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1 C APITALS AND C APITOLS IN E ARLY W ISCONSIN CAPITALS AND CAPITOLS IN EARLY WISCONSIN Stanley H. Cravens CHAPTER I Selecting A Site for the Territorial Capital The Meeting at Green Bay Upon formally becoming a part of the United States with the passage of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787, Wisconsin was made part of a succession of territo- rial entities, each with its own capital, until coming into its own as a full-fledged territory. From 1788 to 1800, while a part of the Northwest Territory, we looked to Marietta, Ohio, as our capital, followed by Vincennes while part of the Indiana Territory (1800-1809), Kaskaskia during the period that we were part of the Illi- nois Territory (1809-1818) and, finally, Detroit while part of the Territory of Michigan (1818-1836). When the time came for Wisconsin to enter the ranks of United States Territories, the selection of our capital city developed into an issue which was not only one of the most controversial of the day, but would reemerge repeatedly over the course of the ensuing century. Even before attaining territorial status, the “capital question” would be broached and generate a measure of ani- mated debate. In 1835, with statehood apparently just around the corner, Michigan’s Terri- torial Council moved to establish an Interim Council for the western portion of the territory and set October elections for 13 legislative representatives from the western counties and for a delegate to Congress. The truncated territorial “Coun- cil” would meet at a time and place specified by Acting Governor Stevens T. Ma- son. Mason called for the meeting to be held at Green Bay on January 1, 1836, but, before the meeting took place, President Andrew Jackson replaced him with John S. Horner of Virginia, who advanced the meeting date to December 1, 1835, poss- ibly in anticipation of the opening session of Congress in that month. Curiously, Horner was present for neither the December 1 date, which the recently elected representatives ignored, nor the January 1 session, which nine of the 13 represen- tatives attended. In spite of Horner’s and the other four representatives’ absence, the “Council” got down to the business of preparing memorials to Congress in an- ticipation of the impending lapse of civil government for the territory west of Lake Michigan caused by Michigan’s anticipated entry into the Union. After selecting a committee to draft the memorial to ask Congress to establish the Wisconsin Ter- ritory, the issue of the seat of government for the new territory was raised. William S. Hamilton, son of Alexander Hamilton, had come to the south- western area of Wisconsin in 1827 to take advantage of the boom in lead mining
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2 W ISCONSIN B LUE B OOK 1983 – 1984 then underway. Since he soon became a prominent leader in the region, it was no surprise that he was elected to represent Iowa County at the Green Bay session.
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