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BOUNDARIES OF THE
UNITED STATES AND THE SEVERAL STATES

126

ereignty and ownership." The engineering work on this project was completed in 1938.

The rectification and stabilization project left in dispute an area of less than a square mile in the city of El Paso. An attempt was made to settle this question by arbitration in 1911. When the Commission made its

award, the United States claimed it was invalid as, Article 1 refers to maps made from surveys of among other things, it disregarded the well-established 58 bancos along the lower Rio Grande which the con- legal principle that a boundary moves with the river vention eliminates, those on the right bank of the river when the movement is due to erosion and deposition passing to Mexico and those on the left bank to the rather than an avulsion. United States.

Through the years, many efforts have been made Article 2 is in part:

to find a solution to the problem that would satisfy

both sides. A convention concluded between Mexico The International Commission shall, in the future, be guided by the

and the United States on August 29, 1963, provided principle of elimination of the bancos established in the foregoing articles There are hereby excepted from this provision the

for the rectification of the Rio Grande in the manner portions of land segregated by the change in the bed of the said rivers

of the 1933 project. having an area of over two hundred and fifty hectares [618 acres, The relocated boundary follows a new channel which or nearly a square mile), or a population of over two hundred souls,

approximates the position of the river in 1864. This and which shall not be considered as bancos for the purposes of this

involved the purchase by the United States from its treaty and shall not be eliminated, the old bed of the river remaining, therefore, the boundary in such cases.

citizens of some 630 acres for transfer to Mexico, and

the transfer of 193 acres by Mexico on the north end Article 3 required that other bancos be surveyed and

of the Cordova tract to the United States. The Cordova that suitable marks be placed in the abandoned river

tract of 386 acres had been cut off from Mexico in 1899 bed. Over the years, since the convention of 1905, by a relocation of the river to control floods. It remore than 200 detached tracts along the river, called

mained under Mexican sovereignty, but utilization of bancos under the terms of the agreement, have been

the physically detached area was difficult. eliminated. Some 10,000 acres, formerly on the U.S.

The estimated value of the land and improvements side, passed to Mexican sovereignty while nearly acquired by the United States is $20 million. The costs 18,000 acres, formerly on the Mexican side, passed to

of the canalization and the replacement of the six existthe United States. (U.S. Dept. State, 1963b.)

ing bridges was borne equally by both Governments. A convention between Mexico and the United States The new channel is concrete lined and of a size to for the rectification of the Rio Grande in the El Paso

carry 18,000 cubic feet per second with 3.3 feet of Juarez Valley was concluded at Mexico City on Febru- freeboard. The minimum radius of curvature is 1,640 ary 1, 1933. (See also Boggs, 1940, p. 67-70.) The agree- feet. It is expected that the new channel, 4.3 miles in ment was ratified by the respective Governments, and

length, will prevent further movement of the bed of the had for its purposes the protection of the valley from Rio Grande. flood dangers and the stabilization of the international Ratifications of the convention were exchanged by boundary. The work was carried out under the direc

the two Governments on January 14, 1964 (15 UST 21; tion of the International Boundary Commission.

TIAS 5515). The canalization of the river, from a point below The present boundary lines of Texas are described El Paso to the head of Box Canyon, shortened its course as follows: Beginning in the Gulf of Mexico, at the outfrom 155 miles to 88 miles between these points. The let of Sabine Lake, the line passes northward through gradient was thus increased from 1.8 to 3.2 feet per the middle of Sabine Lake and up the middle of the mile. The new channel is a series of tangents connected Sabine River 48 to the point where the river intersects by smooth curves and should prevent further meander- the parallel of 32°; thence north along the meridian of ings of the river.

that point af intersection to the point where that meriThe convention ordered that "the axis of the rectified dian intersects the Red River; thence up the south bank channel shall be the international boundary line." of the Red River along the south fork to the 100th Each Government agreed to surrender to the other such

meridian west of Greenwich; thence north on that parcels of its land as would fall on the opposite side of meridian to the parallel of 36°30'; west on that parallel the new channel. This provision called for the ex

to the meridian of 103° as marked; thence south along change of a considerable area of land, and each Government agreed to acquire the land within its borders

48 An act of Congress, July 5, 1848 (9 Stat. L. 245), gave Texas the right

to extend its boundary into the Sabine River and Lake to coincide with at the time for transfer to the other "in absolute sov

the west boundary of Louisiana.

127

BOUNDARY LINES OF THE STATES

MICHIGAN

MICHIGAN

Michigan was organized as a Territory June 30, 1805, from the northeastern part of Indiana Territory. (See fig. 31.) The following clause from the act dividing Indiana Territory defines its limits (2 Stat. L. 309):

from and after the thirtieth day of June next, all that part of the Indiana territory which lies north of a line drawn east from the southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan, until it shall intersect Lake Erie, and east of a line drawn from the said southerly bend through the middle of said lake to its northern extremity, and thence due north to the northern boundary of the United States, shall, for the purpose of temporary government, constitute a separate territory, and be called Michigan.

The enabling act for Illinois, passed in 1818, contained a provision transferring to Michigan Territory the portion of Illinois Territory not included in the State of that name and also an area of 5,880 square miles north of lat 42°30' N., then a part of Indiana Territory. The following is the text of the clause referred to (3 Stat. L. 431):

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the 103d meridian to the parallel of latitude of 32°; thence west on that parallel to its point of intersection with the Rio Grande; thence down the midchannel of the Rio Grande to the boundary line between the United States and Mexico; thence following that line see p. 27) to the Gulf.

The extension of the international boundary into the Gulf of Mexico is defined by the treaty signed November 23, 1970. It provides that the seaward boundary shall begin at the mouth of the Rio Grande and pass to a fixed point at lat 25°57'22.18'' N., long 97°08'19.76'' W.; and thence by the arc of a great circle to a point 12 nautical miles from the baseline used in the delineation of the shore (lat 25°58'30.57" N.; long 96° 55'27.37" W.). See page 44 on "Territorial Waters" (TIAS 7313).

Further provisions of the same treaty provide solutions for boundary problems in both the Rio Grande and the Colorado Rivers. Article I provides for changes in the location of the channel in the Presido and Hidalgo, Texas, areas by engineering works; the new channel to become the boundary. The transfer of sovereignty following the purchase of private lands by the two governments is to be effected in the manner discussed in the "elimination of the bancos" referred to above.

Article III B provides that one of the contracting States may restore the river to its previous position when it has lost territory by an avulsion. Such restoration is to be done by the State losing the land, at its own expense, after notifying the other State. The restoration must be done within 3 years, and the area involved must not be over 250 hectares nor the number of inhabitants affected more than 100.

Other provisions set up guidelines for action on the part of the contracting parties and the boundary commission for solution of problems caused by the shifting of the river bed.

Monuments are required to be placed on international bridges over the Rio Grande and the Colorado, exactly over the boundary and changed in position if the movement of the river bed makes it necessary.

The construction of Falcon and Amistad Dams on the lower Rio Grande left the international boundary at the bottom of the reservoirs. To mark the lines of jurisdiction through the reservoirs, 15 monuments were set directly above the old channel, and their positions were determined by surveying. These monuments extend some 23 miles through Falcon reservoir. The legal boundary is then represented by a series of tangents connecting these points. (Minute 199 of the International Boundary Commission, Dec. 15, 1953.) In Amistad Reservoir, the line is marked by 28 floats in a distance of 20 miles (Minute 232, dated May 9, 1968).

all that part of the territory of the United States lying north of the State of Indiana, and which was included in the former Indiana territory, together with that part of the Illinois territory which is situated north of and not included within the boundaries prescribed by this act, to the state thereby authorized to be formed, shall be, and hereby is, attached to and made a part of the Michigan territory.

On June 28, 1834, an act was passed extending the limits of the Territory of Michigan to Missouri River. The clause of the act relating to this area is as follows (4 Stat. L. 701):

all that part of the territory of the United States bounded on the east by the Mississippi River, on the south by the state of Missouri, and a line drawn due west from the northwest corner of said state to the Missouri river; on the southwest and west by the Missouri river and the White Earth river, falling into the same; and on the north, by the northern boundary the United States, shall be, and hereby is, for the purpose of temporary government, attached to and made a part of, the territory of Michigan.

Michigan was admitted to the Union on January 26, 1837 (5 Stat. L. 144), with the proviso and boundaries given in the enabling act (5 Stat. L. 49) as follows:

Provided, aluays, and this admission is upon the express condition, that the said State shall consist of and have jurisdiction over all the territory included within the following boundaries, and over none other, to wit:

Beginning at the point where the above-described northern boundary of the State of Ohio intersects the eastern boundary of the State of Indiana, and running thence with the said boundary line of Ohio, as described in the first section of this act, until it intersects the boundary line between the United States and Canada in Lake

128

BOUNDARIES OF THE
UNITED STATES AND THE SEVERAL STATES

Erie; thence with the said boundary line between the United States and Canada, through the Detroit river, Lake Huron, and Lake Superior, to a point where the said line last touches Lake Superior; thence in a direct line through Lake Superior to the mouth of the Montreal river; thence through the middle of the main channel of the said river Montreal, to the middle of the Lake of the Desert; thence in a direct line to the nearest headwater of the Menomonie river; thence through the middle of that fork of the said river first touched by the said line, to the main channel of the said Menomonie river; thence down the center of the main channel of the same, to the center of the most usual ship channel of the Green bay of Lake Michigan; thence through the center of the most usual ship channel of the said bay to the middle of Lake Michigan; thence through the middle of Lake Michigan, to the northern boundary of the State of Indiana, as that line was established by the act of Congress of the nineteenth of April, eighteen hundred and sixteen; thence due east, with the north boundary line of the said State of Indiana, to the northeast corner thereof; and thence south, with the east boundary line of Indiana to the place of beginning.

Wisconsin Territory was formed in 1836 from the western part of Michigan Territory.

When the Territory of Wisconsin was organized, it was supposed that there was an almost continuous water-boundary line between Michigan and Wiscon

sin from Green Bay to Lake Superior. Congress in 1838 ordered the running and marking of this boundary (5 Stat. L. 244), but it was soon discovered that the line could not be run as described, for the head of the Montreal River is more than 50 miles from the Lake of the Desert (now called Lac Vieux Desert), which was supposed to be its source. It was therefore recommended that the boundary location be changed to the position later described in the Wisconsin enabling act of 1846 (9 Stat. L. 56-57), and in greater detail in the Michigan constitution of 1850, which reads as follows (Thorpe, 1909, v. 4, p. 1945):

through Lake Superior to the mouth of the Montreal river; thence through the middle of the main channel of the said river Montreal to the head waters thereof; thence in a direct line to the center of the channel between Middle and South islands in the Lake of the Desert; thence in a direct line to the southern shore of Lake Brule; thence along said southern shore and down the river Brule to the main channel of the Menominee river; thence down the center of the main channel of the same to the center of the most usual ship channel of the Green Bay of Lake Michigan.

49

WISCONSIN

Wisconsin was organized as a Territory July 3, 1836, and admitted as a State May 29, 1848.

40 For a general description of the boundaries of Wisconsin and a historical sketch of the acts by which they were fixed, see Thwaites (1888, v. 11, p. 451–501).

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129

BOUNDARY LINES OF THE STATES

WISCONSIN

As originally constituted its area comprised all that part of the former Territory of Michigan which lay west of the present limits of the State of Michigan. (See fig. 31.) The limits are defined in the act for its organization as follows (5 Stat. L. 11):

Bounded on the east, by a line drawn from the northeast corner of the State of Illinois, through the middle of Lake Michigan, to a point in the middle of said lake, and opposite the main channel of Green Bay; and through said channel and Green Bay to the mouth of the Menomonie river; thence through the middle of the main channel of said river, to that head of said river nearest to the Lake of the Desert; thence in a direct line to the middle of said lake; thence through the middle of the main channel of the Montreal river, to its mouth; thence with a direct line across Lake Superior to where the terriorial line of the United States last touches said lake northwest; thence on the north with the said territorial line to the Whiteearth river; on the west, by a line from the said boundary line following down the middle of the main channel of White-earth river to the Missouri river, and down the middle of the main channel of the Missouri river to a point due west from the northwest corner of the State of Missouri; and on the south, from said point, due east to the northwest corner of the State of Missouri; and thence with the boundaries of the States of Missouri and Illinois, as already fixed by acts of Congress.

In 1838, all that part of the territory lying west of the Mississippi and of a line drawn due north from its source to the international boundary--that is, all that part which was originally comprised in the Louisiana Purchase and the Red River drainage basin south of the 49th parallel—was organized as the Territory of Iowa. See Iowa, p. 131.)

The enabling act dated August 6, 1846, provided for the admission of Wisconsin as a State. The boundaries were described as follows:

Beginning at the northeast corner of the State of Illinois, that is to say, at a point in the center of Lake Michigan where the line of forty two degrees and thirty minutes of north latitude crosses the same, thence running with the boundary line of the State of Michigan, through Lake Michigan, Green Bay, to the mouth of the Menominee River; thence up the channel of said river to the Brule River, thence up said last mentioned river to Lake Brule; thence along the southern shore of Lake Brule in a direct line to the channel between middle and south islands in the Lake of the Desert; thence in a direct line to the headwaters of the Montreal River, as marked upon the survey made by Captain Cramm; thence down the main channel of the Montreal River to the middle of Lake Superior; thence through the center of Lake Superior to the mouth of the St. Louis River; thence up the main channel of said river to the first rapids in the same, above the Indian village, according to Nicollet's map; thence due south to the main branch of the River St. Croix; thence down the main channel of said river to the Mississippi; thence down the main channel of that river to the northwest corner of the State of Illinois; thence due east with the northern boundary of the State of Illinois to the place of beginning

The straight parts of the boundary were surveyed and marked, in 1847, from a point where the Balsam River and the Pine River unite to form the Montreal, S. 74°27' E. to the Lake of the Desert, a distance of 50

miles 67 chains 6 links. The southern part of the line begins at the lower end of Lake Brule and runs N. 59°38' W. for 13 miles 37 chains 66 links to an intersection with the former line in the Lake of the Desert. The notes pertaining to this line can be found in the General Land Office files.

Suit was commenced by Michigan in the U.S. Supreme Court in October 1923 for a redetermination of the Michigan-Wisconsin boundary, the claim being made that the surveys of 1840–47 were not in accord with the descriptions. The change from the previously accepted boundary to that proposed by Michigan would have resulted in a loss to Wisconsin of about 255,000 acres of land, but the Court by decree dated March 1, 1926 (270 U.S. 295; 272 U.S. 398), confirmed Wisconsin's title to the disputed area, principally because

The rule, long settled and never doubted by this court, is that long acquiescence by one State in the possession of territory by another and in the exercise of sovereignty and dominion over it is conclusive of the latter's title and rightful authority.

A resurvey of the Michigan-Wisconsin line was completed in 1929 by commissioners representing the two States. There are now 160 concrete monuments on this 65-mile line. This work was executed in accordance with the Supreme Court decree of November 22, 1926.

The boundary from the Lake Brule to the mouth of the Menominee is practically that described in the enabling act and

follows the channels of the Brule and Menominee wherever they are free from islands;

wherever islands are encountered above Quinnesec Falls the line follows the channel nearest the Wisconsin mainland, so as to throw all such islands into Michigan; and wherever islands are encountered below Quinnesec Falls the line follows the channel nearest the Michigan mainland, so as to throw all such islands into Wisconsin.

Through Green Bay the line was fixed as claimed by Wisconsin and includes in that State Washington, Detroit, Plum, Rock, and some smaller islands.5

A further decree of the Supreme Court, handed down in 1936 (297 U.S. 547), confirmed the earlier decree and defined the boundary through Green Bay to the middle of Lake Michigan by bearings and distances. Following this, the States of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota entered into a compact to define angle points along their common boundaries that fall in the Great

59 This translation of the French name "Lac Vieux Desert" is misleading. The French word "desert" relers to a clearing, an open space, a wild and solitary place, not to an area devoid of vegetation from lack of water.

51 For a historical description of this boundary and notes relating to the settlement of the dispute by the U.S. Supreme Court, see Martin (1930, p. 106-163).

130

BOUNDARIES OF THE
UNITED STATES AND THE SEVERAL STATES

This agreement on the boundaries of the three States was approved by Congress in 1948 (62 Stat 1152).

On March 3, 1847, a supplementary act for the admission of Wisconsin was passed by Congress, in which the western boundary of the proposed State was described as follows:

1

That the assent of Congress is hereby given to the change of Lakes or bays adjoining them, and to reference these

boundary proposed in the first article of said constitution, to wit: points by suitable marks along the shore, the geodetic leaving the boundary line prescribed in the act of Congress entitled positions of which were to be determined.

"An Act to enable the People of Wisconsin Territory to form a ConTo define the boundary between Michigan and Wis

stitution and State Government, and for the Admission of such State

into the Union," at the first rapids in the river St. Louis; thence in a consin in the middle of Lake Michigan, as required by

direct line southwardly to a point fifteen miles east of the most the enabling acts admitting these States, seven points easterly point of Lake St. Croix; thence due south to the main channel were selected and named A to G, and their geodetic of the Mississippi River or Lake Pepin; thence down the said main positions were published. Point A is on an eastward channel, as prescribed in said act. continuation of the Illinois-Wisconsin boundary. Point Had this act been accepted, it would have given the G is at the centerline of the lake where the boundary State an area considerably less than it now has. through Green Bay intersects it.

The first constitution, completed December 16, 1846 The geodetic coordinates of the seven points are:

(Quaife, 1919, p. 732-753), accepted the boundaries as Point

Latitude (N.) Longitude (W.) described in the enabling act of August 6, 1846, but A

42°29'37'' 87°01'15" proposed that Congress consent to the change as deB

43°22'50'' 87° 08'50''

scribed in the later act above referred to. This constiс

43°42'CO'' 87°07'20"

tution was rejected by popular vote April 5, 1847 D

44°07'55'' 87°00'45" E

44°52'50"

86°41'10"

(14,119 ayes, 20,231 noes)--not, however, because of F

45°05'20"

86°29'30" unsatisfactory boundaries. G

45° 14' 10"

86° 14'55" A second constitution dated February 1, 1848, with Two points were selected to define the boundary for the boundaries also as described in the act of August Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota in Lake Superior. 6, 1846, was accepted by the people but with the This line extends from the international boundary at proviso (art. 2, sec. 1) that, if Congress approved, the the point where it enters Pigeon Bay to the point where boundary line should run southwesterly from the foot of the Michigan-Wisconsin boundary enters the Montreal the rapids of the St. Louis River to the mouth of the Rum River. These points were labeled N and M. Their River, thence down the Mississippi River as previously coordinates are:

described. This boundary would have added materially Point

Latitude (N.) Longitude (W.) to the area of the State had it been accepted by ConM

46°34'05'' 90°25'05"

gress. N

48°00'50"
89°29'00''

Congress accepted the constitution dated February The line between Wisconsin and Minnesota, being

1, 1848, without action on the proviso and by act apdescribed in the enabling act admitting Wisconsin as

proved May 29, 1848 (9 Stat. L. 233), admitted Wispassing "through the center of Lake Superior to the

consin as a State. mouth of the St. Louis River" is defined by four points,

The admission of Wisconsin to statehood left an area A to D. Point A is at the midpoint of line M-N. Point D

of more than 30,000 square miles west of the St. Croix is referenced to the ends of the breakwaters at the

River, east and north of the Mississippi River, pracentrance to the Duluth Superior Harbor. The geodetic

tically without a government. The settlers organized a coordinates of these points are:

temporary government and elected a Delegate to ConPoint Latitude (N.) Longitude (W.)

gress who was admitted as the representative of the A

47°17'30"

89°57'00"
47° 18'35"
90°39'15''

"Territory of Wisconsin." This area became a part of с

46°54'10"

91°31'25" the Territory of Minnesota by congressional act of D

46°42'39.875" 92°00' 24.571" March 3, 1849. All these points representing the centerline of Lake The State of Minnesota in 1916 instituted a suit Michigan or Lake Superior are defined as equidistant against Wisconsin in the U.S. Supreme Court to have from two points on the opposite shorelines, except point that part of the State boundary line from St. Louis G, which had been fixed by a U.S. Supreme Court Bay up the St. Louis River to the falls near Fond du decree of March 12, 1936. The true azimuths and Lac finally determined. The Court handed down an distances, in statute miles between successive points, opinion March 8, 1920 (252 U.S. 273), and on October are given in the compact (fig. 32).

11, 1920 (254 U.S. 14), appointed commissioners to

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