Just How Young Was Michigan’s Youngest Governor?
It was Michigan’s “Boy Governor”, Stevens Thomson Mason, that led our state to war with Ohio. At the age of 19, President Andrew Jackson appointed the lad as Michigan’s territorial secretary before he could even legally vote. In 1834, at the age of 22, he became the territorial governor.
Mason was influential in petitioning for Michigan statehood. He commissioned a territorial census that determined 85,856 people lived in the lower peninsula, more than enough than the 60,000 required for statehood. It was during this time a dispute arose over a strip of land known as the “Toledo Strip”. The strip was claimed by both Michigan and Ohio. This dispute led to the Toledo War.
So Michigan And Ohio Actually Had A War?
The “war” was more of a taunting match between militias on opposite sides of the Maumee River. Finally, shots were fired into the air, incurring no casualties. The only blood spilled was that of a non-fatal stabbing of a law enforcement officer.
It was in 1836 when the United States Congress convinced Michigan to give up the "Toledo Strip" in exchange for the upper peninsula. The Michigan government wasn’t crazy about the deal, but they held the “Frostbitten Convention” and voted to accept the compromise.
So What Ever Became Of Michigan's "Boy Governor"?
The Panic of 1837 caused an economic plunge in Michigan, and Mason came under fire for his handling of state financial matters. He decided not to run for re-election in 1839. He and his wife, Julia Phelps, a New York City socialite, moved to New York. On January 4, 1843, the thirty-one-year-old boy governor died of pneumonia and was buried in New York’s Marble Cemetery.
Michigan's "Boy Governor"
The "Boy Governor" Gets Reburied Three Times
At the beginning of 1900, Michigan Governor Fred Warner appointed a commission to relocate Mason’s body back to Michigan, after being prompted by Lawton T. Hemans, a Mason biographer.
On June 4, 1905, his body was transported to Detroit by train, and following a memorial service, interred in Capitol Square Park, beneath the site of Michigan’s first state capitol. A life-size statue of Mason, sculpted by Albert Weinert from bronze cast from melted-down Fort Michilimackinac cannons, was placed over the gravesite.
In 1950 the grave was moved, due to the modernization of the park. It was in 2010 when another landscaping project took place. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the coffin was pulled from the ground, and Harris Funeral Homes manager David Kowalewski confirmed that the remains of Stevens T. Mason were inside.
The fourth burial of Mason took place on October 27, 2010. His coffin was placed in a newly built vault, beneath the bronze statue designed by Albert Weinert. To this day the hard feelings that were invoked by Ohio’s claim to the "Toledo Strip" still remain. However, rather than sending militias to the state boundary, a football game is held each year, between the University of Michigan and Ohio State, where the rival’s battle on the gridiron and taunts are still hurled.