Blame it on Arkansas? – How and why did Missouri get a Bootheel?

I tend to be a history buff. For this reason, I decided I needed to find out how and why Missouri ended up with a backheel. The responses are varied and some are hysterical, even blaming Arkansas for the appendix at the bottom of the Show Me State.

I went to several sources to find out why Missouri has such an oddly shaped heel, including the Wikipedia page for this. They mention two facts about who, why, and when Missouri reached its present form. Here are the highlights:

When Missouri was admitted to the Union, its original boundary was proposed as an extension of the 36°30′ north parallel which formed the boundary between Kentucky and Tennessee… John Hardeman Walker, a pioneer planter in present-day Pemiscot County, argued that the area had more in common with the Mississippi River towns of Cape Girardeau, Ste. Genevieve and St. Louis in Missouri than with its proposed incorporation into the Territory of Arkansas.

That’s fine and probably accurate, but my favorite theory of how Missouri got its stand included this:

According to an apocryphal account in various versions, the Bootheel was added to the state because of a Missourian’s request to stay in the state “because he had heard it was so sickly in Arkansas”; “…full of bears, panthers and copper-headed snakes, so it’s not safe for civilized people to stay there even at night.”

I’d like to shake hands with whoever came up with the Arkansas theory. It’s classic. What does Arkansas think about this? According to Arkansas Encyclopedia (insert your favorite arkansas joke here), many people in Missouri suggested giving the Booteel to Arkansas. That may be true, but it probably didn’t mean the way people in Arkansas take it. “Heeling someone” probably includes kicking the back.

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