Tensions between the town and gown have always been just under the surface in Ann Arbor, but few modern examples of that relationship are more extreme than an 1856 standoff, which escalated to include battering rams, muskets and plenty of spilled beer before a peace settlement was reached.
“The Dutch War,” as it is inexplicitly referred to in The Making of the University of Michigan: 1817-1992 by Howard Peckman and the University’s Encyclopedic Survey, began innocently enough.
One night, Jacob Hangsterfer, the proprietor of a popular student hangout on the corner of Main Street and Washington Street, kicked two rowdy students out of his shop.
The students were not about to let the incident go, though.
The next night, this time with reinforcements and cries of “revenge or beer,” they returned demanding that Hangsterfer give the crowd free drinks or “take the consequences.”
When Hangsterfer refused to give in, the students charged, drawing knives and clubs and smashing kegs, furniture and windows. As the mob chased the bar’s patrons from the building, police stopped the students but did not arrest them. The confrontation was far from over.
A few days later, several students returned to Hangsterfer’s for a party hosted by the Alpha Nu Literary Society. Growing restless and itching to get even, they decided to crash a town dance going on down the street at another popular watering hole – Binder’s Saloon.
The group of six students snuck into the dance through a back window and proceeded to drain the unattended refreshments. The students were not very stealth, however, and were soon discovered .
Five of the students ran, but one was caught and turned over to Binder, who demanded a $10 ransom for the prisoner’s release.
Infuriated, the students summoned a mob and returned to the saloon armed with muskets and three large logs, which they planned to use as battering rams.
Binder immediately let his captive go, but swore to turn the six students into the police.
The students evaded arrest by laying low and blackmailing Binder for selling alcohol to minors.
Binder soon withdrew his complaint, ending the war.