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Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin

Why the Upper Peninsula is Not Part of Wisconsin

The Upper Peninsula seems to be mystery to much of the U.S. population outside of the Midwest, and even to some of those in the Midwest. It’s quite common to think that the Upper Peninsula is part of Canada and sometimes even textbooks don’t know what state the Upper Peninsula is in. More than anything, most people assume that the Upper Peninsula is part of Wisconsin.

A sample of search engine keywords to Yooper Steez:
Why the Upper Peninsula Isn't Part of Wisconsin

It’s a fair question to ask. After all, the Upper Peninsula at no point touches the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Wisconsin is the only section of land shared between the Upper Peninsula, everywhere else is bordered by water.

The Toledo War

During the early 1800s there was a conflict between Michigan and Ohio (and I don’t mean a football rivalry). At the time Ohio had already been admitted into the union while Michigan was still a territory.

The dispute during the Toledo War (also known as the Ohio-Michigan War) began with different interpretations of the geographic boundaries and features between the State of Ohio and the Michigan Territory. Both governments were claiming sovereignty over a 468 square mile region, which became known as the Toledo Strip.

Until the year 1818, the Michigan Territory had ownership over the eastern section of the Upper Peninsula (the yellow region in the graphic above). The territory then expanded to include the rest of the Upper Peninsula, the entire State of Wisconsin and other parts of the Midwest.

Due to a financial crisis the Michigan Territory was under pressure from Congress and President Andrew Jackson, at which point the Michigan Territory accepted a resolution from the government.

173 Years Ago

On June 15, 1836, President Andrew Jackson signed a bill that first recognized Michigan as a state. However, Michigan would have to concede the Toledo Strip to Ohio, but was given the western three quarters of the Upper Peninsula in return (most of which borders Wisconsin along the Menominee River).

At first, Michigan rejected the offer partly out of pride and feeling that the Upper Peninsula was a worthless region. As their financial crisis lingered on they would have been left out of surplus government money if they had remained a territory rather than a state. Michigan accepted the terms in December in Ann Arbor.

When the Toledo War ended it was considered that Ohio had “won”. This belief changed in the 1840s when it was discovered that the Upper Peninsula was a vast region of resources including copper and iron ore. Considered to have produced more mineral wealth than the California Gold Rush, the Upper Peninsula supplied 90% of the United States copper supply by the 1860s and was the largest supplier of iron ore by the 1890s.

Had Michigan won the Toledo War they would have acquire the Toledo Strip, meaning that the Upper Peninsula probably would have become a part of the Wisconsin Territory and later a part of the State of Wisconsin.

Michigan was finally admitted into the Union on January 26, 1837 as the 26th state with the Upper Peninsula included.


Quite frankly, I’m pretty stoked that Michigan has the 16,452 square mile paradise of the Upper Peninsula rather than the 468 square mile region of the Toledo Strip. Clearly I’m biased, but I think we clearly got the better deal.

All you history buffs out there let me know if there is more info I should include.

25 Wonderful Comments

  1. …It’s interesting to note… that while the UP still has magnificent beauty and pristine wilderness. The map shown above is still a fairly accurate representation of the the way each region treats the other. “Yoopers”, don’t REALLY consider anyone on the far estern end of the UP “TRUE Yoopers”… … and eastern parts of the UP and LP are more or less ambivalent to each other.

  2. “Upper Canada”???? Come on now…you know that’s not right. Other than Southern Ontario, the 49th parallel separates the U.S. from the SOUTHERN portions of Canada. I realize the discussion was about folks not realizing that the U.P. is part of Michigan, but label Canada properly please.

  3. Yooper Steez
    Aug 24, 2009


    The map above is a historic map from the 1800s. And I too was curious why it said “Upper Canada”.

    I found that “Upper Canada” was actually a British Colony between 1791–1841.

    You can read more here…

  4. I heard it also had to do with who was a major land owner in the upper peninsula and that he wanted to be part of Michigan. is there any truth to this?

  5. Glad to have found this. After watching How the States Got Their Shapes on the History Channel, I wanted to verify what I had read long ago. Your explanation is exactly as I remembered it.

    It’s been too long since I’ve visited the UP. Spent many years there in college (MTU 1984) and enjoyed every minute.

  6. ok, there was a “war” between Ohio and Michigan, why did Wisconsin get the shaft? and how were the boundaries of the UP determined? Also since I’ve been living in Alaska, I’ve thought there were similarities to the UP and Alaska, now I’ve discovered one more, Alaska was Seward’s folly and in a since the UP was Jackson’s folly. Unwanted territories of wilderness which later became valuable for natural resources.

  7. JimJJewett
    Oct 14, 2010

    Wisconsin got the shaft because it wasn’t yet a state (like Ohio) or even nearly so (like Michigan).

    But as Yoopersteez mentioned in passing, Wisconsin itself used to be a part of Michigan. (2 of our first 6 “organized” counties were in what is now Wisconsin.) It was split off in the statehood drive; presumably because it was ungovernably far away for the transportation then available.

  8. I’ve heard my mates talk about this so many times in conversations and arguments. All because I now live in Wisconsin but prefer the UP because that’s where I’m from. I mean I could care less because either way I’m still a Yooper through and through no matter what.

  9. Thanks for the short informative post! Fun to look back and see how my childhood home came to be that part of Michigan that SO many people believe is part of Wisconsin. Good job!

  10. “Upper Canada” refers to the direction of the flow of water. The Great Lakes are all flow into the St. Lawrence River eventually, but the farthest western parts of the Great Lakes are the most “upstream” part of the system…so they are called “Upper Canada.” Similarly, the southern part of Egypt is called “Upper Egypt” because it is upstream along the Nile, even though geographically it is south of Lower Egypt.

  11. Fine summary of U.P. founding, but you left out a great resource – Timber covered the U.P. like hair on a dog and created many U.P. communities like Escanaba, Menominee, and oodles of smaller places.

  12. Upper Can. is the historic name for the region. (Ontario) the other friendly neighbor of the UP besides your friends to the south in Wisco.
    It is correctly labeled my friend.
    It is a historical map.

    Lower Can. became Quebec.
    and yes the UP is a little piece of heaven
    from a Wisconsinite.

  13. Kimmyithy
    Sep 23, 2012

    This article should be labeled “Why the Wisconsin is Not Part of the Upper Peninsula” since Michigan’s unity came first and Wisconsin came second.

  14. Jim Borst
    Sep 25, 2012

    Personally I’d be a lot more stoked if the U.P. were known as Superior, the 51st state.

  15. Kris Peterson
    Dec 11, 2012

    In the end, the U.P. got the shaft. It was swallowed up by Detroit. I can only imagine how nice this place would be had there been no Detroit to determine everything politically and finacially for us. I agree with Jim Borst. There is a problem however. If our economy and business environment didn’t include Detroit or Milwaukee, we might be so attractive to those fleeing the surrounding areas that the rustic beauty and solitude we enjoy would be destroyed. It’s probably better that we are economically depressed but blessed in every other way.

  16. you mention a yellow section in the graphic above but no yellow

  17. Don Spohn
    Jun 23, 2013

    The Upper Peninsula is also listed as Indian Territory on some maps, as Louisiana on others, thinking it was part of the Louisiana Purchase, and it was actually once a part of the Illinois Territory. It was also once a part of Lower Canada, and is included on any map of the Old North West territory and finally, the Upper Peninsula was a part of the original area of the United States. Few territories were once claimed by such a multitude of peoples and now forgotten by so many.
    Don Spohn
    Great Lakes Copper Research

  18. Robert Echola
    Jul 4, 2013

    As A former resident of Yooper Country who has been displaced to the Middle of the country, I must say that I enjoy your writing. Thank you. I grew up in Crystal Falls.

  19. Tony Bloom
    Jan 28, 2015

    If I recall my college history correctly, the WI Territory was ticked at this arrangement. In order to appease that upset, WI was allowed admission to the Union early – before it had reached the perferred population prerequisite.

  20. Vince Fuess
    May 12, 2015

    A point nor addressed yet, is the role the UP played in the ensuing World Wars I and II, with the UP providing such a valuable resource of iron and copper to the US industrial machine, surely contributed more than a small valuable asset to the war machine that led to our victories in those wars. No small aspect when looking through the lens of history.

  21. sheree smith
    Jul 22, 2015

    I Am a yooper; a Southern one, but Proud the same! I was born in Milwaukee but lived most of my life in the Escanaba area. A career move took me away from home for the last 14 months down below the Bridge to Traverse City, living in Troll country. I said that I would never be a troll! Happily, I just found out I will be transferred back to the UP but now I will be a true Northern UP Yooper at Baraga! Love the UP and the history you shared is great!

  22. David Gray
    Mar 12, 2016

    You left out all the good stuff about why Ohio wanted that strip of land in the first place. The charter of Michigan Territory stipulated that its southern boundary would be a line stretching from the southern end of Lake Michigan to Lake Erie. Early surveys had led people to believe that the end of Lake Michigan was further north than it actually was. Eventually it was realized that the original line put the mouth of the Maumee River in Michigan, not Ohio. So what, you ask? Well, back in those days the thing most sought was easy passage to the West. And there were grand notions that the Maumee River would be a vital waterway for access to the Mississippi River. Of course, that never panned out and the Maumee is now unremarkable…just a small river that runs down to Toledo.

  23. I am a Yooper living outside of Milwaukee, and I always tell these ‘sconies that they wish they could have da UP…..UP POWER

  24. Sharon McKee
    May 19, 2016

    I read a lot of novels and always check out anything I don’t know. John Sandford sets his novels in the Minnesota and Wisconsin areas and I was curious when he mentioned the UP. Thanks for the fascinating insight. I live in Ireland, so have no connection to the area.

  25. Many parts of the U.P. are more aligned with Wisconsin than Michigan anyway. The southern counties are on Central Time like Wisconsin. I live in a town an hour south of the border. On weekends, the parking lots of many stores are half full of cars with Michigan plates and Green Bay Packers flags and decals. We love U.P. people coming here, and we love going up there for the scenery.

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