How Wyoming Got Its Shape


Louisiana Within Wyoming


Louisiana, purchased from France in 1803 and formally taken possession of at New Orleans, December 20, 1803, included the greater part of what is now Wyoming. Prior to the Congressional Act of March 26, 1804, and the date it became effective, Amos Stoddard was civil and military commandant of Upper Louisiana. He was a captain in the United States Army and on March 9, 1804, acted as agent of the French Republic in receiving Upper Louisiana from Spain. On March 10, as agent of the United States, he took over the upper part of the province from France. By Congressional Act, approved March 26, 1804, all of that portion of Louisiana lying north of the 33* north latitude was called the District of Louisiana and was, for governmental purposes, attached to the Territory of Indiana. By Act of Congress approved March 3, 1805 (effective July 4, 1805), the District of Louisiana became the Territory of Louisiana and was granted a separate territorial government with a governor appointed by the President.

By Act of Congress approved June 4, 1812, the Territory of Louisiana became the Territory of Missouri.


By Congressional Act of June 30, 1834, all lands, both east and west of the Mississippi River not within the boundary of any State or Territory, were deemed Indian Country. Congress passed an Act, approved May 30, 1854, creating the Territory of Nebraska out of that unorganized territory which had been "deemed" Indian Country, and providing for Nebraska a territorial form of government. By an Act of Congress, approved March 2, 1861, creating Dakota Territory, that part of the Territory of Nebraska which lay within Wyoming was cut in half along the 43* north latitude and extended west to the 110* west longitude. By an Act of Congress, approved March 2, 1861, creating Dakota Territory and providing for same a territorial form of government, that part of the Louisiana Purchase within Wyoming, lying north of the 43* north latitude, became a part of the Dakota Territory. Congress passed an Act, approved March 3, 1863, creating Idaho Territory and pushing both Dakota and Nebraska from within Wyoming. Congress passed an Act, approved May 26, 1864, redefining the boundaries of Idaho, and reestablishing Dakota within Wyoming.


Oregon within Wyoming


The long disputed claims of the Oregon Country were settled between the United States and Great Britain by the Treaty of 1846 by which the United States acquired that portion of the Oregon Country lying south of the 49* parallel of north latitude.Great Britain's early claim to the Oregon Country included the basin of the Columbia River and its tributaries. Through these claims a small portion of the Oregon Country extended into that region which became Wyoming. The southeastern boundary of England's claims that reached into what is now Wyoming was the natural boundary lines of the Columbia River basin which formed the boundary between England and Spain.The 1818 Treaty between the United States and Great Britain for joint occupation of the Oregon Country (Westward of the Stony Mountains) did not affect the claims of either the United States of Great Britain or "the Claims of any other Power of State to any part of the said Country..." The Adams-Onis Treating 1819 (between the Untied States and Spain) established the 42* parallel north latitude from the Pacific Ocean to about 106* 25" west longitude as the boundary line between the United States and Spain. North of the 42* north latitude, and south of England's claim (Oregon Country) in that region now Wyoming, lay a small parcel of land which by this treaty became United States territory. Through successive treaties of joint occupation and through common usage the crest of the Rocky Mountains came to be known as the eastern boundary of the Oregon Country. In this outline, therefore, we deal with that portion of present Wyoming which lies west of the Continental Divide and north of the 42* north latitude as the Oregon Country.

The Oregon Country lay unorganized from 1846 until 1849. On the admission of Oregon to the Union, February 14, 1859, that part of Wyoming which had been Oregon Territory became the eastern limit of Washington Territory and remained so until 1861. The Act of Congress, March 2, 1861, creating Dakota Territory, changed the western boundary of Nebraska to the 110* west longitude, thereby including within Nebraska Territory a portion of the former Oregon Country (Washington Territory). By Act of Congress, March 2, 1863, creating Idaho Territory, the whole of the Oregon Country (Washington and Nebraska Territories) within Wyoming was included within Idaho Territory. By Act of Congress, May 26, 1864, redefining the boundaries of Idaho, that part of the Oregon Country east of 110* west longitude became Dakota Territory, while that portion west of the 110* west longitude, from the 42* n. latitude to the crest of the Rocky Mountains remained Idaho Territory. This small portion of the Oregon Country west of the 110* west longitude remained a part of Idaho Territory until the passage of the Organic Act creating Wyoming Territory in 1868.

The independent Republic of Texas, of which a small portion of the northern extension lay within Wyoming, was annexed to the United States, March 1, 1845, and was admitted to the Union December 29, 1845. This northern extremity of the Texas Panhandle was a part of the State of Texas until 1850. The United States bought the Panhandle from the State of Texas, September 9, 1850. That part of Texas within Wyoming, east of the Continental Divide, was thrown into the Indian Country, or Unorganized Territory; that part lying west of the Divide was included in Utah Territory. In 1854, when by Congressional Act Nebraska Territory was created, that portion of Texas east of the Divide became a part of Nebraska Territory. The region west of the Divide remained a part of Utah Territory. By the Congressional Act in 1861, creating Dakota Territory, Nebraska Territory was pushed westward across the Divide to the 110* west longitude, taking in that portion of Texas which had been Utah Territory. All that part of Texas within Wyoming was included in Idaho Territory by Congressional Act of March 3, 1863. When, by Congressional Act of 1864, the boundaries of Idaho were redefined and Dakota Territory was reestablished in Wyoming, Texas was included in the Dakota Territory and remained so until absorbed in Wyoming Territory in 1868.


Mexico within Wyoming


After the treaty between Mexico and the United States in 1848, wherein the northern boundary of Mexico was fixed, that portion of Mexico lying within Wyoming lay unorganized until 1850. By Congressional Act, approved September 9, 1850, creating Utah Territory, that part of the Mexican cession within Wyoming lying west of the Continental Divide was included in Utah. That portion lying east of the Divide was thrown into the Indian Country. By Congressional Act of March 2, 1861, Nebraska Territory being pushed back to the 110* west longitude included all of this part of the Mexican cession east of 110*, and left only that portion west of the 110* in Utah Territory. This small portion of the Mexican cession, west of the 110* west longitude, remained a part of Utah Territory until included in Wyoming Territory by the Organic Act of 1868. In 1863 Congress passed an Act creating Idaho Territory. This part of the Mexican cession in Wyoming lying east of 110* west longitude became a part of Idaho Territory. By Congressional Act of May 26, 1864, redefining the boundaries of Idaho, this part of the Mexican cession in Wyoming, lying east of 110* west longitude, became a part of Dakota Territory and remained so until 1868 when Wyoming Territory was created.


Wyoming Territory as created by the Organic Act


The Organic Act of July 25, 1868, established the definite boundaries of the new Territory of Wyoming as: 27* to 24* west longitude, Washington Time (which corresponds to 104* 03'06.276" and 111* 03'06.276" west longitude, Greenwich Time) and 41* to 45* north latitude.