Dividing Missouri

August 10, 1821
Missouri Became the 24th State

The Missouri territory came to the United States as part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, one of the best real estate deals the United States ever made. Before Missouri became the 24th state on August 10, 1821, certain compromises had to be made to keep a balance in the Union between the slave and non-slave states. Those compromises would later turn neighbor against neighbor.

Under the Missouri Compromise of 1820, designed by statesman Henry Clay, Missouri entered the Union as a slave state, and Maine entered as a free state, thus keeping the number of slave and non-slave states equal at 12 each.

John F. Smith recalled in an interview an incident when Jayhawkers, a group opposed to slavery, came to his house in 1861. One of the Jayhawkers threatened to shoot his father, a Missouri slave owner.

“. . . (then) we heard a shout and looked up the road . . . The man dropped his gun to his side, when Judge Myers rode up he was shaking his head and his eyes were blazing fire . . . All the Jayhawkers turned around and sulked off like whipped dogs.”

The Civil War continued to divide Missourians. Although the state remained with the Union, some of its citizens chose to fight for the Confederacy. Smith’s father and his rescuer, Judge Myers, remained best friends despite their conflicting views on slavery, but the two ended up fighting on opposite sides of the war.

Ironclad ships, built in Missouri, became part of the Missouri Squadron. The vessels aided the Union in preventing the movement of Confederate troops and supplies.