Somewhere, in a dark, musty corner of America's memory, lies a map. Not just any map, but a very old map; one which, upon inspection, reveals an America very different from the one we know today. That America holds a place called Toledo, Michigan. Join us on a multi-sensory journey to the city that history forgot.
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If you were to ask one of the 19th century's top surveyors--luminaries like Mr. John A. Fulton--he would insist that, according to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, Toledo and nearly 468 square miles of prime farmland running east to the fertile shores of Lake Erie were rightly the possession of the proud Territory of Michigan. Yet, in Ohio's Enabling Act of 1802, the wily prot-O-hians claimed that stretch of land as their own.
Lake Michigan Plays It Coy
The Northwest Ordinance declared that Michigans stately holdings should unfurl southward only so far as the southern tip of Lake Michigan. But locating the lakes last warm laps was not a simple business.
Using precision locators like "a willow tree of eleven inches in diameter" and "a cedar post located at the southern tip of Lake Michigan," mapmakers of the time placed Lake Michigan's border slightly north of its currently accepted location. Plagued with cartographical incertitudes (Where was Lake Michigan exactly? Behind the knotty cedar post? Or the less knotty cedar post? Or the botanically obscure post that smelled sort of like cedar but mostly like moss?), our nation's primitive surveyors unknowingly launched the most divisive controversy ever to confront the Great Lakes Region.
Modern Technology Falls Short
Some have argued that the confusion emerged from an Enabling Act of God--a God who favored Ohio over Michigan--or from Lake Michigan's willful relocation of its boundaries. Did the lake migrate south some time between 1787 and 1807? Possibly. Or maybe even the longest strings and most distinctive trees left surveyors ill-equipped for the gravity of their task. The truth will remain shrouded in mystery, but there is little dispute over what happened next.
When Michigan applied for statehood in 1833, the boundary dispute was brought to the fore. In spite of much Congressional maneuvering and interstate hectoring, the controversy remained unresolved. Tensions escalated rapidly. Michigan began amassing troops in Toledo. Ohio amassed troops in Toledo and Perrysburg. Ohio allocated $300,000 to support the military efforts. Michigan allocated $315,000. The Ohio troops yelled across the front that the Michigan troops were lame. The Michigan troops countered that the Ohio troops were in fact the ones who were lame. Could violence be averted? Or was a full-scale civil war on the horizon?
A Cold War Turned Hot
The aforementioned amassed troops did little but drill and nibble hardtack, for the Toledo War was truly waged in the bars and taverns of Toledo, where brawls broke out with increasing regularity ("Stupid mudhen!" "Mitten face!") as liquor and vitriol flowed. Finally, after many attempted arrests and much fleeing of surveyors (and re-surveyors) to Maumee, the first official blood of the war was shed at J. Baron Davis' tony Toledo tavern, when Monroe County Deputy Sheriff Joseph Wood attempted to arrest shady Two Stickney (son of Major Benjamin Franklin Stickney, younger brother to One Stickney) for illegal acts associated with the dispute.
Suddenly, Two Stickney drew his fearsome penknife and thrust it into Wood's tender thigh, "non-fatally stabbing" the brave lawman. Though Wood's thigh healed, Michigan's acrimony bled on through the end of the war, and Stickney was the only offender to be indicted for crimes committed in the course of the hostilities.
County Leadership Covertly Elected by Governor
Shortly after the non-fatal stabbing, the Ohioans sought to strengthen their claim by declaring Toledo part of a real county--a real county in Ohio. Slipping into Toledo under the cover of night, the governor of the Ohio territory set up a secret meeting with fellow hardliners, and appointed them the officers of the new Lucas County. Official documents were drawn up and then filed safely away in the county clerk's hat. Having concluded their business, the venerable and alliteratively named Baxter Bowman, Jonathan Jerome, and William Wilson retired to a tavern before fleeing to the safe haven of Maumee.
In retaliation, Michigan troops sprung to action, raiding the homes of Major Stickney and his neighbors. In the bloodshed that followed, several chickens and hogs breathed their last breaths of Ohioan (or was it Michiganian?) air. Adding to the devastation was the destruction of several gardens and assorted orchards. Two horses, noted for their nobility, also fell this dark day. Appropriately, each side lost one steed, a reminder that in war, both victor and vanquished must suffer loss.
In 1836, at the request of President Jackson, Congress finally stepped in to resolve the conflict--in Ohios favor. The Clayton Act formally established the Michigan-Ohio line in terms other than sticks and trees, giving 1,100 square miles of disputed land to Ohio and Indiana, but compensating Michigan with the mineral-rich Upper Peninsula.
This displeased the Upper Peninsula-ites, but they consoled themselves with backbreaking labor in copper and iron mines, and pastie breaks.
Today's midwesterners sometimes forget that their land was not always the placid, well-bordered place that they now know. But it will serve us well to remember that our nation was once a place where borders were as liquid as Lake Michigan, lapping the sandy shores of certitude only occasionally, and sailed always by the potential for violence and discord. We dedicate this web page to the memory of those who gave their lives and limb-health for the fair City of Toledo.
One human thigh: Not much is known of Joseph Wood, but human thighs are generally known to be fleshy appendages that are the very heart and soul of mobility. Without thighs, where would we be? Exactly where we started. That's where.
Two noble horses: A man and his steed, as they say, are unto each other as man unto wife, parting only at death, and then with sorrow. Horses in early America were revered for their ability to transport people from one place to another quickly. Unlike thighs, they are also able to pull wagons.
Assorted hogs and fowl: Hogs and fowl dotted the early American landscape like a plague of (good) pox, providing food and companionship for our nations settlers. Fowl also produced eggs.
Several gardens and orchards: Growing a thriving garden/orchard of tasty and healthful fruits and vegetables does not happen over night. But just as the Garden of Eden was lost in one fell bite, so the gardens of select Toledo-ans were extinguished in a moment. It is said that, even today, nothing will grow upon that war torn earth.
Toledo, Michigan: How to memorialize a place that never was, at least not beyond the liminal status of "territory"? Here we say a eulogy for a dream--a dirge for a promised land never realized.
Hog and Fowl Memorial Empanadas Let no life be wasted (when it could be tasted!)
Hardtack Taste of the military experience!
Garden and Orchard Memorial Avocado Eggrolls - Honoring paradise(s) lost (in eggroll form!)
County Clerks Hat Sometimes, important government documents need to be stored on your head
Sheriff's Badge The letter of the law
You will need:
1 ball of twine
1 or more knotty posts
Notepad (to serve as surveyor's journal)
Directions to Maumee
Get your historic penknife the old fashioned way.