WHAT’S UP with the U.P?

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula’s history is fairly brief, yet significant and intriguing. Below is a brief outline, point-to-point, of how it came into existence, skipping over its geological birthing (although, noteworthy).

The first inhabitants of the territory were the tribes speaking the Algonquin languages, around AD 800. They patrolled the U.P.’s wild lands for ages, until the first white man stepped foot onto its eastern border: France’s Étienne Brûlé crossed the St. Mary’s River around 1620, on a search for a route to the Far East.

Then came the Toledo War, which the entire world is familiar with…right? Not!

The “war” was a bloodless dispute over the Toledo Strip. On a map, take a look at the far northeast corner of Indiana. Conceivably, the Michigan/Indiana border should continue feeding eastwards in a direct line, all the way to Lake Erie. However, it juts south for no more than fifteen miles and then proceeds eastwards. Weird!

The Michigan Territory (the entire Lower Peninsula and the eastern U.P.), established in 1805, originally claimed Toledo as its own and, theoretically, should possess even more land to the south of its current southeast border, farther into Ohio. Back then, Ohio was claimed by Europe and eventually the United States. Nonetheless, Congress still wouldn’t cede the western U.P. to Michigan, even after being offered the valuable industrial Strip of Toledo in an exchange. So, the Toledo War starting brewing.

In 1836, to prevent bloodshed, Congress finally realized the worth of Toledo, and eventually ceded the western U.P. to Michigan. The initial loss of the Toledo Strip caused Michigan’s economy to struggle, until iron, silver, and copper deposits were found in abundance!

Soon, mines were planted and operated throughout the entire U.P. The mines produced more mineral wealth than the California Gold Rush. By 1860, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan supplied 90% of America’s copper.

As recent as the 1970s, local politician, Dominic Jacobetti, attempted to pass a bill which proposed a 51st U.S. State, called Superior. Superior was to include all of the U.P. and the majority of northern Wisconsin, the Northwoods, that was geographically similar. The bill gained serious attention, missing only by a single vote! The major reason for the rejection was due to the strong economical connections from the Lower Peninsula to the Upper Peninsula, via the Mackinac Bridge.

Today, most of the U.P.’s major cities are extremely small in comparison to the majority of larger U.S. cities. The U.P. contributes to only 3% of Michigan’s total population! Its cities were once major trading forts and, to this day, continue to possess a good bit of charm and history from the past.

It takes a special kind of person to live in the U.P., year-round. If able to look past and embrace the harsh climate, desolation, isolation, wilderness, you’re in for a real treat.

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