Thursday, 20 October 2011
Author Spotlight - Barbara Scott takes a look at the Bootheel of Missouri, part 2
When Kari and Dahlia of Talk of the Town left the Bootheel of Missouri for the bright lights and opportunities of the big city, they left behind a rural landscape of lore and legend. Comprising only 980 square miles of what should have been Arkansas, the Bootheel of Missouri has a history more varied and notorious than many similar sized patches of the United States.
From ancient times more than 2 million acres of the lowland region between the Mississippi and the St. Francis Rivers was covered with cypress-tupelo swamp. Under that blanket of primeval forest lurked the fault line of such power that it would produce a series of earthquakes in the winter of 1811-12 that were among the strongest ever felt in North America. Tremors were felt over 1 million square miles square miles and caused severe damage to houses in St. Louis and cracked windows and set church bells ringing in Philadelphia and New England. The most severe of the four major earthquakes changed the course of the Mississippi River and caused land movements that created Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee.
During the Civil War, two battles took place in the region. One in 1862 was a series of conflicts in a battle of the ironclads in the Mississippi near New Madrid. The Union victory opened the river for the North through to Ft. Pillow, Tennessee.
After the war, the Bootheel earned a reputation for lawlessness. During the 20 years between 1872 and 1913, US Marshals waged continuous battles with bootleggers that became known as the Moonshine Wars. More than twenty Marshalls were killed in the performance of their duties.
As the land reclamation projects of the late 19th and early 20th centuries began to open up more land to agriculture clashes began between migrant workers and African-Americans who moved to the area looking for work.