The Toledo War

(working draft)


By Karen Todorov


     The story of how Michigan became a state with two peninsulas began in 1787. After the United States became a country, the Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.


The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 was a law that was written to govern the Northwest Territory until states were formed. 


The Ordinance divided the Northwest Territory into sections.  One important line used to divide up the Northwest Territory was a line drawn east from the southern tip of Lake Michigan to Lake Erie.




Five States were eventually made from the Northwest Territory.  The states are Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana.  



Rules to Become a State:

1. Have a population of 60,000

2. Write a constitution

3. Establish the boundaries for the new state


Ohio became a state in 1803.  At that time Ohio Governor Lucas drew the northern boundary of Ohio so that it would include Toledo and all of the Maumee River and its mouth on Lake Erie.


In 1803 water transportation was the fastest, cheapest, safest, and most comfortable way to travel.  All important cities were located on rivers, lakes or the ocean. People relied on water transportation to move their goods to market and to bring supplies to their homes and businesses.


People in Ohio wanted to make sure that the Maumee River and its mouth on Lake Erie belonged to them.  They knew that access to transportation by water would bring more people and businesses to Ohio.

The location of Ohio

With the Toledo Strip in Ohio and control of the Maumee River in the hands of Ohioans a direct route from Lake Erie to the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers would assure prosperity for the new state.


The area known as the Toledo Strip



The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 was important to the settlement of Michigan.  In 1830 the total population of Michigan was listed as 31, 639.  By 1833 it had grown to 92,723.


The Northwest Ordinance stated that after a territory had a population of 60,000 persons, it could apply for statehood.  It was time for Michigan to become a state!


In July of 1834, the acting governor, Stevens T. Mason called a special session of the Michigan Legislature to quickly get Michigan on its way to becoming a state.  A constitutional convention was set for the second Monday in May 1835.


A constitutional convention is necessary when writing a constitution in a representative democracy.  People are elected from communities around the state to represent them at the convention. 


The work of the convention is to write a constitution for the state.

A constitution is the set of rules the state must follow. State Constitutions like our United States Constitution limits the power of government and protects the rights of the people. Having a constitution is a requirement for becoming a state.


Michigan established its southern border according to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Because this border was further south then the border recognized by Ohio there was a problem.  In what state would the Toledo Strip end up, Michigan or Ohio?


Using Social Studies Words

1. Find and underline these words in the reading you just completed:

a.    peninsula

b.    ordinance

c.    govern

d.    transportation

e.    prosperity

f.     settlement

g.    population

h.    statehood

i.     legislature

j.     constitution

k.    representative democracy

l.     requirement


2.  Match the vocabulary words with the correct definition.

á      The number of people who live in an area

á      The formal set of rules written to rule a state or country

á      Something you must do

á      The group of people who make laws, and the building in which they meet

á      A piece of land surrounded on three sides by water

á      A law

á      When people are feeling happy because their needs are met

á      To have authority to make decisions

á      To move people or goods from place to place

á      A place where people live

á      When a territory becomes a state

á      A government where the people choose individuals to make decisions for them


Max Your Learning!


Learn to read and understand these words and you will know many more!


govern               government governor              governed


transportation   transport


settlement           settler



legislature          legislator

legislate              legislation


population          populate


constitution         constitutional




Use Your New Vocabulary


1.  Read the following word


Word Group One

settlement        statehood

ordinance         population

Word Group Two

Constitution       statehood

Representative democracy      requirement       legislature


2.  Use the words in each word group to write sentences about what you have learned.


Word Group One:

Word Group Two:

Find the States


Label the map with the names of the five states made from the Northwest Territory.



Give the Relationship


Write a sentence that explains the relationship between the opening of the Erie Canal and Michigan becoming a state.







Use Your Social Studies Vocabulary


Draw and label a picture to show the meaning of each of the following words:


peninsula             govern
































prosperity            transportation


     Both Michigan and Ohio wanted the Toledo Strip as part of their state.  In 1825 Michigan created the county of Port Lawrence which included the Toledo Strip. People who lived in the new county used Michigan courts.  They also voted in Michigan elections.


The County of Port Lawrence grew in population and soon had two cities.  The city of Port Lawrence was started in 1817.  The city of Vistula was started in 1832. In 1833 the two cities were united under the name Toledo.  All legal papers from this time were filed in the Monroe County Court in Michigan.


What did Ohio think about this? We do not know. Even though Ohio was a state and Michigan was still a territory Ohio did not object.  They had no response.


Michigan's Governor Cass tried to make a deal with Ohio to solve the problem.  He was not successful.  Ohio claimed the Toledo Strip and would not talk.


In 1833 Michigan asked the United States Congress to make Michigan a state. Michigan claimed the Toledo Strip as part of the state.  Michigan's request to become a state was rejected because it included land that belonged to Ohio.


In December 1834 Michigan again sent people to Ohio to settle the problem.  Ohio's Governor Lucas replied by refusing to talk about the dispute.  In response to the request to talk, Governor Lucas set up the Ohio county of Lucas on the same land that held Michigan's Port Lawrence County.



            President Andrew Jackson


President Andrew Jackson sent two men to settle the dispute between the states. Again, Ohio refused to talk.  The two men then went to Detroit to deliver a message from President Jackson.

President Jackson's message told Michigan Governor Stevens T. Mason that if he arrested any Ohio state officials found in the Toledo Strip that he would be removed as governor. Governor Mason reminded the President's men that Michigan had passed a resolution. It said that anyone, except Michigan or federal officials, who was caught accepting office or performing official actions in the Toledo Strip, would be fined $1,000 or five years in prison. Governor Mason said that he would enforce that law.



                Governor of Michigan

                      Stevens T. Mason


Today the Governors of the states that make up the United States of America can not be removed by the President.  But in 1835 Michigan was not a state.  As a territory formed from the Northwest Ordinance it had a governor appointed by the President of the United States.


Governor Stevens T. Mason took action.  He led his militia to the Toledo Strip. He arrested all the Ohio officials that would not leave by a set time.  He also arrested nine surveyors who were re-marking the boundary line. The war had started. 


It is hard to understand how this problem became known as the Toledo War. We know that wars are terrible events in which many people are killed. Like in real wars people at this time were very angry and ready to fight, so the name the Toledo War stuck.


In 1835 many Ohioans were afraid of the fierce Michigan militia led by Governor Mason.  Rumors about the militia were spread around Ohio. They knew that Michigan was determined to keep the Toledo Strip. They knew the militia was armed and ready to fight.

Actually in the Toledo War not one person died.  And in the end after many small fights and rumors of ruthless behavior, the war was over.  It was finally settled two years later by a vote of the people of Michigan.


When President Andrew Jackson learned of Governor Mason's actions he removed him from office.  Governor Mason immediately bowed to the authority of the President.  Without the governor at its head the militia disbanded.


Now it was up to the Congress.  The Congress passed a bill that would admit Michigan as a state if it accepted a compromise. The compromise gave the Toledo Strip to Ohio and the western three-quarters of the Upper Peninsula to Michigan.


At this time people did not know very much about the Upper Peninsula.  Many people said that they did not want the western Upper Peninsula.  The newspapers at the time said it was a land without resources.  Some people who lived in the western Upper Peninsula did not want to be part of Michigan. The Congress had made many people unhappy.

It was clear however if Michigan was to become a state it would have to give up the Toledo Strip and accept the western three-fourths of the Upper Peninsula into the state.


It took two votes of the people in 1836 before Michigan voters approved of the compromise.  Michigan was on its way to becoming a state.


On January 26, 1937 Michigan was admitted as the twenty-sixth state by President Andrew Jackson.


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                           The flag of the State of Michigan


Was it all over?  It was not until 1915 that the boundary between Ohio and Michigan was finally surveyed and marked.  At its completion the governors of Michigan and Ohio stood on either side of the line and shook hands.


With the settlement of the land boundary many people felt that the Toledo War was finally over.  Not so.  It was a decision of the Supreme Court in 1973 that decided the boundary between Ohio and Michigan in Lake Erie.



The people of the time did not know about the vast resources of timber, iron ore, and copper present in the Upper Peninsula.

It wasn't until Douglass Houghton's historic survey of the Upper Peninsula in 1840 that Michigan realized for the first time what a prize it had won.  Houghton discovered that the Upper Peninsula was rich in animal, mineral, and lumber resources. The natural beauty of the land would be a source of pride for the entire state.




Many people in Michigan now claim that gaining the western Upper Peninsula for Michigan was better than winning the Toledo War!




What Happened First?



1. Michigan became a state Ohio became a state


2. The Erie Canal opened Houghton surveys the Upper Peninsula


3. The United States becomes a country The Northwest Ordinance is Passed


4.  President Andrew Jackson fires Governor Mason

     Governor Mason leads the militia to the Toledo Strip






Vocabulary to Review

1.  Find and underline these words and phrases in the reading you have just completed.


a. dispute

b. resolution

c. federal official

d. official action

e. militia

f. boundary

g. fierce

h. rumors

i. ruthless behavior

j. bowed to the authority

k. disbanded

l. compromise

m. resources

n. survey



2.  Match the vocabulary words

     with the correct definition.

á      A disagreement or conflict

á      A military group which is called to service in an emergency

á      Information that may or may not be true that is usually spread by word of mouth as if they were true

á      A way of settling an argument where each person gives up something they want

á      When a person recognizes the power of another person without a fight

á      A person who is employed by the government of the United States

á      How something turns out or ends

á      The line that separates one thing from another

á      A report of everything that is known about a place

á      Take something apart or separate

á      Things of value

á      Acting in a way that is mean and having no mercy

á      Something which is done by the government and written down

á      Ready or eager to injure or kill






Decide and Do


Underline all the dates in the story about the Toledo War.  Decide which ones are the most important dates.  Make a timeline that shows the dates that you have selected.  You should not include every date in the story.  Be prepared to explain why you chose the dates that you did to the class.


Write a Sentence




Choose one date important to the Toledo War.  Write a sentence that tells why you think it is the most important date in the story.


Think and Write




One of the Core Democratic Values is the respect for the rule of law.  When in the story about the Toledo War did Governor Mason show that he had respect for the rule of law?


Write a statement from the point of view of Governor Stevens T. Mason about his action that showed respect for the rule of law.






Help Douglass Houghton Plan His Trip



During the summer of 1840 state geologist Douglass Houghton was sent to the Upper Peninsula to complete land surveys of the state.

He was to report to the Michigan legislature on what he discovered in the spring of 1841.


Houghton's 1840 survey began on May 21st and ended on August 8th. Three men helped Dr. Houghton.  Houghton hired six crew members to row the two canoes and set up camp each night.


Make a list of the fifteen most important things you think that Douglass Houghton would need to take with him on his trip.  Put them in order from the most important to the least.





































Act This Out


In 1915 the governors of Michigan and Ohio shook hands over the official border between Michigan and Ohio.


Work with the members of your group to act out this historic event for your class.


Your first step should be to decide who would be present for this historic handshake.  Make sure that each person has something to say.


Draw a Historical Event


Governor Stevens T. Mason lead the militia to the Toledo Strip to keep Ohioans out.  Draw a picture that shows this event.










Write Four Questions




If you were the teacher, what are the four most important questions you would ask your class about the Toledo War?  Be prepared to explain your answers to the class.