Kansas Collection books

That's My Daddy!

steamboat moving up the river

    One of the stories that I remember and cherish comes from what I call "Grandma's Tales."  She told me many stories about her early life.   However, this story happened before she was born. It is a dramatic and touching story.

    Her father, A.G. Barrett, came to Kansas in 1854, before Kansas was a state.  At that time it was known as the Kansas-Nebraska Territory and had just opened for settlement.  He came by riverboat from Ohio to St. Joe, on the Missouri River.  From there he traveled westward by horseback to the Vermilion Valley.  He liked what he saw and he purchased land for the Ohio Land Company.  Returning to Ohio, he learned that the land company had dissolved and some members had already headed west to California.  He convinced his five brothers and a brother-in-law to join him and moved to the Kansas Territory.

    Barrett was a miller and a millwright and his first move was to dismantle and move one of his sawmills to Kansas.  This involved crating the mill and loading it on an Ohio riverboat headed for Cairo, Illinois.  There it was transferred to an upstream riverboat to St. Louis and on to Westport, now known as Kansas City.  Again the saw mill was transferred to a smaller boat, which moved it to Manhattan, at the mouth of the Big Blue River.  A still smaller ferryboat took the crated mill to Blue Rapids, where it was loaded on large freight wagons.  They moved it 14 miles east to the point where the Oregon Trail crossed the Vermilion River.  Here Barrett established the settlement known as Barrett's Mill.

    Barrett quickly set up the mill and began sawing lumber for permanent buildings.  He had plans to start building a fine large house for his family, who were still back in Ohio.  A sudden tragic fire burned all the lumber he had been drying for his house and construction of the house was delayed for another year.

    When the house was finally about to be finished, he sent word to his wife and family to meet him in St. Joe on May first.  He would be there to take them to their new home.  There was no regular mail service in the Kansas Territory in those days and he could only hope that his message had gotten to his wife.

    Barrett arrived in St. Joe a few days before May first.  He purchased numerous items to furnish the new house.  After over two years of separation, he was anxious to see his wife and children.  May first came, but his family did not arrive.  He waited impatiently for another five days, but they still did not arrive.

    Finally, he concluded he must go back to Ohio and find his family.  So he booked passage on a downstream riverboat.  The next morning, as he lounged by the rail to watch a riverboat passing upstream, he noticed a little girl playing on the deck of the passing boat.  The little girl stopped her play to watch the downstream boat as it went by.  Suddenly the little girl screamed out, "Daddy, that's my daddy -- Mama, there's my daddy!"  Sure enough, Barrett's second daughter, Winifred, had spotted him as the boats passed.  The upriver steamer carrying Barrett's family was headed for St. Joe.

    Barrett disembarked at the next landing, obtained a horse and was waiting at the docks in St Joe when his family arrived.  It was a joyous reunion.  The family journeyed west for over 100 miles by wagon and ox team to their new home.

    Despite the rigors and uncertainties of frontier life, the family flourished and grew.  Less than a year later, my grandmother was born.   She was one of the first white children born in Marshall county.  As Barrett told the story, he said, "I've never heard anything as sweet as when Winifred screamed 'That's my daddy!'"


Winifred Van Vliet Schiller, granddaughter of A. G. Barrett
and mother of George Walter Schiller.

divider line of two flower

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