FROSTBITTEN CONVENTION

The remarkable, improbable way the U.P. became part of the State of Michigan

A historical marker stands in front of a dilapidated barn in a location known as Phillips Corners in northern Ohio. It marks the site of an April 26, 1935, skirmish between Ohio and Michigan officials in which shots were fired but nobody was injured. The incident marked a highpoint in tensions between Ohioans and Michiganders during the feud known as the Toledo War. (Public domain photo)

By Mark Ruge
The history of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula’s is filled with unexpected twists and turns. But no part of its story is more remarkable than the way the U.P. became part of the State of Michigan despite the objections of many of the states’ leaders. It took a most usual series of events—including an unprecedented requirement from Congress and an outrageous act by a 24-year-old territorial governor—to bring the Upper Peninsula into Michigan and to make Michigan a state. The article tells that story of that series of events, including one extraordinary and mostly unknown event on December 14, 1836, the date that has become the Upper Peninsula’s unofficial birthday.

The Toledo War
This story begins in the early 1800’s with the Michigan territory desperately trying to become a state. But Michigan’s entry into the union was delayed for years because of a dispute over an approximately 500 square mile piece of land on the southern border of Michigan near Toledo, Ohio, the so-called Toledo Strip. For years, the Michigan territory and the State of Ohio fought over the disputed land boundary. There were skirmishes and battles and even a small amount of bloodshed. This was not just a local battle—it had the attention of President Andrew Jackson, who saw it as a threat to the union.
But Ohio had the upper hand in the dispute because it was already a state with a large Congressional Delegation, and Michigan needed Congressional legislation to become state. Finally, after years of fighting, on June 15, 1836 a grand compromise was reached through legislation authorizing Michigan to become a state but keeping the disputed Toledo land in Ohio. As a consolation prize—and it wasn’t much of a consolation to the people of Michigan at the time—Congress added the full Upper Peninsula as we know it today into the boundaries of the State of Michigan.
But Congress knew Michigan wouldn’t be satisfied with the compromise, and it did not want Michigan coming back later to dispute the boundaries. So Congress added an unprecedented requirement to the statehood bill. Before Michigan could become a state, the statehood law said, the “boundaries of the said State of Michigan [as described in the law] shall receive the assent of a convention of delegates elected by the people of [Michigan]…” In other words, delegates from Michigan were required to convene and formally endorse the boundaries in the Congressional statehood bill or Michigan would not become a state.

The Final Condition
The Michigan territory was finally on the verge of becoming a state but its leaders were not happy…

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