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Why Does Missouri Have a Bootheel

Why Does Missouri Have a Bootheel

Missouri, known as the “Show Me State,” is a fascinating place with diverse landscapes and a rich history. One peculiar feature that sets Missouri apart from other states is the Bootheel, a distinct southeastern region that juts out like a sole on a boot. This unique geographical formation has intrigued many, leading to the question, why does Missouri have a Bootheel? In this article, we will explore the origins of the Bootheel and delve into the reasons behind its existence.

The Bootheel is aptly named due to its resemblance to the heel of a boot. It spans over six counties in Missouri, including Dunklin, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Mississippi, Scott, and Stoddard. To understand why this region exists, we need to go back in time to the early 19th century.

During the early 1800s, the United States was rapidly expanding westward, acquiring new territories and shaping its boundaries. When the Missouri Territory was established in 1812, its southern border was defined as the 36°30′ parallel, which extended from the Mississippi River to the western border of the territory. However, this border posed a problem when it came to the issue of slavery.

At the time, slavery was a contentious issue, and there was a heated debate on whether new states would be admitted as slave or free states. In an effort to maintain a balance between the two factions, the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was passed, allowing Missouri to enter the Union as a slave state while Maine joined as a free state.

To adhere to the Missouri Compromise, the southern border of Missouri was shifted southward, giving birth to the Bootheel. This adjustment allowed Missouri to remain a slave state while maintaining the balance with free states in the Union. The new border was drawn at the 36°30’30” parallel, creating the unique shape of the Bootheel.

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The creation of the Bootheel had significant implications for the region’s history and development. The fertile soils of the Mississippi River floodplain attracted settlers, leading to the establishment of thriving agricultural communities. Cotton became the dominant crop, and plantations emerged, relying heavily on slave labor. The Bootheel’s agricultural industry thrived for many years, shaping the region’s economy and culture.

Over time, the Bootheel faced challenges such as floods, economic fluctuations, and social changes. The decline of the cotton industry, mechanization, and the abolishment of slavery all contributed to a transformation in the region’s economy. However, the Bootheel remains an integral part of Missouri’s identity, showcasing the state’s historical complexities and the impact of its geographical boundaries.


Q: What is the population of the Bootheel region?
A: As of the latest estimates, the combined population of the six counties in the Bootheel region is around 200,000.

Q: What are the major industries in the Bootheel?
A: While agriculture remains significant, the Bootheel has diversified its economy. Major industries include agriculture (soybeans, corn, rice), manufacturing, healthcare, and retail.

Q: What are some popular attractions in the Bootheel?
A: The Bootheel offers several attractions, including the Mississippi River, Big Oak Tree State Park, New Madrid Historical Museum, and the annual Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo.

Q: Is the Bootheel prone to flooding?
A: Yes, due to its proximity to the Mississippi River, the Bootheel is susceptible to flooding. Flooding has historically been a challenge for the region, impacting agriculture and infrastructure.

Q: How does the Bootheel contribute to Missouri’s economy?
A: Despite the decline of the cotton industry, agriculture, particularly soybeans and corn, remains a vital part of the Bootheel’s economy. Additionally, manufacturing and healthcare sectors have grown, contributing to the overall economy of Missouri.

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In conclusion, the Bootheel is a unique feature of Missouri that originated from the Missouri Compromise of 1820. This distinct region, shaped like a sole on a boot, showcases the complexities of Missouri’s history and the impact of its geographical boundaries. Despite facing challenges and changes over the years, the Bootheel remains an essential part of Missouri’s identity, contributing to its economy and offering a rich cultural heritage.

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