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Missouri Following the Platte Purchase and Immediately Prior to the Honey War

Early survey map of Missouri, showing Land Districts, published by the General Land Office.

This is the second General Land Office map of Missouri.  It shows the boundaries of the state, including the newly acquired lands in the Northwest (Platte Purchase), along with the still unresolved Northern boundary with Iowa Territory, which would be resolved in 1839, following the so-called Honey War.

Platte Purchase

The Platte Purchase was a land acquisition in 1837 by the United States government from American Indian tribes of the region. It comprised lands along the east bank of the Missouri River and added 3,149 square miles to the northwest corner of the state of Missouri. 

The agreement for the Platte Purchase was reached on September 17, 1836, with the chiefs Mahaska and No Heart of the Ioway tribe and leaders of the combined Sac and Fox tribes in a ceremony at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. William Clark, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, attended on behalf of the United States.

The Senate approved the treaty on February 15, 1837. On March 28, 1837, President Martin Van Buren issued a proclamation supporting the annexation. In October 1837, the Missouri General Assembly accepted the land and placed it all initially in the newly created Platte County. 

At the time, Missouri was already the largest state in the Union. The acquisition challenged the Missouri Compromise of 1820 by expanding slavery into free territory north of the southern Missouri border with Arkansas.  It also conflicted with the Indian Removal Act, as it required a second relocation of tribes who had just been moved "permanently" west of the Missouri border, as part of the forced Indian removal policy to support white settlers. 

Honey War

The Honey War was a territorial dispute in 1839 between Iowa Territory and Missouri over a 9.5-mile-wide strip running the entire length of the border.  The dispute was caused by unclear wording in the Missouri Constitution on boundaries, misunderstandings over the survey of the Louisiana Purchase, and a misreading of Native American treaties. 

The boundary in question had originally been surveyed by John C. Sullivan in 1816, following the Treaties of Portages des Sioux and the formalization of the Sullivan Line in the Missouri Constitution of 1818.   

In 1837, shortly before the creation of Iowa Territory, the Missouri General Assembly ordered the Sullivan Line to be resurveyed. When Wisconsin Territory refused to participate in the survey, J.C. Brown began a survey in which he ignored the traditional definition of the rapids below Fort Madison on the Mississippi and instead looked for rapids on the Des Moines River itself and identified the rapids as being at Keosauqua, Iowa, about 9.5 miles into modern Iowa.

As the dispute heated up, Missouri was to note there were rapids on the Des Moines all the way to Des Moines, Iowa. Meanwhile, Iowa was to maintain its ownership extended to a line about 15 miles into modern Missouri at the mouth of the Des Moines.

Tax agents from Kahoka, Missouri, tried to collect taxes in what is now Van Buren County, Iowa, and Davis County, Iowa. The Iowa residents, allegedly carrying pitchforks, chased away the tax collectors who, legend has it, chopped down three honey bee trees in what is now Lacey-Keosauqua State Park to collect the honey for partial payment.

Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs sent 11 mounted members of the 14th Division of the Missouri State Militia under Major General David Willock, from Palmyra, Missouri, to the disputed border to protect the tax collector.  General Willock was unwilling to shed blood over an issue that should have been resolved peacefully by the governors or by Congress, and an Iowa mob succeeded in capturing the sheriff of Clark County, Missouri, and incarcerated him in the Muscatine, Iowa, jail. The Iowa militia was also called out by Iowa Territory governor Robert Lucas. 

The dispute was ultimately decided by the United States Supreme Court in Iowa's favor. The decision was to affirm a nearly 30-mile jog in the nearly straight line border between extreme southeast Iowa and northeast Missouri at Keokuk, Iowa that is now Iowa's southernmost point.