Toledo War: The Almost Bloodless Battle Between Michigan and Ohio

"Disputed Toledo Strip" by Drdpw - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons -
Map of the disputed Toledo Strip area of what is now Ohio. (Map by Drdpw via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1836, the Toledo War, a battle between the state of Ohio and the territory of Michigan, ended.

Here are some facts about the largely bloodless battle.

Ohio and Michigan were once part of the Northwest Territory of the United States. When the borders of the territory were created, it was determined that the land would eventually be subdivided into three to five states. The boundary for these states was to be a line drawn through the “southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan.” The problem was that the territory was not all that well mapped and when Ohio began the process of becoming a state in 1802, there was confusion over where the northern boundary should be. So the Ohio constitutional framers determined that the border would run slightly northeast to include the entire mouth of the Maumee River at Toledo. Three years later, the U.S. Congress created the Michigan Territory using the original set of boundaries.

In 1816, Congress approved a request for a survey of the line. The Surveyor General of the U.S. at the time was former Ohio governor Edward Tiffin, who instructed his subordinate to survey the line used in the Ohio constitution, rather than the Northwest Territory Ordinance Line. That survey determined that Toledo and the mouth of the Maumee River were completely in Ohio. Michigan then commissioned a survey which was based on the Ordinance Line. It found the border should be south of Toledo.

Tensions increased in 1833 when Michigan sought admission to the union. Congress refused, largely at the behest of the Ohio delegation, because of the dispute over what had come to be known as the Toledo Strip. in 1835, Michigan’s governor, 23-year-old Stevens T. Mason raised a militia and sent it to the disputed area. Ohio governor Robert Lucas responded in kind. Ohio stationed 600 troops in Perrysburg, 10 miles southwest of Toledo, while Michigan’s 1,000 troops occupied Toledo proper. President Andrew Jackson sent representatives to present a compromise. Part of the compromise was allowing the people of the area to choose their government until Congress could formally decide the matter. An election was held under Ohio law. Because of this, Michigan’s Governor Mason ordered the arrest of anyone participating in the election.

In the spring, as a surveying crew from Ohio was marking the border, they came under fire at Phillips Corner and nine Ohioans were taken prisoner. Two months later, the only bloodshed of the war came when a Michigan deputy sheriff entered Toledo to arrest Ohio’s Major Benjamin Stickney. Stickney and his sons scuffled with the deputy before one of the sons stabbed him with a pen knife. This was enough for Ohio’s Governor Lucas, who began looking for ways to end the standoff.

In June 1836, President Jackson signed a bill that would make Michigan a state, but only after ceding the Toledo Strip. In exchange, Michigan would be given the western three-quarters of what is now known as the Upper Peninsula. The Michigan government rejected the offer, as the peninsula was considered worthless.

With the high cost of funding a large militia weighing on the territory’s budget, Michigan found itself on the brink of bankruptcy. The territorial government, realizing that the federal government was about to distribute a $400,000 budget surplus to states, but not territories, finally decided to take the deal and give up the Toledo Strip.

On January 26, 1837, Michigan was admitted to the Union as the 26th state.

The Upper Peninsula proved to be far from worthless. In the 1840s copper and iron deposits were found. Those mines produced more total value than the California Gold Rush.

Our question, how many of the Great Lakes does the state of Michigan touch?

Today is Forty-Seven Ronin Remembrance Day in Japan and World Monkey Day. It’s unofficially National Bouillabaisse Day. It’s the birthday of King George VI of the United Kingdom, musician Spike Jones, and Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis.


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