Inside the original Michigan-Ohio State rivalry: BTN LiveBIG Book Club

Inside the original Michigan-Ohio State rivalry: BTN LiveBIG Book Club

Ask any true blue (and maize) Michigan fan what they think of Ohio, and you’re likely to hear a heated diatribe on the wanting athletic skills and all-around gauche behavior of those contemptible curs south of the border. And, vice versa.

The heated football rivalry between the University of Michigan and The Ohio State University is an American classic, but did you know that at one time the two states were actually “at war” with each other?

The quotes are heavy, as this kerfuffle – known as the Toledo War – produced no more bloodshed than a minor pen knife wound sustained by a Michigan sheriff trying to arrest a group of wayward Ohio partisans.

In his 2008 book The Toledo War: The First Michigan-Ohio Rivalry (University of Michigan Press), Ann Arbor journalist Don Faber recounts the events of a border dispute that, in the end, both sides won.

Cover of Don Faber's book, The Toledo WarOwing to murky maps and even murkier legal language, the newly formed State of Ohio and the Michigan territory had a difference of opinion as to where their shared boundary lay. Ohioans claimed a more northerly line and Michigan a southerly one, leaving both squabbling over a spit of land due west of Lake Erie known as the Toledo Strip.

Faber’s book contextualizes the “border war” in the broader terms of the political sovereignty of states and territories and the influence of the federal authorities in what was then the burgeoning western United States. Michiganders, lacking representation in Washington, felt every bit David to the federal-recognized State of Ohio’s Goliath. The issue even attracted the attention of former US President John Quincy Adams, who entered the fray on the side of Michigan.

Ultimately, the conflict ended relatively amiably, with Ohio taking the Toledo Strip and Michigan gaining recognition of its statehood and dominion over the entirety of what is now known as the Upper Peninsula. And, as it turned out, that strip, once thought of as a worthless wilderness, would contribute unparalleled mineral wealth to the coffers of Michigan.

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