This nearly victimless war defined our state’s borders. This is how the Toledo War affects us even today.

Did you know that Michigan and Ohio fought a war to define our state’s boundaries? That Buckeye/Wolverine feud did not arise from the ether. It turns out this rivalry has a fairly legitimate history. This dispute was also known as the Michigan-Ohio War and was “fought” between 1835–1836.

It was such a small strip of land, but it contained Toledo and was called the “Toledo Strip.” The altercation began with a cartographical error that was made into law. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 allowed both Michigan and Ohio to claim the fertile strip of land. Because the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 linked the Great Lakes to the east coast and therefore increased trade to the area, both states wanted to claim the Toledo Strip as their own.

toledo war

All of that fighting, congressional debate, and a stab wound… For this tiny strip of land. Photo courtesy of Daily Kos.

Michigan’s “Boy Governor,” the 24-year-old Stevens T. Mason, claimed “we are on the side of justice…we cannot fail to maintain our rights against the encroachments of a powerful neighboring state.” Both states had mobilized their militias and were prepared to use them. They had multiple standoffs involving law enforcement and the militia, but luckily nobody died in this “war.” The war was mostly victimless, but there was one casualty. Michigan Sheriff Joseph Wood was stabbed with a penknife in a bar fight over the issue.

To prevent a civil war (before the big one), Congress and President Andrew Jackson had to step in to neutralize the conflict. The issue spent months on the congressional floor. On December 14, 1836, Michigan grudgingly signed away the Toledo Strip in exchange for a large part of what is now the Upper Peninsula. Michigan’s citizens and lawmakers viewed it as a loss for Michigan at the time. According to History, “The Detroit Free Press even dubbed the Upper Peninsula a barren wasteland of “perpetual snows.'” Well, they weren’t wrong about the snow part…  However, the mining (iron and copper) and tourism of the sections of the Upper Peninsula gained have long since made up for what we could have gotten from that tiny strip of land below Michigan’s border. It took a few hundred years, but I think Michigan ended up winning.

Crazy, huh? I think getting the Upper Peninsula was well worth it. Where else would Michigan get our pasties and Porcupine Mountain view? Ohio can keep Toledo.

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