If you think the Michigan-Ohio conflict has gone badly lately, you should see how it started. That’s one takeaway from former Ann Arbor News editor Don Faber’s new book The Toledo War: The First Michigan-Ohio Rivalry. The 1835 dispute, Faber reports, was the first time that Michigan residents were called Wolverines—as an insult—by their neighbors to the south.
When Ohio was admitted to the union in 1803, he writes, it unilaterally redrew its northern boundary to include the mouth of the Maumee River. By the time combative territorial governor Stevens T. Mason sent Wolverine militiamen to chase off the Buckeye surveyors in 1835, it was already too late. Though the surveyors fled, Ohio enjoyed overwhelming superiority on the only battlefield that mattered—the U.S. Congress, which ordered Michigan to give up the 470-square-mile “Toledo Strip.”
Faber celebrates an unsung hero of the debacle: not-yet-official Michigan senator Lucius Lyon, who demanded compensation for the loss—and won what is now the western Upper Peninsula.