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The Territorial Years – Part 1

February 24, 1863 — February 14, 1912

In 1789 one of the first laws approved after the ratification of the U.S. Constitution was the Northwest Ordinance.

The legislation was a procedure for adding new states to the United States of America. 

During the conversion from territorial status to statehood a region, not under control of any state, became a Territory overseen by Congress.

Territorial governments were composed of officials appointed in Washington and representatives elected by the people of the territory.  Territorial Representatives in Congress did not have a vote.  All legislation passed by a Territorial Assembly required approval from Congress.

Formation of the Arizona Territory

Territory of Arizona

Arizona – New Mexico Territory

Territory of Arizona is Made

In 1856 the first meeting to discuss Arizona becoming a separate territory was held. At this time Arizona was part of the Territory of New Mexico.

February 24, 1863, President Lincoln signed into law a bill providing for the Territory of Arizona with a boundary separating it from New Mexico at approximately 109 degrees longitude.

In March 1863 President Lincoln appointed territorial officials.  John A. Gurley was appointed governor but died in August 1863.

John N. Goodwin was appointed to replace Gurley as governor.  The Goodwin party of appointed officials travelled to the Arizona Territory by wagon train in December 1863.

John N. Goodwin US Congressman from Maine and 1st AZ Territorial Governor

The party stopped at a waterhole called Navajo Springs where they held a brief ceremony on December 29th to officially establish the Territory of Arizona.  The officials took the oath of office.  Secretary Richard C. McCormick delivered a brief speech and hoisted the Stars and Stripes.

McCormick also read the Governor’s Proclamation announcing a census would be taken, judicial districts formed and an election held for members of the legislature.

Governor Goodwin added to the proclamation that “the seat of government will be for the present at or near Fort Whipple”.

During Arizona’s 49 years as a territory, the location of the capital would be changed so many times that it was referred to as “the Capital on Wheels”.  The rivalry between the older and newer portions of the territory may have incited the political battles to change the location of the Capital.

Part 1 of a 3 part series

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