Michigan Territory

From Academic Kids

Missing image
From 1805-1818, the western border was a line through Lake Michigan.

Michigan Territory was an organized territory of the United States in the early 19th century, between June 30, 1805 and January 26, 1837, at which point it became Michigan, the 26th state of the Union. Detroit was the territorial capital.


History and government


After the arrival of Europeans, the area that became the Michigan Territory was first under French and then British control. Following the American Revolutionary War, several states had competing claims on land in the region. In 1779, Virginia established Illinois County with boundaries that encompassed all of the land east of the Mississippi River, north of the Ohio River and west of the Appalachian Mountains. However, the county government for all practical purposes never never exercised actual control beyond an area limited to a few old French settlements along the major rivers. Other states also claimed portions of what was to become Michigan, including New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

Missing image
Between 1818 and 1833, Illinois and Indiana became states and the unincorporated land from their territories, plus a handful of other townships, were made part of Michigan.

The several states eventually ceded their claims and in 1787, the Continental Congress created the Northwest Territory. The region that became Michigan was initially unorganized territory. Knox County was established on June 20, 1790 with boundaries that included the western half of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan and most of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In 1792, the boundaries of Hamilton County were expanded to include the eastern portions of Michigan not included in Knox County. Wayne County was established August 15, 1796, from Knox and Hamilton counties and included most of the area that later became the Michigan Territory as well as portions of what is now Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

In 1800, the western half of Michigan was attached to Indiana Territory when it was established as a separate government from the Northwest Territory. Wayne County was reduced to the eastern portion of Michigan and remained a part of the Northwest Territory. Knox County had been transferred to the Indiana Territory, and in 1801 its boundaries were expanded to include most of the western part of the Lower Peninsula and a small slice of the Upper Peninsula. St. Clair County, another Indiana Territory county, was also expanded to include the western portion of the Upper Peninsula and a small sliver of the Lower Peninsula along the shore of Lake Michigan.

When Ohio was admitted as a state of the Union in 1803, the eastern half of Michigan was attached to the Indiana Territory. At that time, the old Wayne County technically ceased to exist. A second incarnation of Wayne County was subsequently created from Knox and St. Clair counties, encompassing all of the Lower Peninsula, much of the Upper Peninsula, portions of Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.


Between 1833 and 1836, all the remnants of the old Northwest were part of Michigan as well as portions of the Louisiana Purchase.
Between 1833 and 1836, all the remnants of the old Northwest were part of Michigan as well as portions of the Louisiana Purchase.

Michigan Territory was established by an act of the United States Congress on January 11, 1805, effective June 30 of that year. The act defined the territory as "all that part of the Indiana Territory, which lies North of a line drawn east from the southerly bend or extreme of lake Michigan, until it shall intersect lake Erie, and East of a line drawn from the said southerly bend through the middle of said lake to its northern extremity, and thence due north to the northern boundary of the United States." The first territorial governor, William Hull abolished Wayne County and established new districts of his own making, which proved to be short-lived. Lewis Cass became governor in 1815 and promptly undid Hull's work and re-established a third incarnation of Wayne County that included all lands within Michigan Territory that had been ceded by Native Americans through the 1807 Treaty of Detroit.

During the War of 1812, following General Isaac Brock's capture of Detroit on August 16, 1812, the Michigan Territory was at least nominally a part of the Province of Upper Canada. On August 24, Colonel Henry Proctor proclaimed the continuation of civil government under existing laws with Proctor acting as Governor and Chief Justice Augustus B. Woodward acting as Secretary. On February 4, 1813, Proctor suspended civil government and imposed martial law.

When Indiana (1816) and Illinois (1819) joined the Union, remnants of their territories were joined to Michigan Territory. An area equal to 30 townships was also transferred from Michigan Territory to Indiana to allow that state access to Lake Michigan. Soon afterward, the federal government rapidly began signing treaties with local Indian tribes and acquiring their lands.

Missing image
Michigan shrank in 1836 with the creation of the Wisconsin Territory.

In 1824, the Michigan graduated to the second grade of territorial status, and the government's power was transferred from the Governor and a handful of judges to the people. The people elected 18 to the Legislative Council, of which nine were approved by the President and first sat in council on June 7, 1824. The Council was expanded from nine to 13 in 1825, the 13 being chosen by the President from a field of 26.

The Erie Canal opened in 1825, allowing settlers from New England and New York to reach Michigan by water through Albany.

In 1834, all of the lands acquired in the Louisiana Purchase that were as yet unallocated and lay east of the Missouri River (generally, the Dakotas, Iowa and the western half of Minnesota) were attached to the Michigan Territory, an area that was official characterized as "north of Missouri and east of the Missouri and White Earth Rivers." At this point, Michigan Territory included what is now the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and a large portion of the Dakotas.

Missing image
The final boundary of the Upper Peninsula was set at the Montreal River.

Meanwhile, in 1835, the Toledo War was fought with Ohio because Michigan Territory wanted to retain the disputed "Toledo Strip." The Toledo area of Ohio was finally surrendered in exchange for the western section of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Slavery was forbidden in the territory under the Northwest Ordinance, but English and French residents were permitted to retain possession of slaves already owned at the time the territory became organized. Census records in 1810 and 1830 showed double-digit slave populations in the territory, believed in many cases to be enslaved Native Americans rather than enslaved African Americans.

In July 3, 1836 the Wisconsin Territory was separated from Michigan Territory, and the Michigan Territory shrunk proportionally, losing the Upper Peninsula, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas. The territory became a state in 1837 and Upper Peninsula as far west as the Montreal River was restored to Michigan as part of the resolution of the Toledo Strip dispute; Detroit remained the capital until March 17, 1847 when Lansing was chosen as a replacement. The population of Michigan at the time of statehood is estimated to have been about 200,000.

Territorial acquisition

The area that became Michigan was British territory, and was ceded to the United States in 1783, but was owned by the native peoples of the area. The majority of it was gained by cession, coerced or otherwise. The people resident in Michigan before American settlement were the Ottawa, the Potawatomi, Ojibwa and the Wyandot. Treaties ceding the land were signed between 1795 (the Treaty of Greenville) and 1842 (the Treaty of La Pointe). Other notable treaties were Governor Hull's treaty of 1808, the Treaty of Saginaw in 1819, the two Treaties of Chicago (1821, 1833), the Carey Mission in 1828 and the Treaty of Washington in 1836 and a later treaty of January 4, 1837.

Territorial subdivisions

Wayne County, Michigan, originally part of the vast Northwest Territory, was eventually whittled down into its current size by the separation of several tracts: Monroe in 1817, Michilimackinac County, Michigan (later called Mackinac and subdivided seven times further) and Macomb Counties in 1818, St. Clair and St. Joseph Counties in 1820 and Washtenaw County in 1822. (Chippewa County was created from Mackinac in 1826, four other Michigan counties were eventually created from that land, and other parts went to Minnesota.) The first township organization was Detroit, in Wayne County, in 1802.

Also organized in the territorial period was Showano County, Michigan in 1818, later called Crawford County, Michigan, and originally covering much of what is now Minnesota.

Oakland County, Michigan, which was created in 1819, and later was subdivided into all or parts of Genesse, Lapeer, Sanilac, Shiawassee and Saginaw. Saginaw was then split further, into eight separate counties, three of which, Isabella, Arenac and Midland, were established during the territorial period.

Lenawee County was created in 1822 from what had been Indian lands, and Hillsdale County was separated out in 1829. Other parts of Lenawee were turned into Cass and Berrien. Branch also sprung fully formed from Michigan Territory in 1829.

Kalamazoo County, Michigan, established 1829 from St. Joseph County, was the dominant tract in Western Michigan and was divided and subdivided into many other counties: Allegan, Barry, Calhoun, Eaton, Ionia, Montcalm, Kent, Ottawa and Clinton (some created during the territorial period, others split off later).

Jackson and Ingham were created in 1829 from Washtenaw; Isabella was created from parts of Saginaw and Midland in 1831. Gratiot County was also put together from pieces of Saginaw, and Clinton, in 1831.

Seven of the 12 counties created in 1829 were named for members of President Andrew Jackson's Cabinet, another was named for Jackson himself.

Iowa County, later in the state of Wisconsin, was established in 1831, and part of it was later returned to Michigan as Keweenaw on the Upper Peninsula.

Brown County, organized 1818 in Michigan Territory, was a huge tract covering a great deal of present-day Wisconsin.

West of the Mississippi River and south of Rock Island, Dubuque and De Moines Counties were created in Michigan Territory in 1834 and transferred to the Wisconsin Territory in 1836. These areas later became part of Iowa.

Milwaukee County was established in 1834 and was also transferred to Wisconsin in 1836.

Territorial population

It's unclear if these census numbers include Native Americans. In 1800, the whole of the Northwest Territory had 43,365 residents. Under the Northwest Ordinance, a territory could apply for statehood once it had surpassed 60,000 inhabitants.

Year Population
1810 4,762
1820 8,896
1830 31,639
1834 87,273
1837 between 87,000 and 200,000
1840 212,267

Territorial governors

Congressional delegates

In 1819, Michigan Territory was given the authority to elect a Congressional delegate.

See also

External links


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools