Missouri's Hemp History

Learn more about Missouri's Hemp History.  Missouri was the nation’s leader in hemp production, and more than half of Missouri’s crop came from the seven counties of Little Dixie.

Drawing of the First Battle of Lexington, aka the Battle of the Hemp Bales. Courtesy of Harper's Weekly.
Drawing of the First Battle of Lexington, aka the Battle of the Hemp Bales. 



THE KINGDOM OF CALLAWAY:CALLAWAY COUNTY, MISSOURI DURING THE CIVIL WAR

Most scholars have defined Little Dixie as seven counties: Boone, Callaway, Chariton, Cooper, Howard, Lafayette, and Saline. These counties are all located along the Missouri River in central Missouri, and they were all a part of the Boone’s Lick Country. More importantly, they represented the largest concentration of slaves in the state.

Little Dixie farmers found their niche cash crop by growing hemp. Increased cotton production in the South demanded additional sources of hemp twine to bind cotton bales while growth in the size of the US Navy and the merchant marine increased demand for maritime rope and sailcloth. Little Dixie farmers began growing hemp around 1820, and it was the leading cash crop by 1840. Planters eventually adopted superior processing methods, and Missouri hemp accounted for 18% of the nearly 100,000 tons on 
Kingdom of Callaway the market in 1860. Missouri was the nation’s leader in hemp production, and more than half of Missouri’s crop came from the seven counties of Little Dixie.

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