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Impact of the Toledo War on Michigan and Ohio

The War of Toledo was a conflict over the border between Michigan and Ohio, called the Toledo Strip, in 1835. It ended with the US Congress giving the Toledo Strip to Ohio, and giving Michigan the Upper Peninsula. While Michigan lost the Toledo Strip, was the Upper Peninsula worth more to Michigan than the Toledo Strip?

Vintage 1876 Map of Toledo
300Bird’s Eye View of Toledo, 1876
(Source: Vintage City Maps)

The War of Toledo was a conflict between Michigan and Ohio over the boundary between the two states. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 originally set the border between Michigan and Ohio as a straight latitudinal line going from the lowest point of Lake Michigan to Lake Erie. “There was just one problem: the best available maps [at the time] depicted Lake Michigan’s southern tip as being several miles north of its true location. As a result, the original border placed the mouth of the Maumee River and the future city of Toledo in northern Ohio rather than in southern Michigan.” (6) When Ohio became a state in 1803, the Ohio government made sure to assert that the Toledo strip belonged to Ohio in their state constitution, regardless of what any future physical borders might be discovered in the future:

“That the limits and boundaries of this State be ascertained, it is declared that they are as hereafter mentioned; … and on the north by an east and west line and drawn through the southerly extreme of Lake Michigan, running east, after intersecting the due north line, aforesaid, from the mouth of the Great Miami until it shall intersect Lake Erie or the territorial line, and thence with the same, through Lake Erie, to the Pennsylvania line aforesaid; provided always, and it is hereby fully understood and declared by this convention, that if the southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan should extend so far south, that a line drawn due east from it should not intersect Lake Erie, or if it should intersect the said Lake Erie, east of the mouth of the Miami River of the Lake, then in the case, with the assent of Congress of the United States, the northern boundary of this State shall be established by, and extended to a direct line running from the southern extremity of Lake Michigan to the most northerly cape of the Miami Bay, after intersecting the due north line from the mouth of the Great Miami River as aforesaid, thence northeast to the territorial line, and, by the said territorial line to the Pennsylvania line. (9)”

As the years went by, new surveys popped up, and Michigan neared statehood. Several representatives of the Wolverine State argued that updated maps based on the new surveys should be used to determine the border, which showed that the lowest part of Lake Michigan was lower than originally believed, and thus that the Toledo Strip belonged to Michigan. However, the government of Ohio refused to redraw the boundary lines.

The reason for the on-going dispute over the Toledo Strip was all about economics:

Ohio and Michigan both had good reason for wanting control of Toledo and the Maumee River. By 1825, the completion of the Erie Canal had linked the Great Lakes to the east coast, presenting valuable opportunities for trade. As the largest port on Lake Erie’s western side, the growing village of Toledo was poised to become a commercial hub. With so much riding on the contested territory, both sides attempted to tighten their grip on it. (1)

The conflict came to a head in 1835, where both states, especially Michigan, began forcefully asserting that the Toledo Strip belonged to them. Both territories attempted to enforce laws and collect taxes in the Toledo Strip, and passed laws against each other for doing so. After a few months of arrests and threats from both sides, the US Congress finally settled the debate. Ohio was given the Toledo Strip, and as part of their admission into the Union, Michigan was given the Upper Peninsula.

Michigan technically lost the “War of Toledo,” but sometimes the concessions gained in defeat can be more valuable than those gained in victory. Was Michigan actually the primary beneficiary of the territorial exchanges? Comparing the two regions and their value is a difficult task, and there may not be a definitive answer depending on what some people view as valuable, but this paper will attempt to compare the two regions in an objective fashion to determine if Michigan is better off with its Upper Peninsula than with the Toledo Strip.

Important Statistics Regarding the Toledo Strip

The Toledo Strip has an estimated population of 278,508 people, who live in a total land area of nearly 84 square miles, according to World Population Review. (13) The median household income is $35,808. There are a large number of colleges in the surrounding area, totaling 100,000 students among all universities within a 60-mile radius. (1) It also claims host to a wide variety of industries according to the Toledo Chamber of Commerce. (3) Toledo produces automotive and truck components, health care products, glass products, fiberglass, packaged foods, plastic and paper products, building materials, furniture, and metal products, and while it isn’t specifically the Toledo Strip, “Lucas County ranks among the 50 counties in the United States that account for 50 percent of medical industry production.” (12)

It is critical to include in this discussion the shipping of Toledo, the main cause of desire of the strip. “Toledo is situated at the center of a major market area; located within 500 miles of the city are 43 percent and 47 percent, respectively, of U.S. and Canadian industrial markets.” (12) This would seem to give them an advantage in the shipping trade:

“The Port of Toledo, on the Maumee River, is a 150-acre domestic and international shipping facility that includes a general cargo center, mobile cargo handling gear, and covered storage space. In 2004 the port handled 122,514 tons of cargo. Designated as a Foreign Trade Zone, the complex affords shippers deferred duty payments and tax savings on foreign goods. (10)”

However, it is important to note that Toledo is located near the city of Detroit, which is located within Michigan. Detroit was originally founded in 1700 by Antoine de La Mothe Cadillac to protect the fur trade in the Great Lakes area. (7). Detroit’s location also gives Michigan the potential to rival Toledo’s shipping. Detroit is only 60 miles by road away from Toledo and one of the shipping perks listed by is that Toledo is near Detroit Metropolitan Airport. (12) According to the Detroit Regional Chamber, Detroit’s water ports alone handle over 17 million tons of cargo, leaving Toledo completely behind it in terms of raw shipping output. (2) This blunts much of the benefit that Toledo would have had, had it been a part of Michigan.

Important Statistics relating to the Upper Peninsula

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan has a population of 320,000 people, and covers 16,427 square miles, according to a 2015 report by UP Supply Co. (10) There are three major universities in the area, those being Michigan Technological University, Northern Michigan University, and Lake Superior State University. While the Upper Peninsula is well-known for its abundance of raw materials, namely copper and lumber, there is also a wealth of diverse jobs available in the Upper Peninsula, according to WorkLiveUP. (4)

The copper industry is the Upper Peninsula’s major claim to fame. Copper was first extracted from the Upper Peninsula starting in 1845. The export of copper ramped up over the next 15 years dramatically, going from 12 tons extracted in 1845 to 9,200 tons in 1860. Because of the Upper Peninsula, Michigan was the largest copper source in the United States from 1847 to 1887, and was still a top 5 producer of copper even in 1936. (8)

Iron was also an important export from the Upper Peninsula. Iron ore was first discovered in the Upper Peninsula around the Marquette-Negaunee area, and in 1845 the first iron mines opened in Michigan, first carrying ore down to the Lower Peninsula, then eventually by rail all the way to Chicago. While not quite as important to the development of the Upper Peninsula as copper, iron ore shipments from 1845 to 1935 are totaled at 520 million tons. The Upper Peninsula produced between 1 million and 18 million tons of iron yearly from 1873 part 1936, with the exception of 1932 due to the Great Depression. (8)

Another major export of the Upper Peninsula is lumber. Lumber was originally a byproduct of the copper mining in the area, since lumber was needed to support the mineshafts. Eventually though, the Upper Peninsula became a major source of Michigan’s lumber production. Michigan’s acquirement of the Upper Peninsula was especially helpful in this regard. With the acquisition of the Upper Peninsula, Michigan had the opportunity to build the Sault Locks which were instrumental in allowing for the transport of cut lumber (as well as iron) down to port cities such as Detroit and Saginaw, another major lumbering city. In 1863 alone, 1.4 million feet of lumber was brought through the canal, and in 1889, lumbering on the Menominee River alone peaked at more than 640 million feet of logs. (8) At this time in Michigan’s history, lumbering was an important industry for the state, and the Upper Peninsula helped further the industry.

Toledo vs. “The UP”

Toledo is the fourth largest city in Ohio. (11) Were it in Michigan it would rank as the second largest city in Michigan (behind Detroit). However, having Toledo in Michigan vs. the Upper Peninsula would still decrease the overall population of Michigan, since the Upper Peninsula has more than 40,000 more residents living in it.

The main draw for gaining Toledo is that it sits on Lake Erie, very close to the Erie Canal. As stated above, the Erie Canal is one of the main reasons Michigan and Ohio fought over the region as much as they did, since it would give each state closer access to the canal. However, also as stated above, Detroit was and is far more capable of controlling shipping in the Great Lakes area than Toledo.

Toledo also cannot even begin to compete with the vast amount of resources that the Upper Peninsula gave to Michigan. Michigan produced 8.722 billion pounds of copper between 1845 and 1935, (8) and while the copper and lumber industries are in decline in present day, they are still producing revenue for Michigan.


One might wonder why Michigan would even want Toledo, yet alone fight for it, but it is important to note that most people in 1835 viewed the Upper Peninsula as a barren wasteland. “Much of the feeling [of anger over giving up the Toledo strip for the Upper Peninsula] came from the mistaken but, popularly held notion that Toledo meant everything to Michigan’s future growth and that anything north of Saginaw was wasteland.” (9) There were those who accused Michigan Governor Stevens T. Mason of treason for agreeing to give up the Toledo strip in exchange for the Upper Peninsula. “Supporters of Charles T. Trowbridge, Mason’s Whig opponent for the governor’s chair in 1837, helped make an already bitter contest even more acid when they accused Mason of duplicity and cowardice in his role in the Toledo War.”(9) It took almost ten years for land surveys of the Upper Peninsula by William A. Burt and Douglass Houghton in 1844 to report the vast amount of copper in the area. As indicated by future reports, it did not take long for people to move in to the Upper Peninsula to claim the resources:

“Report of the Burt and Houghton surveys and discoveries published in July, 1846, listed 104 mining companies which had been organized and had made locations up to that time, while more than nine hundred “locations” and leases had been effected.” (12)

Despite having failed on their war aims goals of obtaining the Toledo Strip, the discovery of copper in the Upper Peninsula and the development of the entire area as a result tips the scale heavily in favor of gaining the Upper Peninsula over the Toledo Strip.

Today, Michigan enjoys a productive and beautiful addition to the state because of the Upper Peninsula’s inclusion.

Primary Sources

1. “Colleges & Universities.” Toledo Region, Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, 2019,

2. “Global Logistics.” Detroit Regional Chamber, 2019,

3. “Industries.” Toledo Region, Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, 2019,

4. “Industries.” WorkLiveUP, Marketing Department Inc. and Stang Decision Systems, 2019,

5. “Ohio Constitution of 1803 (Transcript).” Ohio Constitution of 1803 (Transcript) – Ohio History Central,

Secondary Sources

6. Andrews, Evan. “The Toledo War: When Michigan and Ohio Nearly Came to Blows.”, A&E Television Networks, 21 Nov. 2016,

7. “French Detroit (1700-1760).” Detroit Historical Society – Where the Past Is Present, 2019,

8. Fuller, George N., editor. Michigan – A Centennial History of the State and Its People (Volumes One and Two). The Lewis Publishing Company, 1939.

9. George, Sister Mary Karl. The Rise and Fall of Toledo, Michigan… The Toledo War! Michigan Historical Commission, 1971.

10. “Population and Geography of the Upper Peninsula.” The Upper Peninsula Supply Co., 9 Apr. 2015,

11. “Populations of Ohio (OH) Cities – Ranked by Population Size.” Populations of Ohio (OH) Cities – Ranked by Population Size,

12. “Toledo: Economy.” Toledo: Economy – Major Industries and Commercial Activity, Incentive ProgramsNew and Existing Companies, Advameg, Inc., 2019,

13. Toledo, Ohio Population 2019 (Demographics, Maps, Graphs), 2019,


14. Andrews, Evan. “The Toledo War: When Michigan and Ohio Nearly Came to Blows.”, A&E Television Networks, 21 Nov. 2016,

15. Arnold, Jill. State vs. State: the Toledo War.

16. Warren, Scott S. The Wonderful Wilderness of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.