War Was NEVER So Sweet

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Published on: Jan. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 26, 2010

the northernmost line, was the state line. Perhaps Boggs was ticked off because the tree cutting Missourian had been fined by Iowa in what Boggs considered Missouri.

Almost immediately, Iowa Gov. Robert Lucas authorized the arrest of anyone trying to exercise authority in what he called "the seat of excitement."

Enter Uriah (Sandy) Gregory, Clark County sheriff from Missouri. He was ordered north into the contested territory to collect taxes on, among other things, bee trees.

Most of the residents in the "seat of excitement" were Iowans by nature and they ordered Sheriff Gregory to go home. He was outnumbered about 1,200 to one, so he prudently went back south of all the possible boundaries.

Plaintively, if ungrammatically, he wrote Gov. Boggs, "I am at a loss what to do the Citizens of that territory two-thirds of which is hostile to the officer and declare if I pretend to use any authority which I am invested by the State of Missouri, they will take me by fourse and put me in confinement."

Gov. Boggs ordered Gregory to go get those taxes. The Iowans weren't kidding. They took the beleaguered sheriff by "fourse" and confined him in Burlington. He later said they treated him pretty well and let him roam around town, but wouldn't let him go home. He apparently enjoyed his enforced vacation and seemed relieved to have his problems solved for him.

It now was December, snowy and bitterly cold. Both sides began to arm for battle. The alarmed Gov. Lucas prophesied, wrongly as it turned out, that the dispute "might ultimately lead to the effusion of blood." He called up 1,200 men who cried, "Death to the Pukes," and drank plenty of whiskey. They were a bit officer heavy. They had four generals, nine general staff officers, 40 field officers and 83 company officers.

The Missourians tried to raise 2,200 militiamen, but less than half showed up. However, they were armed with the latest technology: one carried a sausage stuffer. The mind reels a bit at the thought of the probable effects of an attack with a sausage stuffer.

Meanwhile, Clark County officials, exhibiting rare common sense, sent a delegation to Iowa to work out a truce. The two sides came up with a classic political solution: they dumped the problem in the lap of the federal government and both sides told their soldiers to go home.

The Lewis County, Missouri, militia had spent two nights bivouacked in the cold and snow without tents or enough blankets. They did, however, have plenty of whiskey. One company brought six wagons of provisions and five of them were reputed to be filled with booze.

Even so, they weren't the happiest of campers. They wanted to shoot something. So they split a haunch of venison, labeled one half "Gov. Boggs," the other "Gov. Lucas," shot them full of holes and held a mock funeral.

Then both sides made a rowdy retreat and the Honey War was over. Ultimately, the two states compromised on a state line close to the middle of the four possible boundaries, and in 1850 set markers every 10 miles.

Some have vanished (one showed up in the back yard of a fraternity at Northwest Missouri State College at Maryville), but many still exist. However, the one on the Longnecker farm is the only one to mark the "seat of excitement."

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