Ever wonder why the State of Michigan is divided into two peninsulas?
The answer goes back to the Northwest Ordinance passed by the precursor of the U.S. Congress in 1787. The law stated that the north-south boundary for three of the states would be 'an east and west line drawn through the southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan" which pretty much is modern day Gary, Indiana. The intent was clear enough but trouble soon followed.
In 1802, Ohio began the process of attempting to become a state. Reports were received from a fur trappers that Lake Michigan extended further south than was previously thought. Worried about the prospect of losing territory and some access to Lake Erie, the Ohio Constitutional convention 'bent' the northern border upwards to protect their interests. However, this was included as minor provision. When the Congressional Committee reviewed Ohio's entrance into the United States the matter was not dealt with, the Committee's report simply said the boundary depended on a 'fact not yet ascertained'. In 1803, Jefferson signed an act of Congress that approved Ohio’s constitution which in essence made Ohio the 17th State in the Union [although techincally the Congress did not declare it such until 1953 when the oversight was noticed – the paperwork in 1953 made the induction retroactive to 1803].
In 1805, the Territory of Michigan was formed, quite rightly using the language of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 to define it’s southern border. The Ohio legislature petitioned the US Congress on the matter but nothing was done and when the War of 1812 broke out there were more pressing matters to deal with. It was not until 1816 when Indiana joined the Union as a State that a survey was ordered. Typically, the Congress put a former governor of Ohio in charge of the survey and lo and behold it came out in Ohio’s favor.
Michigan then commissioned it’s own survey. The results of which put the “Toledo Strip” into Michigan’s territory as was originally intended back in 1787. As such, the Territory of Michigan began building roads, collecting taxes and what not in this piece of land. While most of this 8 mile wide strip of land was farm land of not huge importance the section near Lake Erie was. With the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 what would become the Port of Toledo increased in economic importance greatly.
In 1833 the Territory of Michigan gained enough population to begin the statehood process. However the enabling act was blocked in Congress by the Ohio delegation. In 1835, Ohio then setup county governments throughout the “Toledo Strip”. Enraged, the young Governor of Michigan signed a law that made it a crime for anyone to carry out Ohio governmental actions in the disputed area – punishable by five years of hard labor. The original “Michigan Militia” was then formed and sent into the “Toledo Strip” to enforce the law. Former President John Quincy Adams sided with Michigan during the dispute and said: "Never in the course of my life have I known a controversy of which all the right was so clearly on one side and all the power so overwhelmingly on the other.
Ohio did indeed have power. They quickly raised an even larger militia and sent it near the strip. In response Michigan occupied the City of Toledo and the Toledo War was on. Then, as now, Ohio was swing state in Presidential elecetions and Michigan was still a Territory. As such President Andrew Jackson was definitely on Ohio’s side. He had nothing to gain politically by supporting Michigan’s claim – whether it was legally correct or not.
A skirmish broke out on April 26th, 1835 in what is known as the Battle of Phillips Corners. The Ohioans retreated but by this time there was almost out and out war. Both sides allocated more monies towards increasing the size of their respective militia’s. Again Michigan petitioned for Statehood but this time Andy Jackson squashed it until the border issue was resolved. Jackson then removed Michigan’s territorial governor with a more compliant individual – a guy named “Little Jack” Horner.
Horner, obviously, was loathed in Michigan and he was pelted with veggies upon his entry into the territorial capital. Andrew Jackson then let it be known that he would approve Michigan’s statehood if the Toledo Strip was ceded. In compensation, Michigan would be given the Upper Peninsula. Michigan had no realistic choice but to accept. On December 14th, 1836 the terms were officially accepted and the Toledo War was over.
On January 26th, 1837 Michigan officially became the 26th state in the union – without the Toledo Strip but with the U.P. Even with the agreement in place there were still squabbles over the exact location of the border. This was drag on for decades and decades. In fact, it wasn’t until a 1973 Supreme Court decision in Michigan Vs. Ohio that the matter was put to rest once and for all.
This is why Michigan has both a lower and upper peninsula and why there is still no love lost between Michigan and Ohio.
P.S. Of course Michigan ended up having the last laugh in the long run. I had the pleasure of living in the Upper Peninsula for five years as I attended college and it is a beautiful place. Michigan picked up a future National Park and a National Lake Shore, along with all the Copper, Iron Ore and Lumber resources in the U.P. Ohio? Well, they got to keep Toledo.
U.P. of Michigan