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The Bark Covered House
Chapter 15. Prospect of War—A.D. 1835


THE dark portentous cloud seemed to hang above our horizon. It looked dark and threatening, (and more terrible because the disputants were members of the same family). [The boundary dispute between Michigan and Ohio, although largely forgotten now, was an issue of prime importance to the two commonwealths and to the Northwest in general. The author's present chapter presents an interesting picture of the war as seen by one Michigan contemporary observer. Better balanced and more comprehensive accounts of the dispute are to be found in the standard histories of Michigan and Ohio, and in a number of monographs in the Michigan Pioneer Collections. As permanent results of the struggle, Ohio gained 468 square miles of territory, including the mouth of the Maumee, and the site of Toledo, while Michigan was "compensated" for this loss by the undesired gift to her of the Michigan Upper Peninsula, the latter at the expense of the future state of Wisconsin.] We thought it might break upon our heads at any time. The seat of war being so near us, the country so new and inhabitants so few, made it look still more alarming to me. I asked father how many inhabitants we had in our territory and how many the State of Ohio contained. He said there were as many as fifteen or twenty to our one. I asked him if he thought the Michigan men would be able to defend Toledo against so many. He said that Michigan was settled by the bravest men. That almost every man owned a rifle and was a good shot for a pigeon's head. He thought they would be able to keep them at bay until the government would interfere and help us. He said, too, that Governor Mason was a fearless, brave, courageous man. That he had called for militia and volunteers and was going himself with General Brown, at the head of his men, to defend the rights of Michigan.

One day, about this time, I was at Dearbornville; they had a fife and drum there and were beating up for militia and volunteers. A young man by the name of William Ozee had volunteered. I was well acquainted with him; he had been at our house frequently. Sometimes, in winter, he had chopped for us and I had hunted with him. He had a good rifle and was certainly a sharp shooter. I found that he beat me handily, but I made up my mind it was because he had a better rifle and I was considerable younger than he. I saw him at Dearbornville just before he went away. He told me to tell my folks that he was a soldier and was going to the war to defend them; that Governor Mason had called for troops and he was going with him. We heard in a short time that he was at Toledo. We also learned that Governor Lucas, of Ohio, with General Bell and staff, with an army of volunteers, all equipped ready for war, had advanced as far as Fort Miami. But Governor Mason was too quick for the Ohio Governor. He called upon General Brown to raise the Michigan militia, and said that his bones might bleach at Toledo before he would give up one foot of the territory of Michigan; said he would accompany the soldiers himself, to the disputed ground. He, with General Brown, soon raised a force of about a thousand men and took possession of Toledo; while the Governor of Ohio, with volunteers, was fooling away the time at Fort Miami. When we heard that Governor Mason had arrived at Toledo, we wondered if we should hear the roar of his cannon. Sometimes I listened. We thought if it was still and the wind favorable, we might hear them, and we expected every day there would be a battle.

But when Governor Lucas learned how determined Governor Mason was, and that he had at his back a thousand Michigan braves, and most of them with their rifles in their hands, ready to receive him, he made up his mind that he had better let them alone. We afterward learned that Governor Lucas only had six or eight hundred men. The conclusion was, that if they had attacked the Michigan boys at Toledo, they would have gotten badly whipped, and those of them left alive would have made good time running for the woods, and would have wished that they had never heard of Michigan men. Perhaps the Ohio Governor thought that discretion was the better part of valor. He employed his time for several days, watching over the line. May be he employed some of his time thinking if it could be possible that Governor Mason and General Brown were going to subjugate Ohio, or at least a part of it, and annex it to the territory of Michigan.

Let this be as it may; while he seemed to be undecided, two commissioners from Washington put in an appearance and remonstrated with him. They told him what the fearful consequences, to him and his State, would be, if he tried to follow out his plan to gain possession of the disputed territory. These commissioners held several conferences with both Governors. They submitted to them several propositions for their consideration, and for the settlement of the important dispute. Their proposition was this: that the inhabitants, residing on the disputed ground, should be left to their own government. Obeying one or the other, as they might prefer, without being disturbed by the authorities of either Michigan or Ohio. They were to remain thus until the close of the next session of Congress. Here we see the impossibility of man being subjected to and serving two masters, for, "He will love the one and hate the other, or hold to the one and despise the other."

Governor Lucas was glad to get out of the scrape. He embraced the proposition, disbanded his men and left the disputed ground. Governor Mason considered himself master of the situation; Toledo and the disputed territory were under his control. He would not compromise the rights of his people, and he considered that it rightly belonged to Michigan. He disbanded a part of his force and sent them home, but kept enough organized so that he could act in case of emergency. He kept an eagle eye upon the "Buckeyes" to see that our territorial laws were executed promptly and they were executed vigorously. In doing it one Michigan man was wounded, his would-be murderer ran away to Ohio and was protected by Governor Lucas. The man who was wounded was a deputy-sheriff of Monroe County. He was stabbed with a knife. His was the only blood spilled. Some few surveyors and Ohio sympathizers were arrested and put into jail at Monroe. But Uncle Sam put his foot down, to make peace in the family. He said if we would submit, after awhile we might shine as a star in the constellation of the Union. So we were promised a star in a prominent place in the old flag and territory enough, north of us, for a State. To be sure it is not quite so sunny a land as that near Toledo, and our Governor and others did not like to acquiesce in the decision of the government, yet they had to yield to Uncle Sam's superior authority.

Then the- did not imagine that the upper peninsula was so rich a mining country. They little knew at that time that its very earth contained, in its bosom and under its pure waters, precious metals, iron, copper and silver enough to make a State rich. Finally our people consented and the Territory of Michigan put on her glory as a State. Became a proud member of the Union; her star was placed in the banner of the free. It has since sparkled upon every sea and been seen in every port throughout the civilized world, as the emblem of the State of Michigan.

In the excitement of the Toledo war we looked upon the Ohio men unfavorably. We were interested for ourselves, and might have been somewhat selfish and conceited, and, maybe, jealous of our neighbors, and thought them wrong in the fray. We had forgotten that there were then men living in Ohio, in log houses and cabins, some of them as brave men as ever walked the footstool; that they came to Michigan and rescued the country from the invaders, the English and savages, long before some of us knew that there was such a place as Michigan. When Michigan was almost a trackless wilderness they crossed Lake Erie, landed at Maiden, drove the redcoats out of the fort and started them on the double quick. They made for the Canadian woods, and the British and Indians, who held Detroit, followed suit. They were followed by our brave William Henry Harrison, accompanied by Ohio and Kentucky men to the Thames. [It was principally an army of Kentuckians which won the Battle of the Thames.] There, at one blow, the Americans subjected the most of Upper Canada and punished the invaders of Michigan, who had the hardihood to set their hostile feet upon her territory. It seems as though it must have been right that the strip of country at Toledo was given to the brave men, some at least of whom long years before, defended it with their lives and helped to raise again the American flag at Detroit.

In about five years from the time of the Toledo War, William Henry Harrison, of Ohio, was nominated, by the Whig party, for President, and John Tyler, of Virginia, for Vice President, of the United States. The intelligence spread like wild-fire. It went from town to town and from county to county, through the brand-new State of Michigan. General Harrison appeared to be the coming man. The Whigs of Ohio and Michigan met and shook hands, like brothers, over the difficulties of the past; now they had a more patriotic undertaking before them. In union with the rest of the Whig party of the United States, they were to elect the old farmer of the West, the good man who loved his country. In its defence he had won imperishable honors. After he laid down his armor he resided in a log house and was often clad in the habiliments of a husbandman. Now he was nominated for President of the United States. With such a candidate for the presidency men's hearts leaped for joy in anticipation of a victory at the ballot-box in the fall of 1840.

The nomination of General Harrison raised quite an excitement throughout the entire country. Even in Dearborn, what few Whigs there were in the town united as one man, entered upon the campaign and banded themselves together to work for the good of the Whig party. Alonzo T. Mather was one who stood at the head of the party in Dearborn. He was a man noted for his good religious principles, and was one of the most prominent and influential citizens of the town. He was sent to the Legislature, at Detroit, for Wayne county, one term and held other offices of trust and honor. He was the chieftain of his party and one of the prime movers in getting up a log cabin in Dearborn. This log cabin was built on large truck wheels. When finished it appeared somewhat the shape of a log car. It was thought necessary to have something on board to eat and drink. It was desired to make all typical and commemorative of the veteran, pioneer, farmer and general who had escaped the bullets of the savages at Tippecanoe, although he was a special mark for them, without a scar and the loss only of a lock of hair, which was clipped off by a bullet. This, too, was the man who shared his own supplies with his soldiers when they were reduced to the necessity of eating horse flesh. Now, in honor to such a man, the Whig bakers of Dearborn made a "Johnny cake" at least ten feet long and the width of it was in proportion to the length. They patted it with care, smoothed it over nicely and baked it before the fire. It was a good, plump cake, and nothing like it was ever seen in Dearborn, before or since. Careful hands put it on board the log cabin, also a barrel of hard cider was put on board.

At this time, although the country was new, politics ran high in Dearborn. A friendly invitation was sent around to the farmers to come, at a certain time, with their ox-teams and help draw the log cabin to its destination and accompany the Whig delegation with it to Detroit. I knew one Democrat who, when invited, refused to go. He appeared to be rather eccentric. He said, "I allow that my oxen are not broke to work on either side, and they are too Democratic to pull on both sides of the fence at one and the same time." He considered the excitement of the people, their building log cabins and baking such "Johnny cakes" boyish and foolish. He said, in fact, that those who were doing it were "on the wrong side." Many of the Democratic frontier men admired General Harrison for his great worth as a man and liked his having a national reputation for bravery. They said he was an honor to America as an American citizen and soldier, but that he was on the wrong side.

At that time I was in my teens and looking anxiously forward for time to help me to the elective franchise. Perhaps, I should state here that father was a Democrat as long ago as I can remember. In York State he was a strong Jackson man and coming into the woods of Michigan did not change his political principles. He was an irrepressible Democrat and remained one. Jackson was his ideal statesman. When he went to Dearbornville to attend town meeting or election, he almost invariably carried a hickory cane, with the bark on it as it grew, in honor of "Old Hickory." He was always known by his townsmen as a staunch Democrat. It was natural for his young family, to claim to be Democrats in principle, in their isolated home.

The first settlers in our neighborhood, on the Ecorse, were Democrats, with one exception, and that one was Mr. Blare. He often visited at our house, and to tease my little brother, then five or six years old, told him that he must be a Whig, he would make a good one, that he was a Whig, he appeared like one and so forth. Brother denied it stoutly and said that he would not be a Whig for any one. This amused Mr. Blare very much for some time. Finally, when he called one day, he said he was going to have company, he could see plainly that J. S. was changing to a Whig very fast. J. S. denied it as strongly as ever, but it was evident that the idea of being a Whig troubled him greatly. One morning (a short time after Mr. Blare had been talking to him) he was crying bitterly. Mother said she thought it very strange that he should cry so and tried sometimes, in vain, to persuade him to tell her what the trouble was. Finally she threatened to punish him if he did not let her know what the difficulty was. At last he said he was afraid he was turning to be a Whig. Mother assured him that it was not so. She said there was no danger of her little boy changing into a Whig, not in the least. J. S. has often been reminded, since he became a man, of the time Mr. Blare came so near making a Whig of him.

But back to that cabin. There were plenty of men who volunteered and took their teams. They hitched a long string of them, I think twenty-two yoke of oxen, to the trucks. Quite a large crowd, for Dearborn, of old and young, were on hand to witness the start. Most of them appeared very enthusiastic. Each gave vent to some expression of admiration like the following: "The General is the man for me"; or, "He is one of the people, one with the people, one for the people, one with us and we are for him." That's my sentiment, said one and another. After such exclamations and the singing of a spirited campaign song, the order was given to start the teams. The large wheels rolled and the log cabin began to move. Nearly all appeared to he excited and there was some confusion of voices. Cheer after cheer arose clear and high for the honest old farmer of North Bend. I learned afterward that the march to Detroit was one continued ovation.

As a matter of course, I didn't go with them. I was too busy, at that time, taking lessons and studying my politics, and all that sort of thing at home in the woods.


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