Happy Birthday, Upper Peninsula. – Tues. Dec. 14, 2021
On Dec. 14, 1836 – 185 years ago today – a landmark agreement granted the land now known as the Upper Peninsula to Michigan, which then became a state on Jan. 26, 1837.
UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. – The first inhabitants of this land were the Anishinaabe, who lived in symbiosis off the land. When the French arrived, the area now known as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan became an important fur-trading route and acted as a corridor to the western portion of the American midwest. Missionaries then traversed the area in the 1600s.
When the Michigan Territory was first established in 1805, it included only the Lower Peninsula and the eastern portion of the Upper Peninsula. In 1819, the territory was expanded to include the remainder of the Upper Peninsula, all of what later became Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota (previously included in the Indiana and Illinois Territories). When Michigan applied for statehood in the 1830s, the proposal corresponded to the original territorial boundaries.
However, there was an armed conflict known as the Toledo War with the state of Ohio over the location of their mutual border. Meanwhile, the people of Michigan approved a constitution in May 1835 and elected state officials in late autumn 1835. Although the state government was not yet recognized by the United States Congress, the territorial government effectively ceased to exist.
President Andrew Jackson's government offered the remainder of the Upper Peninsula to Michigan if it would cede the Toledo Strip to Ohio. A constitutional convention of the state legislature refused, but a second convention, hastily convened by Governor Stevens Thomson Mason, consisting primarily of his supporters, agreed on December 14, 1836 to the deal. In January 1837, the U.S. Congress admitted Michigan as a state of the Union.
At the time, Michigan was considered the losing party in the compromise. The land in the Upper Peninsula was described in a federal report as a "sterile region on the shores of Lake Superior destined by soil and climate to remain forever a wilderness." This belief changed when rich mineral deposits (primarily copper and iron) were discovered in the 1840s.
Today, the Upper Peninsula is a beacon of industry and tourism with a robust, diverse culture thanks to immigration and its Indigenous people. Read more about the history of the Dec. 14 1836 event.