Happy birthday, Michigan! You’re 182 years young! On January 26th, 1837 Michigan officially became a state, but not without drama. First, we had to fight a war with the Buckeyes in Ohio. Did we crack those nuts and win? Here’s what happened.
It turns out we weren’t good at making maps in the 19th century. Without today’s technology, folks sometimes got the lay of the land wrong. This led to confusion over where the boundaries were between Michigan and Ohio. When Michigan petitioned for statehood, they included a 468 square mile area along the two states’ borders known as the Toledo strip. Ohio said, “No way! That’s ours!” The area includes an outlet from the Maumee River to Lake Erie and an important access point for the Erie Canal, a major Midwest transportation hub back then.
So Michigan and Ohio got into a brawl over the Toledo strip, beginning what we now call the Toledo War. Because both states had established townships in the area, the governors of each state made it a criminal offense for their citizens to obey the laws of the other state. To enforce this, each state sent militia troops to the Toledo Strip.
Some members of Michigan’s Militia attacked a group sent out by President Andrew Jackson to resurvey the boundary lines in an attempt to settle the dispute. The surveyors claimed the Michiganders took nine prisoners and fired 30 to 40 shots. The Michiganders said they just fired a few shots in the air to scare the surveyors.
There were small fights and skirmishes between the citizens of both states as the argument continued. Michigan even sent 1,000 troops to Toledo to occupy the city! They left after just a few hours.
The Toledo War didn’t turn out to be much of a war. There was never a real a battle. The only bloodshed came when an Ohio man was stabbed with a pen knife. Most of the violence involved citizens shouting insults to each other. Pretty much the same things you hear today at a U of M vs. Ohio State game.
Washington decided to put an end to the disagreement. They proposed a compromise. Ohio could keep the Toledo strip and in exchange Michigan would get the entire Upper Peninsula. Michigan didn’t like it. Back then they believed the U.P. was just a wilderness wasteland. They rejected the proposal at first. But by the end of 1836, Michigan was running out of money. If they became a state, the Federal government would give them much needed cash. It’s true that money talks, and Michigan finally took the deal bringing an end to the Toledo War and allowing them entry into the Union as the 26th state.
Ohio kept Toledo, and Michigan gained the Upper Peninsula. Not long after, an abundance of copper and iron were discovered in the U.P. Coupled with the timber rich land, the deal ended up paying off for Michigan in more than one way. Today the natural beauty of the U.P. is also a big draw for vacationers and outdoor enthusiasts. So who do you think the real winner was?