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The Territory of Wisconsin was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from July 3, 1836, until May 29, 1848, when an eastern portion of the territory was admitted to the Unionmarker as the State of Wisconsinmarker. Belmontmarker was initially chosen as the capital of the territory, but this was changed in October 1836 to the current capital of Madisonmarker.

Territorial area

The area that would later be part of the second—and by far the longest lasting—incarnation of the Wisconsin Territory was originally part of the Northwest Territory. It was later included with the Indiana Territory when this was formed in 1800. In 1809, it became part of the Illinois Territory; then, when Illinoismarker was about to become a state in 1818, this area was joined to the Michigan Territory. Then, the Wisconsin Territory was split off from Michigan Territory in 1836 as the state of Michiganmarker prepared for statehood.

However, the original Wisconsin Territory, as established in 1836, did not just include land from the original Northwest Territory. In 1833, Congress had annexed huge tracts of land west of the Mississippi to the then Michigan Territory. When the Wisconsin Territory was split off from the Michigan Territory, it inherited this western land. Thus, the 1836 Wisconsin Territory included all of the present-day states of Wisconsinmarker, Minnesotamarker, Iowamarker, and that part of the Dakotasmarker that lay east of the Missouri Rivermarker. The portion of the Territory east of the Mississippi River had originally been part of the Northwest Territory, which had itself been included in the cession by Britainmarker in the 1783. Most of the remaining land of the original Wisconsin Territory was originally part of the Louisiana Purchase, though a small fraction was part of a parcel ceded by Great Britain in 1818. This land west of the Mississippi had been split off from the Missouri Territory in 1821 and attached to the Michigan Territory in 1834. In 1838, the Iowa Territory was formed, reducing the Wisconsin Territory to the boundaries for the next ten years; upon granting statehood to Wisconsin, its boundaries were once again reduced, to their present location.


There are irregularities in the historical timeline at the outset of the Territory. After Congress refused Michigan's petition for statehood, despite meeting the requirements specified in the Northwest Ordinance, the people of Michigan authorized its constitution in October 1835 and began self-governance at that time. Yet, Michigan did not enter the Union until January 26, 1837, and Congress did not organize the Wisconsin Territory separately from Michigan until July 3, 1836.

Hoping to provide for some continuity in governance during that interim, acting Governor of the Michigan Territory, Stevens T. Mason, issued a proclamation on August 25, 1835, that called for the election of a western legislative council, which became known as the Rump Council. This council was to meet in Green Bay, Wisconsinmarker, on January 1, 1836. However, because of the controversy between Michigan and Ohiomarker over the Toledo Strip, known as the Toledo War, President Jackson removed Mason from office on August 15, 1835, and replaced him with John S. Horner. Horner issued his own proclamation on November 9, 1835, calling for the council to meet on December 1, 1835 — giving delegates less than a month to learn of the change and travel to the meeting. This caused considerable annoyance among the delegates, who ignored it. Even Horner himself neglected to attend. The Council convened on January 1 as previously scheduled, but Horner, while reportedly intending to attend, was delayed by illness and in the Governor's absence the council could do little more than perform some administrative and ceremonial duties. For its concession to the Toledo Strip, Michigan was given the Upper Peninsulamarker.

President Andrew Jackson appointed Henry Dodge Governor and Horner Secretary. The first legislative assembly of the new territory was convened by Governor Dodge at Belmontmarker, in the present Lafayette Countymarker, on October 25, 1836. In 1837, Burlington, Iowamarker, became the second territorial capital of the Wisconsin Territory. The next year, the Iowa Territory was created and the capital was moved to Madison.

Secretaries of Wisconsin Territory

Congressional Delegates

See also

See also


  1. Wisconsin (territory)
  2. History of Wisconsin - Chapter 2 - Wisconsin as a Territory


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