McDonald County Secedes: April 6, 1961

McDonald County Historical Society

No, that date isn’t supposed to read “1861,” McDonald County set down a path that would lead to their seceding and becoming an independent territory on this date in 1961.

It all started with a tourism map distributed by the Missouri Highway Department, which had left McDonald County out entirely. On this date, April 6, the president of the Noel Chamber of Commerce, wrote a letter to Governor John Montgomery Dalton asking for an explanation for the exclusion. According to an article published on Ozarks Alive, the governor replied the next day, stating: “I am extremely sorry about the omission of Pineville and Noel, but this office had nothing to do with preparing these maps and I would suggest you contact the Chief Engineer of the State Highway Department.”

Unsatisfied with this response, the county determined to secede, going as far as to introduce a resolution in favor of exploring secession in the Missouri legislature and putting up ‘Welcome to McDonald Territory’ signs at the county borders. Our in-depth article about the incident explains what happened next: “A printer was commissioned at Noel for passports. About 100,000 territorial stamps and 50,000 visa cards were designed, engraved, and printed. Three hundred men were called to arms ‘against the tyranny of omission’ to form a border patrol for keeping ‘undesirables’ like Missouri state tax collectors out of the territory. There was even talk of contacting the United Nations for $4 billion in foreign aid relief. Offers began flooding in from Arkansas and the nearby Cherokee nation. On April 12, Bachler introduced a proposal to form a tri-state committee for Benton County, Arkansas, and Delaware County, Oklahoma, to join McDonald County in establishing a fifty-first state.”

The stunt carried on, attracting press coverage and leading to a mock ‘invasion’ by forces from nearby Jasper County. In fact, it was never clearly established whether the exclusion of McDonald County from the vacation map was intentional or not, but it made the next year’s edition, and McDonald County is still, thankfully, a part of our state.