This week is rivalry week in college football. That means you get a lot of awesome games with cool names like “The Iron Bowl” (Alabama-Auburn) and “The Holy War” (BYU-Utah). But only one of these rivalry games can claim an actual war in the history of its geographic region.
(Well maybe two rivalries can claim actual battles: Kansas-Mizzou, given the abolitionist vs. slave state skirmishes known as “Bleeding Kansas,” in the 1850s.
Because I’m a history dork who loves things with names like “The War of Jenkins Ear,” “The Era of Good Feelings” and “Merkle’s Boner.”…Let me tell you about the boundary war, well it was kind of a war, over the Toledo Strip between Michigan and Ohio, and the “Frostbitten Convention” that ended it.
By Paul M. Banks
Varying interpretations of laws passed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries caused the governments of the state of Ohio and the territory of Michigan to both claim sovereignty over a 468 square mile region along the border known as the Toledo Strip. Yes, believe it or not it was Toledo that was deemed invaluable enough to fight for.
When Michigan sought statehood in the early 1830s, it’s pitch included the disputed zone it considered within its boundaries. Ohio’s Congressional delegation responded by halting Michigan’s admission to the Union.
Beginning in 1835 both sides passed legislation attempting to force the other side’s acquiescence. Relations between the two governments went from cold to openly hostile.
On July 15, 1835, tensions finally overflowed and blood was spilled. Sort of. Monroe County, Michigan Deputy Sheriff Joseph Wood went into Toledo to arrest Major Benjamin Stickney, but when Stickney and his three sons resisted, the whole family was taken into custody.
During the scuffle, Two Stickney, son of the major, stabbed Wood with a pen knife and fled south into Ohio. Wood’s injuries were not life-threatening.When Ohio Governor Robert Lucas refused Mason’s demand to extradite Two Stickney back to Michigan for trial, Mason wrote to President Jackson for help, suggesting that the matter be referred to the United States Supreme Court.
At the time of the conflict, however, the Supreme Court could resolve state boundary disputes, and Jackson declined the offer. Looking for peace, Lucas made his own efforts to end the conflict, again through federal intervention via Ohio’s congressional delegation.
In December 1836 the Michigan government, facing a dire financial crisis (I guess some things never change), surrendered the land under pressure from President Andrew Jackson and accepted a proposed resolution adopted by Congress. Michigan had to forfeit its claim to the strip in exchange for statehood and approximately three-quarters of the Upper Peninsula.
The “war” if you could call it that ended on December 14, 1836, at a second convention in Ann Arbor. Yes the very same place that is home to UM. However, the calling of the convention was controversial. It only came about because of a public outcry. Since the legislature did not approve a call to convention, some said the convention was illegal.
Congress questioned the legality of the convention before finally accepting its solution. Because of it’s questionable nature, as well as the historical cold wave at the time, the event later became known as the “Frostbitten Convention.”
The Toledo area is about half and half in its allegiance, and considered the DMZ between maize and blue vs. scarlet and grey. The city has large contingents of partisans for both schools, and it’s much closer to Ann Arbor than Columbus, but it’s located in the same state as THE Ohio State University.
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank
He also does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports Radio.com