Friday, September 20, 2013

Toledo War

Fig.1: The Toledo Strip, home to the Toledo Strip Mall with a Dunkin Donuts, 
a Krispy Kreme, and a Tim Horton's all in one convenient location!
Boundary disputes have perhaps caused more wars in the past two hundred years than any other issue, save for who is entitled to that last slice of pizza. Even in the 21st century, skirmishes between countries over where my stuff starts and your stuff ends occur regularly in Africa, South and Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and in the snack bar at the United Nations. But did you know that a war almost occurred between two states in the United States over a chunk of land about the size of Andorra? It's true: Michigan and Ohio both raised and armed militias in 1835 in order to keep a less than 500 square mile swath of territory known as the Toledo Strip under their own sovereignty. Both wanted access to the vital port linking the Maumee River to Lake Erie, the fertile farmland in the west, and to play home to the storied Toledo Mudhens minor league baseball team. The ensuing standoff left a staggering zero dead, one slightly wounded, and countless people's feelings hurt. It remains the largest internal dispute in United States history. And by that I mean it remains the largest internal dispute in United States history that deals with a strip of land in the Midwest with the same name as a city in Spain in which no one actually died.

Fig.2: The proposed boundary of Michigan (yellow dotted 
line) and location of Toledo (orange star) according to 
Mitchell's map, and a map not made by a complete idiot.
None of this lack of bloodshed needed to be not shed to begin with if someone had paid attention in surveying class. When the Midwestern states and territories were being carved out, the Northwest Ordinance stated that Michigan's southern boundary would be "an east and west line drawn through the southern extreme of Lake Michigan, running east...until it shall intersect Lake Erie." Unfortunately, the only map of the area (fig.2, left side) was completed by medical-school-dropout-turned-amateur-mapmaker John Mitchell; everyone knew the map was faulty since it was drawn with RoseArt crayons and obviously didn't use a ruler for straight lines, but it was the best they could do. Mitchell placed that "southern extreme of Lake Michigan" well north of Lake Erie, when in reality (fig.2, right side) the two lakes are nearly on the same latitude. What a dumbie. So when Ohio became a state in 1803, they put in their constitution that their boundaries include the town of Toledo, a vital shipping port on Lake Erie, based on their understanding of Mitchell's poor excuse for a map. But then more accurate information from people who actually pay attention became available two years later when Michigan was incorporated as a territory, and their boundary was drawn with reference to that. And thus the hilarious Three's Company-style mishaps ensued!

The worst thing about this is that nobody really noticed the mistake for another thirty years. It wasn't until Michigan asked to apply for statehood in 1833, with the Toledo Strip included in its territory, that Ohio said, "Whoa whoa, hold the phone!" despite the fact that the telephone was another forty years away. Ohio was successful in convincing their popular friends, such as cheerleader Pennsylvania, homecoming queen Virginia, and book-smart-but-still-cool Maryland, to vote against Michigan's admission to the Union. All Michigan had in their corner were those nerds Connecticut and Massachusetts, as well as the make-believe state of Delaware, and you're not going very far up the social ladder with those guys at your lunch table. And so Michigan decided to take matters into their own hands...Rambo style. In 1835 Michigan governor Stevens T. Mason (fig.3), who was only 24 and was feeling confident because his voice recently dropped, ordered for the arrest of all Ohio officials in the Strip, as well as anyone who complied and paid their taxes to the Ohio government. Ohio governor Robert Lucas did the same, ordering their citizens not to comply with the Michigan laws or else they would be arrested. I have this sudden urge to read Catch-22 for some reason...

Fig.3: Stevens T. Mason is still 
the youngest state governor in 
American history, evident
by the fact that he looks like
he belongs in One Direction.
When all that nonsense didn't work, they did the next logical step: call in the armies! And so Ohio and Michigan recruited their own volunteer militias to patrol the Strip, with Michigan making the first move by occupying Toledo and forming a giant Red Rover line around the city. The Ohio militia then quickly moved into position to the south and west of Toledo, ready to strike when Michigan troops called Jimmy over. However, these two armies would never actually engage; the only "battle" of the "war" occurred on April 26, 1835, thirty miles west of Toledo, where some Michigan "soldiers" harassed some Ohioan "surveyors" (I guess the quotations are unnecessary since they actually were surveyors) who were doing their best to figure out the border. In what came to be known as the Battle of Phillips Corners (mostly by the guy who owns the nearby barn and sells souvenirs for the skirmish), the militia shot their guns in the air and took the surveyors into custody. That's it. As for that one causality of the war, a Michigan deputy was stabbed with a penknife attempting to arrest Ohio citizens in the Strip. It was really just a flesh wound, but the deputy milked it out as long as he could just so he could ring a bell and get ice cream whenever he wanted.

Of course in typical fashion, the federal government just had to step in and meddle with the conflict, even though the two states obviously had it under control with their openly hostile governments, vigilante armies, and vendors selling ripe melons to lob at opposing citizens. President Andrew Jackson sought to find a perfect solution to the conflict, and by that I mean a solution that would benefit him and his Democratic Party. He realized that even though Michigan had every right to the Strip based on the original language of the Northwest Ordinance, they were just a measly territory, while Ohio was a full-blown state with influential representatives and electoral votes and farmer's markets that make absolutely delicious peanut butter fudge. If he ruled against Ohio, he and his party would lose all of that, and there would be no chance that his hand-picked successor, Martin Van Sideburns, would become president or enjoy that fudge ever again.

Fig 4: God knows how many 
centipedes there are here. Yuck!
And so in August 1835, Jackson removed Mason as Michigan's governor, who cried and cried about it until he was given a creamsicle to distract him from his pain. He then proposed a compromise that if Michigan gave up the Toledo Strip, Congress would approve their statehood and award them with what came to be known as the Upper Peninsula. Michigan delegates rejected this out of hand, since the UP was nothing more than rocks and trees and yucky bugs (fig.4), and rebelled by reinstating Mason as governor. But then Michigan realized that they wouldn't be getting any of the free money and candy that the feds gave out to all the states for Christmas, and the territory was going broke from having to pay a militia to play "Ruthless Occupier" throughout the Strip. So on December 14, 1835, Michigan said, "On second thought..." and agreed to the compromise. This, of course, upset the Wisconsin Territory since they originally had that land that was given to Michigan, but Jackson merely gave them a death glare, and they fell back in their rightful place of submission.

And so ended the Toledo War, or as some call it, the First American Civil War (nobody calls it that). At first, it seemed as though Ohio won out since they were given the economic boomtown of Toledo, and Michigan was stuck with just that bankrupt sludgehole they call Detroit. But copper and iron ore was discovered in mass quantities in the Upper Peninsula towards the end of the century, and the benefits naturally just evened out from there. Things are better between the two states now: on the eightieth anniversary of the war in 1915, Michigan and Ohio's governors shook hands over the agreed border (fig.5), and promised to only let out their raging aggressions for one another when the Wolverines and Buckeyes play annually in football, basketball, and Quidditch. Hopefully there will not be another conflict between states in America least until Pennsylvania and New York rightfully team up and divide New Jersey between them. They have it coming to them.

Fig.5: Michigan governor Woodbridge Nathan Ferris and Ohio governor 
Brutus Buckeye shake hands over the finalized state border.
*This history is composed in honor of Patricia T., resident of the Toledo, Ohio area, who was gracious enough to make a sizable donation to the blog. If you'd like me to write something dedicated to you that could be read by millions of people (not that it will be, but it could!), you are certainly free to utilize the Paypal button on the right side of this page! Go on, I dare you!*

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