History Timeline 1800s

Indian petroglyphs mentioned in the journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Nemaha River, Troy, Kansas. Courtesy National Archives. Right: Historic New Orleans wharf scene along the Mississippi River. Courtesy Library of Congress.

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U.S. Timeline - The 1800s

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  • 1803 Detail

    March 1, 1803 - Ohio is admitted to the Union as the 17th U.S. state.

    Northwest Territory


    There had been growing sentiment within the Northwest Territory in the area that would become Ohio that they should become a state. The Democrat-Republicans favored; the Federalists did not and controlled the Governor's office of the Northwest Territory, one Arthur St. Clair, and many other territory positions. Governor St. Clair and the Federalists wanted the state to be small to consolidate their power and proposed a western boundary of the Scioto River, which runs north and south through the central part of the state around Columbus. The Democrat-Republican Party wanted a larger state whose western boundary was that of the Northwest Ordinance. But there was a rule, which the Federalists knew about, that stated you had to have a population of sixty thousand people to apply for statehood. Neither section within their proposal met that threshold.

    In fact, Ohio as a whole was still below the number in the census of 1800, with 45,365 citizens, although when help was asked for from the Ohio Dem-Rep Party to the Dem-Rep President in the White House, President Jefferson noted that it was likely that the state had doubled in population since that census by 1802 and he signed an Enabling Act calling for Ohio to enact a state constitution and move toward statehood on April 30, 1802. No surprise, he wanted the boundaries to be those that would be favorable to the Democratic-Republican Party. So the boundaries would be; Pennsylvania to the east, the Ohio River to the south, Canada to the north, and the west from the Great Miami River to Lake Erie.

    A state constitution was passed November 29, 1802, after Northwest Territory Governor St. Clair attempted to block it and was replaced in his position by President Jefferson. It passed with only one dissenting vote after that. The tenants of the state constitution included the right to vote for white men, a ban on slavery, and a weak central government. The first state capital would be in Chillicothe (1803-1810, 1812-1816) with the Ross County Courthouse serving as the Statehouse. Growth in the new state of Ohio within the first decade was astonishing; the census of 1800 noted 45,365 citizens; in 1810, it was 230,760.


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    Congress Makes a Mistake


    They petitioned the Congress of the United States for statehood after meeting the state constitution criteria. It would seem a somewhat simple task since the United States Congress had done it sixteen times before, but, alas, Congress being Congress, they made a mistake when admitting their seventeen state. The state of Ohio, carved from the Northwest Territory, was approved for statehood on February 19, 1803 with their petition of November 29, 1802 granted. But Congress forgot an important step, you couldn't become a state unless Congress approved the state constitution of Ohio as well according to the Northwest Ordinance. So technically they were not a state for one hundred and fifty years until the date of May 19, 1953, after an Ohio Representative, George Bender, brought it to their attention. They chose March 1, 1803 as the retroactive date; who knows why. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the law making it official; Ohio was now, technically, a state.




    Ohio History as Part of the Northwest Territory


    The Northwest Territory had been established within the Paris Peace Treaty ending the American Revolution. At that time, it included all British lands northwest of the Ohio River, including today's states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota. The Northwest Ordinance was passed by Congress in 1787 establishing boundaries, governance, and rules for application to statehood for states within the region, although its size was reduced between 1787 and 1803 with the establishment of other territories within its whole, i.e. the Indiana Territory in 1800. The eastern part of the Northwest Territory would be known as Ohio, an Iroquois word meaning Great River. The Iroquois had been settled in the Ohio area since 1650.

    Governing the territory in those years was a Northwest Territory Governor, three judges, and eventually a Territorial General Assembly once population increased. At the time of its creation, it is thought to have contained forty-five thousand tribal residents (Shawnee, Delaware, Miami, Wyandot, Ottawa and Potawatomi, among them) and four thousand traders.

    The decades between the end of the American Revolution and the establishment of the state of Ohio (first time) were marked by many Indian conflicts, which limited settlement. The Northwest Indian War, ineffective treaties such as the Treaty of Fort Harmar, and the defeat of Governor St. Clair, now the General Commander of the U.S. Army in the Northwest Territory, in the Battle of the Wabash on November 4, 1791, caused much consternation in the federal government. St. Clair's defeat was the largest victory by Indian forces against the U.S. Army in history, with six hundred thirty-two of the one thousand soldiers killed or captured, and over ninety percent, including wounded.

    President Washington replaced St. Clair as general with his Revolutionary War comrade, General Anthony Wayne, but kept St. Clair as Governor. Wayne, with over five thousand troops in a newly formed "Legion of the United States" moved into the Northwest Territory in the fall of 1793. Forts were built, battles fought, including the decisive victory by Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers on August 20, 1794, and by the end of 1794, the campaign against the Western Confederacy of tribes, supported by the British, was effectively over. Jay's Treaty of 1794 passified the British for a moment and the Treaty of Greenville with the Wyandot and Delaware tribes in 1795, established boundaries and allowed for additional American settlement.

    Photo above: Drawing named the Promulgation of the First Laws of the Northwestern Territory, 1834-1870, James Henry Beard. Difficult to see print of George Washington, Indians, and others with laws attached to a tree supposedly referring to the Northwest Ordinance. Courtesy Library of Congress. Below: Montage of two images from Ohio history (left) Arthur St. Clair, 1782, Charles Willson Peale. Courtesy National Park Service via Wikipedia Commons, (right) General Anthony Wayne defeat of the Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, 1850-1860, Lossing and Barritt. Courtesy Library of Congress. Info source: https://history.house.gov; Library of Congress; ohiohistorycentral.org; Dayton Daily News; National Archives; Wikipedia Commons.


    Ohio Settlement



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