HomeLocal NewsWhy Does Michigan Have the Upper Peninsula: The Real Truth

Why Does Michigan Have the Upper Peninsula: The Real Truth

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Looking at the map of Michigan, you are probably curious and eager to know why Michigan have the Upper Peninsula. 

Michigan is derived from the Indian word Michigama, meaning a large or great lake. It got its statehood on Jan. 26, 1837.

The Upper Peninsula, often abbreviated as U.P. in the northern part, is the most elevated and less populated with about 300,000 people. The Straits of Mackinac separate it from the lower peninsula, and to the north, U.P is bounded by Lake Superior.

We take you through the history of Michigan and reveal the truth behind the burning question of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

So, Why Does Michigan Have the Upper Peninsula?

Michigan has the Upper Peninsula because of an agreement between the territory and Ohio over who owns Toledo. Through the attorney, The United States government settled Toledo’s ownership by awarding the Upper Peninsula to Michigan

Michigan acquired the Upper Pensulina and began exploration activities leading to the discovery of mining zones.

The Early History of Michigan 

Generally, you would wonder why Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is not part of Wiscon despite the proximity of Wiscon to U.P. Well, let’s dive into the historical occurrences that defined boundaries and made the current locations a possibility.

Michigan has a rich history that dates back thousands of years with the Native American settlements, European colonization, and industrialization. 

During the 17th century, the native American population comprising the Ojibwa, Ottawa, Miami, and Potawatomi nations all were part of the Algonquian linguistic group. Later, the Ojibwa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi groups formed the Three Fires Alliance.

The earliest inhabitants of the Michigan region practiced agriculture, fishing, and hunting. The major crops for the tribes were corn and beans, while fish and deer formed the local meat food.

In 1622, the Europeans began entering Michigan territory, with Étienne Brulé being the first to explore the region. He assisted the French to take control of Michigan and was part of the first settlers to run missionaries, trade and exploration.

Initially, the presence of the French people didn’t go well with the natives, and they engaged in clashes, which were later settled for amicable relationships. Most natives afterward became trappers, guides, and trade middlemen for the French settlers.

Women provided food to the settlers. With the continued relationships, the French, in return, rewarded guns, knives, axes, cloth, and jewelry to the natives. Tribal and personal alliances between the settlers and natives began, cementing the good relationship.

Sault Sainte Marie became the oldest French settlement, established in 1668. The settlement is where missionaries conducted services with Ojibwa. Detroit was later established in 1701 by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac as a trade and administrative center.

In the Great Lakes area, the region later became the leading French community. During the 17th to 19th century, frequent warfare intensified among the French, Britons, and other European Superpowers.

The French and Indians’ 7-year war between 1756–63 led to the French surrendering to the British, and in 1763, through the Treaty of Paris, took over Canada and part of the French territory in the East of the Mississippi River.

Michigan had to remain part of Canada under British rule. Later, the American Revolution of 1775–83 had Detroit as the center for the supply of British troops who took over Kentucky up to 1779 when the British general Henry Hamilton was captured.

Unlike the French, who had a good relationship with the natives, the British didn’t get along well with them, leading to hostility. The natives launched attacks where the Britons sustained losses, with many getting injured. Later, natives in Michigan managed to get most of the British forts.

During Pontiac’s Siege, the hostility between the Britons and natives continued, and Ottawa chief Pontiac, with his followers, attacked Detroit. However, Henry Gladwin’s leadership ensured his British forces silenced the indigenous resistance, restoring British control.

Also, check out: How cold is Lake Michigan? 

The U.S Territory and Michigan Evolution

In 1783, the area that is now Michigan was awarded to the United States, and in 1787, it became part of the New Northwest Territory, which has Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin states. 

Once the territory was under the U.S, the government made treaties with the natives to acquire the land. Also, the Jay Treaty ensured that British rule ended by 1796. The politicians kept the active negotiations for decades, leading to the loss of land by the natives.

The loss of land pushed the natives to settle on reservations, now Michigan, while others relocated to the western territories. A few of the remnants assimilated into the majority of society.

In 1805, the Michigan territory separated from Indiana and afterward, Detroit became the capital city. William Hull, who was the first territorial governor of Michigan, surrendered Detroit to the British in the 1812 war. However, American rule was restored in 1813.

After the restoration, the new governor, Lewis Cass, introduced settlement and development initiatives. Under his leadership, infrastructure and transport improved. Erie Canal completion in 1825 opened a new chapter for settlers to build homes in the Great Lakes area.

Michigan Becoming a State and the Birth of Upper Peninsula

How did Michigan gain statehood? Michigan was set for expansion, and the only way through was to become independent as a state. In 1835, the first constitution was in place, but the Toledo War in 1837, due to boundary disputes with Ohio, delayed the statehood process.

The Toledo strip was the cause of the war and continued disagreements, as it was disputed that the initial strip that ran from Toledo to the Indiana border automatically belonged to Michigan based on the Ordinance of 1787.

Ohio was claiming the land, basing its argument on inaccurate surveys, but in reality, Ohio wanted Toledo as its main terminus for the Erie and Miami canals. Ultimately, Michigan agreed to leave the strip to Ohio after the president’s intervention.

In return, Michigan got the Western Upper Peninsula as a reward. Initially, the agreement was regarded as an unequal exchange, but it later turned out that Michigan was advantaged as it got iron and copper prospects in the Upper Peninsula region.

Afterward, the “Michigan Fever” took over, leading to the state growing rapidly between the 1840s and 50s. New settlers from New England and New York came to practice agriculture as they established new homes in the vibrant state.

Detroit and adjacent cities benefited from the migration wave. Later in the 1840s, copper and iron resources were discovered in the Upper Peninsula, leading to more immigrants flocking into the state. The state capital was later moved to a more central location at Lansing in 1847.

At some point during the American Civil War (1861–65), Michigan lost some of its key resources. Luckily, the mining activities in the Upper Peninsula helped restore economic stability and spurred growth.

In addition to the economic vibrancy from mining, logging began in the 1880s and was among the key economic activities. The logging progressed into the 20th century when loggers fell pine forests and took away hardwood.

Commercial fishing along the lakes promoted the economy and developed towns adjacent to the lakes. It was easy to do an overnight trip to the south as railroads crossed everywhere, linking the Upper Peninsula to Detroit, Chicago, and Minneapolis.

The economic growth led to the establishment of the Michigan Technological University in 1885 due to the demand for education. The school became a research institute nationally recognized. The Northern Michigan University came up in 1963, offering a wide range of programs.

The extractive industries left little wealth in the land. Vast fields of land had been polluted, and the environment altered, with forest fields rapidly depleting. The Upper Peninsula was becoming unbearable to lead a normal life, and the Great Depression ended the best times.

Industries were closed, leading to unemployment, with workers who had moved to the town working in industries forced to return to the Upper Peninsula. During the Second World War, mining activities ended, affecting the economy.

The New Upper Peninsula

When the golden era ended, tourism quickly replaced it as a new industry. The heavy snowfall still exists during the winter, promoting skiing in the Ironwood area. The region also became an attractive site for tourists who love wild game.

Isle Royale National Park, Keweenaw National Historic Park, and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore are among the many attraction sites that make the region vibrant. The region is now the most attractive tourist destination in the world due to its location.


So, why does Michigan have the Upper Peninsula? The never-ending territorial disputes on boundaries led to a settlement where Michigan agreed to relinquish its quest for Toledo, and in exchange, it got the Upper Peninsula.

Initially, Michigan had rejected the deal, but since it had begun the process of becoming a state, the territory had to play smart and benefit from the government. Above all, the land that looked like an unrewarding deal became the main economic booster through the mines.

Jason Cooper
Jason Cooper
Jason Cooper is a dedicated news blogger with a zeal for storytelling. Enthusiastically covering current events, he constantly seeks fresh angles and innovative ways to refine his craft and engage his readers.


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