Territory Timeline

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14,000 years ago—Beginnings of Indian occupancy of lower Mississippi Valley.

1682—La Salle claims the entire Mississippi River drainage for King Louis XIV of France, and names it in honor of King Louis V.

1699—French colonists begin to settle in Florida.

1718 New Orleans established by a private French trading company as a point of deposit for the transshipment of anticipated exports from the Mississippi Valley, mainly furs, tobacco, and indigo. Population in 1721: 277 whites, 172 black slaves, 21 Indian slaves. There are approximately 15,000 Indians in the vicinity of today's state of Louisiana.

1722—New Orleans is designated capital of Louisiana Territory.

1763 —In the Treaty of Paris, which concluded the Seven Years' War (known as the "French and Indian War" in North America), major land exchanges are made. All of Louisiana east of the Mississippi, except New Orleans, goes to Britain. New Orleans and all of Louisiana west of the Mississippi goes to Spain. Britain receives all of Louisiana south of latitude 31 degrees and east of New Orleans.

1764—The village of St. Louis, Missouri, named for saint-to-be Louis IX of France (1214-1270), is built by a group of 30 men commanded by 14-year-old Auguste Chouteau (1749-1829). Increasing numbers of English-speaking colonists settle along the tributaries of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.

1783—Following the War of Independence, Britain cedes its old Louisiana Territory land east of the Mississippi to the United States, and gives Florida back to Spain.

1795—Charles Pinckney, U.S. Minister to Spain, negotiates agreement with Spain fixing the southern boundary of the United States at the 31st parallel, and allowing Americans to use New Orleans as a duty-free port for foreign commerce, for renewable three-year periods.

1800—Secretly, under pressure from Napoleon Bonaparte, King Charles IV of Spain gives Louisiana, including New Orleans, back to France, on condition that it not be sold or given to any other country. Spain retains nominal control over the entire territory.

1801—President Thomas Jefferson learns of the secret Treaty of San Idelfonso. Considering French control over New Orleans to be a serious threat, he instructs his Minister to France, Robert R. Livingston, to try to buy New Orleans and Florida, or at least western Florida. Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord, the French Minister of Foreign Relations, declines the offer.

1802—In October, the Spanish administrative official in New Orleans, owing to increasing problems with "Kaintucks," rescinds the right of deposit, in effect leaving frontier settlers without access to markets for their produce, and causing a national uproar. President Jefferson, learning that the French might be willing to consider selling New Orleans after all, appoints James Monroe as minister and envoy to Spain and France. Congress appropriates $2 million for the purchase.

1803—Napoleon, discouraged by his army's failure to conquer Santo Domingo, the keystone of Spanish America, abandons his dream of extending his empire throughout the Western Hemisphere. Needing money to prosecute his campaigns elsewhere on the globe, Napoleon decides to offer to sell all of Louisiana, including New Orleans, to the United States. Livingston says no, just New Orleans. Talleyrand says Louisiana would be worthless to France without the port city, and asks Livingston to make an offer.

December 20—Lower Louisiana formally transferred to the U.S. at New Orleans.

1804March 9—Upper Louisiana formally transferred to the U.S. at St. Louis. Meriwether Lewis is the chief official witness.

May 14—Lewis & Clark expedition officially begins.

1806—Thomas Jefferson sends the Freeman-Custis expedition up the Red River of the South with the aim of defining the boundary between Louisiana and New Spain.

1807William Clark is appointed Indian Agent for Louisiana Territory, and brigadier general of its militia, posts he holds until his death in 1838. Meriwether Lewis is appointed governor of the territory.

1810—Louisiana is divided into the Territory of Orleans (today's state of Louisiana) and the Territory of Louisiana. The Territory of Orleans has a total population of 77,000 people.

1811—The ship Tonquin, of John Jacob Astor's Pacific Fur Company, arrives at the mouth of the Columbia River in March, to establish a trading post on the site of today's Astoria, Oregon.

1812—South Pass, the gap that separates the Wind River range from the Antelope Hills in southwestern Wyoming, is discovered by Robert Stuart and his party of Astorians. His discovery remains unknown, however, until 1824, when Crow Indians tell trapper Jedediah Smith about the route. Soon Lewis and Clark's tortuous route across the Bitterroot Range will be left to the Indians once more.

1812—U.S. annexes about half of West Florida to Louisiana Territory, and the rest, from the Pearl River to the Perdido River, to Mississippi Territory.

1812—Louisiana becomes the 18th state in the Union, and the rest of Louisiana Territory is renamed Missouri Territory.

1812—John Jacob Astor's partner, Wilson Price Hunt, arrives at Astoria, Oregon.

1819 —The United States buys Florida from Spain.

1819—Major Stephen H. Long is sent to find the sources of the Red River. This is the third federally sponsored expedition into the land of the Louisiana Purchase.

1822—Fur Trader William Henry Ashley advertises for 100 young men to help him develop the fur trade on the upper Missouri River.

1824—U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs established.

1830—Trapper B. L. E. Bonneville leads the first wagons through South Pass, opening the way for a flood of settlers to Oregon, Utah, and California. Between 1841 and 1853, it will be used by 150,000 settlers and gold seekers. The main immigrant highway through the West now leaves the Missouri River at Independence, Missouri, and heads overland up the Platte.

1830—Andrew Jackson signs the Indian Removal Act, which moves all Eastern Indians to Western lands, over the "Trail of Tears."

1832—The steamboat Yellowstone reaches Fort Union, on the Missouri River at the mouth of the Yellowstone.

1833—Settlement of Iowa begins. The Black Hawk War.

1842—Colonel John C. Fremont of the U.S. Army Topographical Corps leads the first of several government funded expeditions through the West to open up new territory for development.

1843—In May, the first of 1,000 pioneers leaves Missouri on the Oregon Trail.

1843—John C. Fremont and Kit Carson embark on a fourteen-month exploration of the Snake and Columbia River Valleys.

1845 —Texas annexed.

1845—Florida admitted as the 27th state.

1846 —By treaty, Congress ends the joint British and American occupancy of Oregon Country. In the words of Massachusetts Representative Robert C. Winthrop, it was time to assert "the right of our manifest destiny to spread over our whole continent." The 49th parallel is designated as the U.S.-British boundary from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Ocean.

1853 Gadsden Purchase.

1862 —The Homestead Act becomes law.

1868 —Fort Laramie Peace Conference. Sioux and Northern Cheyenne Indian leaders agree to move to reservations in Dakota Territory; the U.S. government agrees to abandon roads and forts in the Powder River region, and permit the Indians to retain use of the old hunting grounds east of the Bighorn Mountains in southern Montana Territory.

1868—The Fourteenth Amendment is ratified, granting full citizenship to all naturalized or native-born persons, but not to Indians.

1869—Wyoming Territory becomes the first American political entity to give women the right to vote, plus the right to hold office and serve on juries. Utah follows in 1870.

1871—Indian Appropriation Act is passed. No further treaties with Indian nations will be executed by the United States Congress. All treaties negotiated before 1871 are to remain in effect.

1907—Oklahoma, officially Indian territory until 1905, becomes the 46th state in the Union. All the land within the original boundaries of Jefferson's Louisiana has now gained statehood, with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto. Except the Indians, whose land had been "redistributed" after the discovery of oil there at the turn of the century. Some 60 tribes had been forced to relocate there during the 1800s.

1912—Arizona and New Mexico become the 47th and 48th states to be admitted to the Union. In political terms, the ultimate dimensions of the American West are complete.

Post Scripts:

1962—Indians in New Mexico are allowed to vote in state and federal elections.

1968—Indian Civil Rights Act guarantees civil rights to tribal members on reservations, and enables development of tribal judicial systems.

1975—Indian Self-Determination & Education Assistance Act enables tribal governments to manage their own housing, law enforcement, education, health, social service, and community development programs.

1978—American Indian Religious Freedom Act furthers the government's attempt to recognize and respect tribal cultural rights.