Northwest Territory

The Northwest Territory in the United States (also known as the Old Northwest[2]) 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 nomadic 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 eastern Ohio.

Territory Northwest of the River Ohio
Organized incorporated territory of United States



Seal of Northwest Territory
Meliorem lapsa locavit
"He has planted one better than the one fallen"
Location of Northwest Territory
Capital Marietta (1788–1799)
Chillicothe (1799–1803)[1]
Government Organized incorporated territory
 •  1787–1802 Arthur St. Clair
 •  1802–1803 Charles Willing Byrd
 •  Northwest Ordinance July 13, 1787
 •  Affirmed by United States Congress August 7, 1789
 •  Indiana Territory created May 7, 1800
 •  Statehood of Ohio March 1, 1803

The territory

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 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.

United States land claims and cessions 1782-1802
The state cessions that eventually allowed for the creation of the Territories North and South West of the River Ohio


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.

New France

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.

British control

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.[3]

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,[4] 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.

Cessions by the states

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[5] and the Connecticut Western Reserve[6]

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.[7]

Founding of the territory

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.

ST.CLAIR, Arthur (signed check)
Check signed by Arthur St. Clair while governor of the Northwest Territory (1796)

Northwest Indian War

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.[8] Difficulties with Native American tribes and a supporting British military presence presented continuing obstacles for American expansion.

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.[9]

In Jan. 1791, Rufus Putnam wrote to President Washington that "we shall be so reduced and discouraged as to give up the settlement [Marietta following the Big Bottom disaster]."[10]

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.[11][12][13]

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 10 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 Westerm 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 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).

Statehood for Ohio

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,[14] 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 a 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.

Northwest Ordinance

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.

Law and government

United States 1789-08-1790-04
Map of the states and territories of the United States as it was on August 7, 1789, when the Northwest Territory was first organized, to April 2, 1790, when the future Southwest Territory was ceded by North Carolina

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.[15] 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.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18] 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.[19] Griffin Greene was appointed justice of the peace.

General Assembly

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).

Land ownership

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.

Prohibition of slavery

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.

Indian lands

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."[20]


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."[21]

In 1801, Jefferson Academy was established in Vincennes. As Vincennes University, it remains the oldest public institution of higher learning in the Northwest Territory.

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.[22]

Territorial settlements and forts

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.

Territorial counties

Seal of the Northwest territory over a time capsule outside the Campus Martius Museum. Latin phrase "He has planted one better than the one fallen," signifies the replacement of wilderness by civilization.[23]
Ohio Counties 1802
Ohio Counties in 1802

Thirteen counties were formed by Governor Arthur St. Clair during the territory's existence:

  • Washington County, with its seat at Marietta, was the first county formed in the territory, proclaimed on July 26, 1788, by territorial governor St. Clair. Its original boundaries were proclaimed as all of present-day Ohio east of a line extending due south from the mouth of the Cuyahoga River,[24] but this did not take into account Connecticut's still unresolved claim of the Western Reserve. It kept these boundaries until 1796.
  • Hamilton County, with its seat at Cincinnati, was proclaimed on January 2, 1790. The same proclamation officially changed Cincinnati's name from Losantiville into its present form. Its original boundaries claimed all land north of the Ohio River between the Great Miami River and Little Miami River as far north as Standing Stone Fork (now Loramie Creek), just north of present-day Piqua.[25] In 1792 Hamilton County was expanded to encompass all lands between the mouths of the Great Miami and Cuyahoga Rivers, as well as all of what is now the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Its territory was reduced several times after 1796.
  • St. Clair County, with its seat at Kaskaskia was proclaimed on April 27, 1790. It originally encompassed most of present-day Illinois south of the Illinois River. It lost most of its southern lands in the formation of Randolph County in 1795, necessitating the transfer of the county seat to Cahokia, but would expand to the north to take in northwest present-day Illinois and most of present-day Wisconsin in 1801 after becoming part of Indiana Territory.[26]
  • Knox County, with its seat at Vincennes, was proclaimed on June 20, 1790, and encompassed the majority of the territory's land area – all land between St. Clair County and Hamilton County, extending north to Canada.[27]
  • Randolph County was formed October 5, 1795, with its seat at Kaskaskia and encompassed the southern half of what was St. Clair County.
  • Wayne County was formed on August 15, 1796, out of portions of Hamilton County and unorganized land, with its seat at Detroit, which had been evacuated by the British five weeks previously. Wayne County originally covered all of Michigan's Lower Peninsula, northwestern Ohio, northern Indiana and a small portion of the present Lake Michigan shoreline, including the site of present-day Chicago. The lands west of the extension of the present Indiana-Ohio border became part of Indiana Territory in 1800; the eastern portion of the county's land in Ohio were folded into Trumbull County that same year. The territory north of the Ordinance Line became part of Indiana Territory in 1803 as a reorganized Wayne County; the remainder reverted to unorganized status after Ohio statehood.
  • Adams County was formed on July 10, 1797, with its seat at Manchester; it encompassed most of present-day south-central Ohio.
  • Jefferson County was formed July 29, 1797, with its seat at Steubenville, carved out of Washington County and originally encompassed all of what is now northeastern Ohio.
  • Ross County was organized on August 20, 1798, with its seat at Chillicothe and was carved out of portions of Knox, Hamilton and Washington counties.

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.

See also


  1. ^ Before the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, the western border of U.S. territory ended on the Mississippi; the lands beyond still being a possession of Napoleonic France or the Kingdom of Spain.


  1. ^ "Northwest Territory". HowStuffWorks. Archived from the original on January 1, 2014. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  2. ^ This term was a later and somewhat broader American term for the area to distinguish it from the midwestern United States and/or pacific northwest and may refer to events or time periods that predate the Territory when it was known as Ohio and Illinois Country.
  3. ^ Dwight L. Smith, "A North American Neutral Indian Zone: Persistence of a British Idea," Northwest Ohio Quarterly 61#2–4 (1989): 46–63.
  4. ^ Palmer, pp. 400–421.
  5. ^ Virginia ceded to the United States its claim to undeeded land in the VMC on Dec. 8, 1852. In 1871, Congress ceded this land to the state.
  6. ^ In 1800, Connecticut ceded its Western Reserve claims to the Northwest Territory, and it came under the sovereignty of Ohio in 1803.
  7. ^ Calloway, Colin G. (2015). The Victory with No Name. The Native American Defeat of the First American Army. Oxford University Press. p. 50.
  8. ^ Calloway, Colin G. (2015). The Victory with No Name. The Native American Defeat of the First American Army. Oxford University Press. p. 38.
  9. ^ Michael S. Warner, "General Josiah Harmar's Campaign Reconsidered: How the Americans Lost the Battle of Kekionga." Indiana Magazine of History (1987): 43–64. online
  10. ^ Winkler, John F. (2011). Wabash 1791: St. Clair's Defeat; Osprey Campaign Series #240. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. p. 15. ISBN 1-84908-676-1.
  11. ^ Leroy V. Eid, "American Indian Military Leadership: St. Clair's 1791 Defeat." Journal of Military History 57.1 (1993): 71–88.
  12. ^ William O. Odo, "Destined for Defeat: an Analysis of the St. Clair Expedition of 1791." Northwest Ohio Quarterly (1993) 65#2 pp: 68–93.
  13. ^ John F. Winkler, Wabash 1791: St Clair's Defeat (Osprey Publishing, 2011)
  14. ^ An ACT to divide the territory of the United States north-west of the Ohio, into two separate governments
  15. ^ Ohio General Assembly (1917). Manual of Legislative Practice in the General Assembly. State of Ohio. p. 199.
  16. ^ "Slavery in Indiana Territory". Indiana Historical Bureau. Archived from the original on July 21, 2007. Retrieved July 24, 2013.
  17. ^ Burtner, W. H., Jr. (1998). "Charles Willing Byrd". 41. Ohio Historical Society: 237.
  18. ^ Force, Manning, ed. (1897). "The Supreme Court – a Historical Sketch". Bench and Bar of Ohio: a Compendium of History and Biography. 1. Chicago: Century Publishing and Engraving Company. p. 5.
  19. ^ Hildreth, S. P. (1848). Pioneer History: Being an Account of the First Examinations of the Ohio Valley, and the Early Settlement of the Northwest Territory. Cincinnati, Ohio: H. W. Derby and Co. pp. 232–33.
  20. ^ "Religion and the Congress of the Confederation, 1774–89". Library of Congress. Retrieved November 4, 2012.
  21. ^ Knight, George Wells (1885). History, and Management of Land Grants for Education in the Northwest Territory (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin). G. P. Putnam's Sons. p. 13.
  22. ^ "Ohio University". Ohio History Central: An Online Encyclopedia of Ohio History. Retrieved December 31, 2009.
  23. ^ Reinke, Edgar C. "Meliorem Lapsa Locavit: An Intriguing Puzzle Solved". Ohio History. 94: 74. says the young tree on the seal of the NWT is an apple, while Summers, Thomas J. (1903). History of Marietta. Marietta, Ohio: Leader Publishing. p. 115. says it is a buckeye, and perhaps the genesis of Ohio's nickname.
  24. ^ Griswold, S.O. (1884). The Corporate Birth and Growth of the City of Cleveland. Western Reserve and Northern Ohio Historical Society. Tract No. 62.
  25. ^ Unknown (1894). History of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. S.B. Nelson & Co.
  26. ^ Walton, W.C. (1928). A Brief History of St. Clair County. McKendree College.
  27. ^ Esarey, Logan (1915). A History of Indiana. W.K. Stewart Co. p. 137.
  28. ^ "Historical Information for the Target Investment Areas Trumbull County and the Historic Western Reserve". Trumbull County. Archived from the original on March 20, 2005.

Further reading

  • Barr, Daniel P. The Boundaries Between Us: Natives and Newcomers Along the Frontiers of the Old Northwest Territory, 1750–1850 (Kent State University Press, 2006)
  • Beatty-Medina, Charles, and Melissa Rinehart, eds. Contested Territories: Native Americans and Non-natives in the Lower Great Lakes, 1700-1850 (Michigan State University Press, 2012)
  • Buley, R. Carlyle. "Pioneer health and medical practices in the old northwest prior to 1840." Mississippi Valley Historical Review (1934): 497–520. in JSTOR
  • Calloway, Colin G. The Victory with No Name: The Native American Defeat of the First American Army (Oxford University Press, 2014)
  • Davis, James E. "" New Aspects of Men and New Forms of Society": The Old Northwest, 1790–1820." Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1976): 164–172. in JSTOR
  • Elkins, Stanley, and Eric McKitrick. "A Meaning for Turner's Frontier: Part I: Democracy in the Old Northwest." Political Science Quarterly (1954): 321–353. in JSTOR
  • Esarey, Logan. "Elements of Culture in the Old Northwest." Indiana Magazine of History (1957): 257–264. online
  • Heath, William. William Wells and the Struggle for the Old Northwest (University of Oklahoma Press, 2015) he lived 1770–1812
  • Kuhns, Frederck I., "Home Missions and Education in the Old Northwest." Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society (1953): 137–155. in JSTOR
  • Owens, Robert M. Mr. Jefferson's hammer: William Henry Harrison and the origins of American Indian policy (University of Oklahoma Press, 2012)
  • Ubbelohde, Carl. "History and the Midwest as a Region." Wisconsin Magazine of History (1994): 35–47. in JSTOR

Older sources

External links

Works related to The Northwest Ordinance at Wikisource Media related to Northwest Territory at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 41°N 86°W / 41°N 86°W

American pioneers to the Northwest Territory

American pioneers to the Northwest Territory included soldiers of the Revolution and members of the Ohio Company of Associates. During 1788 these pioneers to the Ohio Country established Marietta, Ohio, as the first permanent American settlement of the new United States in the Northwest Territory, and opened the westward expansion of the new country. General George Washington commented about these pioneers: "I know many of the settlers personally, and there never were men better calculated to promote the welfare of such a community." General Lafayette of France, who fought with the Americans during the Revolution, visited Marietta on his US tour during May 1825 [1] and described these pioneers and former officers: "They were the bravest of brave. Better men never lived."The first group of these early American pioneers to the Northwest Territory is sometimes referred to as "the forty-eight" or the "first forty-eight", and also as the "founders of Ohio". These first forty-eight men were carefully chosen and vetted by several of the co-founders of the Ohio Company of Associates, Rufus Putnam and Manasseh Cutler, to ensure not only men of high character and bravery, but also men with proven skills necessary to build a settlement in the wilderness.During 1852 the president of the Ohio Historical Society described these pioneers: "So various and eventful lives as theirs have scarcely ever fallen to the lot of man. They were born under a monarchy,—fought the battle of Independence,—assisted in the baptism of a great republic,—then moved into a wilderness,—and laid the foundations of a State,—itself almost equaling an empire. These men not only lived in remarkable times, but were themselves remarkable men. Energetic, industrious, persevering, honest, bold, and free — they were limited in their achievements only by the limits of possibility. Successful alike in field and forest,—they have, at length, gone to their rest,—leaving names which are a part of the fame and the history of their country". On the centennial anniversary of the Marietta settlement, Senator George F. Hoar of Massachusetts orated, "It was an illustrious band; they were men of exceptional character, talents and attainments; they were the best of New England culture; they were Revolutionary heroes".

Arthur St. Clair

Arthur St. Clair (March 23, 1737 [O.S. 1736] – August 31, 1818) was a Scottish-American soldier and politician. Born in Thurso, Scotland, he served in the British Army during the French and Indian War before settling in Pennsylvania, where he held local office. During the American Revolutionary War, he rose to the rank of major general in the Continental Army, but lost his command after a controversial retreat from Fort Ticonderoga.

After the war, he served as President of the Continental Congress, which during his term passed the Northwest Ordinance. He was then made governor of the Northwest Territory in 1788, and then the portion that would become Ohio in 1800. In 1791, St. Clair commanded the American forces in what was the United States's worst ever defeat by the American Indians. Politically out-of-step with the Jefferson administration, he was replaced as governor in 1802.

Battle of Fallen Timbers

The Battle of Fallen Timbers (August 20, 1794) was the final battle of the Northwest Indian War, a struggle between Native American tribes affiliated with the Western Confederacy and a British company, against the United States for control of the Northwest Territory. The battle took place amid trees toppled by a tornado just north of the Maumee River in northwestern Ohio at the site of the present-day city of Maumee. Gen. "Mad" Anthony Wayne's Legion of the United States along with Gen. Charles Scott's Kentucky Militia were victorious against a combined Native American force of Shawnee under Blue Jacket, Miami under Little Turtle, and numerous others. The battle ended major hostilities in the region. This resulted in British and Indian withdrawal from the southern Great Lakes, western Ohio and northeastern Indiana following the Treaty of Greenville and Jay's Treaty.

Chillicothe Gazette

The Chillicothe Gazette is Ohio's oldest newspaper, published daily at Chillicothe, Ohio, the seat of Ross County, Ohio, by the Gannett Company. The paper was founded as a weekly at Cincinnati, Ohio, then the capital of the Northwest Territory, November 9, 1793 as the Centinel of the Northwest Territory. It decamped to Chillicothe when the territorial government moved to that city c. 1800. The paper was owned until the 1990s by Gannett, who sold it to Community Newspaper Holdings who in turn sold to The Thomson Corporation. When Thomson exited the newspaper business in the late 1990s, Gannett bought it back.

Edward Tiffin

Edward Tiffin (June 19, 1766 – August 9, 1829) was a Democratic-Republican politician from Ohio, and first Governor of the state.

No man who has occupied the gubernatorial chair of Ohio has possessed a greater genius for the administration of public affairs than Edward Tiffin, its first governor. He appeared upon the scene of action in the Northwest Territory in its creative period, when the work of moulding the destinies of a future commonwealth was committed to the care of a very few men. Head and shoulders above them all stood Edward Tiffin. His official life displayed a better general average of statesmanship than that of any of his successors. ... His work in advancing and developing Ohio has not been equalled by any man in its history.

Jeremiah Morrow

Jeremiah Morrow (October 6, 1771 – March 22, 1852) was a Democratic-Republican Party politician from Ohio. He served as the ninth Governor of Ohio, and the last Democratic-Republican to do so.

Knox County, Indiana

Knox County is a county located in Indiana in the United States. It was one of two original counties created in the old Northwest Territory in 1790 and was reduced to its present size in 1817. As of 2010, the population was 38,440. The county seat is Vincennes.Knox County comprises the Vincennes, IN Micropolitan Statistical Area.

List of governors of Ohio

The Governor of the State of Ohio is the head of the executive branch of the Government of Ohio and the commander-in-chief of the U.S. state's military forces. The officeholder has a duty to enforce state laws, the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Ohio General Assembly, the power to convene the legislature and the power to grant pardons, except in cases of treason and impeachment.There have been 63 governors of Ohio, serving 69 distinct terms. The longest term was held by Jim Rhodes, who was elected four times and served just under sixteen years in two non-consecutive periods of two terms each (1963–1971 and 1975–1983). The shortest terms were held by John William Brown and Nancy Hollister, who each served for only 11 days after the governors preceding them resigned in order to begin the terms to which they had been elected in the United States Senate; the shortest-serving elected governor was John M. Pattison, who died in office five months into his term. The current governor is Republican Mike DeWine, who took office on January 14, 2019.

Northwest Indian War

The Northwest Indian War (1785–1795), also known as the Ohio War, Little Turtle's War, and by other names, was a war between the United States and a confederation of numerous Native American tribes, with support from the British, for control of the Northwest Territory. It followed centuries of conflict over this territory, first among Native American tribes, and then with the added shifting alliances among the tribes and the European powers of France and Great Britain, and their colonials.

Under the Treaty of Paris (1783), which ended the American Revolutionary War, Great Britain ceded to the U.S. "control" of what were known as the Ohio Country and the Illinois Country, which were occupied by numerous Native American peoples. Despite the treaty, the British kept forts there and continued policies that supported the Native Americans. With the encroachment of European settlers west of the Appalachians after the War, a Huron-led confederacy formed in 1785 to resist usurpation of Indian lands, declaring that lands north and west of the Ohio River were Indian territory. President George Washington directed the United States Army to enforce U.S. sovereignty over the territory. The U.S. Army, consisting mostly of untrained recruits and volunteer militiamen, suffered a series of major defeats, including the Harmar Campaign (1790) and St. Clair's Defeat (1791). About 1,000 soldiers and militiamen were killed and the United States forces suffered many more casualties than their opponents.

After St. Clair's disaster, Washington ordered Revolutionary War hero General "Mad" Anthony Wayne to organize and train a proper fighting force. Wayne took command of the new Legion of the United States late in 1792. After a methodical campaign up the Great Miami and Maumee River Valleys in western Ohio Country, he led his men to a decisive victory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers near southwestern Lake Erie in 1794. Afterward he went on to establish Fort Wayne at the Miami capital of Kekionga, the symbol of U.S. sovereignty in the heart of Indian Country. The defeated tribes were forced to cede extensive territory, including much of present-day Ohio, in the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. The Jay Treaty in the same year arranged for cessions of British Great Lakes outposts on the great U.S. territory.

Northwest Ordinance

The Northwest Ordinance (formally An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States, North-West of the River Ohio, and also known as The Ordinance of 1787) enacted July 13, 1787, was an organic act of the Congress of the Confederation of the United States. It created the Northwest Territory, the first organized territory of the United States, from lands beyond the Appalachian Mountains, between British North America and the Great Lakes to the north and the Ohio River to the south. The upper Mississippi River formed the territory's western boundary.

In the Treaty of Paris (1783), which formally ended the American Revolutionary War, Great Britain yielded this region to the United States. However, the Confederation Congress faced numerous problems gaining control of the land; these included: the unsanctioned movement of American settlers into the Ohio Valley, violent confrontations with the region's indigenous peoples, the ongoing presence of the British Army which continued to occupy forts in the region, and an empty U.S. treasury. The ordinance superseded the Land Ordinance of 1784 (which declared that states would one day be formed within the region) and the Land Ordinance of 1785 (which described how the Confederation Congress would sell the land to private citizens). Designed to serve as a blueprint for the development and settlement of the region, what the 1787 ordinance lacked was a strong central government to implement it. This need was addressed shortly thereafter, when the new federal government came into existence in 1789. The 1st United States Congress reaffirmed the 1787 ordinance, and, with slight modifications, renewed it through the Northwest Ordinance of 1789.Considered one of the most important legislative acts of the Confederation Congress, it established the precedent by which the Federal government would be sovereign and expand westward with the admission of new states, rather than with the expansion of existing states and their established sovereignty under the Articles of Confederation. It also set legislative precedent with regard to American public domain lands. The U.S. Supreme Court recognized the authority of the Northwest Ordinance of 1789 within the applicable Northwest Territory as constitutional in Strader v. Graham, but did not extend the Ordinance to cover the respective states once they were admitted to the Union.

The prohibition of slavery in the territory had the practical effect of establishing the Ohio River as the geographic divide between slave states and free states from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River (an extension of the Mason–Dixon line). It also helped set the stage for later political conflicts over slavery at the federal level in the 19th century until the Civil War.

Northwest Territory's at-large congressional district

In 1798, the Northwest Territory became eligible to send a non-voting delegate to the U.S. Congress.

The Assembly elected this representative.

Ohio Country

The Ohio Country (sometimes called the Ohio Territory or Ohio Valley by the French) was a name used in the mid to late 18th century for a region of North America west of the Appalachian Mountains and north of the upper Ohio and Allegheny Rivers extending to Lake Erie. The area encompassed roughly all of present-day Ohio, northwestern West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, and a wedge of southeastern Indiana.

This area was disputed in the 17th century by the Iroquois and other Native American tribes, and then by France and Great Britain in the mid-18th century. During British sovereignty, several minor "wars" including Pontiac's Rebellion and Dunmore's war were fought here. Ohio Country became part of unorganized U.S. territory in 1783 with the Treaty of Paris. It was one of the first frontier regions of the United States. Several colonial states had conflicting claims to portions of it, including Connecticut, Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania. In 1787, it became part of the larger organized Northwest Territory.

Randolph County, Illinois

Randolph County is a county located in the U.S. state of Illinois. According to the 2010 census, it had a population of 33,476. Its county seat is Chester.Owing to its role in the state's history, the county motto is "Where Illinois Began." It contains the historically important village of Kaskaskia, Illinois's first capital.

The county is part of Southern Illinois in the southern portion of the state known locally as "Little Egypt", and includes fertile river flats, part of the American Bottom; it is near the Greater St. Louis area.

Return J. Meigs Jr.

Return Jonathan Meigs Jr. (; November 17, 1764 – March 29, 1825) was a Democratic-Republican politician from Ohio. He served as the fourth Governor of Ohio, fifth United States Postmaster General, and as a United States Senator.

Rufus Putnam

Rufus Putnam (April 9, 1738 – May 4, 1824) was a colonial military officer during the French and Indian War, and a general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. As an organizer of the Ohio Company, he was instrumental in the initial settling of the Northwest Territory in present-day Ohio following the war.He was known as "Father of the Northwest Territory"

Solomon Sibley

Solomon Sibley (October 7, 1769 – April 4, 1846) was an American politician and jurist in the Michigan Territory who became the first mayor of Detroit, Michigan.

St. Clair County, Illinois

St. Clair County is the oldest county in the U.S. state of Illinois; its western border is formed by the Mississippi River. According to the 2010 United States Census, it had a population of 270,056, making it the eighth-most populous county in Illinois and the most populous in the southern portion of the state. Its county seat is Belleville. The county was founded in 1790 by the government of the Northwest Territory, before the establishment of Illinois as a state. Cahokia Village in the county was founded in 1697 and was a French settlement and former Jesuit mission.

St. Clair County is part of the American Bottom or Metro-East area of the St. Louis, MO-IL Metropolitan Statistical Area.

In 1970, the United States Census Bureau placed the mean center of U.S. population in St. Clair County.

Thomas Worthington (governor)

Thomas Worthington (July 16, 1773 – June 20, 1827) was a Democratic-Republican politician from Ohio. He served as the sixth Governor of Ohio.

Treaty of Greenville

The Treaty of Greenville, formally titled Treaty with the Wyandots, etc., was a 1795 treaty between the United States and Indians of the Northwest Territory including the Wyandot and Delaware, which redefined the boundary between Indian lands and Whiteman's lands in the Northwest Territory.

It was signed at Fort Greenville, now Greenville, Ohio, on August 3, 1795, following the Native American loss at the Battle of Fallen Timbers a year earlier. It ended the Northwest Indian War in the Ohio Country, limited Indian Country to northwestern Ohio, and began the practice of annual payments following land concessions. The parties to the treaty were a coalition of Native American tribes known as the Western Confederacy, and the United States government represented by General Anthony Wayne and local frontiersmen.

The treaty became synonymous with the end of the frontier in the Northwest Territory.

 State of Ohio
Metro areas
Largest cities
Largest cities
Largest towns
 State of Michigan
Major metropolitan areas
(pop. over 500,000)
Largest cities
(pop. over 50,000)
Smaller cities
(pop. 15,000 to 50,000)
Largest villages
(pop. over 15,000)
Largest cities
pop. over 25,000

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.