It’s late April and Michigan is in dire straits. The governor has appealed to Washington for federal assistance. No, I’m not referring to Jennifer Granholm begging for bailout bucks when she was Gov in 2009.
I’m talking about the year 1835 and the Michigan territorial governor, 24-year old Stevens T. Mason, who was about to do battle with Ohio over a disputed survey line.
There were confrontations but little blood shed in what is referred to as The Toledo War. Never mind that in 1835 there was no Toledo (the city was chartered in 1837) and it was more of a fracas than a war. Ohio was declared the winner when Stevens eventually gave up a 468-square mile area at the southern border of the Michigan Territory known as the “Toledo Strip,” including the valuable mouth of the Maumee River.
In exchange Michigan attained statehood and most of what is now the Upper Peninsula. The “Boy Governor” Mason was duly elected to lead Michigan when it became a state in January of 1837.
The Toledo Strip was hot property worth fighting for because it was going to serve as a shipping center and route for canals that would connect Lake Erie and rivers in Ohio with the Mississippi River.
The wild Upper Peninsula didn’t look like much of a prize 180 years ago. Then the railroad derailed the canals and the U.P., rich with minerals and natural wonders, proved to be a great consolation prize.
Just for fun, let’s compare a sampling of assets in Toledo and the U.P.:
Toledo: Lake Erie
U.P.: Lake Superior, Lake Huron, and Lake Michigan
Toledo: Tony Packo’s Hot Dogs
U.P.: Toni’s Pasties, in Laurium
Toledo: Bridges over the Maumee River
U.P.: Mackinac Bridge over two Great Lakes, the International Bridge to Canada at Sault Ste. Marie, plus the Cut River Bridge and the Houghton-Hancock Portage Lift Bridge
Toledo: Home of Toledo Spring vehicle parts and service since 1932
U.P.: Home of the crystal clear, 40-foot deep Big Spring, Kitch-iti-kipi
Toledo: Hometown of cool singer Anita Baker
U.P.: Home of crass singing group Da Yoopers
Toledo: Eat in a lion’s cage at the zoo
U.P.: Eat at The Antlers in the Soo
Toledo: 60-acre Toledo Botanical Garden
U.P.: Hiawatha and Ottawa National Forests (almost two million acres combined)
Toledo: Glass collection at the Toledo Museum of Art
U.P.: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, sculpted and painted by Mother Nature
Toledo: Fort Meigs
U.P.: Fort Wilkins and Fort Mackinac
Toledo: The freighter SS Col. James Schoonmaker, now a museum ship
U.P.: Boat rides alongside freighters through the Soo Locks
Toledo: Actors Jamie Farr (M.A.S.H.), Katie Holmes (The Tom Cruise Story), the feminist Gloria Steinem
U.P.: Athletes Tom Izzo of Iron Mountain (Michigan State University basketball coach), George “The Gipper” Gipp of Laurium (University of Notre Dame football), the feminine Crystal Hayes, former Miss Michigan, of Rock
Toledo: Where they build Jeeps
U.P.: Where they drive Jeeps
Toledo: “Holy Toledo!” (and that’s borrowed from Toledo, Spain)
U.P.: “Holy Wah!” “You betcha,” “eh?”
Both worthy destinations in their own ways, but we in Michigan are glad we gave up the Toledo strip for the U.P., you betcha, eh?
All stories and photos copyright Kath Usitalo unless otherwise noted