History of Wyoming - Chapter V
First Claimed by Spain—De Soto's Expedition—Ffrench Explorations—Marquette and Joliet—La Salle's Expeditions—The Mexican Cession—Annexation of Texas—Oregon Boundary Dispute—Nebraska—Territory of Dakota—Idaho—Recapitulation ... 75
    The first civilized nation to lay claim to the territory now comprising the State of Wyoming was Spain. In 1493, the year following the first voyage of Columbus to the Western Hemisphere, the pope granted to the King and Queen of Spain "all countries inhabited by infidels." As the American aborigines were not Christians in the accepted meaning of the term, they were regarded as infidels and the country was made subject to exploitation by the Spanish monarchs. At that time the extent of the continent discovered by Columbus was not known, but in a vague way this papal grant included the present State of Wyoming.
    The uncertain grant of the pope to "infidel countries" was strengthened in 1541-42 by the expedition of Hernando de Soto into the interior of what is now the United States. De Soto was born in Spain about four years after Columbus made his first voyage of discovery and had been connected with some of the early expeditions to Peru, in which service he demonstrated his qualifications to command and won the favor of his royal master. In the spring of 1538 Charles I, then King of Spain, appointed him governor of Florida and Cuba. Acting under orders from King Charles, he left Cuba on May 12. 1339. with about one thousand men, for the purpose of exploring the interior of Florida, the extent of which was at that time very indefinite.
    Early in June he left the coast and marched in a northwesterly direction. At a place called Tascaluza by the survivors of the ill-fated expedition, he met a large body of hostile Indians and gave them battle. The fight lasted for several hours, when the savages fled, leaving a large number of their warriors dead upon the field. The Spanish loss was seventy killed and a number wounded, De Soto himself being among the latter. Uike nearly all the early Spanish explorers, De Soto's chief object was to discover rich mines of the precious metals. After wandering about in the wilderness for several months he came to the Mississippi River in the spring of 1541, not far from the present City of Memphis, Tennessee. He then made an effort to reach the Spanish settlements in Mexico, but was stricken with fever, died near the mouth of the Arkansas River, and was buried in the great stream he had discovered. The remnant of the expedition, after many hardships, succeeded in reaching the Gulf coast and made a report of their adventures. Upon this report Spain claimed "all the territory bordering on the Grande River and the Gulf of Mexico."
    As early as 1611 Jesuit missionaries from the French settlements in Canada were among the Indians living along the shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. A few years later the King of France granted a charter of the "Company of One Hundred" to engage in the fur trade. In 1634 the company sent Jean Nicollet as an agent to open up a trade with the Indians. He explored the country about the Green Bay, and went as far west as the Fox River, in what is now the State of Wisconsin. Nicollet is said to have been the first man to make a report upon the region west of the Great Lakes.
    In the fall of 1665 Claude Allouez, one of the most zealous of the Jesuit fathers, held a council with representatives of several of the western tribes of Indians at the Chippewa Village on the southern shore of Lake Superior. Allouez promised the chiefs of the Chippewa, Sioux, Sac, Fox, Pottawatomi and Illini–the tribes represented at the council–the protection of the great French father and opened the way for a profitable trade. At this council some of the Illini and Sioux chiefs told the missionary of a great river farther to the westward, "called by them the Me-sa-sip-pi, which they said no white man had yet seen (these Indians knew nothing of De Soto's expedition of more than a century before), and along which fur-bearing animals abounded." This was the first definite information the French received regarding the great Father of Waters.
    In 1668 Father Allouez and Father Claude Dablon founded the mission of St. Mary's, the oldest white settlement within the limits of the present State of Michigan. The French authorities in Canada, influenced by the reports Nicollet and the missionaries, sent Nicholas Perrot as the accredited agent of the French Government to arrange for a grand council with the Indians. The council was held at St. Mary's in May, 1671, and friendly relations with the tribes inhabiting the country about the Strait of Mackinac were thus established. Before the close of that year Jacques Marquette, another Jesuit missionary, founded the mission at Point St. Ignace for the benefit of the Huron Indians. For many years this mission was regarded as the key to the great unexplored West. Thus little by little the French pushed their way westward toward the great Mississippi Valley.
Father Marquette had heard the reports of the great river to the westward, soon after the council at the Chippewa Village in 1665. and was filled with a desire to discover it, but was deterred from the undertaking until after Perrot's council in May, 1671. Although that council resulted in the establishment of friendly relations with the Indians, which would have made an expedition to the river possible, other circumstances intervened to delay him for almost two years. In the spring of 1673, having received the necessary authority from the Canadian otificials, he began his preparations at Michilimackinac for the voyage. It is related that the friendly Indians there tried to dissuade him from the project by telling him that the tribes living along the river were cruel and bloodthirsty, and that the stream was the abode of terrible monsters that could easily swallow a canoe loaded with men.
    These stories had no effect upon the intrepid priest, unless it was to make him more determined, and on May 13, 1673, accompanied by Louis Joliet, an explorer and trader, with five voyageurs or boatmen and two large canoes, the little expedition left Michilimackinac. Passing up the Green Bay to the mouth of the Fox River, they ascended that stream to the portage, crossed over to the Wisconsin River, down which they floated until June 17, 1673, when their canoes shot out upon the broad bosom of the Mississippi. Turning their canoes southward, they descended the Mississippi, carefully noting the landmarks as they went along, until they reached the mouth of the Arkansas. There they met with a tribe of Indians whose language they could not understand and decided to proceed no further. Retracing their steps, they arrived at the French settlements about Michilimackinac after an absence of four months, during which time they had traveled about two thousand five hundred miles.
    Joliet was a good topographer and he prepared a map of the region through which he and Marquette had passed. The map and the reports of the voyage, when presented to the Canadian authorities, convinced them that the Mississippi River was not a myth, and it was not long until steps were taken to claim the country drained by it for France.
    The year following the voyage of Marquette and Joliet, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, was granted the seigneury of Fort Frontenac, where the City of Kingston, Canada, is now situated, and on May 12, 1678, he received from Louis XIV, then King of France, a permit to continue the explorations of Marquette and Joliet, "find a port for the king's ships in the Gulf of Mexico, discover the western parts of New France, and find a way to penetrate Mexico.
    Late in the year 1678 La Salle made his first attempt to reach and descend the Mississippi, but it ended in failure, mainly for the reason that his preparations had not been made with sufficient care. Affairs at his seigneury then claimed his attention for about three years, though he did not relinquish the idea of finding and exploring the great river. In December, 1681, he started upon his second, and what proved to be his successful expedition. This time he was accompanied by his lieutenant, Henri de Tonti; Jacques de la Metarie, a notary: Jean Michel, surgeon of the expedition; Father Zenobe Membre, a Recollet missionary; and "a number of Frenchmen bearing arms."
    It is not necessary to follow this little band of explorers through all its vicissitudes and hardships in the dead of winter and a wild, unexplored country. Suffice it to say that the river was reached, and was descended to its mouth. On April 8, 1682, La Salle and Tonti passed through two of the channels at the mouth of the Mississippi leading to the Gulf of Mexico. The next day they came together again and La Salle formally took possession of "all the country drained by the great river and its tributaries, in the name of France, and conferred upon the territory thus claimed the name of Louisiana, in honor of the French King.
    To the casual reader it may seem that the early French explorations have little or nothing to do with the present State of Wyoming. But it should be borne in mind that the voyage of Marquette and Joliet opened the way for the later voyage of La Salle and his claim to the country 'drained by the Mississippi, under which all that portion of Wyoming whose waters reach the Mississippi became a dependency of France. Spain had made no effort to enforce her claim, based upon the discovery of the river by De Soto, and the European powers recognized the claim of France, based upon the work of La Salle. In 1762 France ceded the Province of Louisiana to Spain, which nation retained possession until 1800, when it was ceded back to France, and in 1803 it was sold by France to the United States, an account of which is given in the next chapter. By this sale the greater part of Wyoming became territory of the United States and the way was opened for its present status.
    Mexico once owned the territory comprising the present states of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, the western part of Colorado and the southwest corner of Wyoming. When James K. Polk was inaugurated President on March 4, 1845, it soon became the dream of his administration to acquire California, though the means by which the dream was to be realized were vincer-tain. The territory might be acquired by conquest; it might be secured by filling it with emigrants from the United States, who would bring it into the Union as Texas had been annexed; or it might be possible to win the good will of the citizens, who were already chafing under jMexican rule. Early in 1846 John C. Fremont's expedition entered the Sacramento Valley and introduced a fourth plan for the acquisition of the country. Fremont established an independent government, known as the "Bear Flag Republic," under the control of the American settlers in the valley. When war was declared against Mexico by Congress on May 13, 1846, the "Bear Flag" was replaced by the Stars and Stripes.
    The Town of Santa Fe was captured by Col. Stephen W. Kearney, and New Mexico was acquired almost without loss of life. By the end of 1846 practically all the territory desired by the administration was held by the United States military forces, though Mexico still remained unconquered. In the spring of 1847 President Polk sent Nicholas P. Trist, a Mrginian and chief clerk in the department of state, to Gen. Winfield Scott's headquarters for the purpose of entering into negotiations with the Alexican Government for the restoration of peace. He was instructed, among other things, to demand the cession of California and New Mexico and the recognition of the Rio Grande as the international boundary. On February 2, 1848, Trist succeeded in negotiating the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (a small place on the outskirts of the City of Mexico), which embodied these features. All the territory held by Mexico north of the Rio Grande was ceded to the United States, Mexico receiving therefor the sum of $15,000,000, and the United States further agreed to assume the payment of claims held by her citizens against the Mexican Government, provided the total amount of such claims did not exceed $3,250,000.
    That part of Wyoming ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo lies south of the forty-second parallel of north latitude and west of the line of 107° 30' west longitude. It embraces all of Sweetwater County except a strip about eighteen miles wide across the northern part; the southwest corner of Carbon County (that part lying west of 107° 30') ; aU of Uinta County, and a tract thirty-six miles wide across the south end of Lincoln County.
    The greater part of Texas was originally included in the Province of Louisiana. In 1819 Spain ceded Florida to the United States and received in return all that part of the Louisiana Purchase included within the limits of Texas, which then extended northward to the forty-second parallel. Two years later Moses Austin obtained from the Spanish authorities the privilege of establishing an American colony in Texas. Mexico, by the revolution which separated her from Spain, became independent and succeeded to all the rights of the mother country over Texas. On October 4, 1824, the people of Mexico adopted a Federal Constitution, under which the Mexican Republic was formed, composed of separate states. Texas and Coahuila were united as one of those states and adopted a constitution, after the manner of the states of the American Union.
    In 1835 a military revolution broke out in the City of Mexico, which was powerful enough to subvert the federal and state constitutions of the republic and establish Gen. Miguel Barragan as military dictator. At his order the Mexican Congress issued a decree converting the states into mere departments of a central government The Austin colony soon became a "thorn in the side'' of the military dictator. Texas revolted, and on March 2, 1836, issued a declaration of independence, to the effect that all political connection with Mexico was forever ended, and that "the people of Texas do now constitute a free, sovereign and independent republic." General Santa Anna, who had succeeded to the dictatorship, collected a force and marched into Texas for the purpose of forcing the people back to their allegiance. He was defeated at the battle of San Jacinto, April 21, 1836, and in May, while held as a prisoner by the Texans, was forced to enter into a treaty acknowledging the independence of the Texas Republic, with the Rio Grande as the western boundary.
    Previous to this time the United States had made repeated offers to purchase the territory forming the Republic of Texas, but they had all been rejected. The Constitution of Texas was ratified by the people in September. 1836. and Gen. Sam Houston was chosen as president. In the last days of President Tyler's administration the people of Texas made overtures for annexation to the United States and Congress passed an act giving the assent of the Government to the annexation, under certain conditions. On March 10, 1845, the people of Texas voted to accept the provisions of the act and Texas became a part of the United States. It was admitted into the Union as a state on December 20, 1845.
    By the annexation of Texas, all that part of Carbon County, Wyoming, lying east of 107° 30' west longitude and south of the forty-second parallel of north latitude, and that part of Albany County south of the forty-second parallel and west of 105° 30' west longitude, were annexed to the territory of the United States. Originally the dividing line between the territory of Texas and the Louisiana Purchase was supposed to be the summit of the Laramie Mountains, but in the cession to Spain, by the treaty of 1819, it was fixed at the line of. 105° 30' west longitude, with which boundary it came back into the United States in 1845.
    The British flag was first carried to the coast of Oregon in 1579, by Sir Francis Drake. Captain Cook, another English adventurer and explorer, landed at and named Nootka Sound (Vancouver Island) in 1778. Upon the voyages of Drake and Cook, Great Britain claimed the country along the coast. This claim was disputed by the Spaniards in 1789, on the grounds of previous discovery, but in the end Spain was compelled to yield. In 1793 another expedition under Vancouver explored the coast on behalf of England, adding further strength to her claim.
    The American claim to the region began in the winter of 1788-89, when Capt. Robert Gray and a man named Kendrick passed the winter on the Nootka Sound. They had been sent out by some merchants of Boston to investigate the possibilities of the fur trade in the Northwest. Captain Gray made a second trip to the Pacific coast in 1792, when he ascended the Columbia River for several miles. Based upon the discoveries of Gray and Kendrick and the Louisiana Purchase (the old Spanish claim), the United States laid claim to the country. After the expedition of Lewis and Clark in 1804-06, this claim was extended to "all the country drained by the Columbia River and its branches." In 1811 the claim of the United States received substantial support by the establishment of Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia, by the Pacific Fur Company.
    In 1818 a convention of commissioners appointed by the United States and Great Britain to fix the international boundary, reported in favor of the forty-ninth parallel of latitude from the Lake of the Woods to the summit of the Rocky Mountains, thence southward alongvthe crest of the divide to the old Mexican boundary', and along that boundary to the^'coast. It was also agreed that the territory west of the Rocky Mountains should be open to both the United States and Canada for ten years, "without prejudice to the claims of either." At the end of the ten years this privilege of joint occupation was extended indefinitely by agreement, by a convention held in London on August 6, 1827. Either government was given the power to abrogate the agreement by giving the other twelve months notice.
    In the meantime, by the treaty of 1819, Spain quitclaimed her title to all land north of the forty-second parallel to the United States. In the negotiations with Russia in 1824-25, that nation agreed to establish no settlements on the Pacific coast south of the line of 54° 40' north latitude. During President Tyler's administration the controversy over the boundary was reopened when citizens of the LTnited States began moving into the disputed territory and establishing homesteads. John C. Calhoun, then secretary of state, proposed that the forty-ninth parallel should be the boundary line all the way to the Pacific coast, but to this the English minister (Pakenham) would not consent. The latter suggested the forty-ninth parallel to the Columbia River, and then that river to the coast. The agreement with Russia had created the impression in the minds of many of the people of the United States that the line of 54° 40' should be the international boundary, and in the political campaign of 1844 the democratic party adopted as its slogan "Fifty-four forty or fight."
    In April, 1846, Congress authorized the President, "at his discretion," to give England notice of the abrogation of the agreement for joint occupation. This was done and it led to another convention for the purpose of establishing an international boundary. On August 5, 1846, President Polk sent a special message to Congress, in which he said: "Herewith I submit a copy of a convention for the settlement and adjustment of the Oregon cjuestion, which was concluded in this city (Washington) on the 15th of June last between the United States and Her Britannic Majesty. This convention has since been duly ratified by the respective parties and the ratifications were exchanged at London on the 17th day of July, 1846."
    By this convention the boundary line between the United States and the British possessions was established as follows: "The forty-ninth parallel from the Lake of the Woods to the middle of the channel which separates Vancouver Island from the continent, and thence southerly through the said channel and the Straits of Juan de Fuca to the Pacific Ocean, both nations to have at all times free navigation of the said channel and Straits of Juan de Fuca."
    Thus a controversy of long standing was finally settled and the United States came into the undisputed possession of a large tract of country west of the Continental Divide and north of the old Mexican boundary. Included in this tract is that part of Wyoming constituting more than three-fourths of the northern part of Lincoln county; the southwestern part of Fremont County (all west of the divide) : that portion of Sweetwater County lying north of the forty-second parallel and west of the divide; and the southwestern part of the Yellowstone National Park.
    On May 30, 1854, that historic piece of legislation known as the "Kansas-Nebraska Bill," creating the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, was signed by President Franklin Pierce. In section I of the bill the boundaries of Nebraska are thus described: "Beginning at a point on the Missouri River where the fortieth parallel of north latitude crosses the same; thence west on said parallel to the east boundary of Utah, on the summit of the Rocky Mountains; thence on said summit northward to the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude; thence east on said parallel to the western boundary of the Territory of Minnesota ; thence southward on said boundary to the Missouri River; thence down the main channel of said river to the place of beginning."
    These boundaries included all that part of Wyoming acquired by the Louisiana Purchase, while that portion west of the Rocky Mountains remained attached to the territories of Utah and Oregon. No further changes in boundary lines or conditions affecting the territory occurred until 1861, when Congress established the:
    When first created, this territory extended from the forty-ninth parallel—the international boundary—on the north to the Missouri and Running Water rivers on the south, and from the western boundary of the states of Iowa and Minnesota on the east to the summit of the Rocky Mountains on the west. It embraced all the present states of North and South Dakota, nearly all of Montana, and all that part of Wyoming east of the Rocky Mountains, except a small tract in the southeast corner, which still belonged to Nebraska. In the country west of the Rocky Mountains no change was made. This arrangement lasted but two years, however, when another redistricting of the United States domain in the Northwest was made by Congress.
    On March 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln approved an act establishing the Territory of Idaho. As originally erected, the Territory of Idaho was bounded on the north by the forty-sixth parallel of north latitude; on the east by the twenty-seventh meridian of longitude west from Washington (the present eastern boundary of the State of Wyoming) ; on the south by the forty-second parallel of north latitude; and on the west by the Territory of Oregon. It therefore included all that portion of Wyoming lying north of the old Mexican and Texas boundary. South of that line a tract about seventy miles wide and one hundred and eighty-five miles long still belonged to Utah, and the southeast corner (the present County of Laramie and the greater part of the counties of Albany. Carbon, Goshen and Platte) was attached to the Territory of Dakota. Five years later another change was made. The Territory of Wyoming was established by the act of July 25, 1868, with its present boundaries, and in 1890 it was admitted into the Union with all the rights of statehood. (See chapters XI and XII.)
    The territory now consituting the State of Wyoming was first claimed by Spain under the grant of the pope in 1493, as part of the "countries inhabited by infidels." That claim was given greater force by the discovery of the Mississippi River by De Soto in 1541, but the wisest of Spain's statesmen and geographers knew iiot the vast extent of the Mississippi Valley. Hence, while nominally included in the Spanish possessions in America, Wyoming remained untenanted, save for the wild beast and the roving Indian. The Spanish claim to the country east of the Rocky Mountains was superseded in April, 1682, by that of France, based on the expedition of La Salle, who gave the territory the name of Louisiana. This province was ceded by France to Spain in 1762; ceded back to France in 1800; and sold to the United States in 1803. The greater portion of Albany and Carbon counties came to the United States through the annexation of Texas in 1845. The triangular shaped tract west of the Continental Divide and north of the line of forty-two degrees north latitude was acquired by the settlement of the Oregon question in 1846, and the southwestern part of the state was ceded to the United States by Mexico at the close of the Mexican war in 1848. During the next twenty years Wyoming was, in whole or in part, under the jurisdiction of Nebraska, Utah, Oregon, Dakota and Idaho. In 1868 it was made an organized territory of the United States, and in 1890 a new star was added to the national constellation representing the sovereign State of Wyoming.
    Of all the states of the American Union, none presents as varied a history in the matter of jurisdiction as Wyoming. It is the only state composed of territory acquired from all four of the principal western annexations. Portions of the state were claimed at times by Spain, France and Great Britain, and from the earliest record the land has been one of adventure. The mountain ranges afforded fruitful fields for the hunter, trapper and Indian trader and invited such men as Kit Carson, Jim Bridger, Ashley, Campbell, Sublette, Jim Baker and others, whose names are almost as familiar to the student of pioneer history as the names of Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett and Gen. Sam Houston.