Winthrop Sargent was the first Secretary of the Northwest Territory.
He was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts, on May 1, 1753. Sargent graduated from Harvard College in the early 1770s. With the outbreak of the American Revolution, he joined the Continental Army and attained the rank of major by the war's end. In 1786, Sargent helped survey the Seven Ranges of townships in what is now eastern Ohio. Using the local knowledge that he had attained while surveying parts of the Ohio Country, he helped organize the Ohio Company and Associates. He also was one of the principal shareholders of the Scioto Company. He became secretary of the Ohio Company in 1787 and assisted Manasseh Cutler in securing land from the Confederation Congress.
That same year, the Congress appointed Sargent as the secretary of the Territory Northwest of the River Ohio. He accompanied some of the first Ohio Company settlers to Marietta in 1788. During the late 1780s and early 1790s, Sargent played a major role in the governance of the Northwest Territory. Governor Arthur St. Clair was commonly away from his position, and Sargent served as de facto governor in his absence. He also served under St. Clair in his offensive against American Indians living in western Ohio in 1791. Sargent was wounded twice in the so-called "St. Clair's Defeat", on November 4, 1791.
In 1798, Winthrop Sargent resigned as secretary of the Northwest Territory to accept an appointment as the first governor of the Mississippi Territory. Sargent was a devoted member of the Federalist Party. In 1801, Thomas Jefferson, founder of the Democratic-Republican Party, became President of the United States. Jefferson removed Sargent from the governor's seat due to their differing political views. Sargent then retired from public life. He died in 1820.
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- Howe, Henry. Historical Collections of Ohio in Two Volumes. Vol. II. Cincinnati, OH: C.J. Krehbiel & Co., Printers and Binders, 1902.
- Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.
- Onuf, Peter S. Statehood and Union: A History of the Northwest Ordinance. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.
- Phillips, P. Lee. The Rare Map of the Northwest, 1785, by John Fitch: A Bibliographical Account, with Facsimile Reproduction Including Some Account of Thomas Hutchins and William McMurray. Washington, DC: W.H. Lowdermilk & Co., 1916.
- Sargent, Winthrop. Political Intolerance, or, the Violence of Party Spirit; Exemplified in a Recent Removal from Office; With a Comment upon Executive Conduct, and an Ample Refutation of Calumny, in a Sketch of the Services and Sacrifices of a Dismissed Officer; by one of the American People. Boston, MA: Benjamin Russell, 1801.
- Williams, Frederick D., ed. The Northwest Ordinance: Essays on Its Formulation, Provisions, and Legacy. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1989.