Normally when you think of a Michigan/Ohio rivalry the University of Michigan and Ohio State University come to mind. There is an older rivalry that started back in 1787.

Rivalry Between Michigan and Ohio State

Mike Mulholland/Getty Images
Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

The University of Michigan and Ohio State football teams first met in 1897. The rivalry between the two teams really started in 1918 when the two teams have met every year since except for 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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The Michigan/Ohio State sports rivalry is one of the greatest in North American history but there is a rivalry between Michigan and Ohio that dates back much further than when college sports began between the two states and their respective universities.


What Michigan/Ohio Rivalry Was First?

Map of Cleveland. Detail from the World Atlas. Selective Focus.
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There was a dispute between Michigan and Ohio over a strip of land between the two states. This dispute began in 1787 when Michigan was still a territory and Ohio was a state.

Maps were not what they are today so Michigan and Ohio were both claiming jurisdiction over a 468 square mile area along the border that was known as the Toledo Strip.

The dispute over the Toledo Strip went on for years and came to a head when Michigan wanted to become a state in the union in 1835. This is when the war began. If first started as a legislative war then militias were sent to opposite sides of the Maumee River near Toledo.

The War Between Michigan and Ohio


The battle over the Toledo Strip had several names depending on which side of the border you were on at the time. It was called the Toledo War, the Great Toledo War, the Michigan-Ohio War, or the Ohio-Michigan war.

This bloodless battle only lasted for a year. The only shots that were fired were in the air to intimidate the opposing side.

How Did The Toledo War End?

Low angled view of the U.S. Capitol East Facade Front in Washington, DC.

When Michigan petitioned for statehood they along with Ohio could not agree on a compromise regarding the Toledo Strip. Congress stepped in with a compromise that would give Michigan the Upper Peninsula and Ohio the Toledo Strip.

Raster Watercolor Map of Michigan's Upper Peninsula
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What is crazy is at the time, Michigan felt they got the short end of the deal acquiring 9,000 square miles of land north of the Mitten vs losing 468 square miles of land at the bottom of the state.

Copper, silver and gold surface mine. Mining industry.

Later Michigan would learn acquiring the Upper Peninsula was the better of the deal after discovering all the copper, iron ore, and lumber that began to bring wealth to the state.

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