Indiana Territory

Not to be confused with Indian Territory.
Territory of Indiana
Organized incorporated territory of the United States




Capital Vincennes (1800–1813)
Corydon (1813–1816)
Government Organized incorporated territory
  1800–1812 William Henry Harrison
  1812–1813 John Gibson (acting)
  1813–1816 Thomas Posey
  1800–1816 John Gibson
  Established July 4, 1800
  Treaty of Grouseland signed March 1805
  Michigan Territory created June 30, 1805
  Representation in Congress December 12, 1805
  Illinois Territory created
 - Treaty of Fort Wayne
 - Legislature popularly elected
 - Tecumseh's War
 - War of 1812
 - Constitution drafted & adopted
March 1, 1809
September 30, 1809
November 1809
June 1816
  Granted Statehood December 11, 1816
  1800 2,632 
  1810 24,520 
  1816 63,897 

The Territory of Indiana was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from July 4, 1800, until December 11, 1816, when the remaining southern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the state of Indiana.[1]

The Indiana Territory was created by an Act of Congress and signed into law by President John Adams on May 7, 1800, effective on July 4. It was the first new territory created from lands of the Northwest Territory, which had been organized in 1787 by the Northwest Ordinance. The territory originally contained approximately 259,824 square miles (672,940 km2) of land, but twice decreased in size as it was further subdivided into new territories (Michigan Territory and Illinois Territory).

The territory was first governed by William Henry Harrison who oversaw the negotiation with the native inhabitants to open large parts of the territory to settlement. In 1810 a popularly elected government was established as the territory continued to grow in population and develop a very basic road network, government, and education system. At the outbreak of Tecumseh's War, the territory was on the front line of battle and Harrison led a military force in the opening hostilities at the Battle of Tippecanoe, and then in the subsequent invasion of Canada during the War of 1812. Thomas Posey was appointed to the vacant governorship, but the opposition party, led by Congressman Jonathan Jennings, had dominance in the territorial affairs for its remaining years and began pressing for statehood. In June 1816, a constitutional convention was held and a state government was formed. The territory was dissolved on December 11, 1816, by an act of Congress granting statehood to Indiana.

Original boundaries

The original boundaries of the Indiana Territory included the area of the Northwest Territory west of a line running from the bank opposite the mouth of the Kentucky River northeast to Fort Recovery, and from there due northward along a line approximately 84 deg 45 min W longitude. The territory initially included most of present-day Indiana and all of present-day Illinois, and Wisconsin, as well as fragments of three other states: the part of Minnesota east of the Mississippi River, almost all of the Upper Peninsula of present-day Michigan and the western half of the Lower Peninsula, and finally, a narrow strip of present-day Ohio lying to the north and west of Fort Recovery.[2] This latter parcel became part of the state of Ohio when it was admitted to the Union in 1803.[3] At the same time in 1803, the southeast boundary shifted to the mouth of the Great Miami River from its former location at the point opposite the mouth of the Kentucky River. The eastern part of Michigan was added to the Indiana Territory at that time. The area of the Indiana Territory was reduced in 1805 by the creation of the Michigan Territory, and in 1809 by the creation of the Illinois Territory.[4]



#NameTook officeLeft officeAppointed by
1 William Henry Harrison May 13, 1800 December 28, 1812 John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison
John Gibson December 28, 1812 March 3, 1813 Acting-Governor
2 Thomas Posey March 3, 1813 November 7, 1816 James Madison


A map of the Indiana Territory in 1812 displaying notable places and battles in the War of 1812

When the Indiana Territory was first created, no provision was allowed for the creation of popularly elected government. Congress granted the President power to appoint a General Court to serve as a legislative and judicial branch of the territorial government. The court consisted of five members, and the President delegated the task of choosing the members to the Governor of the territory. This remained the form of government until 1805 when Congress granted the territory the right to legalize slavery if they so choose. In doing so, they removed the court's legislative powers, leaving it with only judicial authority, but still to be appointed by the President through the Governor. The formation of a new legislative council was approved and each county in the territory was granted the right to elect one representative to it. The council had the authority to pass laws, but they all had to be approved by the Governor before they could be enacted.[5]

In 1809, the makeup of the legislature was altered again by Congress to a bicameral body. A House of Representatives was created and the representation was apportioned by population. The House was then to choose ten candidates from whom the President, through the governor, would choose five to form a council which served as the upper house of the legislature.[5] Thereafter, the structure of the legislature remained unchanged for the remainder of the territory's existence.

Congressional delegation

The delegate from the Indiana Territory was elected at large in a territory-wide election. The delegate attended Congress with the right to debate, submit legislation, and serve on committees, but was not permitted to vote on legislation.[6]

Delegate Years Party
Benjamin Parke December 12, 1805 – March 1, 1808 none
Jesse Burgess Thomas October 22, 1808 – March 3, 1809 Democratic-Republican
Jonathan Jennings November 27, 1809 – December 11, 1816 none

Other high officials

The federal government paid the salaries of the governor, legislature, and judicial council, but did not provide funds for any additional governmental offices. At first, the territory had very limited revenue and could not afford to fund a large government. As the population increased, and revenues grew, so did the size and scope of the government with new offices being created at different times. The territory's primary source of revenue was from the sale of federal lands; the territory collected 3% of the proceeds of each sale. Property tax and trading ventures with the Native American tribes also provided lesser revenues.


#NameTook officeLeft officePartyHometownNotes
1 John Gibson July 4, 1800 November 7, 1816 Democratic-Republican Knox County, Indiana


#NameTook officeLeft officeHometownNotes
1 William Prince 1810 1813 Vincennes, Indiana [7]
2 Davis Floyd 1813 1814 Corydon, Indiana


#NameTook officeLeft officeHometownNotes
1 General Washington Johnston 1813 1814 Vincennes, Indiana
2 Davis Floyd 1814 1816 Corydon, Indiana

Attorney General

#NameTook officeLeft officeHometownNotes
1 Benjamin Parke 1804 1808 Knox County, Indiana
2 John Rice Jones 1808 1816 Clark County, Indiana



Anthony Wayne concludes peace with the Northwestern Indian Confederacy in the Treaty of Greenville.

The Northwest Territory was formed by the Congress of the Confederation on July 13, 1787, and included all land between the Appalachia and the Mississippi River, the Great Lakes and the Ohio River. This single territory became the states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and eastern Minnesota. The Northwest Territory act had all the newly acquired territory surveyed according to The Land Ordinance of 1785 for future development by the United States. The act also provided an administration to oversee the territory.[8]

At the time the territory was created, there were only three American settlements in what would later become the Indiana Territory, Vincennes, Kaskaskia and Clark's Grant. The entire population was under five-thousand Europeans. The Native American population was estimated to be near twenty-thousand, but possibly as high as seventy-five thousand.[9]

In 1785, the Northwest Indian War began. In an attempt to end the native rebellion, the Miami town of Kekionga was unsuccessfully attacked by General Josiah Harmar and Northwest Territory governor Arthur St. Clair.[10] St. Clair's Defeat is the worst defeat of the U.S. army by Native Americans in history. The defeat led to the appointment of General "Mad Anthony" Wayne who organized the Legion of the United States and defeated a Native American force at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. In 1795 the Treaty of Greenville was signed, taking a slice of eastern Indiana for the United States. Fort Miamis at Kekionga was occupied by the United States, who rebuilt it as Fort Wayne. The powerful Miami nation would consider themselves allies with the United States after the treaty.[11]


Grouseland, the home of Governor William Henry Harrison

On July 4, 1800, the Indiana Territory was established out of Northwest Territory in preparation for Ohio's statehood. The capital of the new territory was Vincennes, a former French trading post and one of the only white settlements in the vast territory.[12] The name Indiana meant "Land of the Indians", and referred to the fact that most of the area north of the Ohio River was still inhabited by Native Americans. (South of the river, Kentucky had been a traditional hunting ground for the Northwestern and other tribes, and early American settlers in Kentucky referred to the north bank as the land of the Indians.) In 1768, several colonies purchased the Iroquois claim to the northwest and established the Indiana Land Company to hold that claim, the first recorded use of the word Indiana. The claim to the land was disputed by Virginia, and the company's claim was extinguished in a 1798 United States Supreme Court case. Two years later, Congress used the name of the company and applied it to the new territory.[13]

Indiana Territory began with just three counties: St. Clair (part of present-day Illinois, across the river from St Louis and south of the Illinois River), Randolph County (part of present-day Illinois, south of St. Clair county), and Knox (present-day Indiana, with parts of Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin). There was also an area corresponding roughly to northern Illinois, much of Wisconsin, the northeastern corner of Minnesota, and the western part of Michigan's upper peninsula that was unorganized.

The first Governor of the Territory was William Henry Harrison. Harrison County was named in his honor; he gained national fame during his term as a hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe. He later became the ninth President of the United States.[14] Harrison served as governor from May 13, 1800 to December 28, 1812. Harrison did not arrive in the territory to begin governing until January 1801. John Gibson, the Territorial Secretary, served as acting governor, from the creation of the territory until his arrival.[15] The governor was assisted in governing the territory by a three-member panel of judges, the General Court. The court served as both the highest legislative and judicial authority in the territory and its members were appointed by the governor.[16]

As governor of a territory of the first stage (as outlined in the Northwest Ordinance), Harrison had wide-ranging powers in the new territory, including the authority to appoint all territorial officials as well as the territorial General Assembly, and the authority to divide the territory into districts.[17] Harrison was eager to expand the territory, as his political fortunes were tied to Indiana's rise to statehood. In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson granted Harrison authority to negotiate and conclude treaties with the Native American tribes in the territory. Harrison oversaw the creation of thirteen treaties, purchasing more than 60,000,000 acres (240,000 km2) of land from Native American leaders, including most present-day southern Indiana.[18]

The Treaty of Vincennes was the first treaty Harrison negotiated with his new power. In 1803 he invited the leaders on the local tribes to Vincennes where they signed a treaty recognizing American possession of the Vincennes tract. This area had been captured by George Rogers Clark in the American Revolutionary War from the French. The Treaty of Grouseland in 1805 further secured possession of all of south-western Indiana. Tensions however grew on the frontier and neared the breaking the point after the contentious and disputed 1809 Treaty of Fort Wayne, in which Harrison purchased more than 250,000,000 acres (1,000,000 km2) of American Indian land in central Indiana and eastern Illinois.[18]

The availability of new cheap land led to a rapid increase in the population of the territory, with thousands of new settlers entering the region every year. Large settlements began to spring up on the periphery of the territory around the Great Lakes, the Ohio River, the Wabash River, and the Mississippi River. Much of the interior, though, remained inhabited by the Native American tribes and was left unsettled.[18]

District of Louisiana

Main article: District of Louisiana

From October 1, 1804 until July 4, 1805, administrative powers of the [D]istrict of Louisiana were extended to the governor and judges of Indiana Territory as a temporary measure to govern the newly purchased lands. Under the terms of the act establishing the temporary government, the Governor and Judges of Indiana Territory were supposed to meet twice a year in a "at such place as will be most convenient to the inhabitants thereof in general". Residents of the new district objected to many of the provisions of the new United States government, including their imposition of common law. Residents had previously lived under continental civil law.

The "district of Louisiana" encompassed all Louisiana Purchase lands north of the 33rd parallel, the present-day border of the states of Arkansas and Louisiana. South of the parallel, the more densely populated "territory of Orleans" was separately administered, largely under civil law.

The [D]istrict of Louisiana was governed by Indiana Territory. One Kansas Territory source, recounting Kansas history up to 1855, states that Kansas, as part of the district of Louisiana, was not only administered by but also "annexed to" Indiana Territory. Whether a temporary act can effect an annexation may depend on its actual duration, and most sources have declined to call Indiana Territory administration an annexation or even to use "annexed to" language. Less persuasively, maps generally fail to reflect the de jure common governance of Indiana Territory and the [D]istrict of Louisiana by way of, say, a common color scheme and/or a dotted border.

In any event, the [D]istrict of Louisiana soon became part of a separately administered [T]erritory of Louisiana, effective July 4, 1805.[19]

One of the most notable events during this period was the Treaty of St. Louis in which the Sac and Fox tribes ceded northeastern Missouri, northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin to the United States. Resentments over this treaty were to cause the tribes to side with the British during the War of 1812 in raids along the Missouri, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and was to spur the Black Hawk War in 1832.[20]


In 1803, Harrison began to lobby Congress to repeal Article Six of the Northwest Ordinance, which prohibited slavery in the original Northwest Territory, in order permit slavery in the Indiana Territory. He claimed legalizing slavery was necessary to make the region more appealing to settlers and ultimately make the territory economically viable.[21] That same year Harrison had indenturing legalized by the General Court.[21][22] The territory was granted representation in the United States Congress in 1805, and pro-slavery Benjamin Parke became the territory's first representative. Parke used his position to get Congress to support Harrison's appeal. He was able pass legislation to have Article Six suspended for ten years, and the territories covered by the ordinance were granted the ability to legalize slavery. By the same act, Congress removed the General Court's legislative power and created a legislative council to be elected by popular vote.[23]

Harrison's attempts caused a significant stir among the many Quakers who had settled in the eastern part of the territory; they responded by forming an anti-slavery party. In the 1805 election, Davis Floyd of Clark County was the only anti-slavery representative elected to the council. Harrison's measures to legalize slavery were blocked by the representatives from St. Clair County, who refused to authorize slavery unless Harrison supported their request for a separate territory, which Harrison opposed.[24] In 1809, the St. Clair County settlers petitioned Congress for the formation of a separate territory. Despite Harrison's disapproval, the Illinois Territory was created. The same year, Congress granted the Indiana Territory the right to elect a House of Representatives. Harrison found himself at odds with the legislature when the anti-slavery party came to power in that year's election. They promptly rebuffed many of his plans for slavery and repealed the indenturing laws he had enacted in 1803.[25]

The capital of the territory remained in Vincennes for thirteen years. After the territory was reorganized in 1809 and the Illinois Territory was split off, Vincennes was then on the far west edge of the Indiana Territory. Due to this, the legislature made plans to move the capital to be more centralized with the population. Madison, Jeffersonville, and Corydon competed to become the new capital. Harrison favored Corydon, a town he had founded and named, and where he owned an estate. The new capitol building was finished in 1813 and the government quickly relocated to Corydon after the outbreak of the War of 1812 for fear of an attack on Vincennes.[26]

Tecumseh's War

At Vincennes in 1810, Tecumseh loses his temper when William Henry Harrison refuses to rescind the Treaty of Fort Wayne.

An Indian resistance movement against U.S. expansion had been growing around the Shawnee brothers Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa (The Prophet) that became known as Tecumseh's War. Tenskwatawa convinced the native tribes that they would be protected by the Great Spirit and no harm could befall them if they would rise up against the whites. He encouraged resistance by telling the tribes to only pay white traders half of what they owed, and to give up all the white man's ways, including their clothing, whiskey, and guns.[27] In 1810, Tecumseh, with about 400 armed warriors, traveled to Vincennes where he confronted Harrison and demanded that the Treaty of Fort Wayne be rescinded. Although Harrison refused, the war party left peacefully, but Tecumseh was angry and threatened retaliation. After the meeting Tecumseh journeyed to meet with many of the tribes in the region, hoping to create a confederation with which to battle the Americans.[28]

In 1811, while Tecumseh was still away, Harrison was authorized by Secretary of War William Eustis to march against the nascent confederation, as a show of force. Harrison moved north with an army of more than one thousand men in an attempt to intimidate the Shawnee into making peace. The ploy failed, and the tribes launched a surprise attack on Harrison's army early on the morning of November 6. The ensuing battle became known as the Battle of Tippecanoe. Harrison ultimately won his famous victory at Prophetstown, next to the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers. Harrison was publicly hailed as a national hero, despite the fact that his troops had greatly outnumbered the Indian forces, and had suffered many more casualties.[29] The battle earned Harrison national fame, and the nickname "Old Tippecanoe".[30] The victory opened up central Indiana to settlement and allowed settlers to safely venture beyond the southern periphery of the state.[31]

War of 1812

The war between Tecumseh and Harrison merged with the War of 1812 when the Indian Confederation allied with the British in Canada. In May 1812, a meeting of all the tribal leaders in the region was held in the Miami village of Mississinewa hosted by Chief Little Turtle. Most of the tribes decided to remain neutral during the conflict and rejected Tecumseh's plans of continued rebellion.[32] Despite their rejection, Tecumseh continued to lead his dwindling army against the Americans, and moved farther north where he could be supported by the British army. His followers who remained behind continued raiding the countryside and engaged in the Siege of Fort Harrison, which was the United States' first land victory during the war.[33] John Gibson served as acting Governor during the War of 1812 while Harrison was leading the army. After Harrison was replaced in June 1812, Gibson continued as acting-governor until incoming governor Thomas Posey arrived in May 1813.[34]

Numerous other battles that occurred in the modern state of Indiana include the Siege of Fort Wayne, the Pigeon Roost Massacre and the Battle of the Mississinewa. Most of the Native Americans remained passive throughout the war, but there were many incidents between settlers and the tribes, leading to the deaths of hundreds in the territory. The Treaty of Ghent, signed in 1814, ended the War and relieved American settlers from their fears of the nearby British and their Indian allies.[35]


Congressman Jonathan Jennings, Indiana Territory's congressional delegate

In 1812, Jonathan Jennings defeated Harrison's chosen candidate and became the territory's representative to Congress.[36] Jennings used his position there to attempt to speed up Indiana's path to statehood by immediately introducing legislation to grant Indiana statehood, even though the population of the entire territory was under 25,000. Jennings did this against the wishes of incoming governor Thomas Posey, and there was noted disagreement between the two men on the subject. No action was taken on the legislation at the time, though, because of the outbreak of the War of 1812.[37]

Thomas Posey was appointed territorial Governor on March 3, 1813, and served until the state's first Governor was sworn into office on November 7, 1816. Posey, who was age sixty-two and in poor health, had created a rift in the politics of the territory by refusing to reside in the capital of Corydon, instead living in Jeffersonville to be closer to his doctor.[38][39] He further complicated matters by being a supporter of slavery, much to the chagrin of opponents like Jennings, Dennis Pennington, and others who dominated the Territorial Legislature, and who sought to use the bid for statehood to permanently end the possibility of slavery in the state.[37]

In February 1815, the United States House of Representatives began debate on granting Indiana Territory statehood. In early 1816, the Territory approved a census and Pennington was named to be the census enumerator. The population of the territory was found to be 63,897,[40] above the threshold required for statehood that was stated in the Northwest Ordinance. On May 13, 1816, the Enabling Act was passed and the state was granted permission to form a government subject to the approval of Congress.[41] A constitutional convention met in 1816 in Corydon. The state's first constitution was drawn up on June 10, and elections were held in August to fill the offices of the new state government. In November of that year the constitution was approved by Congress and the territorial government was dissolved, ending the existence of the Indiana Territory and replacing it with the State of Indiana.[42][43]


Corydon old capitol

The Indiana Territory is celebrated at an annual event in Corydon centered on the territorial capitol building. The festival includes actors in period dress who reenact events and pretend to be some of the important settlers of early Indiana.[44] Other commemorative festivals occur in Vincennes and Madison, and the history of the period is noted on historic markers and monuments across the former territory.

See also


  1. "Indiana". World Statesmen. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  2. Jervis, 53–54
  3. Jervis, 110
  4. Jervis, 112
  5. 1 2 Esarey, pp. 170–172
  6. Funk, p. 201
  7. The office of auditor was created by Congress in 1809 and filled in the next general election
  8. "Congressional Record". 1st United States Congress. August 7, 1789. pp. 50–51. Retrieved 2008-09-30.
  9. Law, p. 57
  10. Dowd, pp. 113–114
  11. Funk, p. 38
  12. Indiana Historical Bureau. "The Indiana Historian – Indiana Territory". Retrieved 2008-05-17.
  13. Indiana Historical Bureau. "The naming of Indiana". Retrieved 2008-09-29.
  14. "Indiana History Chapter Two". Northern Indiana Center for History. Archived from the original on May 12, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-09.
  15. Dunn, p. 228
  16. Dunn, p. 215
  17. Dunn, p. 225–226
  18. 1 2 3 Whitting, p. 7
  19. "Congressional Record". 8th United States Congress. March 3, 1805. p. 331. Retrieved 2008-10-10.
  20. Kappler, p. 1804
  21. 1 2 Gresham, p. 21
  22. Dunn, p. 218
  23. Dunn, p. 246
  24. Dunn, pp. 249 & 298
  25. Dunn, p. 258
  26. Gresham, p. 25
  27. Langguth, pp. 158–160
  28. Langguth, pp. 164–166
  29. Langguth, pp. 167–169
  30. Cleeves, p. 3
  31. Dunn, p. 282
  32. Dunn, p. 266
  33. Dunn, p. 267
  34. Dunn, p. 283
  35. Engleman, Fred L. "The Peace of Christmas Eve". American Archived from the original on November 2, 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-21.
  36. Dunn, p. 263
  37. 1 2 Dunn, p. 293
  38. According to some sources Thomas Posey refused to live in Corydon because of his ongoing quarrel with Dennis Pennington. (Gresham, p. 22)
  39. Dunn, p. 283–284
  40. Haymond, p. 181
  41. Funk, p. 42
  42. Funk, p. 35
  43. "Indiana History Chapter three". Indiana Center For History. Archived from the original on May 11, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-17.
  44. "Indiana Territory Festival". Harrison County Tourism Board. Retrieved 2008-10-01.


  • Esarey, Logan (1915). A History of Indiana. W. K. Stewart co. 
  • Cleaves, Freeman (1939). Old Tippecanoe: William Henry Harrison and His Time. New York: Scribner's. 
  • Dowd, Gregory Evans (1992). A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745–1815. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-4236-0. 
  • Dunn, Jacob Piatt (1919). Indiana and Indianans. V.I. Chicago & New York: The American Historical Society. 
  • Funk, Arville L. (1983) [1969]. A Sketchbook of Indiana History. Rochester, Indiana: Christian Book Press. 
  • Gresham, Matilda (1919). Life of Walter Quintin Gresham 1832-1895cl. Rand McNally & company. 
  • Jervis, Cutler; Le Raye, Charles (1971). A Topographical Description of the State of Ohio, Indiana Territory, and Louisiana. Ayer Publishing. ISBN 978-0-405-02839-7. 
  • Haymond, William S (1879). An Illustrated History of the State of Indiana. S. L. Marrow & Co. 
  • Kappler, Charles J. ed (1904. November 3, 1804 7 Stat., 84. Ratified January 25, 1805, proclaimed February 21, 1805). Treaty with the Sauk and Foxes, 1804. Washington: Government Printing Office. Retrieved 2008-09-30.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  • Langguth, A. J. (2006). Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-2618-6. 
  • Law, Judge (1858, reproduced 2006). The Colonial History of Vincennes. Harvey, Mason & Co.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  • Whiting, Isaac (1840). A Sketch of the Life and Public Services of William Henry Harrison. I. N. Whiting. 

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