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The Territory of Louisiana originated in a congressional act of March 26, 1804, under which Congress divided the 1803 Louisiana Purchase at thirty-three degrees of north latitude, created the Territory of Orleans in the south, and made the northern portion the District of Louisiana, placing it under the government of the Territory of Indiana to be administered as a separate unit. The following year the District of Louisiana became the Territory of Louisiana with its capital at St. Louis. In 1812 the Territory of Orleans became the State of Louisiana, and the Territory of Louisiana was renamed the Territory of Missouri. During its seven-year existence the Territory of Louisiana's southern border was the unclear boundary of the Louisiana Purchase. The 1819 Adams-Onís Treaty between Spain and the United States defined the border, and a portion of it followed the Red River from its intersection with the 32d Parallel (east of the southeastern corner of present Oklahoma) westward to the 100th Meridian, up that line northward to the Arkansas River, and then westward along the Arkansas. Thus present Oklahoma lay north and east of the new boundary.

James Wilkinson was the first governor of the Territory of Louisiana, followed by Meriwether Lewis and Benjamin Howard. William Clark also played a significant role as Indian agent. Perhaps the most powerful figure, however, was Frederick Bates. Appointed secretary of the territory in February 1807, Bates often served as acting governor and was a major figure in the settlement of land claims arising out of grants made by the government of Spain prior to the purchase. French creoles such as Auguste Chouteau also played an important role in the economic and political life of the territory.

St. Louis and Ste. Genevieve had been population centers of Upper Louisiana under the Spanish administration, and the eastern area of what is now Missouri grew rapidly under American supervision, with white settlements pushing up the Missouri River and into the interior. According to the census of 1810, there were 20,845 Americans in the Territory of Louisiana, among whom were 3,011 slaves. American Indians were also present in large numbers. The Sac and the Fox lived on the northern Mississippi River, the Osage on the Missouri River and on the Arkansas River in present eastern Oklahoma, and the Quapaw at the mouth of the Arkansas River. Delaware and Shawnee Indians moved into the Cape Girardeau and New Madrid area in the late Spanish period, and a Cherokee migration began about the same time into the same area and soon after into the St. Francis River basin in present northeast Arkansas. Cherokee then moved to the Arkansas River between Russellville and Fort Smith after 1817.

The government of the Territory of Louisiana had no effective control beyond a hundred miles west of the Mississippi, but the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804–06 and the Zebulon Pike Expedition of 1806–07 helped Americans learn more about the Louisiana Purchase.

S. Charles Bolton


William E. Foley, The Genesis of Missouri: From Wilderness Outpost to Statehood (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1989).

William E. Foley and C. David Rice, The First Chouteaus: River Barons of Early St. Louis (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000).

Walter A. Schroeder, Opening the Ozarks: A Historical Geography of Missouri's Ste. Genevieve District, 1760–1830 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2002).

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The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
S. Charles Bolton, “Louisiana Territory,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=LO019.

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