I was recently asked to give a brief description of Missouri, its culture and its heritage.Â This is no easy task. Often described as a â€śBorder State,â€ť the majority of Missouri finds itself in the Midwest, yet it is anchored to the South by the Southeast portion of the state known as â€śthe Boot-heel,â€ť a place where Missouri is tied to the South both physically and culturally.
Southeast Missourian blogger James Baughn,Â describes Missouriâ€™s â€śanchor to the Southâ€ť (in an August 16, 2010 entry) in the following words:
â€śThe town of Belmont, in Mississippi County southeast of Charleston, is served by its own paved state highway. Too bad nobody lives there.
Belmont, once an important river landing and the home to a Civil War [sic] battle, isn’t even shown on most modern maps. It’s easy to find, though. Take I-55 south to Highway 80, turn east, and keep going until the pavement ends. You’ll come to a dead-end sign, a rare sight for a major state highway.
â€¦Throughout most of its history, Belmont has had a ferry boat connecting to Columbus, Kentucky. The ferry is long gone, but the highways on either side — both numbered Highway 80 — still remain.
â€¦If the ferry was still operating, it would be possible to enter Kentucky and follow the highway across the entire length of the state and into Virginia. Indeed, Highway 80 is the longest state highway in Kentucky, providing a continuous connection — minus the ferry — between Missouri and Virginia.â€ť
Opposite of Belmont is Columbus Kentucky, whereÂ the ConfederatesÂ built their â€śGibraltar of the Westâ€ťÂ a place in whichÂ Kentucky was literally anchored to Missouri by a huge chain to help prevent Union gunboats from controlling the Mississippi River.Â Belmont, Missouri was also the site of a battle where Missouri State Guard General M. Jeff Thompson defeated Ulysses S. Grant.
Missouri was first controlled by the Spanish, then the French.Â It was Jefferson who obtained Missouri through the Louisiana Purchase.Â Once this transpired it opened the flood gate for the Scots-Irish settlers of Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee to pursue their restless spirits and forge out a better life in new lands.
These settlers defined Missouri culturally as a Southern state, a sister to the Deep South by proxy.
Prior to the German revolution, the German population was relatively small compared to the Scots-Irish settlers who had crossed the Appalachians to get here.
Wikipedia states that; â€śThe Naturalist Gottfried Duden, a German attorney, settled on the north side of the Missouri River along Lake Creek in 1824. He was investigating the possibilities of settlement in the area by his countrymen. In 1827 he returned to Germany, which he felt was overpopulated. There in 1829 he published Bericht ĂĽber eine Reise nach den westlichen Staaten Nordamerikas (Journal of a trip to the western states of North America), extolling the attractions of Missouri.â€ť
The publication of this book would later have drastic consequences for the Scots-Irish Southerners of Missouri. The relatively small German population carved out their own â€śRhinelandâ€ť of Eastern Missouri, they chose the areas of the state that had the poorest land, bad for traditional agriculture production but good for planting vineyards, a Missouri Rhineland if you will, that roughly speakingÂ can be traced from St. Louis west, to just east of Jefferson City.
North of the Missouri River, the soil was suitable for plantation agriculture and the area is still known today as â€śLittle Dixie.
The Western Border of Missouri as defined by the late author Patrick Brophy is as follows: â€śThe Missouri – Kansas border is no ordinary state line. For longer than any other it was the Border with a Capital â€śB,â€ť the would-be â€śpermanent frontierâ€ť between Western Civilisation and the Stone Age. For a decade it was the battle-line between North and South.â€ť
Brophy continues by stating that Missouriâ€™s frontier â€śhad a sectional character of its ownâ€¦ and had extremely close ties with the South. Up to the third decade of the century anywhere along the frontier, New Englanders remained small islands in a sea of Southern folkâ€¦ an uneasy blend of the old, aristocratic Tidewater and the raw â€śrugged-individualistâ€ť Scotch-Irish world of the Appalachian backwoods.â€ť
Thus was the case in Northeast Missouri and Northwest Missouri as well and like New Englanders, the Germans remained small islands â€śin a sea of Southern folk,â€ť that is until the German revolution of 1848 -Â a Marxist revolution in which the losers fled to America, specifically, Missouri, to the â€śMissouri Rhinelandâ€ť thanks to Mr. Gottfried Duddenâ€™s book.
By the time of the War of 1861, most of these German revolutionaries were living in St. Louis and were known as â€śWide-Awakes,â€ť in a modern day sense, illegal immigrants, speaking a foreign language, who admired Mr. Lincolnâ€™s ideals. Mr. Lincoln, in return utilised them for his own revolution, one masked by the popular moral cause of ending slavery, but in reality ending statesâ€™ rights.
Missouriâ€™s legally elected government was overthrown at gunpoint by General Lyon who vowed to kill every man, women and child rather than let Missouri secede.
But Missouriâ€™s truly elected legislature reconvened in Neosho, Missouri in October, 1861 and passed an ordinance of secession. There was a quorum in the Senate and the House, and it was recognised by the Confederate Congress in November, 1861.
The next time someone tells you that Missouri was a â€śNorthernâ€ť state ask them why Abraham Lincoln was forced to keep one-fourthÂ of the Union Army in Missouri in an attempt to control the population?
Sectional differences remain today in Missouri. Most of those who hold German ancestry remain in the â€śMissouri-Rhinelandâ€ť, an island among Southerners. History however, is written in â€śblue inkâ€ť , the popular belief being that Missouri was a â€śBorder Stateâ€ť with Southern sympathisers, the reality being that Missouri was a Southern State with pockets of Union sympathisers.
Missouri is still mainly an â€śagriculturalâ€ť society with the two main exceptions being St. Louis and Kansas City and â€śYankeesâ€ť for the most part remain â€śislandsâ€ť in a â€śsea of Southernersâ€ť.