Ever heard of the Michigan-Ohio War? The true story of how Michigan gained the Upper Peninsula

·2 min read

In many a history class, students have wondered: How did Michigan get its Upper Peninsula? Why wasn't the land given to Wisconsin, a decision that perhaps made more geographical sense?

But the answer has less to do with Wisconsin, and more to do with Michigan's southern neighbor — Ohio.

You'll be forgiven if you've never heard of The Toledo War (1835-1836), an almost bloodless dispute also known as the Michigan-Ohio War or the Ohio-Michigan War. On the face of it, it sounds ridiculous. But the territorial spat was essential in the overall makeup of today's Mitten State.

The Toledo War wasn't about the Upper Peninsula at all. In fact, it was about the Toledo Strip, the borderland between the two territories. The 450-square-mile strip included the mouth of the Maumee River and coveted farmland — both considered valuable economic assets.

Conflicting state and federal legislation between 1787 and 1805 meant both Michigan — which then only included the easternmost quarter of the Upper Peninsula — and Ohio claimed jurisdiction of the region, even after Ohio became the nation's 13th state in 1803.

The dispute came to blows when Michigan petitioned for statehood in 1833, seeking to include the Toledo Strip within its boundaries. Both sides deployed militias near Toledo, but the confrontation was mostly one-upping and taunts.

In many a history class, students have wondered: How did Michigan get its Upper Peninsula? Why wasn't the land given to Wisconsin, a decision that perhaps made more geographical sense? The answer has more to do with Michigan's southern neighbor — Ohio.
In many a history class, students have wondered: How did Michigan get its Upper Peninsula? Why wasn't the land given to Wisconsin, a decision that perhaps made more geographical sense? The answer has more to do with Michigan's southern neighbor — Ohio.

"For instance, after the Ohio legislature voted to approve a $300,000 military budget, Michigan upped the ante by approving one with $315,000," a summary from Michigan's Department of Military and Veterans Affairs reads.

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"Michigan's militia did end up arresting some Ohio officials, capturing nine surveyors and firing a few shots over the heads of others as they ran out of the area. But only Ohio inflicted any casualties, when a buckeye named Two Stickney stabbed a Michigan sheriff during a tavern brawl."

The sheriff suffered a minor wound.

Conceding the western portion of his union needed a firm hand, then-President Andrew Jackson removed Michigan's fired-up 20-something-year-old governor, Stevens T. Mason, from office. The troops disbanded, but Congress continued to hold Michigan's statehood hostage until it agreed to relinquish claims on the Toledo Strip.

That's where the Upper Peninsula comes in.

The day Michigan joined the union — on January 26, 1837 — its territory didn't include the Toledo Strip. In exchange, it gained the title to the western three-quarters of the UP, which included some of the most valuable timber, iron and copper country in the United States. Though, at the time, it was perceived as worthless remote wilderness.

"Poor officiating may have taken Michigan officially out of the campaign for the Toledo Strip," Michigan claims. "But in retrospect, it's obvious who won the war."

— Contact reporter Cassandra Lybrink at cassandra.lybrink@hollandsentinel.com. Follow her on Instagram @BizHolland.

This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: Ever heard of the Michigan-Ohio War? The true story of how Michigan gained the Upper Peninsula