Northwest Ordinance & Territory
The Northwest Ordinance, which was adopted by Congress in 1787, established the first official territory of the United States - the Northwest Territory - located northwest of the Ohio River. The Ordinance also organized a system of government for the territory and set up a three-step developmental process to be followed by the territory and eventual divisions of the territory hoping to be added to the federal union. There was to be more than three but no more than five states carved from the land. The territory that makes up present-day Michigan was divided and re-divided eight times in the fifty years between the creation of the Northwest Territory in 1787 and Michigan's eventual statehood in 1837.
In 1800, the Indiana Territory was created. That act divided the Northwest Territory in half through the present-day lower penninsula of Michigan. The east half of the penninsula, which was home to Detroit and the population center, remained in the Northwest Territory along with the future state of Ohio. The west half of the peninsula became part of the new Indiana Territory. In 1803, Ohio was the first state to join the union from the Northwest Territory. With Ohio's statehood, the boundaries of the Indiana Territory were re-drawn to encompass the entire lower penninsula. On January 11, 1805, by an act of Congress, the Michigan Territory was created. In 1805, Michigan consisted of the entire lower penninsula and a fraction of the east half of the upper penninsula.
From the creation of the Michigan Territory in 1805, the three-stage process of development toward statehood was followed for several decades until admission to the union was reached in 1837.