MAUMEE - Nearly 180 years ago, the State of Ohio and the Territory of Michigan were at war. Sort of.
|Speaker Fred Folger looks on while be introduced by Judy Justus. Folger gave a talk on "The Border War - Toledo, OH. or Toledo, MI." at the Maumee Library. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
The "Toledo War" conflict, which even embroiled parts of Wood County and ended up with the disposition of Toledo to Ohio and the Upper Peninsula to Michigan, was the topic of a lecture Feb. 28 at the Maumee Library.
"In many ways, it's a crazy comedy of errors," said speaker Fred Folger.
The lecture was part of the Wolcott House Museum Guild's lecture series.
At fault were hot tempers, cold ambition, and lukewarm mapmaking.
"They certainly did not know the shape of the lower peninsula," said Folger of cartographers' depictions of Michigan.
In 1802, as the Ohio Territory prepared for statehood, the western, eastern and southern borders were simple to determine - but the northern border with the Michigan Territory remained in doubt. In some maps, Wood County extended to the Michigan line, and at that time included much of modern Lucas County. Port Lawrence, a village which would later join with others to create Toledo, was placed by some in Michigan.
Confusing the issue were competing borders drawn by two different surveyors. The Fulton Line placed Toledo in Michigan, while the Harris Line drew the border from the southern tip of Lake Michigan to Maumee Bay, putting Toledo in Ohio.
The old state line was, for a time, located where the border between Wood and Lucas counties currently sits, just above Rossford.
Michigan desired more expansive southern territory for a number of reasons, but the main point of contention was Toledo. Michigan sought a port on Lake Erie, and had even planned to found the University of Michigan on the Maumee River.
"They wanted that Maumee River, especially," said Folger. The river would give Michigan access to the Erie Canal, and by extension the Ohio River and richer access to trade.
"Four to five miles an hour (on the canal) doesn't seem like much now, but back then it was good time," said Folger.
At one point, President James Monroe called for a new survey of the disputed area, amounting to 468 square miles. Among the surveyors brought in was a young military engineer by the name of Robert E. Lee, who would later gain fame as the leader of Confederate forces in the Civil War.
"(Lee) noted, though, that the people in Toledo were not very friendly" out of fear that the results of Lee's survey would put the Michigan line south of the city.
The conflict heated up in 1835, during the administration of President Andrew Jackson.
Jackson found himself in a quandary, as he was fond of both Ohio's governor, Robert Lucas, who helped nominate him for a second term as president, and the territorial governor of Michigan, Stevens T. Mason.
To curry favor with the president, Mason took the step of naming counties in his territory after Jackson - and each of his cabinet members as well.
Jackson sent another survey team to hopefully alleviate the dispute. Lucas took the step of quartering the state militia in Perrysburg to await the team.
"We did have not too much in the way of bloodshed," said Folger, though the surveyors did have a rough time of it.
While surveying in Lyons, the team was accosted by a posse from Tecumseh, Mich. They took cover in a cabin owned by farmer Eli Phillips, and a bloodless shootout ensued.
The team was captured by the posse and taken to Tecumseh, where they were detained.
The incident, known as the Battle of Phillips Corners, is commemorated by an Ohio historical marker.
In another incident in Toledo, a man named Two Stickney, who agitated for Ohio's rights, reportedly stabbed and wounded a sheriff's deputy from Michigan.
In the end, while no large-scale violence erupted, Jackson intervened and awarded Toledo to Ohio and gifted the Upper Peninsula to Michigan, who agreed to the plan during their statehood convention in December, 1836 in an unheated office. The affair came to be known as the "Frostbitten Convention of 1836."