In 1796, the acting governor of the Northwest Territory, Winthrop Sargent, following provisions of the Northwest Ordinance to make property divisions of the territory to facilitate governance, to include laying out counties and townships, deemed it expedient to create a new county to include the settlement of Detroit. Named the County of Wayne, it included large portions of what is now northwest Ohio, northeast Indiana, and all of Lower Michigan.
When the state of Ohio came into existence in 1803, the entire remaining portion of the Northwest Territory became part of Indiana Territory. Two years later, however, Michigan Territory, including all of the Lower Peninsula and a strip at the east end of the Upper Peninsula was separated and created in 1805. After Indiana and Illinois became states in 1816 and 1818 respectively, Michigan Territory included the remainder of the Old Northwest as shown in the map above.
The 1818 map on the previous page shows that what is now St. Joseph County fell under the jurisdiction of Monroe County in 1817 and under Macomb County in 1818.
The first survey of public lands in Michigan was made in 1816, on the Detroit River and vicinity. In the Land Ordinance of 1785, the U.S. Congress had decreed that all western lands would be surveyed using a rectangular system based on meridians of longitude and parallels of latitude. The land was to be divided into survey townships six miles on each side, and further subdivided into mile-square sections. A numbering system was established counting east or west from the prime meridian and north or south from the base line parallel, so that each 36-square mile â€œtownshipâ€ could be identified. (The prime meridian and base line for Michigan were surveyed in 1815.) Thus, when the land now known as Fabius Township was first surveyed in June 1828, it was identified as â€œTownship No. VI South, Range No. XII West/MicTer/ (A copy of this first survey appears on page 13). Survey townships should not be confused with governmental townships, which were initially far larger. It was not practical to establish governmental entities such as counties or townships until there were a sufficient number of citizens residing in an area to require them. Thus, the earliest counties and townships were far larger than they eventually became. But first, the difficult question of the native population had to be dealt with.