Missouri Owes Its Odd State Shape To Just One Guy

Illustration for article titled Missouri Owes Its Odd State Shape To Just One Guy

The shape of Missouri mostly makes sense: It’s bounded by straight lines and river routes, except for one deviation, where suddenly the state’s shape juts out randomly. It’s called Missouri’s bootheel — and it owes its creation to just one guy.


In response to our question about fascinating stories hidden in our maps, commenter jtwood suggested Missouri’s bootheel (so-called, unsurprisingly, because it looks rather like the edge of a high-heeled boot coming down from the state), explaining that it all came about from one powerful farmer, and his absolute refusal to join Arkansas:

John Hardeman Walker bought much of the area after the New Madrid quakes scared away what few people inhabited the area. As the territory of Missouri started to officially petition to become a state, Walker realized that the proposed latitudinal boundary would have left his property in Arkansas. Walker preferred to be associated with Missouri and leveraged his power as a substantial landowner to lobby in Washington, D.C. in support of his goal.


Arkansas, as Missouri’s state historical society notes, seemed (rather unflatteringly) fine with the arrangement, and let Walker and his approximately 1,000 square acres go.

Image: Detail, survey map, La Saline Salt Works, 1806 / Missouri State Archives

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Brainlock can NOT FKG reply on kinja


because being a minimum 4th generation Missourian, I was taught in school that the Bootheel comes from Congress trying to keep the Northern and Southern states balanced as more states were added. so they split Maine off from Massachusetts, as it had already been petitioning independence. then Missouri was added with the bootheel below the 36°30’ perceived “divisive” latitude line to indicate it’s southern connection.

I guess you learn something new everyday?

Granted, his petition MAY have been an influence, but why don’t we ask someone who lives closer to the heel, like 8x10? I think (s)he lives down near Joplin?