That one time in Michigan: When we created the Lost Peninsula

The "Lost Peninsula" highlighted in red. (Source: Public Domain)

By Karel Vega
November 15, 2023

This small Michigan community is separated from the rest of the state.

Most everyone in the Mitten knows that our state is comprised of two peninsulas—the Lower Peninsula and the U.P.

But what if I told you that Michigan is also home to a “lost” peninsula?

It’s true. This small southeast Michigan community resulted from a territorial dispute between Michigan and Ohio, and the folks that live there are still separated from the rest of the state to this day. Today, we’re going to learn about Michigan’s Lost Peninsula.

Separated from the Mitten

The story of Michigan’s Lost Peninsula begins in the 1830s as the Michigan Territory was preparing to become a state. We’ve covered the story of Michigan’s war with Ohio for the Toledo Strip previously on That One Time in Michigan (you can read the full account here), but here’s the quick gist of it:

When Michigan applied for statehood on Dec. 11, 1833, its proposed boundary included a narrow strip of land at the very south of the state. The land, known as the Toledo Strip, consisted of 468 square miles along Lake Erie and the Indiana border, but there was one major problem: While the Michigan Territory had been taking care of this strip of land, Ohio (which was already a state) claimed it belonged to them.

This situation devolved into a “war” between Michigan and Ohio until 1837, when President Andrew Jackson intervened to end the dispute. The final result? Ohio got to keep the Toledo Strip, while Michiganders received the Upper Peninsula for their troubles.

So, Michigan and Ohio were separated by a border line just north of the Maumee River that cut through land and water. But out of this compromise, something very interesting occurred: A tiny peninsula spanning about 250 acres was left completely cut off from the rest of Michigan. Anyone in the Lost Peninsula had to travel through Toledo to get to the rest of the state.

According to author and journalist Don Faber, who wrote about the area for Michigan History Magazine, the unique circumstances of the Lost Peninsula’s status have led to some interesting situations for the folks living there.

In 1915, Michigan Governor Woodbridge Ferris and Ohio Governor Frank Willis met in the Lost Peninsula to shake hands following the successful completion of a border survey. The loss of the Toledo Strip was still fresh in the minds of Michiganders, and the event was meant to end any hard feelings between the two states.

Fifty years after that initial meeting between Ferris and Willis, the state’s lieutenant governors would hold a similar ceremony to again mark the states’ agreement over their respective boundaries. In 1965, officials attached a plaque with the words “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” to Post 70, a stone boundary marker at the border that indicates the start of the Lost Peninsula. Odds are, though, most Michiganders would say we’re still not great pals with Ohio.

SEE MORE: Check out photos of Post 70 here.

The Lost Peninsula also had a role in alcohol-smuggling operations during Prohibition. Michigan police officers rarely ventured through Ohio to patrol the area, while Ohio didn’t have any jurisdiction; because of the lack of law enforcement, smugglers would often bring liquor from Canada into the US through here.

As far as the peninsula’s moniker goes, according to Faber, that can be traced back to a Detroit reporter in the 1940s. While researching the area, the reporter coined the term, and since the locals didn’t seem to mind, it simply stuck.

The Lost Peninsula in modern times

The Lost Peninsula as seen via satellite. (Source: Google Maps)

It took some time for the Lost Peninsula to settle into the modern age. It wasn’t until the 1940s that Consumers Power (now Consumers Energy) set up an underwater line to bring electricity into the area.

Unsurprisingly, there have been a couple of attempts by Ohio to take ownership of the Lost Peninsula. In 1960, the city of Toledo proposed annexing the area but dropped the plan after many home owners in the Lost Peninsula signed onto a petition opposing the idea. Five years later, Toledo tried to acquire a marina on the peninsula but eventually scrapped the plan. According to Faber, Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley was quoted as saying, “As far as Michigan is concerned, it will never cede an inch of Lost Peninsula lands to Ohio.”

These days, the Lost Peninsula consists mostly of private homes and a few businesses. The area itself is administered by nearby Erie Township in Michigan’s Monroe County. To get there, residents must make a short drive south into Toledo and back up into Michigan. Since there are no schools on the Lost Peninsula, kids must also take the bus into Ohio and back up to Michigan to attend classes.

Along with two restaurants, the area is also home to the family-friendly Lost Peninsula Marina.

Speaking to Michigan Radio in 2015, Faber described the area as: “Not much to look at, really. But the people who live there just love it because it’s isolated, but it’s beautiful in its own way.”

Author

  • Karel Vega

    Coming from a long background in public radio, Karel Vega strives to find stories that inform and inspire local communities. Before joining The ‘Gander, Karel served as managing editor at WKAR, the NPR affiliate in East Lansing, Michigan.

CATEGORIES: LOCAL HISTORY

Politics

Local News

Related Stories
Share This