I was at an annual benefit dinner for the settlement house, at which I serve through AmeriCorps. The attendees were a great mix of staff and supporters. The other AmeriCorps members and I milled around drinking soda and ice out of wine glasses at first, but then when we sat down at our assigned tables, I was happy to sit next to a member of one of the auxiliary boards and her husband.
We made small talk about working with children and the settlement house, but soon I discovered that her husband had spent his childhood growing up in Denver, CO before moving to Chicago where he used to walk a mile from his home to Wrigley Field as a 12-year-old and pay 90 cents to get into the bleachers.
We talked about traveling to different parts of the US and the many cultural differences between different regions. I couldn’t help but marvel at the massiveness of our country when I asked him what his favorite places were to visit. He listed the Southwest, the Deep South and the Carolinas. I had to admit I had not actually visited any of those spots—but I had spent time on the West Coast, the Northwest, grown up in the Rocky Mountains and gone to college in the Northeast.
His connection to Denver and our discussion of regional identity naturally led me to ask him if he had ever heard of the state of Absaraka, on which I based my senior thesis. I was delighted when he said that he had not, but beamed at the thought of learning a new piece of American history. “I have a real love of history, especially the Civil War,” he told me. So I told him about the movement in 1939 in Sheridan, WY to form a new state out of northern Wyoming, southern Montana and western South Dakota.
He wanted to share with me the story of the state of Franklin, which was similar to Absaraka, except that it was actually a functioning territory for around 4 years, carved out of the state of Tennessee between 1784 and 1788 (Wikipedia).
Then he asked me, “Do you know the story of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula?”
“No!” I replied.
“Well, you know how it hangs up there above Wisconsin? Back in the 1830s there was a conflict between the territories of Michigan and Ohio; both territories wanted to claim Toledo. They were ready to go to war over it until the federal government stepped in. They offered Michigan a deal—they said that they would sign Michigan into statehood if they ceded Toledo to Ohio and that they could also have some land on the other side of Lake Michigan. It was not exactly theirs to give, but that was the deal.”
After doing some extensive research on Wikipedia, I found the conflict listed as the “Toledo War” and it seems the matter was even more involved. Apparently, Ohio has a long history of being a swing state and was very important to President Andrew Jackson.
Check it out for yourself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toledo_War