Inside the Ohio vs. Michigan Rivalry
As both the college and NFL football seasons loom right around the corner, this season marks the 119th meeting between two bitter rivals. The Michigan Wolverines and The Ohio State Buckeyes will play for the 119th time in Ann Arbor this year on November 25th. Many people, football fans and non-sport fans alike are aware of this storied rivalry. “The Game,” as it’s been labeled, is arguably the rivalry with the most hate involved and is considered the greatest rivalry in all of sports. Everyone knows that. However, not everyone is aware of how it all started. Isn’t it funny when you can’t stand something but the only reason for not liking it, is because you’re not supposed to?
When Did The Hatred Start?
Michiganders and the great people of Ohio do not hate each simply because of a football game. At least, that’s not how it started. The hatred between the two states began as a land dispute, interestingly enough. Back in 1787, Congress created what was known as the “Northwest Ordinance,” which divided up the land masses all around the Great Lakes region amongst different states. This made it so the border between Michigan and Ohio legally was “an east and west line drawn through the southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan until it intersected with Lake Erie.” There was one problem with this: The Confederation inaccurately drew these maps and the Southern tip of Michigan was several miles north of its true spot on the map. This initial error in establishing the border made it so Ohio held the territory later known as Toledo. If the maps were correctly drawn up, however, Michigan would have received that land.
Time went on, and shortly after Ohio was admitted to the Union in 1803, the State of Michigan challenged where the border should be. Land surveys were done, and arguments continued with no resolution. These land surveys, however, did create a piece of land that was roughly 470 square miles located directly on the border of the 2 states. This became known has the “Toledo Strip.” Both Michigan and Ohio claimed it belonged to them. Not unreasonably, as whoever owned the area which included the bay of Maumee, benefited greatly from trade.
The Toledo War
Fast forward to 1835, when things became very hostile. The Governor of Ohio ordered a government to be established within the “Toledo Strip.” This resulted in the Michigan territory to be denied statehood and the state elected an aggressive 23-year-old to be their governor. Stevens T. Mason, the newly elected governor of Michigan retaliated to Ohio’s initial aggression by passing the “Pains and Penalties Act.” This put Ohio officials who tried to claim this area of land in jail and/or they had to pay serious fines. The end result? Both states called their militia to action and gave them strict orders to “act against trespassers.”
Andrew Jackson, the President of the U.S. at the time, did not want an armed conflict to take place. He sent officials to try to strike some sort of deal between the two states. Their proposed plan was to let citizens choose their own governments after Ohio representatives re-surveyed the land. Ohio agreed, and Michigan’s governor prepared for war. Fifty Michigan militia men “attacked” these land surveyors in April of 1835. They captured nine men, however, they only fired shots into the sky to intimidate the men. This whole mess became known as the “Battle of Phillip’s Corners.”
Several small fights took place throughout the year between the two. Dozens of random arrests of the people living in the Toledo Strip took place. One man was injured in the war. A Michigan Sherriff by the name of Joseph Wood, was stabbed several times after attempting to arrest important members of Ohio’s militia located in Toledo. There was One casualty in the Toledo War and the issues seemed to be resolved in 1836 when President Jackson would allow Michigan to legally become a State if they gave up the Toledo Strip. In return, Michigan was granted the Upper Peninsula. For more history on the Ohio – Michigan War, click here.
We Still Hate Each other
Nearly 200 hundred years after the war, Michigan and Ohio still have a heated rivalry between them. The difference is now we mark the calendar every year to see the two state’s College Football teams face off. Because the history between the two with the Toledo War, it is by far the most heated rivalry in all of sports. Michigan kicks off it’s football season at home facing off against the East Carolina Pirates on September 2nd. Ohio State will play their first game on the same day at Indiana.