The Life and Times of Martin McLeod:
History Part I:
Taken from the McLeod County Historical Society 2011 Newsletters:
The McLeod County Historical Society, as a part of its Mission to preserve, understand, and share the history of McLeod County, has researched and compiled the following information, presented as excerpts, from our 2011 theme history booklet. The booklet explores the Life of Martin McLeod, for whom our county is named, and the area that would become and is now the State of Minnesota.
We are focusing our research on the years that McLeod lived, 1813 to 1860, and the social and political events that affected his decisions and shaped his life. His involvement in the fur trade, territorial issues, and early statehood of Minnesota are covered, along with a deeper look into his interpersonal relationships with family, friends, and peers. Through this research, we hope to gain a better understanding of our state and county’s early history, as well as the man for whom our County is named.
“The Life and Times of Martin McLeod, McLeod County from 1813-1860” history booklet can be purchased through the MCHS Gift Shop. Just call, e-mail, or stop by the Museum to pick one up.
Minnesota and McLeod County History from 1813-1860
In the years 1813 to 1860, the area that was to become Minnesota and McLeod County witnessed some of most extreme social and cultural changes seen in the area to date. The transformation from almost exclusively indigenous Native American cultures in the early 1800 to the massive influx of Anglo populations from the North, South and East rapidly transformed the state. This dramatic change occurred so quickly that it could be witnessed within one lifetime. Martin McLeod in his short life, compared to our standards not only witnessed these social and cultural shifts, but was an active participant in shaping the history of the state of Minnesota and McLeod County. The following excerpts give an overview of the many different cultural influences that had an impact on the future state of Minnesota. Native American, Spanish, English, French and American ownership and influences created the world that Martin McLeod decided to explore, work, and live in. Along with this cultural diversity, another strong influence in the region and in McLeod’s life was the monstrous demand of the fur trade industry. Another major factor in the life of Martin McLeod and in his exploration of Minnesota was his involvement with a little known military expedition that would fail in its mission to establish an “Indian Kingdom”, but managed to secure McLeod’s future in Minnesota and lead him to be the namesake of McLeod County.
Most of Minnesota is shown under the dominion of the United States, in 1803 France sold her vast American empire, which extended westward from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, to the United States through the Louisiana Purchase. After a brief period under military rule, all the Louisiana Purchase area, except that now occupied by the state of Louisiana, was established as the District of Louisiana. It included, besides southwestern Minnesota, the present states of Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas, most of Oklahoma, Kansas, Wyoming, and Montana, and part of Colorado. Its government was administered by Indiana Territory until 1805; thus, for a brief period, northeastern and southwestern Minnesota were united under one government. The eastern boundary of Indiana Territory, as this map indicates, was extended in 1803 to include all the present area of Michigan.
Changes in the status in all parts of Minnesota are shown on this map. Northeastern Minnesota became part of Illinois Territory in 1809, when Congress set off what is now Indiana with a view to statehood, and established Illinois Territory to include, besides northeastern Minnesota, the present states of Wisconsin and Illinois and a part of northern Michigan. In 1812 western Minnesota became part of Missouri Territory, when the latter name was given to the old Louisiana Territory. It will be noticed on this map that the name of England has disappeared from the Red River Valley. By the Convention of 1818 with England, the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude from the Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains was adopted as the boundary between Canada and the United States. England thus relinquished her old claim to the Red River Valley, and all Minnesota was finally under the American flag.
Northeastern Minnesota is still a part of Michigan Territory. The rest of the Minnesota country, however, has become a government orphan. In 1821, when Missouri was admitted to the Union with greatly reduced area, congress made no provision for the government of the remainder of the old Missouri Territory, which included the area now occupied by Iowa, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas, most of Oklahoma, Montana, and Wyoming, part of Colorado, and southern and western Minnesota; and so it remained, without organized government, for thirteen years.
Minnesota, although it is no longer a part of Michigan Territory in 1836, the area of the present state of Michigan was detached from Michigan Territory in preparation for its admission to the Union. The remainder of the old Michigan Territory was reorganized as Wisconsin Territory, which included the area now occupied by the states of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota and the eastern parts of North and South Dakota.
The plight of the Minnesota country, without organized government, during the three years preceding the organization of Minnesota Territory in 1846, Iowa was made a state with its present boundaries, and western Minnesota, as well as the eastern part of the Dakotas, was left a no-man’s land, without government or law. The same thing happened to northeastern Minnesota two years later, when Wisconsin was admitted to the Union with reduced area. It was fortunate for the future state of Minnesota that Congress did not adopt a proposed boundary for Iowa which would have extended its area north to include the Falls of St. Anthony, now within Minneapolis, and one proposed for Wisconsin which would have included in that state a generous slice of eastern Minnesota.
The name “Minnesota” at last emerges after long debate, on March 3, 1849, congress passed the act creating Minnesota Territory, to include the area west of Wisconsin and north of Iowa as far west as the Missouri and White Earth rivers. Thus Minnesota Territory included the area now occupied by eastern North and South Dakota, as well as that of the present state of Minnesota.