History of Lenawee County, Michigan - Chapter 5, The Boundary Dispute

                                  Previous Chapter                    Next Chapter

CHAPTER-V. THE BOUNDARY DISPUTE. IMPORTANCE OF THE QUESTION-THE ORIGIN OF THE DIFFICULT YMITCHELL & BRADLEY'S MAP-EXCEPTION CLAUSE IN OHIO STATE CONSTITUTION-THE HARRIS LINE-THE FULTON LINE-ATTACK UPON SURVEYING PARTY-MAJOR STICKNEY AND HIS CONNECTION'S WITH THE BOUNDARY DISPUTE-ACTIVITY OF GOVERNOR MASONDISPUTE FINALLY SETTLED BY CONGRESS-LEGAL PHASES OF THE QUESTION. The history of the trouble which arose over the matter of establishing a permanent boundary line between the present states of Michigan and Ohio should be of special interest to the people of Lenawee County, because of the fact that upon the decision and adjustment of the difficulty depended the question, whether the territory now embraced in the townships of Gorham, Chesterfield, Royalton, and Amboy, and the northern parts of Franklin, Dover, Pike, and Fulton, now in Fulton County, Ohio, should be a part and parcel of the Wolverine State, and form a part of Lenawee County, or the inhabitants thereof should be numbered among the Buckeyes. At one time the trouble threatened to assume the magnitude of civil war between the sovereign State of Ohio and the Territory of Michigan, supported, as the latter would unquestionably have been, by the military arm of the United States. The interest manifested was not confined to this locality, by any means, for leading members of Congress-notably John Quincy Adams, of Massachusetts-took a hand in the fray, and it formed a subject for heated debate between giants of the political arena. Years have passed since the amicable settlement of this dispute, but time should not efface the record of historical events. Reasoning thus, and believing (with no desire to be invidious) that many people are not familiar with the history of the difficulty, the writer has consulted various authorities and decided to devote a chapter in this work to what is sometimes called "The Toledo War." The question of boundary between Michigan and Ohio antedated the admission of the latter into the Union, and had its birth in the Congress that framed and adopted the "Ordinance of 1787" -an instrument providing for the civil government of the Northwest Territory, then lately ceded to the United States. And it would be within the bounds of truth to say that this controversy, which for a time seriously threatened the peace of the country, was conceived through a blunder committed by a well-meaning though misguided Herodotus, prior to the action of the legislative body that convened tinder the Articles of Confederation. By the "Ordinance of 1787," Congress divided the Northwest Territory into three parts, the western to include all the present states of Illinois, Wisconsin, and a portion of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan; the middle to include the present state of Indiana, and north to the British line; the eastern to include the territory bounded by Indiana„ Canada, Pennsylvania, and the Ohio River, "Provided, however, and it is further understood and declared, that the boundaries of these three (prospective) states shall be subject so far to he altered, that if Congress shall hereafter find it expedient they shall have authority to form one or two states in that part of the said territory which lies north of an east and west line drawn through the southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan." The latest map in use at that time, which purported to give a representation of this portion of the earth's surface, was one published by Mitchell & Bradley in 1780, and, being decidedly inaccurate, it showed the southern extremity of the lake to be thirty miles north of where it really is. Congress, however, with only that map as a guide, thought that the "east and west line" would intersect the Detroit River, and hence really intended that the future state of Ohio should extend a considerable distance further north than it does. In fact it was plainly the purpose of the framers of the "Ordinance" that the southern boundary of Michigan should be near the forty-second parallel of north latitude. Judge Burnet, in his "Notes on the Northwest Territory," thus explains the origin of the difficulty: "The question of boundary, though not expressly referred to the Convention, was one of greater importance than would appear at first view. It is generally known to those who have consulted the maps of the western country extant at the time the Ordinance of 1787 was passed, that Lake Michigan was represented as being very far north of the position which it has since been ascertained to occupy. On a map in the Department of State, which was before the Committee of Congress who framed the Ordinance for the Government of the Territory, the southern boundary of that lake was laid down as being near the forty-second degree of north latitude, and there was a pencil line passing through the southern bend of the lake to the Canada line, which intersected the strait between the River Raisin and the town of Detroit. That line was manifestly intended by the committee and by Congress to be the northern boundary of this state (Ohio) and, on the principles on which courts of chancery construe contracts, accompanied with plats, that map, and the line marked on it, should have been taken as conclusive evidence of the boundary, without reference to the actual position of the southern extreme of the lake." If Judge Burnet is correct in his conclusions, and if this boundary line had been established, it will be seen that all of Lenawee County, with the exception of the northern tier of townships, would have become a part of the state of Ohio. But Judge Burnet argues from the standpoint 'of equity, while the champions of the Michigan side of the controversy hold strictly to the legal phase of the question. They maintain that the provision in the Ordinance of 1787 was an article of "compact between the original states and the people and the states in said territory," and by the express terms of the Ordinance was to "forever remain unalterable unless by common consent," and it never by common consent had been abrogated or changed. To quote the words of Judge Cooley, in his "Michigan," "The people of Michigan had, therefore, two rights solemnly guaranteed to them by the Ordinance, neither of which could betaken from them without their consent. These were first to have a line drawn due east from the southern extreme of Lake Michigan for their southern boundary and, second, to be admitted into the Union as a state on reaching a population of 60,000." When the act was passed, enabling Ohio to take the necessary steps toward statehood, Congress, tinder the same misapprehension, bounded the future state on the north "by an east and west line drawn through the southern extremity of Lake Michigan, running east until it shall intersect Lake Erie on the Territorial (British) line, and thence on the same through to the Pennsylvania line." Again it is clearly proven that Congress intended the boundary line to be further north, for the Fultoii line, so-called (the boundary claimed by Michigan), if extended east would not intersect the British line at any point whatever. When the convention that framed the Ohio state constitution was in session, in 1802, it was still the prevailing understanding that the old maps were correct, and that the line, as defined in the Ordinance and enabling act, -would terminate at some point on the Detroit River, far above the Maumee bay. But, while that subject was under discussion, a strolling hunter, who had for many years plied his vocation in the vicinity of Lake Michigan, and was well acquainted with its position, happened to be in Chillicothe, and, in conversation with some of the members, mentioned to them that the lake extended much farther south than was generally supposed, and that a map which he had seen placed its southern bend many miles north of its true position. His statement produced some apprehension and excitement on the subject; and induced the convention 'to change the line prescribed in the act of Congress so far as to provide 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 (Maumee) then, and in that case, with the assent of the 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 (Maumee) bay," etc. The object of this proviso was to save to the state of Ohio the valuable port and harbors on the Maumee River and bay, as was clearly intended by Congress, and which were the prizes contended for in the threatened resort to arms. Congress accepted this constitution, but without expressly giving assent to the alternate boundary, and as the assent was not expressly given it was claimed by the adherents of Michigan that in the face of the compact of 1787 such assent could not be implied. In 1805 Michigan territory was created with the southern boundary as originally specified-the old erroneous map being used as a guide-and without any reference to the Ohio amendment. Upon this technicality arose the boundary difficulties, and the location of the line was considered very uncertain, even by the Ohio legislature, for at different sessions, in 18o7, 1809, and 1811, resolutions were passed, requesting that commissioners be appointed to establish definite boundaries on the north and west. Soon after the admission of Ohio into the Union an ,attempt was made to secure the assent of Congress to Ohio's boundary, but on December 6, 1803, this provision was stricken out in the Senate, and from that time until the close of the war of 1812, the ' question seems not to have been again raised in Congress. In the meantime, however, not only had Michigan's claim to the southern boundary existed de jure, but the asserted right had been exercised de facto, and had been recognized repeatedly and constantly by both the United States and the Territorial government. The United States government had attached the lands north of the falls of the Maumee to the Monroe (Michigan) land district; it had recognized. the boundary of Michigan as at the Rapids of the Maumee in the survey and building of the Ohio-Michigan road from the Connecticut Reserve to the lower falls of the Miami of Lake Erie; it had located the Michigan University lands on the Maumee River; it had recognized the same boundary in the building of the road from the Rapids of the Miami to Detroit. On the other hand the territorial government of Michigan had, without let or hindrance, exercised all the usual acts of jurisdiction to the line running due east from the southern bend of Lake Michigan. It had organized counties, townships and districts to that line had extended the jurisdiction of its courts and its judicial process to the same boundary; in short, in every way that the case admitted, it was fixed as the boundary between Ohio and Michigan. But by assuming authority in the Maumee country the Michigan officials soon excited the jealousy and resentment upon the part of the settlers in the disputed strip who professed allegiance to Ohio. On January 23, 1812, Amos Spafford, Collector of the Port at Miami Rapids, addressed a letter to Governor Meigs, in which he stated it "to be the general wish of the people in this settlement (which consists of about fifty families) to have the laws of the state of Ohio extended over them." He informed the governor that the people, with few exceptions, considered themselves clearly within the limits of Ohio-the exceptions being those who held office under the governor of Michigan, whose orders they were endeavoring to enforce. Collector Spafford stated that if no adjustment should be made, he feared the contention would, ere' long become serious. This letter of Mr. Spafford, it will be observed, was written during the period when the population of the western frontiers was excited by the unfriendly relations existing between England and the United States, and which resulted in a declaration of war made by the latter in June of the same year. On May 20, 1812, an act was passed authorizing the president to ascertain and designate certain boundaries, but the great issue of a foreign war, threatening a common danger, united all the people of the frontier, including those of the disputed jurisdiction, in support of the general welfare, and national patriotism subdued for a time the promptings of local and selfish interests. In the act of May 20, 1812, Congress, heeding the petitions of Ohio's legislative assembly, and recognizing the seriousness of the boundary dispute and the importance of its early settlement, authorized and instructed the surveyor-general of the United States, tinder the direction of the President, and as soon as the consent of the Indians could be obtained, "to cause to be surveyed marked and designated, so much of the western and northern boundaries of the state of Ohio, which have not already been ascertained, as divides said state from the territories of Indiana and Michigan agreeably to the boundaries as established by the (enabling) act" of 1802. As will be observed, the framers of this act had in mind the line as originally stipulated (due east from the southern extremity of Lake Michigan), but they evidently recognized the mistake made in such designation, for they instructed the surveyor-general "to cause to be made a plat or plan of so much of the boundary line as runs from the southerly extreme of Lake Michigan to Lake Erie, particularly noting the place where said line intersects the margin of said lake, and to return the same when- made to Congress." But, as before stated, the war of 1812 came on, and this, with ensuing difficulties, served to defer the making of the survey as directed.

The matter remained in state quo for several years, but on August 22, 1816, the commissioner of the general land office directed the surveyor-general to "engage a faithful and skillful deputy to mark said northern boundary agreeable to the act of May 20, 1812." In 1817 peaceful treaties having been made with the Indians, Edward Tiffin, surveyor-general of the United States, in pursuance' of said instructions and the Act of Congress mentioned above, employed William Harris, a skillful surveyor, to run a portion of the western and all of the northern boundary line of the state of Ohio. Indiana had been erected into a state in 1816, and its northern boundary, as defined by act of Congress, included "a strip of land, ten miles wide, off the southern portion of Michigan territory." This was another recognition of the old line which had been established through a mistaken idea of the geography of the country, but by extending Indiana ten miles further north, Congress showed its-disregard for the instructions given in the Ordinance of 1787, and gave to the Ohio claimants a precedent decidedly in their favor. Harris found that a due east line from the head of Lake Michigan would intersect Lake Erie seven miles south of the most northerly cape of Maumee bay, his survey in this matter agreeing perfectly with that afterward made by Fulton. He accordingly, inconformity with the proviso in the constitution of Ohio, ran another line from the lower extremity of Lake Michigan to the northerly cape of Maumee bay. It was claimed by the Michigan adherents that this act of the deputy surveyor was without authority of law or instructions from the department. In fact, the commissioner of the general land office, in a letter to the secretary of the treasury, June 5, 1818, said, "Having never heard of the proviso in the constitution of the state of Ohio relative to its northern boundary, I had uniformly supposed it to be an east and west line drawn from the southern extreme of Lake Michigan." This line established the northwest corner of Ohio at a point on the Indiana line, five miles, twenty-four chains, and sixty-four links north of where the due east and west line located the same. Or, in other words, the difference in the lines at this place was the distance between the northwest corner and southwest corner of Northwest Township in Williams County, Ohio. Gen. Lewis Cass was at that time (1817) governor of the Territory of Michigan, and, after investigating the boundary question, claimed the line to be the one established by the Ordinance of 1787, and accordingly claimed the disputed territory. The running of the second or Harris line brought out a protest from him to Edward Tiffin, then surveyor-general. This Edward Tiffin was the same who, in 1816, had made the famous report on the military bounty lands in Michigan, in which he described the lands of Lenawee County as unfit for cultivation. He was- an Ohio man; had been first governor of the state as well as a member of the constitutional convention that framed the constitution and the proviso, and it may be not unfairly inferred that he had something to do with the running of the "Harris line" in accordance with said proviso, instead of with the law. Governor Cass wrote (Detroit, November 1, 1817) "Report says that the line which has been recently run purporting to be the line between the state of Ohio and this territory, was not run a due east course from the southern extremity of Lake Michigan to Lake Erie, but a course somewhat to the north of this, although how much I am unable to ascertain. The act of Congress organizing this territory makes its southern boundary a due east line from the southern extremity of Lake Michigan, and this act is in strict conformity with the fifth of the articles of compact, in the ordinance for the government of the Northwest Territory; these are declared to be unalterable except by mutual consent." A lengthy correspondence followed between Governor Cass and the surveyor-general, and the matter was taken up by the Ohio legislature in January, 1818, strong resolutions being passed, affirming the Harris line as the true one and holding that Congress so decided in approving the organization of that state. On January 3, 1818, the governor and judges of the Territory of Michigan addressed to the Congress of the United States a formal and solemn memorial undoubtedly drawn up by Governor Cass, in which they recite the entire history of the boundary dispute to that date. The memorial is ably and clearly drawn, and is signed by Lewis Cass, governor; A. B. Woodward, John Griffin, and J. Witherell, judges. After reciting the provisions of the Ordinance of 1787, the enabling act of April 30, 18o:2, the seventh article of the constitution of Ohio, containing the alternative boundary to which Congress had never given its assent, and the act of January ii, 1805, in which the due east and west line through the southern extreme of Lake Michigan was expressly made the southern boundary of the Territory of Michigan, thus definitely excluding it from the state of Ohio, the memorial then proceeds "Your memorialists beg leave to state that during the past summer a line was run, tinder the direction of the surveyor-general, intended to be the boundary between this territory and the state of Ohio. This line instead of being on an east and west line from the southern extremity of Lake Michigan, agreeably to the acts of Congress before mentioned, was run on a course north 87 degrees 42 minutes east, and strikes Lake Eric at the northern cape of Miami bay, taking from the southern boundary of this territory, seven miles and forty-nine chains and adding it to the state of Ohio. The legislative power of this territory is by law vested in your memorialists, and they conceive they would fail to discharge the duties of their station were they not to submit this subject to the consideration of the national Legislature." In conclusion the memorialists pray "The undersigned respectfully submit the subject of this memorial to the consideration of Congress, and pray that the boundary line between this territory and the state of Ohio may be run and established agreeably to the provisions of the Ordinance of Congress of 1787, and of the several acts of Congress heretofore passed upon the subject." This memorial produced the desired effect, and on June 24, 1818. WV. H. Crawford, secretary of the treasury, directed the commissioner of the land office "to have the northern boundary of Ohio run and marked in conformity with the- act of May 20, 18.12," that is, on the due east and west line. John A. Fulton was employed to make the survey, and the result of course agreed exactly with the first line run by Mr. Harris. It became known from that time as the "Fulton line"-said line being the present boundary between the northern and middle tiers of townships in Williams County, Ohio, extending thence east through Fulton, and leaving a good portion of the city of Toledo in the present state of Michigan. But even the Fulton survey proved very unsatisfactory and inadequate. He did not establish the latitude of the southern extreme of Lake Michigan, nor did he determine the latitude where the east line intersected the Maumee River, nor where it reached Lake Erie. These were all left unsettled questions. As a starting point he accepted the intersection of Harris' line east from Lake Michigan with the north and south line between Ohio and Indiana. His plat showed a variation in latitude on different portions of the line. However, the United States' surveys for subdividing the lands purchased from the Indians into townships and sections were completed a few years thereafter, and as they were closed in Ohio and later in Michigan upon the Fulton line, it seemed that the government had decided favorably to that boundary. Ohio, however, claimed to the Harris line and proceeded, wherever the population was sufficient, to organize townships, etc., accordingly. Wordy discussions followed and civil officers were appointed by each claimant. Nothing serious occurred for several years, but, "a disputed jurisdiction," as' Lewis Cass wrote to Edward Tiffin, "is one of the greatest evils than can happen to a country." Claims which involve vast sums of money fail to provoke strifes as acrimonious as those relating to contested land boundaries. The anxiety of the inhabitants of the infant settlements, occupying the disputed tract, can be easily imagined, and almost any decision would have been welcomed by them if it ended the strife and established an undisputed jurisdiction. Duplicate copies of both surveys were forwarded to the secretary of the treasury on March 7, I82o, and on the 8th transmitted by the President to Congress. Here the matter rested until March i8, 1829, when the committee on territories of the House of representatives made a report recommending that the correct latitude of the several points be accurately ascertained. During John Quincy Adams' administration arose the question of internal improvements all over the country, and the project of uniting the waters of Lake Erie and the Wabash River by a canal was considered. As is well known, Gen. Andrew Jackson, who succeeded-Adams as president, did not favor internal improvements by the aid of the general government, but the state of Indiana obtained an appropriation by Congress of each alternate section of land, five miles wide, on each side of the proposed canal, and extending its entire length, including the portion through Ohio. Indiana conveyed to Ohio the portion within the latter state upon the conditions of the original grant. Thus Ohio became interested, and in March, 1834, the legislature authorized Governor Lucas to appoint three commissioners to locate the canal through the state. During the same year a survey of the proposed canal was made and it was found necessary to locate the eastern terminus at a point on the Maumee River, north of the Fulton line, in order to reach navigable water. This re-opened the mooted boundary question and brought the partisans of the rival claimants to a frenzied state of excitement.

Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC

On December 26, 1834, the territorial council of Michigan had passed an act providing for the appointment of three commissioners to negotiate and settle all disputes in regard to the southern boundary of the territory. To this conciliatory movement Gov. Robert Lucas, of Ohio, responded by a special message to the legislature of that state, under date of February 6, 1835, in which he said "I have received from the acting governor of the Territory of Michigan a communication enclosing a copy of an act passed by the legislative council of the territory,-providing for the appointment of commissioners to adjust the boundary," etc. "In the present case we cannot admit that the legislative council of the Territory of Michigan had any right to authorize a negotiation on the subject of a boundary, or that any arrangement entered into with commissioners appointed under their authority would be binding even on Michigan herself, after she might become an independent state." He then recommends "the passage of a declaratory act, -declaring that all counties bordering on the northern boundary of the state of Ohio shall extend to and be bounded on the north by the line running from the southern extremity of Lake Michigan to the most northern cape of Maumee bay and that the County and township officers within these counties and townships be directed to exercise jurisdiction within their respective counties and townships thus extended." The Michigan Territorial Council, on February 12, 1835, made a response to this action of the governor and legislature of Ohio by the passage of "An act to prevent the exercise of a foreign jurisdiction within the limits of the Territory of Michigan," punishing by heavy fines and imprisonment any person who should "exercise or attempt to exercise any official functions" within the limits of the territory or any County thereof "by virtue of any commission or authority not derived from this territory," or from the United States, and punishing in like manner any person residing within the limits of the territory who should accept any office from any authority other than the Territory of Michigan or of the United States. The legislature of Ohio promptly passed the act as recommended by Governor Lucas, thus forcibly extending jurisdiction over a strip of land about seven miles wide, along the southern border of Michigan territory, over which the latter had exercised unquestioned jurisdiction for thirty years. The fight was now on in earnest. The commissioners of Williams County, Ohio, met on March 30, 1835, and in accordance with the legislative enactment extended the County jurisdiction to the Harris line, notifying all citizens of such extension. Wood and Henry counties likewise extended. A further provision of the act of the legislature (passed February 23, 1835) provided for the appointment of three commissioners to run and re-mark the Harris line, and the 1st of April was named as the time to commence the survey. Governor Mason, of Michigan, keenly watching the Buckeye movements, ordered Gen. Joseph W. Brown, of Tecumseh, who commanded a division of the territorial militia, to be prepared to meet the impending crisis and to "use every exertion to obtain the earliest information of the military movements of our adversary." On March 31, Governor Lucas, accompanied by his staff and the boundary commissioners, arrived at Perrysburg on their way to run and re-mark the Harris line in compliance with the act "in such case made and provided." Gen. John Bell, in command of the Seventeenth division of the Ohio militia, arrived about the same time with his staff and mustered into service a volunteer force of about boo men, fully armed and equipped. The force went into camp at old Fort Miami and awaited the orders of the chief executive. Governor Mason, with General Brown, arrived at Toledo with a force under the immediate command of the latter, variously estimated at from Boo to 1,200 men, and went into camp, ready to resist any advance of the Ohio authorities upon the disputed territory to run the boundary line or any other movement inconsistent with Michigan's claim of jurisdiction over it. As a distinguished lawyer has put it, "the two governors, having made up an issue by legislative enactments, found themselves confronted by a military force that had been called out to enforce their respective legislative pleadings. Governor Mason, representing the tenant in possession, was content to rest at his ease. Governor Lucas, representing the plaintiff, had to open the trial." The whole country in the meantime became wild with excitement, and Governor Lucas had determined to order General Bell with his force to Toledo as soon as he could make the necessary preparations, and risk the consequences. No doubt such action on his part would have resulted in a serious military engagement and possibly menaced the peace of the entire country, but before he had got his preparations made, two eminent citizens--Hon. Richard Rush, of Philadelphia, and Col. Benjamin C. Howard, of Baltimore, arrived from Washington as commissioners from the President of the United States, to use their personal influence to stop all warlike demonstrations. Hon. Elisha Whittlesey, of Ohio, accompanied the commissioners as a voluntary peace-maker. The commissioners and Mr. Whittlesey had several conferences with both governors, and finally, on April 7, submitted the following propositions for their assent "i. That the Harris line should be run and re-marked pursuant to the act of the last session of the Legislature of Ohio, without interruption. "2. The civil elections under the laws of Ohio having taken place throughout the disputed territory, that the people residing upon it should be left to their own government, obeying the one jurisdiction or the other, as they may prefer, without molestation from the authorities of Ohio or Michigan until the close of the next session of Congress." Governor Lucas, on the urgent request of the commissioners and Mr. Whittlesey, agreed, reluctantly, to accept the proposition as a peaceable settlement until after "the close of the next session of Congress." Governor Mason, on the other hand, after conference with his advisors, promptly rejected the compromise, but referred it to the territorial council, which he called in special session, August 17, 1835. A committee of the council, of which James Duane Doty was chairman, reported on August 18, sustaining the governor. In its report the committee said: "We are not, therefore, disposed to regard these propositions as emanating from the President, but rather as the suggestions of two eminent individuals which were promptly and properly rejected by the executive of Michigan. Your committee does not deem it advisable to investigate the merits of this arrangement, as they are of the opinion that it is entirely incompetent for this council to enter into any arrangement to permit the exercise of a foreign jurisdiction within the limits of Michigan established by the ordinance and acts of Congress." On the next clay, August 20, 1835, the report of the committee was unanimously adopted. Governor Lucas, however, assented to the agreement as proposed by the commissioners, professing to regard the governor of a territory as a subaltern, subject to the control of the President. He looked upon the agreement as one made with the President, through Messrs. Rush and Howard as that official's representatives, and hence disbanded the military force he had collected. Governor Mason partially did likewise, but still continued to make preparations for any emergency that might arise, and stationed a military force at Adrian tinder the command of General Brown to keep a close watch upon events.' In 1832 new observations of latitude were made, under an act of Congress previously mentioned, by Captain Talcott, assisted by Lieut. Robert E. Lee, then a recent graduate from West Point, but afterward the famous military chieftain of the Confederate forces, and the idol of all loyal Southerners. These observations showed that the originally proposed line, if extended due east from the southern point of Lake Michigan, would not touch the international boundary in the middle of Lake Erie, but would pass several miles south of it, and coming to land again would throw into the territory of Michigan a considerable part of Northeastern Ohio. This absurdity was so apparent that it was confidently expected by the Ohio partisans that the alternative line, which was provided for in their state constitution, would be confirmed-especially so, when the fact was considered that Congress, as they claimed, by admitting Ohio to statehood, had constructively approved it. On March 7, 1835, President Jackson referred the papers relating to the boundary question to the attorney-general of the United States, then B. F. Butler, of New York, a distinguished lawyer, and on March 21 he rendered his opinion that the assent of Congress had not been given to "the actual and present extension of the northern boundary," and "thirdly, that until this last mentioned assent shall have been given by Congress, the tract in dispute must be considered as forming, legally, a part of the territory of Michigan." There is little doubt of the correctness of his view of the legal phase of the question, and with that tenacity which is a characteristic of lawyers he adhered to the letter of the law, He softened a little, however, by saying that no harm could come from the resurvey of the Harris line, as proposed by the Ohio authorities. Accordingly, notwithstanding the determined attitude of Governor Mason, Governor Lucas directed the commissioners to proceed to run the Harris line, commencing at the western end. Engineer S. Dodge, who was engaged in the construction of the Ohio canal, was employed as surveyor, and together with the commissioners and a considerable party, came up the Maumee River to Defiance, and then started across the country to the northwest corner of the state to commence the survey. They arrived at the Fulton line on April 19th, but as, the "border" was infested with Michigan scouts, the party decided not to advance without further advice from Governor Lucas. The governor instructed them to run the line at all hazards, and they proceeded to what is now the extreme corner of Northwest Township, Williams County, Ohio, where they found the corner of the state as described in the field notes of Surveyor Harris. General Brown kept a line of scouts in the woods along the line to report the progress of the surveying party. The commissioners and party proceeded eastwardly along the line, finding it with little or no difficulty, and re-marking it as directed, until they reached a point near the present village of Lyons, in Fulton County, Ohio, on April 25. This point is near the present southern boundary of Fairfield Township, and as soon as the party came within the limits of Lenawee County the under-sheriff, armed with a warrant from a justice of the peace, and accompanied by a posse comitatus, went to arrest them. At the point mentioned the party left the line and retired about a mile to the south, where they expected to spend the following day, Sunday. The Michigan force started on Sunday morning. The infantry, about one-half of the total number, was carried in wagons about ten miles out from Tecumseh, and from that point they had to march about ten miles. The force arrived a little after noon, the mounted men considerably in advance.' The surveying party was occupying two cabins. As soon as the mounted men arrived, General Brown, who accompanied the expedition, assumed command and ordered the surveyors to surrender, which they promptly refused to do. But when the infantry arrived, the occupants of one of the cabins, including the commissioners, became alarmed and broke for the woods, hastened by a volley of musketry. They dashed into Maumee nearly disrobed by the briars and thorns that beset their path through the wilderness. The occupants of the other cabin, including the engineer corps, were arrested by the officers and taken in triumph to the Lenawee County jail at Tecumseh. The civil authorities concluded to hold Colonel Fletcher, the chief of the engineer corps, in nominal imprisonment to test by law the validity of the arrest. The others were permitted to return to their homes in Ohio. Colonel Fletcher was allowed to be his own jailor. When he desired exercise he would carefully lock the door, and putting the key in his pocket would stroll through the village or drive out with the village belles. In addition to this "outrage" upon the official surveying party there were numerous flagrant assaults upon individuals-some of the events being ludicrous, but all of them doubtless having a serious aspect to the victims. Among the latter was Major Stickney, one of the most interesting and famous characters who were figuring on the Maumee in those early days. It will add a humorous interest to the dry details of this boundary dispute if we digress here and devote a little space to this eccentric individual. Major Stickney had been appointed by President Jefferson as Indian Agent, and as such had long resided in the western country---first at Upper Sandusky, and then at Fort Wayne. He was a man of some intelligence, and assumed to be a scholar and philosopher. His wife was a highly respectable lady-in every way amiable, and a daughter of General Stark of Revolutionary fame. But his wife's accomplishments did not prevent Major Stickney from resorting to all kinds of eccentricities. A part of this was to be as much as possible like nobody else. This he carried out in the naming of his children-not after any names found in either Christian or profane history, but the boys were to represent the numerals and the girls the states-as far as their numbers would go. The boys, therefore, were named One, and Two, etc., and though he condescended to name his eldest daughter, from respect to Mrs. Stickney, Mary, the rest of his daughters were named after the states, Indiana, Michigan, etc. This eccentricity produced some of the most ridiculous anecdotes, among which is the following: Soon after the family moved to the Maumee Valley, and while living in a house erected near the landing at the mouth of Swan creek, Mrs. Stickney one morning came to the piazza in front of the house, where a vessel lay at anchor, and calling to her sons, said: "Two, call One to breakfast." A sailor, aboard the vessel, looked up and said: "Is this Maumee? It is a terribly hard country if it takes two to call one to breakfast." In the spring of 1821 Major Stickney was a ruling spirit in what was already a thriving settlement in the neighborhood of Swan creek. Up to this time the little colony had been without a question within the jurisdiction of Ohio. Writs had been issued from Maumee in Wood County, to the settlers, as witnesses, jurors and suitors, and they, until then, had answered as such without a question as to jurisdiction. But other views had entered into Major Stickney's policy and philosophy. He called a public meeting of the citizens, and to them when thus assembled he represented that the citizens of the incipient city had very seriously mistaken their interest as to the question-where the true northern line of the state of Ohio was. He did not care as to what the constitution of the state of Ohio said on the subject-the true line was the one run due east from the southern extremity of Lake Michigan, which run considerably south of the settlement and would leave them in the Territory of Michigan, instead of the state of Ohio, and therefore they were Wolverines instead of Buckeyes. He averred that it was greatly to their interest to be so, that while they were citizens of the Territory they would be cherished and protected under the auspices and guardianship of the United States, while in Ohio they could not expect anything except to be taxed. He said he was well acquainted with General Cass, the governor of Michigan at that time, and would go to him and get a commission as justice of the peace for Michigan in the settlement, in case the citizens there would sustain him. The motion carried-the secession was complete. Major Stickney procured his-commission and proceeded to exercise the jurisdiction of a 'justice of the peace of Michigan over the seceded territory. Soon after these things had matured Gen. J. E. Hunt, of Maumee, had some official business to transact in that vicinity as an officer of Wood County. The citizens threw every obstacle in his way to prevent the discharge of his duties and to convince him that they had really seceded. General Hunt returned with just complaint of the conduct of the citizens there. A meeting of the commissioners of the County was called and the question was, what shall be done with the seceding rebels shall they be prosecuted and hung? Perhaps so, if justice were done them. But mild and discreet measures and counsels were adopted. It was considered that Congress and the State of Ohio would in due time settle the question, and in the meantime it was neither discreet nor prudent to get up a war which could be avoided. This policy prevailed and Major Stickney and his followers were let "alone in their glory." But about this time the canal question became an absorbing theme to the people of the Maumee valley. When fully acquainted with the project Major Stickney called another meeting of the citizens of Swan Creek, and to them he now represented that they had committed a great error in seceding from Ohio and going over to Michigan; that while they belonged to Michigan they could not expect that the state of Ohio would construct the canal to Swan Creek, they must go back to Ohio; they must secede from Michigan and go back to Ohio again, they must undo their former secession and rebellion or they could not expect to secure the canal. Thereupon all sorts of resolutions were adopted to the effect that they were, and of right ought to be, a part and parcel of the state of Ohio; that Ohio was a great and glorious state, and that they would maintain their position, if necessary, at the point of the bayonet. These measures succeeded in arousing Michigan to a demonstration of war. Militia soldiers were sent from Detroit by land and water to Swan Creek, to whip the rebels into subjection to their legitimate authority. They went in martial array and took possession of the territory where the proud city of Toledo now stands, making the citizens succumb to the power and jurisdiction of Michigan. They returned to Detroit in the most jubilant triumph, drinking all sorts of toasts to the glory of Michigan, and to the anathematization of Major Stickney in Ohio, one of which was, "Here is to Major Stickney's potatoes and onions-we draft their tops and their bottoms volunteer!" This, however, was all to the wishes of the sycophantical Major, and in accordance with his policy, he went immediately to Columbus and represented to the governor and the people of Ohio the intolerable barbarity of the Wolverines-how they had desecrated the just authority of Ohio and trampled under foot the loyal citizens of the state. In the meantime the people of Monroe County, Michigan, were kept busy assisting the sheriff in executing processes of the Monroe County courts in the disputed territory. Every inhabitant of the district was a spy for one or the other of the contestants, as inclination dictated, and was busily employed in reporting the movements of Monroe County or Wood County officials, as the case might be. The Ohio parties, when arrested, were incarcerated in the Monroe County jail. Among the individuals arrested by the Michigan authorities during the troublous times of 1835 was Major Stickney, the arrest being made after a violent resistance by himself and family. He refused to mount a horse. He was put on by force, but would not sit there. For a long distance two men, one on each side, held him on. At last, wearied by his resistance, they tied his feet under the horse, in which way they at last reached Monroe. The Major was confined in jail at the latter place for some time, as lie described it, "peeping through the grates of a loathsome prison for the monstrous crime of having acted as the judge of an election within the state of Ohio." He was finally released, however, but it is doubtful if ever, in either ancient or modern history, there has been an instance of secession and rebellion so successful, or a hero of one so clearly entitled to the distinction as Major Stickney. Other citizens of the disputed strip, who claimed allegiance to Ohio, were arrested and harshly treated, among whom were Messrs. NT. Goodsell and George McKay, of Toledo, and feeling was aroused to a high pitch. The commissioners appointed to re-mark the Harris line reported the attack upon them to Governor Lucas, and he, in turn, reported the facts to President Jackson. The President sent a copy of the report to Governor Mason, and directed him to send a statement "by the officers engaged in the transaction complained of." William McNair, tinder-sheriff of Lenawee County, and the officer who made the arrests, replied, denying that the commissioners' posse was fired upon. Great excitement prevailed throughout Ohio. The press spread the news with such comments as corresponded with their views. Most of the papers advocated the cause of the Governor, and severely condemned the conduct of Michigan, but some few of the Whig papers, or those anti-Democratic in politics, took an opposite view and severely berated the conduct of Governor Lucas and those who sided with him. They treated the proceedings on the part of the authorities of Ohio as ridiculous 'and calculated to bring the state into disgrace. But these papers that spoke freely against the course pursued by the state were very few. Governor. Lucas, finding it impracticable to run the line or enforce jurisdiction over the disputed territory, called an extra session of the legislature to meet on June 8th. That body passed an act "to prevent the forcible abduction of the citizens of Ohio." The act was intended of course to prevent, if possible, a repetition of offenses heretofore mentioned-and also had reference to counteracting the previous acts of the legislative council of Michigan-and made such offenses punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary for not less than three- nor more than seven years. An act was also passed at this-special session creating the County of Lucas out of the north part of Wood and Henry counties. This new Ohio County extended from the east line of Williams to Lake Erie, the greater part of the new division lying between the rival boundary lines. An act was also passed levying appropriations to carry into effect all laws in regard to the northern boundary. Three hundred thousand dollars were appropriated out of the treasury and the Governor was authorized to borrow $300,000 more on the credit of the state. The determination to run and re-mark the Harris line was still in evidence, and a resolution was adopted inviting the President to appoint a commissioner to go with the Ohioans when "they again attempted to make the survey. The issue was now changed, and to quote again from a legal chronicler of events, "The United States now became defendant as claimant of title in fee." The determined attitude of Michigan to prevent Ohio from exercising any authority over the disputed strip aroused a feeling of state pride that could not well brook the idea that the thinly populated Territory of Michigan, with her stripling Governor, 3hould successfully defy Governor Lucas and a state of a "million" inhabitants. Governor Lucas investigated the military strength of the state and found that at least I2,ooo men were ready to respond to a hurry-up call. The authorities of Michigan became exasperated. They dared the Ohio "million" to enter the disputed ground and "welcomed them to hospitable graves." Prosecutions for the crime of holding office tinder the laws of Ohio were conducted with greater vigor than ever, and the people of Monroe County, Michigan, were busy in acting as a sheriff's posse to make arrests of the recalcitrant Buckeyes. The partisans of Ohio being thus continually harassed by the authorities of Michigan and attempting frequently to retaliate in kind, the disputed strip was not an attractive point for the home-seeker during the greater part of the summer of 1835. But such a state of affairs could not permanently exist and was certain ere long to reach its culmination. The frequent arrests and imprisonments of reputable men tended to keep the matter at a fever heat, and in a few instances homicide was narrowly averted on the part of the infuriated citizens. On July 15, 1835, an attempt was made to arrest Two Stickney, second son of the doughty Major, and to re-arrest George McKay. The accused were found at a tavern, "in the village of Toledo," by officers Lyman Hurd and Joseph Wood, of Monroe County, Michigan; but Stickney and McKay resisted the efforts to arrest them, and in the melee that followed Officer Wood was severely wounded by a dirk knife, in the hands of Stickney, who escaped and fled to Ohio. He was indicted by the grand jury of Monroe County, and a requisition was made on Governor Lucas for his surrender. The Governor refused to surrender the fugitive, and this and other similar proceedings were reported by Governor Mason to President Jackson, who was becoming strongly impressed with the necessity of interposing some check to the evident tendency toward serious trouble. Some time previous to this Governor Lucas, perceiving considerable uneasiness at Washington for the peace of the country, had sent to the Federal City, Noah H. Swayne, William Allen, and David T. Disney, to confer with the President on the subject of the boundary difficulties. The result of this mission was the urgent appeal of the President for "the mutual suspension until after the next session of Congress," of all action that would possibly produce collision, and the assurance that an earnest recommendation would be immediately sent to the acting Governor of Michigan and the other authorities of the Territory, whom he could rightfully advise in the performance of their duty, "that no obstruction shall be interposed to. the re-marking of the Harris line; that all proceedings already begun under the act of February 12, 1835, shall be immediately discontinued, that no prosecution shall be commenced for any subsequent violations of that act, until after the next session of Congress, and that all questions about the disputed jurisdiction shall be carefully avoided, and if occurring inevitably, their discussion shall be postponed, until the same period." This arrangement was made with Messrs. Swayne, Allen, and Disney, on July 3, 1835, and the provisions defined the base of operations for Ohio. The state now had the direct promise of the President that lie would advise that "no obstruction shall be interposed to the re-marking of the Harris line, etc." This "recommendation" was promptly conveyed to Governor Mason, but it had no effect on his action. Prosecutions went on as before. This aroused the President to action; he at once removed Governor. Mason, and appointed Charles Shaler, of Pennsylvania, his successor. He also advised Governor Lucas to refrain from any act of jurisdiction over the disputed territory pending the action of Congress. Mr. Shaler never entered upon the duties of the office, and soon afterward John S. Horner, of Virginia, was appointed secretary and acting governor, but he did not enter upon the duties of his office until September 21, and in the meanwhile Mason continued as acting governor. Governor Lucas now felt sure that Old Hickory was aroused, and that he would tolerate no more show of force on his part, but he also felt it necessary to perform some act of jurisdiction, so it would not he said he had backed down. The act of the Ohio legislature, erecting the new County of Lucas, also provided "that the said County of Lucas, when organized, shall be attached to the second judicial circuit, and the court of common pleas in said County shall be holden on the first Monday of September next.' Accordingly preparations were made for the holding of court at Toledo upon the date mentioned. Governor Mason was aware of the fact, and was on hand with General Brown and the militia to prevent the consummation of the order. To actually hold this court in defiance of Governor Mason and his military force, and also in defiance of the President's recommendation, looked to Governor Lucas like a grand achievement, one that would burnish his tarnished honor, and maintain the dignity of the gubernatorial office of the great state of Ohio. He, through his adjutant-general, ordered out a regiment of troops to escort the judges to Toledo, and protect them in the performance of their duty. They were to march from Maumee on the morning of the day of September 7, but the evening previous a report was circulated that General Brown was in Toledo with 1,2oo men, heady for any emergency. The report was untrue, but it served to test the valor of the judges; they hesitated and trembled at the prospect. The Colonel in command provided a forlorn hope, and taking the judges in charge, marched them into. Toledo at 3 o'clock Monday morning, September 7, 1835, proceeded to a school house, held court less than five minutes, and then hastily returned to Maumee. How easily was Ohio honor vindicated. Not a soul over whom they came to assert jurisdiction knew of their coming, doings, or retreat.

There might have been further trouble had not President Jackson removed the fiery Mason from his position as acting governor of Michigan and placed the affairs of the Territory in the hands of one whose disposition was less excitable and whose acts were governed more by careful consideration. John S. Horner, his successor, immediately entered into an amicable correspondence with Governor Lucas, the effect of which was to allay all excitement and restore peaceful relations, leaving the final settlement of the question with Congress at its session the following winter. This, however, merely changed the scene of the, conflict and the personnel of the combatants, for when the matter was taken up in Congress, the advocates on each side displayed a feeling in the matter no less intense than that exhibited by the partisans on the Ohio frontier. John Quincy Adams championed the cause of Michigan, and declared in an impassioned address that never before in his life had he known "a controversy in which all the right was so clearly on one side and all the power so overwhelmingly on the other." He had able assistants in the debate, but Ohio also was represented by men who were abundantly equipped with ability to do .battle for the other side of the contention. Thomas Ewing, in the Senate, and Samuel F. Vinton, in the House, were the Buckeye knights, and in the following June, 1836, Ohio won the day and the disputed strip-Congress holding that the state constitution, having been solemnly accepted, authorized Ohio to annex the territory in question. In the main, this action of Congress was more in the nature of a compromise than a clear-cut decision upon the merits of the controversy. Congress is not a court of equity, and the members thereof are sometimes actuated by motives other than a desire to give force and effect to the letter and spirit of existing law. What a chancery tribunal would have done, had a proper issue been joined .and brought before it for adjustment, is of course problematical, but with the facts fully stated (as the writer has endeavored to give them in this chapter) and with the intent of the framers of the Ordinance of 1787, so apparent, it seems that exact justice would have placed the boundary line considerably further north than it is. But following the strict letter of the Ordinance, and the ensuing acts of Congress, a judge of the law would doubtless have named the Fulton line as the southern boundary of Michigan. In fact the Supreme Court of Ohio, in the case of Daniels vs. Stevens, lessee, reported in the Nineteenth Ohio Reports, Chief Justice Hitchcock delivering the opinion, affirms that Michigan had jurisdiction to the Fulton line until the act of Congress was passed, in June, 1836, which established the Harris line as the true boundary. And the United States Circuit Court, in a case of considerable interest (Piatt vs. Oliver et al., reported in 2 McLean, 267), in which the question of state jurisdiction became important, decided the right of jurisdiction to be in Michigan until the boundary line was changed by Congress, in 1836. The latter case was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States, and there the jurisdiction over the disputed territory was again treated as rightfully and clearly in Michigan.-3 Howard's R. 333. But those were days of compromises in American politics, as is evidenced by the act of Congress admitting Missouri, the tariff law of 1833, etc., and in the settlement of this disputed boundary line, the handiwork of a skilled peace-maker is also apparent. Michigan had applied for admission to the sisterhood of states, and to secure such recognition could be easily induced to surrender her claims to a narrow strip of land, averaging about eight miles wide. As additional salve for her wounded pride, however, she was given as a part of her domain the large peninsula between Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior, now so well known for its rich deposits of copper and other minerals. If "the jingle of the guinea helps the hurt that honor feels," when speaking of men, the same is doubtless true of states, and Michigan was abundantly compensated in mineral wealth for whatever damage was done to her escutcheon. The chief value to Ohio of the territory contended for was the harbor at Toledo, formed by the mouth of the Maumee-essential, as her public men believed, to enable her to reap the benefit of the commerce made by her canals to Cincinnati and Indiana. Results have shown that they judged correctly, for Toledo has proved to be the true point for the meeting of the lake and canal commerce. Thus the angry strife, resulting from a geographical error was happily settled through the ascendancy of conciliatory statesmanship, and the citizens of the two commonwealths, once on the verge of open- warfare, became united in a common interest, and nothing but tranquil and fraternal relations have since prevailed between them.

                                  Previous Chapter                    Next Chapter

 » Home
 » Contact Us
History of Lenawee County
published by The Western Historical Society in 1909.

Previous Chapter 4
Next Chapter 6

Please support our advertisers

Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC

History of Lenawee County
Lenawee History

Copyright © 2009-2014, Dominant Systems Corp. and others.