The Iowa Honey War

honey pot and bees

In 1839, a boundary dispute erupted between Iowa and Missouri.  Missouri claimed the boundary was further north and Iowa claimed it was further south.  The original boundary was based on the Sullivan line.  In 1817, J.C. Sullivan surveyed Iowa to mark boundaries for Osage Indian lands.  As northwest Missouri and southwest Iowa were settled, confusion set in on where exactly this line was.

Missouri sent tax collectors into what is now Van Buren County, Iowa.  Iowans refused to pay taxes, so the tax collectors cut down three honey bee trees in liue of payment, hence the Honey War.  In retaliation, Iowa authorities arrested a Missouri tax collector.  This spurred Missouri to muster up its area militia to fight the Iowans and this is where the stories get interesting.

One report said the Missourians came armed with six wagon loads of provisions, five of them full of booze. Intching to shoot something, they divided a haunch of venison, labeled one half Boggs (MO governor) and the other Lucas (IA governor) and shot them full of holes. Then they buried each with mock ceremony.” — Daviess County Historical Society, MO

Well, the Iowa militia wasn’t really organized, so they showed up after the Missourians left, still not very prepared for a battle.

The Iowa governor called for Iowa volunteers to meet at the border. Each man supplied his own weapon, so they didn’t carry typical fighting gear. Reportedly one volunteer showed up ready to do battle with the aid of his family’s ancestral sword, and another brought a sausage stuffer as a weapon! And yet another was armed with a plow blade!” –IPTV.

Eventually, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Sullivan line was indeed the border and ordered for surveyors to remark it, thus settling the dispute.

Sources:

Stories of Iowa for Boys and Girls by Bruce Mahan, 1929

The Honey War With IowaDaviess County Historical Society, Missouri.  Posted July 12, 2008.

Early Wars, Iowa Pathways,  Iowa Public Television.

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