The Toledo War

Faber, Don. The Toledo War: The First Michigan-Ohio Rivalry. Ann Arbor, Michigan; The University of Michigan Press, 2008.

A war between Michigan and Ohio?  There have been numerous publications over the years covering the border dispute between Ohio and the territory of Michigan in 1835.  The war involved much posturing, even more politicking, a posse of Wolverines arresting Ohio agitators,  and a dramatic stabbing.

The results of the “war”, as you may know, involve Toledo and the northern part of Lucas County becoming a part of Ohio and Michigan joining the Union (with the Upper Peninsula, for some reason or another).  Farber’s The Toledo War looks at the whole situation from each party involved, but the emphasis is on statehood and Michigan.   We learn much about the trials of Michigan’s first governor, Stevens T. Mason.

Sitting in the 21st Century, I was amazed at how the early government could leave borders unclear for such a time (Ohio became a state in 1803).  Faber offers a pretty detailed argument for why both parties believed they should own this strip of land (486 square miles).  From a very basic view, the land was legally a part of Michigan (residents had been under territorial jurisdiction prior to the war), but Ohio wanted it and Ohio had voting representation.  For practical purposes, Ohio and Indiana (also a state with voting representation) were building a canal (known as the Wabash and Erie Canal) from Evansville to Toledo (which was not a city at this time, but a group of villages).  Ohio was not going to allow Michigan to snag the port city.

My one complaint is that the much of the details are repeated constantly throughout the text.  In terms of a story, the reader always knows too much beforehand.  That said, The Toledo War more than covers this odd tale of Ohio history and is a wealth of information on the Northwest Ordinance and the early process of statehood.

If you do not have time to read The Toledo War, but know nothing about the events, the Internet can help.  An oddity Faber discusses in  the Epilogue worth contemplating is Michigan’s Lost Peninsula, whose history is tied to the Toledo War.  The Lost Peninsula is for all practical purposes in Toledo.  But, as a result of the peace settlement, it is part of Michigan, though you have to walk or ride through Ohio to get from the peninsula to Michigan.  This results in the residents of this 200-acre strip of land not really having any city service.  It is great how border disputes are resolved.

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