Toledo War FAQ

As we hurtle toward the yearly Michigan-Ohio State football matchup, you’ll hear an event that happened long ago, but is still bandied about as the root to the interstate rivalry. Some call it the Toledo War. Others call it the Ohio-Michigan War. Did these two seemingly sedate Midwestern States actually come to blows over friggin’ Toledo?

Q: So what was the war about?

A: Toledo. Or, to be more specific, a three to five wide strip of land called the “Toledo Strip” that stretches from Lake Erie to the Indiana border. Basically it was some nice farmland that is highly desirable out there in the Midwest. Also, Toledo’s a nice port city with lots of canals so there you go.

Q: Anything else at stake?

Basically the statehood of Michigan. The “Toledo Strip” fiasco was such a hot button issue that Ohio was using to to block Michigan from attaining statehood.

Q: So how come Michigan and Ohio came to blows over this?

A: Basically, no one could figure out who had the right maps. Michigan had some official maps that said that the land was theirs, Ohio had other maps that showed that the land was theirs. The discrepancy probably stems that the border was drawn from the tip of Lake Michigan to the tip of Lake Erie, and as well all know bodies of waters like to shift around and screw with political delegates.

Q: Any celebrity endorsements for either side?

None other than two of the most badass presidents in history. John Quincy Adams backed Michigan’s claim. The current president at the time, Andrew Jackson, backed Ohio, and not just because he hated J. Q. Adams and would vote against everything that man stood for even if it was “the right to wear pants.” Ohio was already and actual factual state, and its residents had the right to vote. Of course, things got sent further into turmoil when Old Hickory’s own Attorney General sided with Michigan.

Q: Oh my! Were there any gunshots fired?

A: Well, there was the Battle of Phillips Corners, the climax of the conflict.

Q: Sounds brutal!

A: Not really. The Michigan militia (fifty to sixty strong) fired a bunch of musket shots in the air to scare off some surveyors. About ten of the surveyors were taken prisoner. No one actually got hurt. All in all, it was about as brutal as Houston after a Texans win.

Q: Oh. So it was a bloodless war?

A: Um… technically. Blood was shed at some point.

Q: Yikes! Where?

A: Michigan Sheriff Joseph Wood went to arrest Major Benjamin Stickney and his sons. There was resistance, so the Sheriff decided to take the whole family into custody. There was a bit of a scuffle, and the major’s son, Two Stickney, stabbed Wood with a pen knife. The injury was not life-threatening.

Other than poor Mr. Wood, two horses, two pigs, and a few chickens also lost their lives to this sad chapter in American history.

Q: Sounds … lame.

A: Uh huh.

Q: Who names their kid Two?

A: The same guy who named another son “One.”

Q: So… who won?

A: Technically, Ohio, who the US Government awarded the Toledo Strip. As compensation, Michigan was given the Upper Peninsula, which seemed lame at the time because it was known as an unarable frozen wasteland.

As time went on, though, sizable deposits of iron and copper were found in the UP. These discoveries (as well as the plentiful amounts of lumber) went on to feed the Flint carriage industry and, later, the Detroit auto industry, making the Michigan city a major world player in the early-to-mid 20th Century.

So Ohio got its strip of farmlands and Toledo, an industrially strategic city on Lake Erie. Michigan got the huge Upper Peninsula with its vast natural resources. Everyone wins!

… except Wisconsin, who would’ve gotten the UP if the Toledo War never happened and would probably be known for something more than dairy and beer nowadays … if they’re even remembered for that.

So Ohio and Michigan win, and another Midwestern state is the loser. And that, in a nutshell, pretty much sums up the Big Ten athletic conference.


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