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The Territory of Mississippi was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from April 7, 1798, until December 10, 1817, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Unionmarker as the State of Mississippimarker.

The Mississippi Territory was expanded in 1804 and again in 1812 until it extended from the Gulf of Mexicomarker to the southern border of Tennesseemarker. (Georgia gave up the northern portion in 1802, and the Gulf Coast region was acquired from Spainmarker.) Originally Mississippi Territory included what is now Alabamamarker, and 9 months before Mississippimarker was admitted into the Union in 1817, the Alabama Territorymarker to the east was separated out on March 3.

On December 10, 1817, Mississippimarker was admitted to the Union as the 20th state.

The Mississippi Territory was organized in 1798 from land that had been disputed by the U.S. and Spain until Spain ceded its claim with the Treaty of Madrid initially signed between the two countries representatives in 1795. This area extended from 31° N latitude to 32°28' North, or approximately the southern half of the present states of Alabamamarker and Mississippimarker.

The state of Georgiamarker maintained a claim over almost the entire area of the present states of Alabama and Mississippi (from 31° N to 35° N) until it surrendered its claim in 1802 following the Yazoo land scandal. Two years later, Congress extended the boundaries of the Mississippi Territory to include all of the Georgia cession.

The final boundary between Georgia and Mississippi Territory was defined to follow the Chattahoochee River north from the border with Spanish Florida. However the Chattahoochee's upper course veers northeast, deep into Georgia. So the boundary was defined to follow the river until it turned northeast, and then to follow a straight line north to the 35th parallel (whose role in state borders dates back to the split of North and South Carolina in 1730). The line was not run straight north but rather angled to meet the northern border of the territory one-third of the way west, leaving the other two-thirds for two future states (Alabama and Mississippi--though their angled boundary ended up stopping at the Tennessee River).

In 1812, the U.S. Congress annexed to the Mississippi Territory the Mobile Districtmarker of West Florida, claiming that it was included in the Louisiana Purchase, although Spain disputed this and maintained its claim over the area. In the following year, General James Wilkinson occupied this district with a military force, the Spanish commandant offering no resistance. This annexation gave to Mississippi Territory the coast of the Gulf of Mexicomarker between the Perdido Rivermarker and the Pearl Rivermarker (comprising what is now part of Alabama).

On March 3, 1817, the Mississippi Territory was divided, when the western portion became the state of Mississippi, and the eastern became the Alabama Territorymarker, with St. Stephensmarker, on the Tombigbee River, as the temporary seat of government.

Congress delineated the boundary between Mississippi and Alabama by dividing the territory into approximately equal sized parts, similar in size to Georgia. The agriculturally productive lands were divided by a straight line running south from the northwest corner of Washington Countymarker (as it was defined at the time) to the Gulf of Mexico. The border north of this point was angled eastward in order to keep Mississippi and Alabama roughly equal in size. At its northern end this angled border follows a short section of the Tennessee River. Congress chose this boundary because if the straight line had been run all the way to the Tennessee border Mississippi would have jurisdiction over a small piece of hilly land cut off from the rest of the state by the wide Tennessee River.

See also


  1. "Timeline 1811-1820" (events +sources), Algis Ratnikas, Timelines of History, 2007, webpage: TL-Miss.

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