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The Time McDonald County Seceded from Missouri

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
January 9, 2024 3:00 am

The Time McDonald County Seceded from Missouri

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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January 9, 2024 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, in 1961, McDonald County, Missouri found a unique way to show their dissatisfaction with their state government. Dwight Pouge, who saw it all from the ground, tells the story.

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Send them to They're some of our favorites. Up next, a story on a unique protest that happened in 1961 in McDonald County, Missouri. A little slice of heaven right in the Ozarks. Here's our own Monty Montgomery with a story. On April 12th, 1861, a crisis was brewing in Charleston, South Carolina, as Fort Sumter began to be shelled by Confederate forces kicking off the Civil War. 100 years later to the day, another crisis was about to reach fever pitch in the state of Missouri as a state senator prepared to introduce a controversial piece of legislation.

Here's Dwight Pogue with more. At the State House in Jefferson City, Missouri, on April 12th, 1961, State Senator Lee Aaron Batchelor introduced a legal document for a resolution to form a 51st state that would consist of McDonald County, Missouri, and the adjoining counties of Benton County, Arkansas, and Delaware County, Oklahoma. Batchelor stated, I subscribe fully to, and am a pioneer in, the world of new frontiers. Missouri is my native state and McDonald County my place of birth, and in this controversy, I must go with her. I cannot reroute my affection. But what controversy could possibly cause a piece of a state to want to secede? We have to take a step back a few days to make sure that the state of Missouri can find out. In April of 1961, I was 16 years old, working after school with my brother and sister in our family's weekly newspaper, the McDonald County Press in the little Ozark resort town of Noel, Missouri. When the Missouri State Highway Commission unveiled their new 1961 vacation highway map, it was discovered that almost all the towns in McDonald County, including the resort town of Noel and the only highway leading to it, were missing. This omission was not only a shock, but would be detrimental to the economy of McDonald County and truly devastating for Noel since its livelihood depended solely on vacationers. My father, Ralph Pogue, invited Noel Mayor Dan Harmon and Missouri Senator Lee Aaron Batchelor to join him to ask their state elected officials for an explanation and a solution. Unfortunately, they received an apology, but little else. Dad told Harmon they at least had the power of the press and the press was the voice of the people. They soon decided their only course was to legally secede from their parent state. The chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, Z. L. McGowan, was elected president of the new territory.

Dan Harmon, vice president, Ralph Pogue, press secretary, and Missouri State Senator Lee Aaron Batchelor, secretary of state. The entire town, including mayors and officials of several sister towns in the county, joined in the effort and the session was off and running. It turned out to be a summer I have yet to forget. I was invited out into the community to assist my father on his travels to photograph and record secession events in the area. I also volunteered to drive my first car, a 1931 Model A Ford five-winded coupe with rumble seat, to transport members of the newly famed Territorial Border Patrol. Border Patrol members were armed with muzzle-loading guns and powder horns to hand out special territory visas to all persons entering the town of Noel.

Visitors were required to carry the visas at all times and to show them when departing the county. The three most celebrated McDonald Territory border guards were Jim Squeak Howerton, Jim Stevens, and Jim Riley. Over the summer, hundreds of tourists asked to have their photographs taken alongside these three stalwart Territorians with their muzzle-loading guns and powder horns. Territorial Border Guard Lieutenant Jim Squeak Howerton was brought up operating bulldozers and road graders in his family's bulldozing business.

He was nicknamed Squeak because he was skinny with a high-pitched voice and was well-liked for being quick-witted and outspoken. Squeak was adventurous and fearless, and I would guess to say the 50 caliber bullets wrapped around his body during the secession days were live rounds. Border Guard Sergeant Jim Stevens furnished his well-known Silver Model A Ford pickup truck as the official territorial transport for the border guards. The summer of 1963, they were granted special permission from the Kansas City Southern Railway to check passengers on the southern bell at the Knoll Depot for territorial visas. The border guards would occasionally get on the train at Knoll and get off at Siloam Springs, Arkansas, where they had arranged auto rides back to Knoll.

They were a big hit with the passengers. Suddenly, secession was on everyone's minds and new ideas seemed to come out of nowhere. The provisional government of the McDonald Territory had 30,000 stamps printed in several colors and, although not legal, all stamps were sold and the U.S. Post Office allowed them to be attached to backs of mailed envelopes. McDonald County native Rivers Wiley suggests that Knoll and the county buy the leftover signs that Texas had when Alaska was admitted to the Union. All we'd have to do is change the word largest to smallest and then the signs would read, welcome to the smallest state in the Union, he advised. When we secede, everyone will want to live here. We will be tax-free and will sell nickel beer. He also recommended the following tax program.

No resale sales tax, no corporation tax, no income tax, no inheritance tax, and no thumb tax. By early July, even the Kennedy administration took notice of McDonald Territory's rebel spirit when it decided it was time to restrain the secession idea, as it was spreading to include all the Ozarks and more than just one county in Missouri. By the time August of 1961 arrived, the residents of McDonald Territory were in a positive mood and were looking back on their summer with hope and a degree of satisfaction.

With livelihoods no longer in jeopardy and running quite smoothly, happiness and good cheer abounded. For my part, as a sixth generation Missourian, born and raised in the southwest corner of the Show-Me State, I learned to love and appreciate the folks who lived there. And a great job as always by Monty Montgomery. And a special thanks to Dwight Pogue for telling us this story. Check out Dwight's book, 1961 Ozark Breakaway, the year McDonald County seceded from Missouri on Amazon and of course all the usual suspects.

Dwight Pogue's story, the 1961 Ozark Breakaway, here on Our American Stories. Folks, if you love the great American stories we tell and love America like we do, we're asking you to become a part of the Our American Stories family. If you agree that America is a good and great country, please make a donation. A monthly gift of $17.76 is fast becoming a favorite option for supporters. Go to now and go to the donate button and help us keep the great American stories coming.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-09 04:18:58 / 2024-01-09 04:23:39 / 5

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