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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":

Chapter 1

Sub-chapter - Physical and Political Geography


-As transcribed from pages 4 - 6

The boundaries of Wisconsin were first laid down in the Ordinance of 1787, which decreed that the southern boundary of the fifth or northwestern State of the Northwest Territory should be an east and west line drawn through the southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan; that the western boundary should be the Mississippi to its source, thence by a straight line to the Lake of the Woods and the international boundary; that the northern boundary should coincide with the international boundary through Lake Superior; and that the eastern boundary should be the meridian due north of Vincennes to the international line.  The area of Wisconsin as outlined by this ordinance was one and a half times as large as at the present time.  By successive measures Wisconsin's boundaries have since been curtailed at the southern, northeastern, and northwestern sides.

The southern boundary was changed when in 1818 Illinois was admitted to the Union.  In order to secure for that State a harbor on Lake Michigan, Illinois' northern boundary was shifted from the line due west from the southern point of Lake Michigan, to latitude 42° 30´.  This added to Illinois a strip of territory sixty-one miles in width, containing 8,500 square miles, and the site of Chicago.  In 1818 there was no one in Wisconsin to protest against this change.  In 1838, however, and during Wisconsin's later territorial period, attempts were made to repossess the northern portion of Illinois on the ground that the Ordinance of 1787 was a solemn compact, and as such inviolable without the consent of all parties concerned.  The matter never came before the United States Supreme Court, but Wisconsin's territorial legislature passed several vigorous resolutions on the subject to which Congress paid no attention.  Strange to say, many Illinois inhabitants dwelling in the disputed strip would have preferred Wisconsin's jurisdiction; at one time an informal referendum on the question in several Illinois counties resulted overwhelmingly in favor of Wisconsin.  No official action, however, resulted, and the enabling act for Wisconsin in 1846, fixed its southern line 42° 30´.  The eastern boundary as outlined by the Ordinance of 1787 was obliterated when in 1818 Wisconsin became part of Michigan Territory.  When in 1834 it became evident that Michigan east of Lake Michigan would soon become a State, it was suggested that all west of Lake Michigan be organized into a new territory.  This would have included in Wisconsin the upper peninsula of Michigan, and made out State a topographical unit.

Michigan, however, became engaged in a boundary contest with Ohio concerning the harbor of Toledo.  Congress decided this controversy in favor of Ohio, but compensated Michigan by adding to her area the lands east of the Montreal and Menominee River boundary.  Wisconsin, then unorganized, had no means of protest.  Her northeastern boundary was fixed by the erection of the Territory in 1836.

Wisconsin Territory when organized included all that portion of the Louisiana Purchase lying north of Missouri, and east of the Missouri and White Earth rivers.  This vast region embracing Iowa, and the larger part of the Dakotas, and Minnesota was understood to be added to Wisconsin for administrative purposes only.  In 1838 Iowa Territory was set off, and Wisconsin was limited to the western boundary as outlined in the Ordinance of 1787.  This included within Wisconsin Territory nearly one-third of the present area of Minnesota.  At one time it was suggested that a sixth State should be formed of the territory east of the upper Mississippi and south of Lake Superior.  Later the portion west of the St. Croix and the St. Louis River line actually became a part of a sixth State, Minnesota, which was organized as a Territory in 1849 and admitted as a State in 1858.

Wisconsin in 1848 became a State with boundaries as at present.  Although short of her original allotment of territory, her present area makes her third in size of the five States of the Old Northwest. 3

Resources for the above information:

3 - For the entire subject of Wisconsin Boundaries, see Ibid, 451-501.

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