From Academic Kids
The Missouri Bootheel is the southeasternmost part of the state of Missouri, lying between the Mississippi River and the St. Francis River. Strictly speaking, it is composed of the counties of Dunklin, New Madrid, and Pemiscot, but the term is sometimes broadly used to refer to the entire southeastern corner of the state. The Bootheel gets its name from the shape of its boundaries, an area added to Missouri when it was granted statehood due to the influence of John Hardeman Walker, a major landowner in the area.
The Bootheel is very flat and predominantly agricultural. The soils are predominately a rich and deep glacial loess, well-suited for growing rice and cotton. It is also one of the more impoverished parts of Missouri, which has not enjoyed many of the economic benefits of tourism felt in some parts of the nearby Ozark Mountains.
The area is on the edge of the Mississippi Delta culture that produced the Delta blues. Its relatively large black population makes it distinct from the rest of rural Missouri, giving the area, its music, and its religious makeup the uniqueness associated with rural black culture.
The Bootheel has long had a reputation for lawlessness; remote settlements along the river banks, miles from paved roads, provided an ideal environment (and market) for moonshining and bootlegging. This situation has been greatly abated by improved communication and transportation and more widespread legal availability of alcoholic beverages.
Culturally, the Bootheel is considered more Southern than Midwestern. Some say it is part of a subculture that includes northwesternmost Tennessee, the westernmost part of Kentucky, and the Little Egypt portion of Illinois. The locations of the region's television stations reflect this:
- the CBS and Fox affiliates are located in Cape Girardeau,
- the ABC affiliate is located in Harrisburg, Illinois, and
- the NBC affiliate is in Paducah, Kentucky.
However, the farther south in the Bootheel, the more pronounced is an unambiguous identification with the South: In this southern portion of the area, the network television affiliates in Memphis, Tennessee, which is the largest city for 200 miles, or in Jonesboro, Arkansas, often have a greater audience than those in Illinois, Kentucky, or even Cape Girardeau.
Geologically, the New Madrid Fault Zone (pronounced New MAD-rid) is named for a locale in the Bootheel. This feature is entirely beneath the surface below the deep alluvial deposits of the Mississippi embayment and is nowhere visible as is the San Andreas Fault in California. This fault zone is responsible for a very major series of earthquakes that rocked the area in 1811 and 1812; supposedly it rang church bells along the East Coast, and it resulted in a subsidence that led to the formation of Reelfoot Lake across the Mississippi River in West Tennessee.
- How Did ... Missouri Come To Include the "Bootheel"? (http://www.sos.mo.gov/archives/history/bootheel.asp), from Missouri's Office of the Secretary of State
- Bootheel map and statistics (http://www.ded.mo.gov/business/researchandplanning/regional/bootheel/), from Missouri's Department of Economic Development
- Missouri Bootheel Regional Consortium (http://www.bootheelhealthystart.org/)