The Territory of Wisconsin1 was erected by act of Congress of April 20, 1836, to take effect from and after the 3d day of July following. It was made to include all that part of the late Michigan territory described within boundaries "commencing at the northeast corner of the State of Illinois, running thence through the middle of Lake Michigan to a point opposite the main channel of Green bay; thence through that channel and the bay to the mouth of the Menomonee river; thence up that stream to its head, which is nearest the lake of the Desert; thence to the middle of that lake; thence down the Montreal river to its mouth; thence with a direct line across Lake Superior to where the territorial line of the United States last touches the lake northwest; thence on the north, with the territorial line, to the White Earth river; on the west by a line drawn down the middle of the main channel of that stream to the Missouri river, and down the middle of the main channel of the last mentioned stream to the northwest corner of the State of Missouri; and thence with the boundaries of the States of Missouri and Illinois, as already fixed by act of Congress, to the place or point of beginning." Its counties were Brown, Milwaukee, Iowa, Crawford, Dubuque and Des Moines, with a portion of Chippewa and Michilimackinac unorganized. Henry Dodge was commissioned governor April 30, 1836; Charles Dunn, chief justice, and David Irvin and William C. Frazer associate justices; by Andrew Jackson, President of the United States. The following were the secretaries, attorneys and marshals, with the dates of their commissions who held office while the territory was in existence:
John S. Horner, May 6, 1836; William B. Slaughter, Feb. 16, 1837; Francis I. Dunn, Jan. 25, 1841; Alexander P. Field, April 23, 1841; George Floyd, Oct. 30, 1843; John Catlin, Feb. 24, 1846.
W. W. Chapman, May 6, 1836; Moses M. Strong, July 5, 1838; Thomas W. Sutherland, April 27, 1841; William P. Lynde, July 14, 1845.
Francis Gehon, May 6, 1836; Edward James, June 19, 1838; Daniel Hugunin, March 15, 1841; Charles M. Prevost, Aug. 31, 1844; John S. Rockwell, March 14, 1845.
The first important measure to be looked after by Governor Dodge upon his assuming, in the spring of 1836, the executive chair of the territory was the organization of the territorial Legislature. A census showed the following population east of the Mississippi: Milwaukee county, 2,893; Brown county, 2,706; Crawford county, 850; Iowa county, 5,234. Total, 11,683. The enumeration for the two counties west of the Mississippi was --- Des Moines, 6,257; Dubuque, 4,274. Total, 10,531. The population, therefore, of both sides of the river aggregated 22,214. The legislative apportionment, made by the governor, gave to the territory thirteen councilmen and twenty-six representatives. These, of course, were to be elected by the people. The election was held Oct. 10, 1836. Belmont, in the present county of Lafayette, Wis., was appointed as the place for the meeting of the Legislature, where the first session began October 25. A quorum of each house was in attendance. Henry S. Baird, of Green Bay, was elected president of the council, and Peter H. Engle speaker of the house.
The following persons served as presidents of the council while Wisconsin was a territory:
First session, first Legislative Assembly, Henry S. Baird, Brown county.
Second session, first Legislative Assembly, Arthur R. Ingraham, Des Moines county.
Special session, first Legislative Assembly, Arthur R. Ingraham, Des Moines county.
First session, second Legislative Assembly, William Bullen, Racine county.
Second session, second Legislative Assembly, James Collins, Iowa county.
Third session, second Legislative Assembly, James Collins, Iowa county.
Fourth (extra) session, second Legislative Assembly, William A. Prentiss, Milwaukee county.
First session, third Legislative Assembly, James Maxwell, Walworth county.
Second session, third Legislative Assembly, James Collins, Iowa county.
First session, fourth Legislative Assembly, Moses M. Strong, Iowa county.
Second session, fourth Legislative Assembly, Marshal M. Strong, Racine county.
Third session, fourth Legislative Assembly, Moses M. Strong, Iowa county.
Fourth session, fourth Legislative Assembly, Nelson Dewey, Grant county.
First session, fifth Legislative Assembly, Horatio N. Wells, Milwaukee county.
Special session, fifth Legislative Assembly, Horatio N. Wells, Milwaukee county.
Second session, fifth Legislative Assembly, Horatio N. Wells, Milwaukee county.
The following persons served as speakers of the House during the continuance of Wisconsin territory:
First session, first Legislative Assembly, Peter H. Engle, Dubuque county.
Second session, first Legislative Assembly, Isaac Leffler, Des Moines county.
Special session, first Legislative Assembly, William B. Sheldon, Milwaukee county.
First session, second Legislative Assembly, John W. Blackstone, Iowa county.
Second session, second Legislative Assembly, Lucius I. Barber, Milwaukee county.
Third session, second Legislative Assembly, Edward V. Whiton, Rock county.
Fourth (extra) session, second Legislative Assembly, Nelson Dewey, Grant county.
First session, third Legislative Assembly, David Newland, Iowa county.
Second session, third Legislative Assembly, David Newland, Iowa county.
First session, fourth Legislative Assembly, Albert G. Ellis, Portage county.
Second session, fourth Legislative Assembly, George H. Walker, Milwaukee county.
Third session, fourth Legislative Assembly, George H. Walker, Milwaukee county.
Fourth session, fourth Legislative Assembly, Mason C. Darling, Fond du Lac county.
First session, fifth Legislative Assembly, William Shew, Milwaukee county.
Special session, fifth Legislative Assembly, Isaac P. Walker, Milwaukee county.
Second session, fifth Legislative Assembly, Timothy Burns, Iowa county.
Each of the three branches of the infant government was now (October, 1836) in working order, except that it remained for the Legislature Assembly to divide the territory into three judicial districts, the number required by the organic act, and make an assignment of the judges. This was speedily done. Crawford and Iowa constituted the first district, to which the chief justice was assigned; Dubuque and Des Moines the second, to which judge Irvin was assigned; and Judge Frazer to the third, consisting of Milwaukee and Brown counties. The principal matters engaging the attention of the legislators were the permanent location of the capitol, the erection of new counties and the location of county seats. Madison was fixed upon as the seat of government; and nine counties were erected east of the Mississippi: Walworth, Racine, Jefferson, Dane, Dodge, Washington, Rock, Grant and Green. West of the river six counties were set off: Lee, Van Buren, Henry, Louisa, Muscatine and Cook. The Legislature adjourned sine die, Dec. 9, 1836. The first term of the supreme court was held at Belmont on the 8th day of December, of that year. The appointment of a clerk, crier and reporter, and the admission of several attorneys to practice, completed the business of the first term. The following persons served as clerks while Wisconsin was a territory:
John Catlin, appointed at December term, 1836; Simeon Mills, appointed at July term, 1839; La Fayette Kellogg, appointed at July term, 1840. Gov. Dodge, appointed Dec. 8, 1836, Henry S. Baird, as attorney general. His successors were as follows:
Horatio N. Wells, appointed by Gov. Dodge, March 30, 1839; Mortimer M. Jackson, appointed by Gov. Dodge, Jan. 26, 1842; William Pitt Lynde, appointed by Gov. Tallmage, Feb. 22, 1845; A. Hyatt Smith, appointed by Gov. Dodge, Aug. 4, 1845. Upon the organization of the territory in 1836, it was necessary that it should be represented in the National Legislature; so on the day of the election of the territorial Legislature, George W. Jones, of Iowa county, was chosen a delegate in Congress. His successors were:
James Duane Doty, elected Sept. 10, 1838; James Duane Doty, elected Aug. 5, 1840; Henry Dodge, elected Sept. 27, 1841; Henry Dodge, elected Sept. 25, 1843; Morgan L. Martin, elected Sept. 22, 1845; John H. Tweedy, elected Sept. 6, 1847.
At the close of the year 1836, there was no land in market east of the Mississippi, except a narrow strip along the shore of Lake Michigan, and in the vicinity of Green bay. The residue of the country south and east of the Wisconsin and Fox rivers was open only to pre-emption by actual settlers. The Indian tribes still claimed a large portion of the lands. On the north were located the Chippewas. The southern limits of their possessions were defined by a line drawn from a point on that stream in about latitude 46 degrees 31 minutes in a southeasterly direction to the head of Lake St. Croix; thence in the same general direction to what is now Stevens Point, in the present Portage Co., Wis.; thence nearly east to Wolf river; and thence in a direction nearly northeast to the Menomonee river. Between the Wisconsin river and the Mississippi, and extending north to the south line of the Chippewas was the territory of the Winnebagoes. East of the Winnebagoes in the country north of the Fox river of Green bay were located the Menomonees, their lands extending to Wolf river. Such was the general outline of Indian occupancy in Wisconsin territory, east of the Mississippi, at its organization. A portion of the country east of Wolf river and north of Green bay and the Fox river; the whole of the area lying south of Green bay, Fox river and the Wisconsin, constituted the extent of country over which the Indians had no claim. In this region, as we have seen, was a population of about 12,000, it was made up of the scattered settlers at the lead mines; the military establishments, (Fort Crawford, Fort Winnebago and Fort Howard), and settlements at or near them; and the village of Milwaukee; these were about all the parts of the territory east of the Mississippi, at that date, occupied to any extent by the whites.
The second session of the first Legislative Assembly of the territory of Wisconsin, began at Burlington, now the county seat of Des Moines Co., Iowa, Nov. 6, 1837, and adjourned Jan. 20, 1838, to the second Monday of June following. The principal acts passed were, one for taking another census; one abolishing imprisonment for debt; another regulating the sale of school lands and to prepare for organizing, regulating and perfecting schools. There was also one passed incorporating the Milwaukee and Rock River Canal Company. This was approved by the governor, Jan. 5, 1838. By an act of Congress approved June 18 of the same year, a grant of land was made to aid in the construction of the canal. The grant consisted of the odd-numbered sections on a belt of ten miles in width from Lake Michigan to Rock river, amounting to 139,190 acres. Of those lands 43,447 acres were sold at public sale in July, 1839, at the minimum price of $2.50 per acre. Work was commenced on the canal at Milwaukee, and the Milwaukee river for a short distance from its outlet was improved by the construction of a dam across the river, which was made available for manufacturing and other purposes. A canal was also built about a mile in length and forty feet wide, leading from it down on the west bank of the river. Much dissatisfaction subsequently arose; the purchasers at this sale, and others occupying these canal and reserved lands felt the injustice of being compelled to pay double price for their lands, and efforts were made to repeal all laws authorizing further sales, and to ask Congress to repeal the act making this grant. The legislation on the subject of this grant is voluminous. In 1862 the Legislature of the State passed an act to ascertain and settle the liabilities, if any, of Wisconsin and the company, and a board of commissioners was appointed for that purpose. At the session of the Legislature in 1863, the committee made a report with a lengthy opinion of the attorney-general of the State. The views of that officer were, that the company had no valid claims for damages against the State. In this opinion the commissioners concurred. On the 23d of March, 1875, an act was approved by the governor, giving authority to the attorney-general to discharge and release of record any mortgage before executed to the late territory of Wisconsin given to secure the purchase money or any part thereof of any lands granted by Congress to aid in the construction of this canal. The quantity of lands unsold was subsequently made a part of the 500,000 acre tract granted by Congress for school purposes. It is believed the whole matter is now closed against further legislative enactments.
There was another important act passed by the territorial Legislature of 1837-8, by which fourteen counties were erected, but all of them west of the Mississippi. The census having been taken in May, a special session of the first Legislative Assembly was commenced June 11, 1838, at Burlington, continuing to June 25, of that year. This session was pursuant to an adjournment of the previous one, mainly for the purpose of making a new apportionment of members. The population of the several counties east of the Mississippi was, by the May census, 18,149. By an act of Congress, approved June 12, 1838, it was provided that from and after the 3d day of July following, all that part of Wisconsin territory lying west of that river and west of a line drawn due north from its headwaters or sources to the territorial line for the purposes of a territorial government should be set apart and known by the name of Iowa. It was further enacted that the territory of Wisconsin should thereafter extend westward only to the Mississippi. Because of the passage of this act, the one passed at the special session of the territorial Legislature making an apportionment of members, became nugatory --- that duty now devolving upon Gov. Doty. On the third Monday of July, 1838, the annual term of supreme court was held at Madison this, of course, being the first one after the re-organization of the territory; the previous one was not held, as there was no business for the court. On the 18th of October, Judge Frazer died, and on the 8th of November, Andrew G. Miller was appointed his successor, by Martin Van Buren, President of the United States.
The Legislature of the re-organized territory of Wisconsin met at Madison for the first time --- it being the first session of the second Legislative Assembly --- Nov. 26, 1838. Its attention was directed to the mode in which the commissioners of public buildings had discharged their duties. There was an investigation of three banks then in operation in the territory --- one at Green Bay, one at Mineral Point, and the other at Milwaukee. A plan, also, for the revision of the laws of the territory was considered. A new assignment was made for the holding of district courts. Chief Justice Dunn was assigned to the first district, composed of the counties of Iowa, Grant and Crawford; Judge Irvin to the second, composed of the counties of Dane, Jefferson, Rock, Walworth and Green; while Judge Miller was assigned to the third district, composed of Milwaukee, Brown and Racine counties --- including therein the unorganized counties of Washington and Dodge, which, for judicial purposes, were, when constituted, by name and boundary, attached to Milwaukee county. The Legislature adjourned on the 22d of December, to meet again on the 21st of the following month. The census having been taken during the year, it was found that the territory had a population of 18,130, an increase in two years, of 6,447. The second session of the second Legislative Assembly began Jan. 21, 1839, agreeable to adjournment. An act was passed during this session legalizing a revision of the laws which had been perfected by a committee previously; this act took effect July 4, and composed the principal part of the laws forming the revised statutes of 1839. The session ended March 11, 1839. On the 8th of March of this year, Henry Dodge, whose term for three years as governor was about to expire, was again commissioned by the President of the United States. At the July term of the supreme court, all the judges were present, and several cases were heard and decided. A seal for the court was also adopted. From this time, the supreme court met annually, as provided by law, until Wisconsin became a State.
The next Legislature assembled at Madison, on the 2d of December, 1839. This was the third session of the second Legislative Assembly of the territory. The term for which members of the house were elected would soon expire; it was therefore desirable that a new apportionment should be made. As the census would be taken the ensuing June, by the United States, it would be unnecessary for the territory to make an additional enumeration. A short session was resolved upon, and then an adjournment until after the completion of the census. One of the subjects occupying largely the attention of the members, was the condition of the capitol, and the conduct of the commissioners intrusted with the money appropriated by Congress to defray the cost of its construction. These commissioners were James Duane Doty, A. A. Bird and John F. O'Neill. They received their appointment from the general government. Work began on the building in June, 1837, the corner stone being laid with appropriate ceremonies July 4. During that year and the previous one, Congress appropriated $40,000, Dane county $4,000, and the territorial Legislature, about $16,000, for the structure; so that the entire cost was about $60,000. The building, when finished, was a substantial structure, which, in architectural design and convenience of arrangement, compared favorably with the capitols of adjacent and older States. The capitol proving inadequate to the growing wants of the State, the Legislature of 1857 provided for its enlargement. By this act, the commissioners of school and university lands were directed to sell the ten sections of land appropriated by Congress "for the completion of public buildings," and apply the proceeds toward enlarging and improving the State capitol. The State also appropriated $30,000 for the same object, and $50,000 was given by the city of Madison. The governor and secretary of State were made commissioners for conducting the work, which was begun in the fall of 1857, and continued from year to year until 1869, when the dome was completed. The Legislature of 1882 appropriated $200,000 for the construction of two transverse wings to the capitol building, one on the north and the other on the south sides thereof, in order to provide additional room for the State historical society, the supreme court, the State library, and for the increasing work of the State offices. The governor, secretary of State, attorney general, with others, representing the supreme court and the historical society, were made commissioners for carrying out the work. The cost will be within the amount appropriated by the State. The total appropriations for the enlargement of the capitol and for the improvement of the park, to the present time, are $629,992.54. This does not include the sum of $6,500 appropriated in 1875, for macadamizing to the center of the streets around the park, nor the $200,000 appropriated in 1882. The park is 914 feet square, cornering north, south, east and west, contains fourteen and four-tenths acres, and is situated on an elevation commanding a view of the third and fourth lakes and the surrounding country. In the center of the square stands the capitol. The height of the building from the basement to the top of the flag staff is 225� feet, while the total length of its north and south wings, exclusive of steps and porticoes, with the addition of the new wings, is 396 feet, and of the east and west wings, 226 feet.
The Legislature of 1839-40, adjourned January 13, to meet again on the 3d of the ensuing August. The completion of the federal census of 1840 showed a population for the territory of 30,744. Upon the re-assembling of the Legislature --- which is known as the extra session of the second Legislative Assembly --- some changes were made in the apportionment of members to the House of Representatives. The session lasted but a few days, a final adjournment taking place Aug. 14, 1840. The first session of the third Legislative Assembly began Dec. 7, 1840, and ended Feb. 19, 1841, with only three members who had served in the previous Assembly. All had recently been elected under the new apportionment.
On the 13th of September, 1841, Gov. Dodge was removed from office by John Tyler, then President of the United States, and James Duane Doty appointed in his place, the commission of the latter being dated the 5th of October following.
The second session of the third Legislative Assembly began at Madison, on the 6th of December, 1841. Gov. Doty, in his message to that body, boldly avowed the doctrine that no law of the territory was effective until expressly approved by Congress. This construction of the organic act resulted in a lengthy warfare between the governor and the Legislative Assembly. On the 11th of February, 1842, an event occurred in the Legislative council, causing a great excitement over the whole territory. On that day, Charles C. P. Arndt, a member from Brown county, was, while that body was in session, shot dead by James R. Vineyard, a member from Grant county. The difficulty grew out of a debate on a motion to lay on the table the nomination of Enos S. Baker to the office of sheriff of Grant county. Immediately before adjournment of the council, the parties who had come together, after loud and angry words had been spoken, were separated by the by-standers. When an adjournment had been announced, they met again; whereupon Arndt struck at Vineyard. The latter then drew a pistol and shot Arndt. He died in a few moments. Vineyard immediately surrendered himself to the sheriff of the county, waived an examination, and was committed to jail. After a short confinement, he was brought before the chief justice of the territory, on a writ of habeas corpus, and admitted to bail. He was afterward indicted for manslaughter, was tried and acquitted. Three days after shooting Arndt, Vineyard sent in his resignation as member of the council. That body refused to receive it, or to have it read even; but at once expelled him. The second and last session of the third Legislative Assembly came to a close Feb. 18, 1842.
For the next six years there were seven sessions of the territorial legislature, as follows: First session, 4th Legislative Assembly, commenced Dec. 5, 1842, ended April 17, 1843; second session, 4th Legislative Assembly, commenced Dec. 4, 1843, ended Jan. 31, 1844; third session, 4th Legislative Assembly, commenced Jan. 6, 1845, ended Feb. 24, 1845; fourth session, 4th Legislative Assembly, commenced Jan. 5, 1846, ended Feb. 3, 1846; first session, 5th Legislative Assembly, commenced Jan. 4, 1847, ended Feb. 11, 1847; special session, 5th Legislative Assembly, commenced Oct. 18, 1847, ended October Oct. 27, 1847; second session, 5th Legislative Assembly, commenced Feb. 7, 1848, ended March 13, 1848.
The members of the first session of the fourth legislative assembly had been elected under a new apportionment based upon a census taken in June, showing a total population of 46,678. In each house there was a democratic majority. Gov. Doty was a whig. It was a stormy session. After the two houses had organized, the governor refused to communicate with them, as a body legally assembled, according to the organic act, he claiming that no appropriation for that object had been made by Congress. The houses continued in session until the 10th day of December, when they adjourned until the 13th of January, 1843, they having meanwhile made representation to the National Legislature, then in session, of the objections of the governor. It was not until the 4th of February that a quorum in both houses had assembled. Previous to this, Congress had made an appropriation to cover the expenses of the session; and the governor, on the 13th of January, had issued a proclamation convening a special session on the 6th of March. Both houses in February adjourned to the day fixed by the governor, which ended the troubles; and the final adjournment took place, as already stated, April 17, 1843. Nathaniel P. Tallmadge was appointed governor in place of Doty on the 21st of June, 1844, his commission bearing date the 16th of September. James K. Polk having been elected President of the United States in the fall of that year, Henry Dodge was again put in the executive chair of the territory, receiving his appointment April 8, 1845, and being commissioned May 13 following.
It was during the fourth session of the fourth legislative assembly that preliminary steps were taken, which resulted in the formation of a State government. The first Tuesday in April, 1846, was the day fixed upon for the people to vote for or against the proposition. When taken it resulted in a large majority voting in favor of the measure. An act was passed providing for taking the census of the territory, and for the apportionment by the governor of delegates to form a State constitution, based upon the new enumeration. The delegates were to be elected on the first Monday in September, and the convention was to assemble on the first Monday in October, 1846. The constitution when formed was to be submitted to the vote of the people for adoption or rejection, as, at the close of the session, the terms of members of the council who had been elected for four years, and of the house, who had been elected for two years, all ended. The legislature re-organized the election districts, and conferred on the governor the power and duty of making an apportionment, based on the census to be taken, for the next Legislative Assembly, when, on the 3d of February, 1846, both houses adjourned sine die. The census taken in the following June showed a population for the territory of 155,217. Delegates having been elected to form a constitution for the proposed new State, met at Madison on the 5th day of October. After completing their labors, they adjourned. This event took place on the 16th of December, 1846. The constitution thus formed was submitted to a popular vote on the first Tuesday of April, 1847, and rejected. A special session of the legislature, to take action concerning the admission of Wisconsin into the Union began Oct. 18, 1847, and a law was passed for the holding of another convention to frame a constitution. Delegates to the new convention were elected on the last Monday of November, and that body met at Madison the 15th of December, 1847. A census of the territory was taken this year, which showed a population of 210,546. The result of the labors of the second constitutional convention was the formation of a constitution, which, being submitted to the people on the second Monday of March, 1848, was duly ratified. On the 29th of May, 1848, by act of Congress, Wisconsin became a State.
It may be here premised that the western boundary of the new State left out a full organized county, with a sheriff, clerk of court, judge of probate, and justices of the peace. A bill had been introduced at a previous session in Congress, by Morgan L. Martin, the delegate from Wisconsin, to organize a territorial government for Minnesota, including the district left out on the admission of Wisconsin; but which failed to become a law. The citizens of what is now Minnesota were very anxious to obtain a territorial government, and two public meetings were held --- one at St. Paul, and the other at Stillwater --- advising John Catlin, who was secretary of Wisconsin, to issue a proclamation as the acting governor, for the election of a delegate to represent what was left of the territory of Wisconsin. Mr. Catlin repaired to Stillwater and issued a proclamation accordingly. H. H. Sibley was elected; nearly 400 votes having been polled at the election. Sibley was admitted to his seat on the floor of Congress by a vote of two to one. His admission facilitated and hastened the passage of a bill for the organization of a territorial government for Minnesota.
Pages 34 - 41.
Compare Shea's Discovery and Exploration of the Mississippi, pp. 6 (note) and 268; Foster's Mississippi Valley, p. 2 (note); Schoolcraft's Thirty Years with the Indian Tribes, p. 22(?)0 and note.
Two definitions of the word are current --- as widely differing from each other as from the one just given. (See Wis. Hist. Soc. Coll., Vol. I, p. 111, and Webster's Dic., Unabridged, p. 1632.) The first --- "the gathering of the waters" --- has no corresponding words in Algonquin at all resembling the name: the same may be said of the second --- "wild rushing channel." (See Otchipwe Dic. of Rev. F. Baraga.
Since first used by the French the word "Wisconsin" has undergone considerable change. On the map by Joliet, recently brought to light by Gravier, it is given as "Miskonsing." In Marquette's journal, published by Thevenot, in Paris, 1681, it is noted as the "Meskousing." It appeared there for the first time in print. Hennepin, in 1683, wrote "Onisconsin" and "Misconsin;" Charlevoix, 1743, "Ouisconsin;" Carver, 1766, "Ouisconsin" (English --- "Wisconsin"); since which last mentioned date the orthography has been uniform. --- Butterfield's Discovery of the Northwest in 1634.