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September 8, 2015
1816 Southern States Map - Before Missouri's Statehood August 10, 1821
Governor McNair's Residence 1820 First Elected Governor of Missouri from the History of Johnson County, MO 1881
1827 Map of Missouri
6 Years After Statehood
Drawing The Line: The Oddities Of This Country's State Borders Link
....Whenever natural boundaries — mainly rivers, especially those difficult to cross — were accommodated in drawing state lines, it has led to interesting configurations. Consider the toe heels of southeastern Iowa, where the Des Moines River empties into the Mississippi, and northwestern Missouri, where the Missouri River interrupts the straight line separating it from Kansas. The boot heel of southeastern Missouri was the result of political chicanery. In 1818, Missouri applied for statehood and the southern boundary was set at the 36'30" parallel line. Then John H. Walker, a wealthy cattle rancher and landowner from near the present-day boot heel town of Carruthersville, realized that the proposed boundary would transfer his landholdings between the St. Francis River and the Mississippi River from Missouri to the territory of . . . Arkansas! Apparently, Arkansas had a bad reputation even in 1818. Walker lobbied for Missouri's southern boundary to be set at the 36th parallel. The line was kept at 36'30" to the north, but the stub of land between the two parallel lines and the two rivers was included. That was close! Coincidentally, this put Missouri, a slave state, technically below the 36'30" line, above which slavery would hence be forbidden under the Missouri Compromise. The Missouri Compromise
Missouri thus became one of eight slave states comprising the gray area between North and South. These states became known as . . . border states! But the ultimate collision of boundaries would be the junction of the boundaries of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico — the Four Corners, the only point where you can stand on all fours and be in four U.S. states at once.
Forty-Thirty-five or fight?
Sullivan's Line, the Honey War, and latitudinal estimations
Every Civil War and/or American history scholar knows exactly where the southern border of Missouri is. West of the 'bootheel', the line is 36 degrees, 30 minutes north latitude - the line of the Missouri Compromise. For Missouri to be added as a (slave) state in 1820, (free) Maine would follow, and slavery would be banned west and north of the line. The Missouri Compromise was declared unconstitutional in the Dred Scott case, and later nullified with the Kansas-Nebraska Act - and the rest is bloody history. But what about the northern line - that is, the border with Iowa? Its position and existence seem to be taken for granted. But it shouldn't, thanks to an erroneous surveyor and three bee trees.
The problem with the northern line is that it was not set by latitudinal statute. In the Enabling Act of the State of Missouri in 1820, the west border of the state (going north from 36°30') was to be due north and south of the mouth of the Kansas River, "to the intersection of the parallel of latitude which passes through the rapids of the river Des Moines, making the said line to correspond with the Indian boundary line; thence east from the point of intersection last aforesaid, along the said parallel of latitude, to the middle of the channel of the main fork of the said river Des Moines; thence down and along the middle of the main channel of the said river Des Moines" to the Mississippi and then south. The northwestern corner of the state, including the city of St. Joseph, was not added until the Platte Purchase in 1837. This northwest corner of Missouri is a few miles west of Athelstan, Iowa (Taylor County).
The "Indian boundary line" in question was drawn by J.C. Sullivan in 1816. He was told to delineate the space between the Osage Indians and the then-Missouri Territory. From various websites, the consensus appears that he worked in an easterly direction, which leads to the problem. Sullivan either forgot about, ignored or was unaware of magnetic declination - that is, the difference between what your compass says is north (the magnetic north pole) and what is really north (90 degrees north latitude, the geographic north pole). From where he started in western Missouri, the (21st-century) declination is approximately 4 1/2 degrees; at the Des Moines, the declination is 2 degrees. Thus, as Sullivan worked east, the "straight" line angled to a decidedly east-north-easterly direction, especially in the eastern third, and he reached the Mississippi in what is now downtown Fort Madison, approximately three miles north of where he should have been. Whoops. The problem was compounded when the southern boundary of the Wisconsin Territory was stated to be the northern border of Missouri, locking the two in an endless loop.
The "rapids of the river Des Moines" was a point of contention in the late 1830s, when Sullivan's marks had disappeared and the Iowa Territory was being carved out. Missouri commissioned a Mr. Brown to re-survey the land. However, there was an error in communication: Sullivan's "rapids of the river Des Moines" were actually in the Mississippi, the name given by the locals, as the features in question were a few miles north of the Des Moines River. Brown instead went looking for the Des Moines Rapids on the Des Moines River, and believing to have found them near the big bend in the river near what is now Keosauqua, went and did his surveying from there. Brown's line is, or is approximately, halfway up the last tier of counties, two townships' worth. The north side of Mount Ayr would straddle and Centerville would be bisected by this line (if that was the one).
The border having been so drawn, Missourians decided it was time "their" land contributed to the tax base. When the people, most of whom considered themselves Iowans, answered this demand with raised pitchforks, trees that bees used to store honey (inevitably referred to as "bee trees") were cut down and the honey used as payment. The arrest of a Missouri sheriff followed, and in December 1839 hundreds of Iowans and Missourians headed to the Van Buren-Clark County area to defend their states. (This was the first use of the Iowa National Guard.) Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and the Supreme Court was called in to decide the matter. Eventually, in Missouri v. Iowa, 7 How. 660 (1849) and Missouri v. Iowa, 10 How. 1 (1851), a line was physically marked, and that marking was reaffirmed in Missouri v. Iowa, 160 U.S. 688 (1896). (Numbers are Supreme Court case files.)
Despite the incident that led to the Honey War happening in Van Buren County, that county got the worst lot in the end. Although the case was ruled in favor of Iowa, following Sullivan's Line, by that point the eastern half of the county had already lost two north-south miles. Had the line been drawn horizontally, present-day IA 81's length would have doubled, and Croton in Lee County would be where the straight boundary ended. Croton - or Athens, Missouri, just across the river - is the site of the northernmost battle of the Civil War, according to Croton's website and theMissouri Department of Natural Resources. Since there is a house that shows holes made by a cannonball, one is inclined to believe the claim. Link