Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Shaping the Trans-Mississippi West: 1866-69.

As discussed in the last blog, Nevada, created out of western Utah in 1861, had its eastern border moved from the 116th degree longitude to the 115th just two years later, taking that land from the Utah Territory. This was done to put newly found gold sites within the Nevada, which was closely controlled by the federal government, and at the same time take them away from the Mormons, against whom the government was strongly biased.

Just three years later, in 1866, the same thing happened again. Beginning in 1865, a rumor appeared of new mineral riches, including perhaps the legendary silver mountain, located in what became the Pahranagat Mining District. It was not known at the time if this area was located in Nevada or Utah, so to be sure, Congress once again shifted the border one degree further east to the 114th degree line.

Nevada was on a roll in terms of increasing its domain, with the next expansion being towards the south. Brigham Young had seen the Colorado River as affording a possible route by which to bring in supplies and new recruits to Utah, so in 1864 he sent Anson Call to set up a settlement on the Colorado, which was done the following year, the town of Call’s Landing or Callville being located at the head of navigation on the river.

By 1866, the importance of this outlet for shipping was apparent to those in Nevada, so they petitioned Congress to give them the land which lay between their original border on the 37th parallel and the Colorado river. This, of course, was the western part of the Arizona territory, which complained the federal government about this land grab. However, because of its past support of the Confederacy, Congress didn’t like Arizona any better than Utah, and in January 1867 this 18,000 square mile section officially became attached to Nevada, which once again had benefited at the expense of a territory on Congress’s black list.

As I discussed in the last blog, when Montana was created in 1864 from the northeastern part of Idaho Territory, the southeastern part of that once very large territory was attached to the Dakota Territory, giving it an odd, butterfly-like shape. This shape and the huge size of Dakota was not practical, so in 1868, the southwestern rectangle of Dakota was reformed as a new Wyoming Territory.

Wyoming was created so that it was essentially a rectangle of equal size to its southern neighbor, Colorado. Its northern border was the southern border of Montana, and its eastern border drawn south as a continuation of Montana’s eastern border at the 104th meridian, until it met Colorado’s border, which then became its southern line. This border was extended along the 41st parallel for seven degrees to the 111th meridian. This had the effect of taking, once again, territory from Utah, as well as Idaho, as their borders with the Dakota Territory had been the 110th meridian.

This perfect rectangular shape ended up having a rather strange, and unintended effect-—the creation of a “thumb” of the Dakota Territory separated from the rest of that territory by Wyoming. When Montana was created, its southern border ran along the 45th parallel as far as the 111th meridian, then straight south to 44°30’, then west to the Continental Divide. Idaho’s northern border stopped at the continental divide, so there was a small triangle of land north of Idaho’s border, south of the 44°30’ line, and west of the 111th meridian. In 1864 this gore of land had been part of Dakota and when Wyoming was created to the east of the 111th line, this area remained part of Dakota. This small thumb of Dakota was thus over 360 miles from the rest of the territory, as it remained until 1873, when it was finally given to Montana.

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