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The History of Michigan’s Own War
When the Toledo War took place in 1835 and 1836 between Michigan and Ohio, the conflict over the Michigan-Ohio Border was already nearly fifty years old. From what essentially boils down to a misunderstanding, both Michigan and Ohio claimed a certain 468-sq-mile piece of territory, in which lies what we now know as Toledo, Ohio. In 1835, this cold conflict came to a head when both Michigan and Ohio, each spurred on by the other, tried to pass official legislation claiming the territory under their governing authorities. At the time this war took place, Ohio was already a state, while Michigan was merely a territory. In 1787, the Northwest Ordinance had been passed, providing for the division of the Northwest Territory into states by extending “an east and west line drawn through the southerly or extreme end of Lake Michigan.” The problem developed because Michigan and Ohio interpreted that line differently. Michigan citizens believed that Toledo belonged in their state; Ohioans believed Toledo was theirs.
The bloodless battle over the disputed “Toledo Strip” finally began in April 1835. Raids continued through the summer of 1835. Eventually, in December 1836, a compromise was accepted by Michigan, which gave Toledo and the disputed territory to Ohio and the western Upper Peninsula to Michigan. Acceptance of this compromise was necessary before Michigan could enter the Union. On January 26, 1837, President Andrew Jackson signed the legislation that made Michigan a state.
Comprehending the Process
Studying the Toledo War will help students to understand the process of becoming a state, including gains, losses, pros, cons, and the compromise that is/was needed in order to become official, and of course students will be much more knowledgeable on Michigan history after studying this war.
Key Components: You Will Need…
Worksheet: The Toledo Strip [PDF]; pencil, and paper;
Powerpoint: ToledoWar [ppt]
Setting the Scene
Hand out the Michigan Boundaries & Toledo Strip map (pdf under Materials Needed). Display the questions for discussion on the board prior to and during the lesson. Show the powerpoint presentation, visually explaining the territories that surrounded Michigan and how those territories changed over time. Read Michigan Mitten: The Toledo War with students so they can gain an understanding of the Toledo War. Following the presentation, ask students to think about the information they were presented and initiate a class discussion on the questions from below.
Talk About It: Discussion Questions
- What were some of the natural resources gained by adding the western Upper Peninsula to the state of Michigan? Were people aware of these resources in 1837?
- Find Toledo on a map of Ohio. For which Great Lake, bay and river is it a port? (Lake Erie, Maumee Bay, Maumee River) How would having Toledo have helped Michigan’s trade with states south of the city?
- How would Ohio have fared if Michigan had been given the Toledo strip?
- Compromise: The settlement of an argument by mutual concessions
- Dispute: An argument, a controversy, a difference of opinion; often relating to facts
- Legislation: Law, or a group of laws that have been/are enacted
- Ordinance: Law: public regulation for or against something
At the Michigan Historical Museum
Look at the display entitled “The Great Toledo War.” Slide the knob to see the areas of land affected by the resolution of the “war.”
Enter the “Statehood” gallery to see what else needed to be done in order for Michigan to become a state.
Find Out More
These websites have a bounty of further information on the Toledo War. In order to teach this lesson, both teacher and students should be well familiar with the events that led up to and followed the actual war.
Michigan Social Studies Curriculum Content Standards
This lesson presents an opportunity to address, in part, these standards:
- SOC.II.3. Location, Movement, and Connections. All students will describe, compare, and explain the locations and characteristics of economic activities, trade, political activities, migration, information flow, and the interrelationships among them.
- SOC.II.4. Regions, Patterns, and Processes. All students will describe and compare characteristics of ecosystems, states, regions, countries, major world regions, and patterns and explain the processes that created them.
- SOC.IV.5. Trade. All students will describe how trade generates economic development and interdependence and analyze the resulting challenges and benefits for individuals, producers, and government.
- Baker, Patricia J. (1986). Stevens Thomson Mason. Great Lakes Informant, Series 1, Number 5. Lansing, MI: Michigan Department of State, History Division.
- George, Sister Mary Karl (n.d.). The Rise and Fall of Toledo, Michigan. Lansing, MI: Michigan Department of State, History Division.
- Grimm, Joe, Editor (1987). Michigan Voices, Our State’s History in the Words of the People Who Lived It. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press (pages 44-47).
- Stapler, Harry (1985). Pioneers of Forest and City, A History of Michigan for Young People. Lansing, MI: Michigan Department of State, Bureau of History (pages 79-80).
- Without the “Toledo War,” do you think Michigan would have received the western Upper Peninsula? Why or why not?
Please contact staff at the Michigan Historical Center with questions, concerns, and requests for educational content.Contact