Ask anyone: Michigan has had a friendly rivalry with Ohio for what feels like forever. May it be on the gridiron or competition in auto industry exports, our neighbors to the south often feel like an unruly sibling as part of the larger Midwestern family. This relationship goes back centuries, to the time where Michigan and Ohio were establishing their statehood. Because in this month of Michigan’s history in 1836, we nearly went to war with Ohio over the 468 square mile area known as The Toledo Strip.

At that time, Toledo was—and still is—a highly valued area due to its location on Lake Erie. This area is the west end of the Saint Lawrence Seaway system, a vital shipping route that connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. It allowed for international importing and exporting, key to the region’s economic growth. The south end of Lake Michigan had been an agreed upon line for drawing state borders, but mapmakers had underestimated how far south the lake went. When maps were corrected, the Toledo Strip became a disputed territory with Michigan and Ohio both staking their claim.

When Michigan legislators applied for statehood, they needed to establish their boundaries—and included Toledo in their petition. Ohio, already a Union state, blocked the petition, causing uproar between the states with Ohioans sending an armed militia to occupy the territory.

What we may call the “Toledo War” wasn’t actually a full-on battle. A group of men from Adrian confronted the Ohio militia who had been marking official state lines north of Toledo. A series of warning shots were fired with the militiamen arrested and taken to Tecumseh – they would escape to Ohio days later. In fact, the only wartime casualty was a fatal stabbing of a Monroe County Sheriff during one of the many scuffles.

Thereafter, President Andrew Jackson and Congress intervened and (unfortunately) took Ohio’s side. However, as consolation, Michigan was granted the western two-thirds of the Upper Peninsula, stripping it from the Wisconsin Territory. On December 14, 1836 at the “Frostbitten Convention” in Ann Arbor, state leaders begrudgingly accepted the offer, not knowing that the far-away U.P. would one day be an economic boom with its gigantic deposits of copper and iron.

So did the Toledo War come to an end, with both our states coming away as victors in the end!

Step back in time with more stories of Michigan’s history at Empowering Michigan

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