ZANESVILLE, Ohio – March 1st, 1803, Ohio became the 17th state and the first state Northwest of the Ohio River.
Muskingum University History Professor William Kerrigan explained how the Northwest Ordinance written in the 1780s established how future states would be incorporated and how they would govern.
“It established a kind of plan for how these lands would become independent states rather than just colonies of the original colonies,” Kerrigan said. “Once a territory had a certain population, the people could come together and call a constitutional convention. That sent representatives to that constitutional convention, write a constitution and then apply for statehood from congress. So that process became the standard process for all states to be created.”
Statehood granted territories sovereignty, which is a stronger jurisdiction over its region, as well as security provided the federal government.
“The state government did have some authority to raise taxes, and took the lead in some infrastructure improvements,” Kerrigan said. “Early roads often were based on local taxation, even at the county or township level. But even the National Road where we sit today was financed by the national government.”
Ohio has been home to many cultures throughout history, which have all contributed to how things have been established and the way they operate today.
In many ways Ohio has set the standard for how the nation would develop from 1803 and beyond.