How Michigan kind of, sort of, illegitimately became a state on Jan. 26, 1837

Michigan, Ohio, the Erie Canal and the no good very bad 30 year border conflict

By Dane Sager Kelly - Web Producer

Michigan in 1718, Michigan in 2018.

Happy 182nd birthday, Michigan! You look great. Honestly, you don't look a day over 125. What's your secret? Pilates? Whatever it is, keep it up. It's working.

Pleasantries aside, Michigan, we have to talk. It's about your southern border and how your statehood wasn't exactly... legitimate. I know, I know, you're insecure about it. 

It's because we care, you know that, right? We love you and think you're beautiful regardless. You've definitely grown into yourself. In your old photos you look less like a state and more like a deflated latex glove.

We all have awkward phases, it's a part of growing up.

Michigan's jagged border and how we became a state

To really dig into it, we need to talk about how you became a state.

After the 1783 Treaty of Paris officially ended the American Revolutionary War, Great Britain surrendered a large chunk of land that would later go on to become Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, part of Minnesota and Michigan. 

In 1787, Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, designating the surrendered land as the Northwest Territory -- which was the first organized territory of the United States. At the time, the furthest western border of the country was the Mississippi river. 

The Northwest Ordinance drew out borders for future states within the territory. One of these boundaries was a straight line from the southern tip of Lake Michigan to Lake Erie.

Those who are good at retaining information -- or have looked at a map of Michigan at any point after 1816 -- are aware that Michigan's southern border is, in fact, not a straight line.

Nearly 200 years later, Michigan and Ohio have set the record for the longest game of Tug-of-War.

How the War of 1812 made a mess of Michigan's clean border

Ohio became the 17th state in 1803, becoming the first state in the Northwest Territory. Its northern border being the proposed state line. Shortly after that, Congress designated the Michigan and Illinois territories. 

The War of 1812 would delay the federal government's ability to survey the Ordinance Line, which led to Indiana's northern border being placed 10 miles north of the Ordinance Line. The Michigan Territory's capital was then switched from Detroit to Lansing, as there were fears that Detroit would be too easy to invade, since it was on an international border and Canada fought with Great Britain during the war.

Illinois was admitted as a state in 1816, with the more northern border, to allow the state some Lake Michigan lakefront. 

Former Ohio Gov. Edward Tiffin, who was working as the Surveyor General of the Northwest Territory, had the Ordinance Line redrawn. The new line aligned with Indiana's border, giving Ohio possession of Toledo. 

Michigan wasn't fond of that.

When Illinois was admitted as a state in 1818, the Michigan Territory was given ownership of parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Ordinance Line was also redrawn, giving The Toledo Strip to Michigan.

Ohio wasn't fond of that.

The Toledo Zoo & Aquarium wasn't opened until 1900. What made this strip of land so important?

You can always tell your neighbor, you can always tell your pal, if he’s ever engaged in border disputes that escalate to aggressively violent overreactions

The Miami and Erie Canal

In 1827, Michigan claimed Toledo as Port Lawrence Township. Michigan businesses and lobbyists invested heavily in Port Lawrence. The Miami-Erie Canal, connecting Lake Erie and the Ohio River, was expected to make Toledo a massive successful port city, like Detroit, Chicago and Boston.

Lobbyists pressured Michigan politicians to make sure that Toledo remained within Michigan's borders as Michigan businesses invested in many large-scale projects -- such as rail lines and hotels -- that would ultimately be canceled, at great expense to Michigan investors.

In 1832, Michigan petitioned Congress for an Enabling Act to allow Michigan to call a constitutional convention. Congress denied the request, citing the unresolved border conflict between Michigan and Ohio. 

Instead, Congress decided to redraw the border. For the fourth time. 

The man who drew the line was Robert. E. Lee, who was just dipping his toes into civil wars to see how they felt, probably. He later went pretty hard in another American civil war.

In 1835, Ohio Gov. Robert Lucas passed new laws that extended the state's borders to include Toledo. Michigan lawmakers responded that any attempted control of Toledo would be seen by Michigan as a crime with the Pains and Penalties Act

Less than a month after the Pains and Penalties Act was passed, Ohio insisted Toledo was theirs and asked to have the border drawn a fifth time -- and had the Ohio Militia present during the surveying. 

Michigan Territory Gov. Stevens Mason was elected to office when he was 23, and is still the youngest state governor in American history.

Mason, who was 24 at the time, was told by his father to act slow and to allow Ohio to be the aggressor. He was told that public opinion would be on Michigan's side, since they were literally being invaded by another state's militia. 

Michigan Kombat

The federal government steps in and doesn't do much

Mason put Joseph Brown in charge of keeping the peace in the Toledo Strip. Brown was the founder of Tecumseh and owned shipping and stagecoach lines between Detroit, Ypsilanti, Chicago and more. He also owned inns and hotels along these lines. 

Mason told Brown to not engage with Ohio unless fired upon. 

President Andrew Jackson went on record saying he didn't want to pick sides or interfere. U.S. Secretary of State John Forsyth told Mason if he wasn't willing to accept a compromise, the federal government would force one. 

Both Mason and Lucas contacted Jackson about the Toledo Strip, asking for the border to be redrawn again. 

Jackson appointed Benjamin C. Howard and Richard Rush to arbitrate the dispute. 

On April 2, 1835, Lucas' new line drawing team reach Toledo. The next day, Howard and Rush arrived.

On April 6, Ohio held elections for local government in Toledo. 

Michigan wasn't fond of that -- and on April 8, Brown and Michigan authorities went into Toledo to arrest violators of the Pain and Penalties Act.

In the middle of the night, about 40 people -- Michigan Militia, sheriff's deputies and volunteers -- went into the home of Maj. Benjamin Stickney, a known Ohio supporter and assaulted his guests and children.

They brought people to Monroe and held trials. People were arraigned for either being Ohio loyalists or interfering with arrest of loyalists.

"We are driven from our homes for acting under the authority of Ohio; our houses broken open in the dead of night; citizens taken prisoners, bound hand and foot, and tied to fiery horses, gagged that they may not alarm the rest of the citizens," one witness recalled. "The females too in the same house are treated with violence by being held and prevented from going to alarm the neighbors; and all this for saying to an individual, he need not obey the laws of Michigan."

Continuing to fail to allow Ohio to be the aggressor, about 300 Michigan horsemen, armed with guns and bayonets, took the Ohio state flag down and dragged it through the streets of Toledo.

The Battle of Phillips Corner

The commission team met with Jackson and told him the only way to avoid war would be to surrender Toledo to Michigan. Residents of Toledo would have to decide what state they were citizens of.

On April 25, Lucas put together 40 armed men with a new line survey party. Mason sent 30 armed men from Adrian to stand against Lucas' men. 

On April 26, the 30 Michigan men found the survey party. Most of the party fled, but a small group hid in a nearby cabin that was promptly surrounded by the Michigan men.

The Ohio men emerged from the cabin to surrender, but ultimately made a run for it.

The Michigan men fired on the Ohio men, who surrendered. All were captured.

In June, Ohio started its own Pain and Penalties Act and designated the Toledo Strip as Lucas County. 

The Frostbite Convention

Jackson met with Ohio legislators and agreed that Michigan needed to surrender Toledo to Ohio. Mason argued the Toledo Strip was legally Michigan's, due to the Ordinance of 1787.

On Aug. 17, Mason appeared before a federal counsel to defend his actions against Ohio. He would later request hundreds of men for self-defense. Jackson removed Mason from power and replaced him with John Horner

Michigan residents would not acknowledge Horner and would still use Mason as their representative, without the legal title. When Jackson's paperwork for Horner had gone through and been validated, Michigan voters had already re-elected Mason as governor. In return, Congress refused to seat the two Michigan representatives who had just been elected to office, only allowing them to observe.

In June, 1836, Congress proposed giving Toledo to Ohio and giving Michigan the Upper Peninsula as a consolation. Jackson signed it; Congress just needed Michigan to agree. 

Mason asked for the border to be resurveyed. Again. Jackson passed.

In September, Mason invited officials from throughout the Michigan Territory to meet in Ann Arbor to discuss the deal. The deal didn't pass, on a vote of 28 to 21.

As the conflict went on, the problem Michigan had was the territory was going bankrupt due to high military expenses. The government was spurred to action by the realization that a $400,000 surplus in the U.S. was to be distributed to the 25 states, but not to territorial governments.

During a particularly cold and snowy December, a second convention was held in Ann Arbor and delegates voted to approve Congress' offer.

The legitimacy of the vote is still debated.

The legislation did not approve a call to convention and only hosted delegates who were privately invited by Mason, who he knew would support statehood. Congress and Michigan residents questioned the legality of the vote and petitioned for Jackson to not allow statehood to go through.

Jackson, who had been dealing with this nonsense for years, accepted Michigan as the 26th state on Jan. 26, 1837.

Toledo didn't grow into a huge shipping port due to the fast expansion of train rails, making both Erie Canals outdated.

The final border dispute between Ohio and Michigan happened in 1973.

The Supreme Court sided with Ohio. 

Happy birthday, Michigan! 

Can you maybe make the roads and Red Wings better, please? For us?

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