Little Dixie (Missouri)

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Little Dixie is a 13- to 17-county region of mid-to-upper-mid Missouri found along the Missouri River, settled primarily by migrants from the hemp and tobacco districts of Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee. Today, the region identifies with the Midwest, but because of Southerners settling there first, the pre-Civil War culture closely paralleled that of the Upper South and the area was known as Boonslick country. When the Southerners resettled in Missouri, they brought their cultural, social, agricultural, political and architectural practices including slavery. On average Missouri’s slave population was only 10 percent, but in Little Dixie, county and township slave populations ranged from 20 to 50 percent, corresponding to the concentration of large plantations along the river.

While definitions of the counties included in Little Dixie vary, the following had populations with proportions of slaves of 25 percent or more in 1860: Callaway, Boone, Howard, Saline, Chariton, Lafayette and Clay. The only other county of the state where the enslaved population was as high in 1860 was New Madrid in the southeast, devoted to cotton plantations along the Mississippi River.[1]

Missouri counties

Some defined the “heart” of Little Dixie as the following counties:[2]

The major cash crop was hemp. In Lafayette County, locals went so far as to declare hemp king and dedicate all production to it while foregoing necessary food production. Planters in other Little Dixie counties, such as Platte, Howard, Chariton and Ralls, grew millions of pounds of tobacco on large plantations with 20 or more slaves. Some farmers and planters grew cotton and sent their surplus down the Missouri River to St. Louis and New Orleans.

Planters named their large estates, such as Greenwood, Redstone, Oakwood and Sylvan Villa in Howard County. On these large plantations, slave populations ranged between 15 and 70 people, who cultivated acreage of 500 acres (2 km²) to 2000 acres (8 km²), or more.


In many parts of Little Dixie, the antebellum plantations still stand today and many people participate in heritage tourism and historic projects.

Mob violence, especially against African Americans, was another legacy of the region's Southern heritage. Between 1889 and 1919, Audrain, Boone, Callaway, Howard, Monroe, Pike, and Randolph counties witnessed 13 lynchings. This number represents 16 percent of the lynchings occurring in Missouri at the time, whereas these seven counties contained under 6 percent of the state's total population. Moreover, while African Americans comprised just over 50 percent of the victims of lynching in other parts of Missouri, in these seven counties they accounted for over 90 percent.[3][4][5]

Athletic Conference[edit]

"Little Dixie" later was used as the name of a Missouri athletic conference. The Little Dixie Conference, or LDC, was made up of the following area high schools:

The Little Dixie Conference disbanded prior to the 2006 fall sports season. All schools (except Community, Sturgeon and Madison) formed the new Mid-Missouri Conference along with North Callaway and Tipton high schools.


R. Douglas Hunt, Agriculture and Slavery in Missouri's Little Dixie, Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1993

  1. ^ T. J. Stiles, Jesse James: The Last Rebel of the Civil War, New York: Vintage Books, 2003, pp.10-11
  2. ^ The Story of Little Dixie, Missouri, Missouri Division - Sons of Confederate Veterans, accessed 3 Jun 2008
  3. ^ NAACP (1919). Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States, 1889—1918. NAACP. pp. 80–81. 
  4. ^ U.S. Census Bureau (1922). Fourteenth Census, vol. 3, Population, 1920: Composition and Characteristics of the Population by States. Government Printing Office. p. 546. 
  5. ^ U.S. Census Bureau (1922). Fourteenth Census, vol. 2, Population, 1920: General Report and Analytical Tables. Government Printing Office. p. 1348. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°N 93°W / 39°N 93°W / 39; -93