‘Conflict and Compromise’

Student with local ties heads to national competition

Grace Holmgren of Oconto, Wisconsin, whose paternal and maternal grandparents live in Ishpeming and Negaunee, respectively, is set to take part in the National History Day Contest in Maryland this week. Her project is a website entitled “The Toledo War: Wisconsin’s Loss of the Northern Territory.” (Courtesy photo)

MARQUETTE — The long, convoluted tale of why the Upper Peninsula isn’t a part of Wisconsin is the focus of Grace Holmgren’s project for the National History Day Contest, which gets underway this week in Maryland.

The eighth-grader attends Bayshore Community Academy in Oconto, Wisconsin, but has local connections. Her paternal grandparents are Ed and Sue Holmgren of Ishpeming, while her maternal grandparents are Patty and Doug LaFond of Negaunee.

National History Day is a nonprofit educational organization that promotes the teaching and learning of history in middle and high schools around the world through a variety of programs for teachers and students, according to its website at nhd.org.

The largest program is the National History Day Contest. Established in 1974, the competition encourages more than half a million middle and high school students around the world to conduct original research on historical topics of interest.

Students present projects at the local and affiliate levels, with the top two projects from every category invited to the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest at the University of Maryland at College Park.

Holmgren is one of the students on her way to College Park.

This year’s theme, Holmgren said, is “Conflict and Compromise.”

The origin of the U.P., which geographically should belong to Wisconsin, is Holmgren’s subject for this theme.

For the contest, she said students created products, which could have been an event, website, performance, paper or documentary.

Holmgren chose to make a website, which can be accessed at 75132480.nhd.weebly.com. The title of her project is “The Toledo War: Wisconsin’s Loss of the Northern Territory.”

Her thesis statement reads: “In the 1800s, the United States Congress made two decisions that caused a territorial dispute between Michigan and Ohio which escalated to the point of a military confrontation. The first conflict emerged from an inaccurate map, and the second conflict occurred after a decision in Congress not to address the problem.

“In 1836, President Andrew Jackson mediated a compromise to avert a potential civil war. Although many people viewed Ohio as the victor and Michigan as the loser, Wisconsin suffered the greatest loss by losing the resources of the Upper Peninsula.”

Holmgren then uses a quote from Lewis Cass, Michigan territorial governor: “A disputed jurisdiction is one of the greatest evils which can happen to a country.”

In a Thursday telephone interview with The Mining Journal, Holmgren elaborated on the situation, which began with a land dispute between Michigan and Ohio over present-day Toledo.

That’s when an inaccurate map came into play.

The map, she said, was drawn by a man who wasn’t qualified for making it.

“He wasn’t very interested in cartography or geography,” Holmgren said.

When Ohio became a state in 1803, both states believed they owned Toledo.

“Because the map was inaccurate, both sides were right,” Holmgren said.

She called the ensuing boundary dispute that lasted 36 years “almost warlike.” Fortunately, once the dispute threatened to become more violent, Congress stepped in and proposed a compromise.

One June 15, 1836, it was decided that were Michigan to become a state, it needed to give up Toledo to gain the U.P. Eventually, Michigan accepted the compromise.

However, a prevailing belief was that the U.P. was a barren wasteland not conducive to farming, she said. About 10 years after the compromise, Michigan investigated the land and discovered, after trees were cleared, there was a decent-sized lumber industry.

Another notable fact was that people’s compasses weren’t working because of the iron deposits in the region.

“This is when they discovered there was a mining potential in the area,” Holmgren said.

So, were it not for the original land dispute, Wisconsin would have had the U.P. and a more diverse economy, she said.

At the national competition at the University of Maryland, results will be announced Thursday after finalists are chosen Monday or Tuesday, she said.

Websites will be locked, she noted, so judges can fact-check, plus she will be asked questions.

Holmgren’s website includes information on the issue’s background, conflict, impact and research. It also includes historical maps, such as ones showing the copper and iron ranges of the U.P. and the boundaries in question during the Toledo War.

Her annotated bibliography details the documents she used for her website as well as her reasoning.

For instance, Holmgren used a specific document on the Canal Act of 1825.

On her website, she wrote: “This act was very helpful to read because it gave first-hand primary documents on the Canal Act. I used this document on my Conflict page when talking about Ohio’s Canal Act, and how they were able to construct a canal in the Toledo Strip to maximize waterway trade routes. The canal act was one of the ways that Ohio invested in the disputed area in hopes of Congress recognizing how much their state had put in Toledo so the dispute would end in their favor.”

Whatever happens at the national competition, Holmgren at least has a positive experience to end her grammar school years.

Said her mother, Jenny: “It’s kind of a fun way to send her off.”

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.