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Toledo War

Michigan's territorial militia marched toward the Ohio border prepared for battle in 1835. Lead by Michigan's feisty 22 year old Territorial Governor, Stevens T. Mason, a small 250-man group of volunteers moved toward Toledo to defend their territory from an Ohio take-over.

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 established east-west line drawn from the southern tip of Lake Michigan across the base of the peninsula. The original line drawn using maps that showed the line intersecting Lake Erie north of the Maumee River. This is the territorial "line-of- scrimmage" that Ohioans recognized when their constitution was drafted in 1803. When the Michigan Territory was created in 1805, surveyors realized the tip of Lake Michigan was actually further south and included the area that would later become Toledo.

The Ohioans in Congress immediately campaigned to have the northern line accepted as the official border. In 1817, U.S. Surveyor General, and former Ohio governor, Edward Tiffin, sent William Harris out to survey the line according to Ohio's constitution. The Michigan Territorial Governor, Lewis Cass, went to President James Monroe to protest the call. John A. Fulton was called into fray to make another survey of the disputed claim in accordance with the Northwest Ordinance.

It was not surprising that the two surveys resulted in two lines eight miles apart at Lake Erie and five miles apart at the Indiana border, with a total of 468 square miles in between. Although Ohio still claimed the Toledo Strip as its own, the squabbling momentarily ceased and Michigan quietly assumed jurisdiction over the area.

The controversy heated up again when Michigan sought admission to the union on December 11, 1833. In spite of Michigan's presence in the Toledo Strip, Ohio Congressmen successfully lobbied to block Michigan's acceptance as a state until it agreed to Ohio's version of the boundary. Massachusetts Representative, and former President, John Quincy Adams, supported Michigan saying, "Never in the course of my life have I known a controversy of which all the right so clearly on one side and all the power so overwhelmingly on the other."

Ohio's position was so strong that Governor Robert Lucas refused to negotiate with Michigan over the issue. Michigan's territorial council countered by passing a resolution that would impose heavy fines on anyone other than Michigan or federal officers trying to exercise jurisdiction in the Toledo Strip. In a blatant act of defiance, Governor Lucas turned the disputed region into a county named after himself and appointed a sheriff and judge. Michigan's "boy governor" had had enough! He mobilized his troops and headed towards Ohio. The Toledo War had begun.

The War involved more saber-rattling and up-one-manship than it did shooting and blood-letting. For instance, after the Ohio legislature voted to approve a $300,000 military budget, Michigan upped the ante by approving one with $315,000.

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 Ohio was the only one to take a casualty when a buckeye name Two Stickney stabbed a Michigan Sheriff in a tavern brawl.

The war ended when President Andrew stepped in and removed Mason from office and militia commander, General Joseph W. Brown disbanded his troops. But Congress still held Michigan statehood hostage until it agreed to Ohio's claims. The citizens of Michigan set up a state government anyway, and elected Stevens T. Mason governor.

Following the Compromise of 1820 it was the practice to admit a free state and a slave state at the same time. However, when both Arkansas and Michigan were ready for statehood, Michigan was involved in the dispute with Ohio over the Toledo Strip. President Jackson signed a bill on June 15, 1836, that admitted Arkansas but required the people of Michigan to settle the dispute before Michigan would be granted statehood. Michigan would need to consent to a compromise measure drawn up by Congress. The compromise gave the Toledo Strip to Ohio and the western 2/3 of the now Upper Peninsula to Michigan. Delegates to a convention to consider the compromise were elected, and the convention took place in Ann Arbor on September 26, 1836.

Michigan eventually became the 26th state of the union, on the 26th of January, 1837. But its territory did not include the Toledo Strip. Instead, it gained title to the western three-quarters of the upper peninsula as compensation; 9,000 square miles of the most valuable timber, iron, and copper country in America.



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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:35:57 Zulu