Most wars leave people injured, dead, and leave damage in their wake. The Toledo War was an exception. It was not an official war, no one died, and there was little damage. The war was waged between Michigan and Ohio in 1835 over a small piece of land called the Toledo Strip. Both wanted to develop the city of Toledo into a great commercial port.
The war began in the spring of 1835 when Ohioans started to survey the border between Michigan and Ohio. At the time, Ohio was a state and Michigan was a territory working to become a state. Because existing laws were unclear about the boundaries between future states, both Michigan and Ohio claimed the Toledo Strip.
In April 1835 a Michigan sheriff’s posse of thirty men surprised a smaller group of Ohio surveyors working in Michigan’s Lenawee County. Nine Ohioans were captured and imprisoned at Tecumseh, Michigan. They were charged with violating Michigan’s Pains and Penalties Act. This law said only Michiganians could operate as public officials in the Toledo Strip.
Several Ohio surveyors escaped capture. They returned to Ohio and told Governor Robert Lucas that “an armed force of several hundred men” stretched across the border between Michigan and Ohio.
The Toledo War had begun.
In midsummer, tensions grew. On July 15, 1835, Monroe County deputy sheriff Joseph Wood arrived in Toledo to arrest an Ohioan who had violated the Pains and Penalties Act. The Ohioan resisted arrest and stabbed Wood. The wound was not serious and Wood recovered. He was the only person wounded in the war.
In retaliation, Michigan governor Stevens T. Mason ordered a posse of two hundred men to Toledo. When the Michiganians arrived, they discovered the Ohioans had fled to the safety of Ohio.
The climax of the Toledo War occurred in early September 1835. On the first Monday in September the Ohioans planned to hold a session of court in the Toledo Strip, hoping that doing this would make the land part of Ohio.
Governor Mason responded by leading a force of 1,000 armed Michiganians into Toledo. Twenty-one-year-old J. Wilkie Moore wrote that as they marched to Toledo they “had a vast amount of fun.” According to Moore, the farmers along the way “welcomed us enthusiastically because we were fighting for Michigan.”
When Mason’s men arrived in Toledo they found no Ohio soldiers or government officials. The Michiganians returned home thinking they were victorious. They were unaware that the Ohioans had held their court session quietly and quickly and returned to Ohio before the Michiganians reached Toledo.
When Mason returned to Detroit he learned that President Andrew Jackson had fired him as governor of the Michigan Territory. He was replaced by a new governor who favored the Ohioans. That autumn, the Ohioans surveyed the border with Michigan without any problems.
The Toledo War ended, and more than a year passed before Michigan became a state. In the end, Michigan was forced to give up the Toledo Strip in exchange for the western Upper Peninsula and statehood.
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The Last Laugh
Via Wikipedia’s excellent* entry on the Toledo War, it appears that Wisconsin was the ultimate loser of the Ohio-Michigan War:
At the time of the Frostbitten Convention, it appeared that Ohio had won the conflict. The Upper Peninsula (U.P.) was considered a worthless wilderness by almost all familiar with the area. The vast mineral riches of the land were unknown until the discovery of copper in the Keweenaw Peninsula and iron in the Western U.P.; this discovery led to a mining boom that lasted long into the 20th century. Given the current value of the port of Toledo to Ohio, it can be reasonably suggested that both sides benefitted from the conflict. Consequently, and ironically, the only state that definitively “lost” was not even involved in the conflict: the mineral-rich land in the U.P. would have most likely become part of Wisconsin had Michigan not lost the Toledo Strip.
*Really, this kind of article is where Wikipedia absolutely destroys a conventional encyclopedia. Also see their Timeline of the Toledo Strip/War entry.