well beyond the War and existence of the Territory as a political entity.
European exploration of the region began with French-Canadian voyageurs in the 17th century, followed by French missionaries and French fur traders. French-Canadian explorer Jean Nicolet was the first recorded European entrant into the region, landing in 1634 at the current site of Green Bay, Wisconsin (although Étienne Brûlé is stated by some sources as having explored Lake Superior and possibly inland Wisconsin in 1622). The French exercised control from widely separate posts in the region, which they claimed as New France; among these was the post at Fort Detroit, founded in 1701. France ceded the territory to the Kingdom of Great Britain as part of the Indian Reserve in the 1763 Treaty of Paris, after being defeated in the French and Indian War.
From the 1750s to the peace treaty that ended the War of 1812, the British had a long-standing goal of creating an Indian barrier state, a large "neutral" Indian state that would cover most of the Old Northwest. It would be independent of the United States and under the tutelage of the British, who would use it to block American expansion and to build up their control of the fur trade headquartered in Montreal.
A new colony, named Charlotina, was proposed for the southern Great Lakes region. However, facing armed opposition by Native Americans, the British issued the Proclamation of 1763, which prohibited white colonial settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains. This action angered American colonists interested in expansion, as well as those who had already settled in the area. In 1774, by the Quebec Act, Britain annexed the region to the Province of Quebec in order to provide a civil government and to centralize British administration of the Montreal-based fur trade. The prohibition of settlement west of the Appalachians remained, contributing to the American Revolution.
In February 1779, George Rogers Clark of the Virginia Militia captured Kaskaskia and Vincennes from British commander Henry Hamilton. Virginia capitalized on Clark's success by laying claim to the whole of the Old Northwest, calling it Illinois County, Virginia, until 1784, when Virginia ceded its land claims to the federal government.
Britain officially ceded the area north of the Ohio River and west of the Appalachians to the United States at the end of the American Revolutionary War with the Treaty of Paris (1783), but the British continued to maintain a presence in the region as late as 1815, the end of the War of 1812.
Several states (Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut) had competing claims on the territory: Virginia claimed all of what were formerly Illinois Country and Ohio Country; Massachusetts claimed what are today southern Michigan and Wisconsin; Connecticut claimed a narrow strip across the territory just south of the Great Lakes; New York claimed an elastic portion of Iroquis lands between Lake Erie and the Ohio River. The western boundary of Pennsylvania was also ill-defined. Virginia's jurisdiction was limited to a few French settlements at the extreme western edge of the territory. Massachusett's and Connecticut's claims were effectively lines on paper. New York had no colonial settlements or territorial government in the claimed lands.
The western border of Pennsylvania, previously assumed to run in a north by northeast zigzag, was resolved in 1780 by the Continental Congress. The Mason-Dixon line was extended westward to a point five degrees of longitude (about 260 miles) from the Delaware River and the western boundary extended to run due north from the western-most extent of the Mason-Dixon line to the 43rd parallel. This incorporated the eastern part of Ohio Country as western Pennsylvania, and set the eastern boundary of federal lands.
"Unlanded" states, such as Maryland, refused to ratify the Articles of Confederation so long as these states were allowed to keep their western territory, fearing that those states could continue to grow and tip the balance of power in their favor under the proposed system of federal government. As a concession to obtain ratification, these states ceded their claims on the territory to the federal government: New York in 1780, Virginia in 1784, and Massachusetts and Connecticut in 1785. So the majority of the territory became public land owned by the U.S. government. Virginia and Connecticut reserved two areas to use as compensation to military veterans: The Virginia Military District and the Connecticut Western Reserve
Thomas Jefferson's Land Ordinance of 1784 was the first organization of the territory by the United States; it provided a process for dividing the territory into individual states. The Land Ordinance of 1785 established a standardized system for surveying the land into saleable lots, although Ohio would be partially surveyed several times using different methods, resulting in a patchwork of land surveys in Ohio. Some older French communities' property claims based on earlier systems of long, narrow lots also were retained. The rest of the Northwest Territory was divided into roughly uniform square townships and sections, which facilitated land sales and development. The ordinance also stipulated that the territory would eventually form at least three but not more than five new states.
Under the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which created the Northwest Territory, General St. Clair was appointed governor. When the territory was divided in 1800, he briefly served as governor of the Northwest Territory remnant that included Ohio, the eastern half of Michigan, and a sliver of southeastern Indiana called "The Gore."
St. Clair formally established the government on July 15, 1788, at Marietta. In 1790, he renamed the settlement of Losantiville Cincinnati, after the Society of the Cincinnati, and moved the administrative and military center to Fort Washington.
As Governor, he formulated the Maxwell's Code (named after its printer, William Maxwell), the first written criminal and civil laws of the territory. Maxwell's Code consisted of thirty-seven different laws with the stipulation that the laws had to have been passed previously in one of the original thirteen states. The laws restructured the court system then in effect in the Northwest Territory. They also protected residents against excessive taxes and declared that English common law would be the basis of legal decisions and laws in the Northwest Territory.
The young United States government, deeply in debt following the Revolutionary War and lacking authority to tax under the Articles of Confederation, planned to raise revenue from the methodical sale of land in the Northwest Territory. This plan necessarily called for the removal of both Native American villages and squatters from lands west of Appalachia, loosely, the territory called "Ohio Country" and beyond.Difficulties with Native American tribes and a supporting British military presence presented continuing obstacles for American expansion.
This article is missing information about formation of the Western Confederacy in 1785. (January 2019)
The Northwest Territory's first governor, Arthur St. Clair, sought to end Native American claims to Ohio land and thus clear the way for white settlement. In 1789, he succeeded in getting certain Indians to sign the Treaty of Fort Harmar, but many native leaders had not been invited to participate in the negotiations or had refused to do so. Rather than settling the Indians' claims, the treaty provoked an escalation of the "Northwest Indian War" (or "Little Turtle's War"). Mutual hostilities led to a campaign by General Josiah Harmar, whose 1,500 militiamen were defeated by the Indians in October 1790.
This article is missing information about Big Bottom Massacre. (January 2019)
In March 1791, St. Clair succeeded Harmar as commander of the United States Army and was commissioned as a major general. He led a punitive expedition involving two Regular Army regiments and some militia. In October 1791 as an advance post for his campaign, Fort Jefferson (Ohio), was built under his direction. Located in present-day Darke County in far western Ohio, the fort was built of wood and intended primarily as a supply depot; accordingly, it was originally named Fort Deposit. One month later, near modern-day Fort Recovery, his force advanced to the location of Indian settlements near the headwaters of the Wabash River, but on November 4 they were routed in battle by a tribal confederation led by Miami Chief Little Turtle and Shawnee chief Blue Jacket. More than 600 soldiers and scores of women and children were killed in the battle, known as "St. Clair's Defeat" and many other names. It remains the greatest defeat of a US Army by Native Americans in history, with about 623 American soldiers killed in action and about 50 Native American killed. Although an investigation exonerated him, St. Clair resigned his army commission in March 1792 at the request of President Washington, but continued to serve as Governor of the Northwest Territory.
This article is missing information about failed peace negotiations at Councils on the Auglaize fall 1792 & spring 1793.January 2019)(
After St. Clair's ignominious defeat, In June,1792, President Washington tapped revolutionary war hero Major General "Mad" Anthony Wayne to avenge St. Clair and assert sovereignty over the western frontier. Wayne was commissioned to form a new army of 5120 professional soldiers, dubbed the "Legion of the United States". Wayne recruited and trained his army in Pennsylvania, and moved them to southwestern Ohio in fall of 1793. There they were joined by the Kentucky Militia under Major General Charles Scott. Over the next ten months, the armies marched north up the Great Miami and Maumee River valleys toward the Miami capital of Kekionga. Along the way Wayne's legion built a series of outpost forts including Fort Greene Ville, Fort Recovery and Fort Defiance. Fierce battles occurred around some of these but none of Wayne's forts were ever taken by the Indians.
In mid 1794, the British built Fort Miamis near what is today Toledo, Ohio, to forestall Wayne's putative advance on the British stronghold at Detroit. The final battle of Wayne's campaign occurred within the scope of this fort. The military campaign of Gen. Wayne against the Western Confederacy, who were supported by a British company, culminated with victory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. Following the battle, in fall 1794, Wayne's army marched unopposed to Kekionga where they constructed Fort Wayne, a defiant symbol of U.S. sovereignty in the heart of Indian Country.
Jay's Treaty, in 1794, temporarily helped to smooth relations with British traders in the region, where British citizens outnumbered American citizens throughout the 1790s. The following year, the Treaty of Greenville secured peace on the western frontier and opened most of southern and eastern Ohio for settlement.
Sporadic westward emigrant settlements had already resumed late in the war[which?] after the Iroquois Confederacy's power was broken and the tribes scattered by the 1779 Sullivan Expedition. Soon after the Revolution ended, land-hungry migrants started moving west. A gateway trading post developed as the town of Brownsville, Pennsylvania, which was a key outfitting center west of the mountains. Other wagon roads, such as the Kittanning Path surmounting the gaps of the Allegheny in central Pennsylvania, or trails along the Mohawk River in New York, enabled a steady stream of settlers to reach the near west and the lands bordering the Mississippi.[a] This activity stimulated the development of the eastern parts of the eventual National Road by private investors. The Cumberland–Brownsville toll road linked the water routes of the Potomac River with the Monongahela River of the Ohio/Mississippi riverine systems in the days when water travel was the only good alternative to walking and riding. Most of the territory and its successors was settled by emigrants passing through the Cumberland Narrows, or along the Mohawk Valley in New York State.
The Continental Congress' title to the lands north of the Ohio River was derived from the Treaty of Paris (1783), the Treaty of Fort McIntosh, and the cessions of four states. Settlement was through several means: squatters, direct U.S. government land sales to settlers, sales of tracts of land to land companies, and state sales of land to veterans in the Virginia Military District and Connecticut Western Reserve. The first area to be surveyed was the Seven Ranges along the eastern border of Ohio in 1786-1789. Direct sales of federal lands to individual homesteaders started here. In some cases, the government granted or donated land for special purposes.
Settlement followed the forts, whether garrisoned or not. Lack of a garrison meant that threat of Indian attack had become negligible. This was true everywhere in Ohio before 1800 except the northwest sector above the Greenville Treaty line. It became true in Indiana after the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811; by 1813 Battle of the Thames where Tecumseh was defeated and killed, the frontier had essentially moved to west of the Mississippi. The first U.S. military garrisons in the territory were Fort Patrick Henry, Vincennes, Indiana (1779), Fort Clark at Falls of the Ohio, Indiana (1783), and Fort Harmar in Ohio (1785). The first settlements were at these locations.
The first land grant was to George Rogers Clark in 1781 at Falls of the Ohio on the Indiana side; he went on to found the settlement of Clarksville. The first two land purchases were large tracts of land sold to John Symmes (Symmes Purchase) in 1788 and two tracts sold to Ohio Company in 1787 and 1792 (Purchase on the Muskingum). Settlement of these areas was spearheaded by Losantiville and Marietta, respectively. In 1792, Congress donated 100,000 acres to Ohio Company as a buffer zone against Indian incursion around the settled area. The vexing land claims by inhabitants of the old French Vincennes Tract were finally resolved by what was dubbed the 'Vincennes donation lands' embodied in a federal land act of 1791. Federal land sales in Indiana (then a part of Indiana Territory starting in 1800) didn't begin until 1801, through the Cincinnati land office.
According to the 1800 Census of the United States, the Northwest Territory (i.e. the pending state of Ohio) had a population, excluding Indians, of over 45,000, and Indiana Territory, a population of about 5,600. By the time of Ohio statehood, there were as many as 50 named towns in Northwest and Indiana Territories, a few, like Vincennes, with thousands of settlers, and dozens of unnamed settlements below the Treaty Line in Ohio.
Following settlement of the frontier, the great wave of colonial immigration flowed westward, founding the great cities of the eventual 6 states of the Territory which is now the midwestern United States early in the 19th century: Detroit (<1800), Columbus (1812), Indianapolis (1822), Chicago (1833), Milwaukee (1846), Minneapolis (1847).
A Federalist, St. Clair hoped to see two states made of the Ohio Territory to increase Federalist power in Congress. However, he was resented by Ohio Democratic-Republicans for what was perceived as his partisanship, high-handedness and arrogance in office. In 1802, his opposition to plans for Ohio statehood led President Thomas Jefferson to remove him from office as territorial governor. He thus played no part in the organizing of the state of Ohio in 1803. The first Ohio Constitution provided for a weak governor and a strong legislature, in part a reaction to St. Clair's method of governance.
On July 4, 1800, in preparation for Ohio's statehood, the Indiana Territory was decreed by an act of the U.S. Congress, signed into law by President John Adams on May 7, 1800, effective on July 4. The Congressional legislation encompassed all land west of the present Indiana-Ohio border and its northward extension to Lake Superior, reducing the Northwest Territory to present-day Ohio and the eastern half of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. The Enabling Act of 1802 authorized creation of the state of Ohio from the remainder of the Northwest Territory. Ohio was admitted as the 17th state on March 1, 1803. A few days later, the residual land was annexed to Indiana Territory, and the Northwest Territory went out of existence. Ongoing disputes with the British over the region were a contributing factor to the War of 1812. Britain irrevocably ceded claim to the former Northwest Territory with the Treaty of Ghent in 1814.
The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 established the Northwest Territory, and defined its boundaries, form of government, and administrative structure. In particular, it defined the bodies of government, established the legal basis of land ownership, provided for abolition and transfer of state territorial claims, made rules for admission of new states, established public education, recognized and codified 'natural rights', prohibited slavery, and defined the land rights and applicability of laws to the Indians.
At first, the territory had a modified form of martial law. The governor was also the senior army officer within the territory, and he combined legislative and executive authority. But a supreme court was established, and he shared legislative powers with the court. County governments were organized as soon as the population was sufficient, and these assumed local administrative and judicial functions. Washington County was the first of these, at Marietta in 1788. This was an important event, as this court was the first establishment of civil and criminal law in the pioneer country.
As soon as the number of free male settlers exceeded 5,000, the territorial legislature was to be created, and this happened in 1798. The full mechanisms of government were put in place, as outlined in the Northwest Ordinance. A bicameral legislature consisted of a House of Representatives and a Council. The first House had 22 representatives, apportioned by population of each county. The House then nominated 10 citizens to be Council members. The nominations were sent to the U.S. Congress, which appointed five of them as the Council. This assembly became the legislature of the Territory, although the governor retained veto power.
Article VI of the Articles of Compact within the Northwest Ordinance prohibited the owning of slaves within the Northwest Territory. However, territorial governments evaded this law by use of indenture laws. The Articles of Compact prohibited legal discrimination on the basis of religion within the territory.
The township formula created by Thomas Jefferson was first implemented in the Northwest Territory through the Land Ordinance of 1785. The square surveys of the Northwest Territory would become a hallmark of the Midwest, as sections, townships, counties (and states) were laid out scientifically, and land was sold quickly and efficiently (although not without some speculative aberrations).
Arthur St. Clair was the territory's governor until November 1802, when President Thomas Jefferson removed him from office and appointed Charles Willing Byrd, who served the position until Ohio became a state and elected its first governor, Edward Tiffin, on March 3, 1803. The Supreme Court consisted of (1) John Cleves Symmes; (2) James Mitchell Varnum, who died in 1789, replaced by George Turner, who resigned in 1796, and was replaced by Return Jonathan Meigs, Jr.; and (3) Samuel Holden Parsons, who died in 1789, replaced by Rufus Putnam, who resigned 1796, and was replaced by Joseph Gilman. There were three secretaries: Winthrop Sargent (July 9, 1788 - May 31, 1798); William Henry Harrison (June 29, 1798 - December 31, 1799); and Charles Willing Byrd (January 1, 1800 - March 1, 1803).
The territory's first common pleas court opened at Marietta on September 2, 1788. Its first judges were General Rufus Putnam, General Benjamin Tupper, and Colonel Archibald Crary. Ebenezer Sproat was the first sheriff, Paul Fearing became the first attorney to practice in the territory, and Colonel William Stacy was foreman of the first grand jury.Griffin Greene was appointed justice of the peace.
The General Assembly of the Northwest Territory consisted of a Legislative Council (five members chosen by Congress) and a House of Representatives consisting of 22 members elected by the male freeholders in nine counties. The first session of the Assembly was held in September 1799. Its first important task was to select a non-voting delegate to the U.S. Congress. Locked in a power struggle with Governor St. Clair, the legislature narrowly elected William Henry Harrison as the first delegate over the governor's son, Arthur St. Clair, Jr. Subsequent congressional delegates were William McMillan (1800-1801) and Paul Fearing (1801-1803).
The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 established the concept of fee simple ownership, by which ownership was in perpetuity with unlimited power to sell or give it away.
The ordinance was the first of its kind in prohibiting slavery in a U.S. state or territory, but a fugitive slave clause allowed slave owners in other states to reclaim runaway slaves.
In regards to the Delaware Native Americans living in the region, Congress decided, on July 27, 1787, that 10,000 acres on the Muskingum River in the present state of Ohio would "be set apart and the property thereof be vested in the Moravian Brethren . . . or a society of the said Brethren for civilizing the Indians and promoting Christianity."
The Northwest Ordinance called for a public university for the education, settlement and eventual statehood of the frontier of Ohio and beyond. Article 3 stated, "Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." The Land Ordinance of 1785 created an innovation in public education when it reserved resources for local public schools. The ordinance divided the territory into 36 mile2 townships, and each township was further divided into 36 one mile2 tracts for purposes of sale. The ordinance then stated that "there shall be reserved from sale the lot No. 16 of every township for the maintenance of public schools within the said township."
The next year, American Western University was founded in Athens, Ohio, upstream of the Hocking River, due to its location directly between Chillicothe (an original capital of Ohio) and Marietta. It was formally established on February 18, 1804, as Ohio University.
Time of first settlement or possession by United States. Most forts were military garrisons only. Early settlements were outside or nearby forts: Clarksville, Vincennes, Kaskaskia (French), Losantiville, and the Ohio Company settlements at Marietta and Waterford/Beverly. Later, after the Treaty of Greenville, settlements no longer needed to be spearheaded by forts, and sprang up everywhere simultaneously below the Treaty Line. There were dozens of unnamed settlements in addition to these. Michigan forts and settlements belonged to the British until 1796; Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota were wilderness and Indian lands.
(Battle of Fallen Timbers, Aug. 1794)
Settlements in states other than Ohio after 1800 are part of the History of Indiana Territory.
Thirteen counties were formed by Governor Arthur St. Clair during the territory's existence:
Knox, Randolph and St. Clair counties were separated from the territory effective July 4, 1800, and, along with the western part of Wayne County, and unorganized lands in what are now Minnesota and Wisconsin, became the Indiana Territory.
The Northwest Territory ceased to exist upon Ohio statehood on March 1, 1803; the lands in Ohio that were previously part of Wayne County but not included in Trumbull County reverted to an unorganized status until new counties could be formed. The remainder of Wayne County, roughly the eastern half of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan and the eastern tip of the Upper Peninsula, was attached to Indiana Territory. A sliver of Hamilton County along the southwestern border (the Greenville Treaty line) comprising a portion of the Whitewater River drainage basin and known as "The Gore" was also ceded to Indiana Territory.