Iowa and Missouri Dispute Border

Time Frame: 1836

In 1836 the state of Missouri and the Iowa Territory disagreed about their boundary line.
“The Path to Statehood,” The Iowa Heritage: Program # 3, Iowa Public Television, 1978.

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Surveyors almost caused a war with the state of Missouri, they certainly caused territory Governor Lucas a lot of trouble. The boundary of Iowa Territory and the state of Missouri had always been assumed to be a line known as the “Sullivan line.” But in 1836, Missouri acquired some new lands from the Indians in the northern part of that state. Missouri decided to have her northern boundary resurveyed. The new boundary, known as the “Brown line,” was thirteen miles north of the old “Sullivan line.” In 1839, a Missouri sheriff, acting under orders from the Missouri state government, attempted to collect taxes from the people of Van Buren county in the Territory of Iowa. This outraged the government and citizens of the Iowa Territory. At first there were only official proclamations between the two opposing governments with little results. The Iowa Territory and the state of Missouri both gathered a militia at the border, preparing for war. A war was avoided, but the dispute remained unsettled until 1849, when a boundary very close to the “Sullivan line” was decided upon by the United States Supreme Court.


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