KanColl: The Kansas
Historical Quarterlies

The Leavenworth Board of Trade 1882-1892
by Lela Barnes

August, 1932 (Vol. 1, No. 4), pages 360 to 378
Transcribed by lhn; HTML editing by Name withheld upon request;
digitized with permission of the Kansas State Historical Society.

     THE proceedings of the Leavenworth, Kan., Board of Trade, running from April, 1882, to June, 1892, comprise part of the H. Miles Moore collection of manuscripts [1] now in the possession of the Kansas State Historical Society. Moore served as secretary of the organization during the greater part of this period. The records are interesting in that they offer a detailed account of the industrial growth of Leavenworth during the ten years of the organization's existence; and they are significant in setting forth the conditions and circumstances which surrounded the builders of a thriving frontier city fifty years ago.

     With the chartering of the Union Pacific railroad in 1862, its completion in 1869, and the subsequent building of other great routes to the west, a feverish activity pervaded the entire transMissouri region. United States census reports for the period 18701880 show amazing percentages of increase in population in the states of Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Dakota Territory. Kansas had an increase of 173.4 per cent, despite the fact that the state formed a part of the Great American desert, that vast area looked upon until a short time before as unfit for human habitation. This misconception regarding soil and climate in the plains region was dissipated by the intensive advertising campaigns of the railroads and state and local organizations. A great westward movement of population set in during the late seventies, and by the middle eighties had assumed all the aspects of a boom which rolled along, after the manner of booms, gathering impetus, sending land prices to absurd heights, and bringing thousands of bewildered settlers into the region until the sky, seemingly, was the only limit to projected development.

1. This collection has taken its name from the donor, H. Miles Moore, a citizen of Leavenworth from 1854 until the year of his death, 1909. Moore was born in the village of Brockport, N. Y., September 2, 1826. He was educated in the schools of the state and was admitted to the bar in 1848, going shortly thereafter to Louisiana, where he engaged in the practice of law. During his residence there he owned slaves and at the time of his removal to Weston, Mo. in 1850, his sympathies were with the south in its attitude toward slavery. He was one of the organizers of the Leavenworth Town Company in 1854 and prepared the original agreement, which was signed by the thirty-two members. From the beginning of his residence in Kansas Moore took a leading part in the free-state cause; he was a delegate to the Topeka constitutional convention in 1855 and was elected attorney-general under that constitution. He represented Leavenworth county in the legislature in 1857 and was returned in 1868. For many years he served as secretary of the Democratic state central committee, and the Moore collection contains many records of this work. In his law practice he represented numerous commercial agencies, including Bradstreet's. The collection contains approximately 15,000 pieces and covers the period 1837-1904.



     During this period the towns of Atchison and Leavenworth, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., were rivals for supremacy in the trade area of Kansas and the Southwest. All were located on that great artery of the West, the Missouri river. Leavenworth, at that time, had the largest population. The town was built upon a spot of unusual natural beauty, and its growth had been due in part to its situation, adjacent to Fort Leavenworth, which had assured protection during the troubled territorial period. By 1870 Kansas City had forged ahead and Leavenworth had twice received serious setbacks. Headquarters of the Union Pacific, eastern division, were removed from that city to Wyandotte in 1863, and subsequently a branch railroad from the Hannibal & St. Joseph at Cameron, Mo., was brought to the east bank of the Missouri river at Kansas City in spite of the frantic efforts of Leavenworth to secure the line. These losses were among the determining factors in the ultimate ascendancy of Kansas City. However, the great activity of the late seventies undoubtedly gave fresh hope to Leavenworth. The year 1880 found her still the largest city of Kansas, still pushing ahead, humming with trade and manufacturing, her citizens eager to develop the many possibilities for growth, bigger business and increased population which were considered then, as now, the highest of all possible goals for an industrial community. The builders of the city saw that new markets were opening up in the far West and Southwest; that manufacturers of the East were looking for desirable locations west of the Mississippi; that the state was progressing as a grain-producing region and manufacturing center. The town itself was producing a, wide variety of commodities ranging in size and character from steam engines to watches. Her factories were turning out wagons, furniture, stoves, barrels, tinware, boilers; her mills were producing flour and corn meal of excellent quality. The discovery of bituminous coal in 1870 [2] had opened a large field of employment,

2. In 1854 Maj. F. Hawn, while engaged in making a geological survey of the state of Missouri, became convinced that there was coal underneath Leavenworth. Afterwards he made a complete geological survey of Leavenworth county, and gave it as his opinion that coal would be found m the city at a depth of a little more than 700 feet. In 1858 he organized a company with Thomas Ewing, Jr., W. H. Russell and others, and obtained from the government the right to sink a coal mine on twenty acres of government reservation adjoining the city on the north. Major Hawn was in favor of sinking a shaft, but the company concluded that it would be more practical to drill down first and ascertain whether there was coal. Work was commenced with a drill of the most primitive construction, with an old horse for the motive power. It was not many weeks until funds were exhausted and work abandoned. Hawn and those interested with him did not, however, give up the idea of finding coal. In 1863 work was again commenced, but for the second time funds were exhausted and the work came to a standstill. In 1866 the Leavenworth Coal Company was organized, and in 1870 the first coal from a Leavenworth mine was put on the market. The coal was reached at a depth of 713 feet; the vein was twenty-one inches in thickness, of superior quality and easily worked. It was estimated that there were at least four hundred square miles of coal in the locality, containing 1 920,000,000 tons. In 1870 twenty men were employed in the mines. By 1880 there were 200, and in 1888 1,100, producing 36,000 bushels a day. From actual tests it was found that a ton of Leavenworth coal would run a locomotive engine thirteen miles farther than any coal in the western market. -- Pamphlet, Coal Resources of Leavenworth, Kan., by E. Jameson, 1888, pp. 3-4.


given fuel for factories and mills, and provided a valuable commodity. There was need for cooperative effort to find markets for these products and to develop transportation facilities; and with growth of population and expansion of business as goals, it was necessary to bring to the city as many industries as could be secured.

     Responding to a call issued by Mayor W. M. Fortesque and published in the Leavenworth papers of April 21 and 22, 1882, "a large and enthusiastic meeting of citizens . . . assembled in the Academy of Science rooms for the purpose of organizing a board of trade." [3] Temporary officers were chosen, a committee was appointed to report on permanent organization, and the following resolution was adopted: "Resolved that it is the sense of this meeting that in organizing a board of trade, no political question or issue shall be allowed, either directly or indirectly, to enter into the deliberations or actions in any way whatever." [4] The provision of this resolution was later incorporated into the articles of association.

     Following the meetings under temporary organization, the first regular meeting of the board was held on July 13. Seventy-nine subscribers had signed the articles of association and had paid the membership fee of twenty dollars. Alexander Caldwell [5] was chosen president. Directors were elected and instructed to prepare by-laws. Section 8 of these bylaws is of special interest. It is as follows: "If any member of this board of trade is found guilty of fraud, misrepresentation or deception in trade or business, or guilty of any dishonorable conduct unbecoming a business man, he may be fined, suspended or expelled, at the pleasure of the board of trade after trial. [6] The proceedings of the body contain no record of any such trial.

     The first matter brought up for consideration was the threatened removal of the United States signal service station from Leavenworth. The station had been established May 21, 1871. [7] One phase of its work was the maintenance of a river gauge for the benefit of

3. Proceedings of the Board of Trade of the City of Leavenworth, Kan., p. 1. Hereafter cited as Proceedings. Corporations, State of Kansas, show that from July, 1878, until May, 1882, charters were issued to boards of trade or organizations of similar purpose in the following towns: Wichita, Atchison, Lawrence, Wyandotte, Concordia, Newton, Osage City, Topeka, Winfield, Marion Center, Florence, Wellington.

4. Proceedings, p. 2.

5. Alexander Caldwell, United States senator March, 1871, to March, 1873, served as president of the board of trade continuously from its organization until June 14, 1888. He was four times elected over his protest. His successor, in June, 1888, was H. D. Rush, who was followed in June, 1889, by J. M. Graybill. Upon Graybill's resignation the next year, W. M. Todd was elected. He was serving at the time of the reorganization in July, 1892.

6. Proceedings of the directors of the board of trade of Leavenworth, Kan., p. 3.

7. The first meteorological observation was made on May 24, 1871. -- Statement by G. E. Kumpe, colonel, signal corps, March 29, 1932.


navigation on the Missouri river, which was still playing a part in transportation. [8] It is not known to just what extent the efforts of the board to retain the station were effective, but its operations under the signal corps continued until June 30, 1891. [9] At this first. meeting it was decided to submit interrogatories to manufacturers and business men of Leavenworth to obtain statistical information regarding numbers of employees, importation of raw materials, selling fields, volume of business, etc. The information thus secured was later used in the preparation of the first annual report of the board. What may be termed a motif was announced at this first meeting. It was the need for transportation facilities. Whatever else assumed importance from time to time, this theme was dominant and runs through the entire history of the organization.

     The scope of the work of the board, as it developed through the years, is indicated in the appointment of committees. But four committees were organized in the beginning: railroads and transportation; trade and commerce; finance; and manufacturers. As need arose, others were formed.

     Attention centered during the first months on the railroads, the desirability of securing new factories and industries, facilities for the storage and milling of grain, mail and express service, and city improvements. Replies to the questions submitted to business men and manufacturers had indicated a general need for additional transportation; in particular there was call for a. branch of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railway by way of Olathe. The first efforts of the committee on railroads and transportation were directed to an investigation of this situation. Among the industries for which it was felt there was special need were a pork-packing plant, wholesale dry-goods house, and a glass factory. It is interesting to note, however, that the first industry sponsored by the organization served a cultural rather than a utilitarian purpose. It was an organ factory.

     One project of considerable importance to the city was begun in this first year-the securing of a federal building. At a special meeting held in July, 1882, plans were formulated for urging the necessary appropriation in congress. The board pledged itself to lend all possible aid to Representative John A. Anderson. The story of the building is long and involved and runs through several years

8. Steamboat. travel and river tonnage began to decline with the coming of the railroads to Leavenworth from Chicago and St. Louis. In 1886 not more than 500 tons of freight were received by river, and only about 100 tons were shipped out. During that year 450,000 tons were received by rail, and 425,000 tons were sent out. -- Interrogatory, May 10, 1887, H. Miles Moose collection.

9. Statement by G. E. Kumpe, colonel, signal corps, March 29, 1932.


of the proceedings. Members of the board worked tirelessly to bring the project to a consummation. Contracts were not let until 1886, and in the fourth annual report, January 1, 1887, was the happy prediction that the building would be ready for occupancy the following year.

     In September, 1882, the board took the first definite step to advertise abroad the resources of Leavenworth, its promising industrial outlook and need of certain industries. A series of advertisements appeared in the American Manufacturer of Pittsburg, Pa., of which the following is a typical example:



     "We offer you one of the most desirable locations for the successful investment of capital in manufacturing in the western country. We have various reasons for making this statement:

     "First: Because the city of Leavenworth is underlaid with coal in inexhaustible quantities, as has been practically demonstrated, 20,000 bushels of the shining mineral being brought to the surface daily. Second: Our location as a distributing point is unexcelled, and can be proven by consulting any man engaged here in manufacturing or in the jobbing trade. Third: We have the best system of water-works in the West, furnishing an abundance of water for all manufacturing purposes. This is already the largest manufacturing center in the Missouri valley. The most extensive glucose works, wagon factories, steam engine and boiler works, stove manufactories, furniture factories, organ factory, and many other enterprises too numerous to mention are already in successful operation, and capable of being expanded into indefinite proportions. Fourth: The cost of living is cheaper than in eastern cities. Fifth: Business locations can be obtained for much less than in any city east of us containing the same number of inhabitants. Sixth: Our railroad facilities for reaching the large territory naturally tributary to Leavenworth are first class, and the prospect for other railroads, soon to be completed to this point, justifies us in saying that the year 1883 will see us without a rival on the Missouri river as a distributing point. There are many other satisfactory reasons which could be given, but we hope the above will be sufficient to justify you in giving our city your attention, either in person or by letter to our board of trade. The city of Leavenworth joins the military reservation of Fort Leavenworth on the south, the most extensive, the most useful and the most beautiful military reservation in the United States.

     "We want a first-class oil mill; a novelty ironworks in connection with malleable iron castings; a paper mill and glass works, and an institution for manufacturing all kinds of agricultural implements.

     "Flax seed is raised here in great abundance, and the quality of it is such as to command the highest market price. This product is now being shipped out of this town daily to eastern mills.

     "As an argument in favor of ironworks, or malleable iron-works, there is a firm here will contract for $30,000 worth of this commodity annually.


     "As a point for a paper mill it must be very apparent to any man of ordinary intelligence that no better location can be found west of the Mississippi river. The crude material is here in great abundance, the cost of which would be but little more than the price of hauling to market; and as a point for the successful manufacture of agricultural implements we defy the United States to offer a better location.

     "We shall be glad to answer all letters of inquiry. If you visit our city -- whether you wish to invest or not-make yourself known, and we will take pleasure in making your stay among us as pleasant as possible. A. CALDWELL, President Board of Trade. H. MILES MOORS, Secretary Board of Trade."

     Inquiries began to pour in at once from manufacturers who desired a midwestern location for the production of a wide variety of articles-car wheels, steel, brass and iron castings, fruit evaporators, silk, castor oil, etc. It was found necessary to withdraw from the advertisement appearing in the American Manufacturer the following phrase which had undoubtedly been given a too literal interpretation by some of those making inquiries: "The city council, board of trade and business men generally stand ready and willing to render you material aid if you will come here and engage in any of the above enterprises or any other business you may wish to engage in." The matter of just how much aid should be extended by the board was a moot question at all times. The proceedings show that some sites were secured for factories and that much stock in various enterprises was sold by board members to citizens of Leavenworth.

     Before the end of 1882 several other major projects were launched, including the improvement of the road to the State Penitentiary and a new railroad and wagon bridge across the Missouri river. The macadamizing of the penitentiary road was announced as a completed enterprise in the report of January, 1887, but the story of the bridge spreads over many years. The bill authorizing its erection became a law on June 21, 1884. The correspondence supplementing the proceedings of the board shows persistent effort on the part of that organization, working with Representative E. N. Morrill and Senator Preston B. Plumb, to secure the passage of the measure. Following the granting of the charter, surveys, soundings and estimates of cost were made for construction at different points on the river. But agreements could not be reached with the railroads entering Leavenworth from the east to use the bridge sufficiently to warrant building it. Some years later the Burlington railway, desiring means of receiving and delivering freight at Leavenworth, expressed a willingness to build or lease terminals in the city and to pay rent


for the use of a new bridge across the river if one were constructed in the proper location for entering the business section of the city. The charter of 1884, presumably, had lapsed or run out and a new charter was thought to be necessary. In the meantime a pontoon bridge-of which more later-had been chartered and constructed, but had proved somewhat uncertain in the accommodation of traffic. It was deemed expedient to amend this charter to provide for a wagon and railroad bridge and arrangements were made to this end. The act was approved July 25, 1890. Again plans and surveys were made and finally approved by the Secretary of War. At this time the Rock Island railroad also opened negotiations for bridge rights and in 1892 contracted for the use of the bridge and terminals. Sufficient earnings were thus assured to pay interest on the sum necessary to cover costs of construction, and the probable earnings from wagon traffic appeared sufficient to care for maintenance and operation. Preparations for building were begun in July, 1892, and dikes were started the following November. The bridge was opened to traffic on January 2, 1894, with a celebration that lends color to the history of Leavenworth. [10]

     A comprehensive report on the progress and outlook of Leavenworth was compiled by the board's secretary, H. Miles Moore, at. the beginning of 1883. In a foreword to the report President Caldwell said:

     "The year just closed has been a prosperous one for Leavenworth. There has been a large increase in business. Many buildings have been erected, and large additions have been made to our population . . . . Leavenworth has already attained much prominence as a manufacturing center. There are 10,000 wagons manufactured here each year, on which is stamped the name Leavenworth. As they go rolling on, over hill and dale, mountain and plain, from the Mississippi river to Puget Sound, they are traveling advertisers that silently but effectively give evidence of the skill and energy of our artisans.

     "In almost every town and hamlet in the states and territories west of the Mississippi river you can get a meal cooked on a Leavenworth stove, and eat bread made from the flour of Leavenworth mills. In the far West, even to the Pacific, you will find in first-class hotels furniture from our factories, and can rest your weary frame on a Leavenworth bed.

     "In the mines and mills of Colorado, and in the forests of the Rocky Mountains, may be heard the shrill whistle of Leavenworth's steam engines performing their part in developing the riches of the great West.

     "Hundreds of thousands of men and women are tramping their way through life, safely shod in Leavenworth's boots and shoes.

     "Our immense glucose factories are rapidly distributing their sweetness everywhere.

10. The Leavenworth Times, January 2, 1894.


     "Even in the cities of the silent dead may be seen grave stones and lofty shafts which are no less monuments to the dead than they are to the skill and enterprise of our manufactories. In fact, the products of our numerous factories are rapidly being distributed all over our vast country, and the name of Leavenworth is becoming a household word. No manufacturer has ever failed in our city, and the great success of those now engaged in business will be sufficient warrant for others to embark in similar enterprises . . . . Our progress in the future will be much more rapid than in the past . . . and Leavenworth may continue to be, as she is now, the Pittsburgh of the Missouri valley."

     Leavenworth assuredly was getting on. Here were tangible evidences of strides toward the established goals. Here, also, was the determined optimism of American business at work, overriding obstacles, bolstering hesitant spirits, acknowledging no bounds.

     The report contained statistics on the manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade of Leavenworth for 1882. The total volume of manufacturing was $10,103,320. Wholesale trade amounted to $14,926,997 and retail trade totaled $14,224,595. The report presented a complete survey of the city's institutions, industries, organizations, etc. There were four daily papers, five weekly papers and three monthly publications. Nearly all church denominations were represented and the community enjoyed a "high moral condition of society." Public and private schools, business colleges, and musical and fine-arts academies filled educational and cultural needs. Secret societies and orders maintained "large lodges, chapters, asylums, and encampments in the city"; all brethren in good standing found "some one to extend the hand of welcome and relief (if necessary)." Telephone and telegraph companies expedited the transaction of business. There were two opera houses, "the old opera house, as contradistinguished from the new, [was] used as a public hall for political and other meetings, and the new opera house, one of the neatest, coziest and best arranged opera buildings in the whole country [was] used for operas, theatrical entertainments, concerts, and lectures . . . seating 800 persons comfortably, besides about 200 in the aisles." There were military companies, hotels and cemeteries. There was a well equipped and efficient fire department whose horses were trained for their special duties and were kept constantly harnessed. There were banks, hospitals and omnibuses. Was there anything to be desired? Apparently there was, for in the list of needed enterprises may be noted an agricultural implement factory, paper mill, car wheels and malleable ironworks, stockyards and packing houses, grain elevators and a candy bucket factory (presumably to aid in the further distribution of sweetness).


     Though the second year of the board started with railroads again heading the list of projects under consideration, affairs of an entirely different character appeared upon the program. The bonded indebtedness of both city and county, the necessity for the improvement of city walks and streets, the need for a union station, the excessive rates of fire insurance, damage to the Missouri river below Fort Leavenworth by erosion, the growing need for grain and stock inspectors, inadequate hotel accommodations, a city sewage system all came up for investigation. In line with this widened scope of activity was the appointment of additional committees. The following standing committees were added to the original four: Insurance, arbitration for grain inspection, meteorological, and grain inspection, the latter consisting of but one man.

     Among the new projects that came before the board during this second year, probably those receiving the greatest attention were the union station, fire insurance rates and the erosion of the river bank. In April, 1883, the need for the union station was presented to the board by Mayor Shaw F. Neely, who stated: "There is no doubt we can have a new union station if the board of trade will take hold of it." A committee was appointed to look into the situation, and from that time until late in 1888 the union station was an issue before the organization. Even after the completion of the building in September, 1888, a special meeting was called to consider how to force the station company to open it, the railroads having been unable to reach an agreement on the apportionment of expenses. It was decided at this meeting to place the whole affair before the State Board of Railroad Commissioners. The station was opened shortly thereafter. From a study of the proceedings one may fairly assume that the board of trade should be given considerable credit for securing the station for the city.

     In June, 1883, a committee was appointed to look into the prevailing rates for fire insurance, which it was felt should be reduced because of the lessened risk brought about by the installation of an excellent water system. The investigations of the committee resulted in much interesting information regarding the operation of the so-called board and nonboard companies; in other words, those companies belonging to a pool and pledged to charge certain fixed rates, and those on the outside, operating independently. In October, 1884, following an investigation of rates in Atchison, 8t. Joseph, Kansas City and Lawrence, the committee made an extensive report. It had been learned that Leavenworth rates had been raised by


board companies during the dull years while no improvements were being made and many business houses were vacant. This increase was made on account of the moral risk or hazard of property decreasing in value. After the installation of the water system, rates were reduced 15 per cent, but this cut was felt to be insufficient inasmuch as the cost of insurance had been, before the cut, from 30 to 50 per cent higher than in other cities of the Missouri valley. It was pointed out that rates on stocks had even been increased after the installation of the waterworks by reason of possible damage by water. The committee recommended "that good nonboard companies receive the patronage of the business men of Leavenworth, at least until an adjustment of the rates is made by the board companies to meet the just demands of our citizens and of this board of trade." [11] In April, 1885, the committee was able to report that a new basis of insurance was practically completed and would be presented at an early meeting. It recommended that business men continue to give a percentage of their risks to nonboard companies to keep up the competition inaugurated through the action of the board.

     During the summer of 1883 it had become evident that the bank of the Missouri river at Fort Leavenworth was being rapidly worn away by erosion, and that immediate action was necessary to prevent further damage. The board placed the matter before Senator Plumb, asking him to direct the attention of the chief engineer of the Missouri river improvement to the condition. It was not until 1886, however, that the river and harbor improvement bill was enacted by congress, appropriating $375,000 for work on the Missouri river from its mouth to Sioux City, Iowa. [12] Senator Plumb and Representative Morrill worked untiringly in the interests of Leavenworth.

     Under the general head of railroad affairs coming before the board during the second year may be mentioned the need for more adequate switching facilities in the city yards, for more trains to move stock and grain, for better passenger service and lower freight. rates. The board called the attention of the State Board of Railroad Commissioners to the failure of the Leavenworth, Lawrence and Galveston railroad to build and operate the road from Lawrence to Leavenworth, thus failing to fulfill the terms upon which the charter had been granted; also to the lack of adequate passenger service

11. Proceedings, p. 130.

12. U. S. Stat. L., 49th Cong., 1 sess., ch. 929, p. 327.


on the Leavenworth, Topeka & Southwestern between Leavenworth and Topeka. Said President Caldwell, describing the latter: "There is no passenger train at all on the road and but one train a day for freight; to this freight train there is attached a coach which goes dangling along behind the hogs, cattle and other freight. Passengers are thus jerked and bumped back and forth from Leavenworth to Topeka, the cattle and the hogs getting in first." [13] Daily passenger service on this line was secured within six months.

     The growth of Leavenworth and its industries, unquestionably given great impetus by the work of the board of trade, was set forth fully in the report compiled by the secretary at the close of its second year. The note of optimism was again sounded by President Caldwell, who stated in his foreword: "The wonderful progress of our city during the year just closed is as surprising as it is gratifying, and must serve to impress the "chronic croaker' of the past with the certainty of the bright future dawning upon Leavenworth." The note was taken up by the secretary:

     "We believe that Leavenworth has at last awakened from her long commercial sleep, has aroused herself and shaken off her garments of quiet rest and slothfulness, and once more girded herself anew, and, like a young athlete, has again entered the list in the mighty race of western towns, for manufacturing and commercial supremacy.

     "The most sanguine hopes of her truest and best friends, on the 1st of January, 1883, have been fully realized in her rapid increase in wealth and population, her magnificent development in trade and manufactures, her general advancement all along the line of general improvement . . . . Our prospects for 1884 are even brighter and more prosperous than they were one year ago to-day. There are no laggards or drones in this busy hive of progress.

     "We have the handsomest city west of the Mississippi river and will act harmoniously in building it up."

     During the year 1883 more than 600 houses were erected, representing in the aggregate a million dollars; mills, elevators and factories were constructed and enlarged; real estate advanced 25 to 50 per cent; new subdivisions were laid out; the city's population was increased by 5,000; the new E. V. White mill, with a capacity of from 300 to 500 barrels a day, was about ready to begin full operation; fruit and lumber took on added importance; a new bank was opened; wholesale trade increased 25 per cent, and retail trade from 10 to 30 per cent; manufactures totaled $20,000,000, an increase of $8,000,000 over the year 1882 ; a sewage system was installed. There was but one discordant note in the report: "The railroads now seem fully to realize that Leavenworth is

13. Proceedings, p. 84.


deeply in earnest, and that business is daily increasing in every avenue of trade and commerce, and they must bestir themselves, and that right speedily, to meet and accommodate this new and increasing demand upon their energies." The report contained a special article on coal, soon to become a major issue before the board.

     About this time came the first call upon the board to take part in national movements for the furtherance of certain projects. Late in 1883 requests were received, followed later by many others, to lend aid in the work to secure enactment of a uniform bankrupt law. Early in 1884 an invitation was received to send representatives to a convention at Washington to consider improvement of the Mississippi river and its tributaries. President Caldwell and Mayor Neely were chosen to represent Leavenworth. In May of the same year the National Industrial Congress, meeting in Chicago, asked for representatives.

     Early in 1884 the need for a new coal shaft became a major consideration. It had been estimated that the supply of coal contained in the beds underlying the region was practically inexhaustible and that there was a market to the north and northwest which, if properly developed, would absorb twenty times the amount of fuel being produced by the shafts of the Leavenworth Coal Company and the penitentiary. The board now began its program of development of coal resources. By 1885 outside capitalists had become interested in the possibilities of the Leavenworth field and the following year the Riverside Coal Company commenced a shaft. Coal was struck on September 17, 1886. The Kansas City market for coal had been shut off from Leavenworth on account of the high rates charged by the railroads for transportation. The Riverside company sent coal to Kansas City by barge at a cost of only fifteen cents per ton. By 1888 four additional mining companies had been organized. The stock of the Home Coal Mining Company was held by Leavenworth business men who planned to supply coal to new factories at the lowest possible margin of profit. Their lands were on the river bank and coal was to be shipped by rail or river. The Brighton Coal Company bought 1,600 acres of land about three miles south of the city. The owners were nearly all Germans, residents of Kansas City. The Enterprise and Equitable mining companies were sponsored by citizens of Leavenworth. Both bought land's south of the city.14

14. Pamphlet, Coal Resources of Leavenworth, Kan., by E. J. Jameson, p. 6


     An act authorizing the building of a branch home for disabled volunteer soldiers and sailors, to be located in one of seven middle western states, including Kansas, was passed by congress in July, 1884. The sum of $275,000 was appropriated for the work. A committee was at once appointed by the board of trade to act with a committee from the city council in presenting the advantages of Leavenworth as a location. Within a few months the board of managers of the Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers announced the selection of Leavenworth as the location for the new branch.

     The next year natural gas was among the subjects up for discussion. Early in 1885 resolutions were sent to the Kansas legislature requesting an act to authorize a thorough geological survey of the state. A report to the board, by President Caldwell, on the use of gas in Pittsburgh, Pa., stimulated the interest of the organization in its use for heating and lighting. The enthusiasm probably cooled, or perhaps attention was diverted to other more pressing affairs. At any rate, there is little in the proceedings relating to natural gas beyond this one mention. The refunding of the county debt, the advisability of bringing in outside capital-referred to in the minutes as cheaper money-for improvements; such lesser matters as the cleaning up of the city, the keeping of vital statistics -these received the consideration of the board at this time, with transportation, as usual, the dominant subject running concurrently with all others. Two new standing committees were created, one on city and county government, and one on retail trade. A complaint had been voiced by the retailers of the city, who were beginning to feel that all of the board's efforts were being directed toward the improvement of conditions for the manufacturers and jobbers. The new committee was to work for the benefit of the retailer. A report, submitted in November of 1886, gives an interesting account of its efforts

     "We find upon inquiry that the C., R. I. & P. railroad bridge [15] has not been completed, but we have the assurance of the agent of the company that they are doing all they can for the comfort and convenience of the traveling public. In case of disagreeable weather, if preferred, a carriage will be provided to take passengers to the east end of the bridge without extra charge. Special attention is given to, ladies who are in our city shopping in making transfers at the bridge. The railroad company assures us that it will only be a short time before it is completed.

     15. The old "Fort" bridge, as it used to be called, was the second bridge to span the Missouri river. It was begun in 1871 and was opened as a toll and railroad bridge in 1872. it was used by the Rock Island railroad until about 1892. One disaster followed another and it was finally abandoned by the railroads upon completion of the new bridge in 1894. -- Kansas City Star, July 26, 1925.


     "The committee further finds that the putting on of the passenger train on the L., T. & S. W. railroad has already proved of benefit to our retail trade. If, in so short a time we can feel a benefit, we are assured that the future will develop a much greater one.

     "We would suggest that the secretary be authorized to call the public's attention to the effort that Mr. Baker, superintendent of our street railway, is putting forth to meet the wants of the public, and that we should all give him as hearty a support as in our powers. Mr. Baker, we find, is having the track put in a first-class condition and is running cars on schedule time, which is something that has not been done heretofore . . . . In regard to our citizens buying goods away from Leavenworth, would say that we have carefully investigated this matter and find that a large amount of merchandise in every branch of trade is bought away from here. Taking the basis of one month it will amount to about $125,000 or $150,000 a year. Since the last meeting of the board, about one month, fifty-one ladies, by actual count, have gone to Kansas City and returned with packages of dry goods, clothing, etc. Most of these ladies were the wives of our wealthiest and most prominent business men, who get their support from Leavenworth, and a good many the wives of the members of the board of trade. We think if the members would take same action in this matter it could be stopped to a great extent."

     History fails to record whether or not this vicious practice was stopped, but one hazards the guess that the ladies continued the trek to the city across the river.

     In November, 1886, a serious charge was brought against the city government and was voiced before the board-that of incompetency and irregularity. Mayor Neely at once invited an investigation by the board's committee on city and county affairs, and in January, 1887, a detailed statement by this committee was given to the board and published in the Leavenworth Times for January 23. The report covers a thorough investigation of the expenditure of city funds, work of various departments, need for legislation and sundry items.

     Statements were prepared showing that the sum expended for general city expenses and special improvements during the nine years previous to Mayor Neely's administration was $408,658.95. The amount spent during three years and seven months of the Neely regime was $474,373.90. There was apparent carelessness in drawing appropriation ordinances. A law defining the manner of expenditure for street work had been disregarded. The police force was felt to be insufficient to cope with the steady flow of discharged criminals from the state and government prisons. Records showed more arrests during the three-year period under investigation than in any other city of equal population in the West. The fire department was inadequate for protection of property; only seven men were employed, who, in case of two fires occurring simultaneously,


would have had to let one burn without relief from the department. The salary of the city treasurer had been raised by the council, an action prohibited by law. Complaints of citizens regarding irregularities were cited, but not verified in all cases. An error bad been made in computing interest on city funds. Neither the bank acting as depository, nor the committee chairman in charge, had detected the mistake. Although the city council had authorized the investigation by the committee and had agreed to pay the costs, financial support was withdrawn before the survey had been completed. The committee made recommendations for various acts to safeguard the expenditure of city funds and insure better administration of city affairs, and closed its report with this statement:

     "We have no apologies to make for so lengthy a report. We have endeavored without fear or favor to carry out to the letter the instructions received from this board of trade authorizing a thorough and searching investigation, and in the brief time allotted us have done so to the best of our ability, and while we have criticized officers of the city for what we conceive to be violations of the law, we would do less than our duty should we fail to remind you that in more than one instance money has been appropriated by the city council without sanction of the law for some public enterprise on the recommendation of this board of trade, and we believe the recommendation will be sanctioned by each member present that we provide by legislation a fund out of which on the recommendation of the board of trade the city council may legally appropriate money for public enterprise."

     The report of January, 1887, recapitulates the achievements of a year and expresses confidence in the future of the city. Two new railroads had been secured-the Leavenworth, Northern & Southern, and the Leavenworth & Olathe; factories and mills had been started; long-delayed projects, such as the macadamizing of the State Penitentiary road, were brought to completion; extensive city improvements had made of Leavenworth a more attractive and desirable place of residence; and it was confidently felt that the next ten-year period would show an increase of 500 per cent in manufactures, due, in large part, to the cheap and abundant fuel from the vast source of supply underlying the city.

     However, even in the face of such large planning, the board concerned itself with the smaller affairs. There was a resolution asking that the mayor install drinking fountains for "man and beast"; a protest to the railroad companies against the manner of designating Leavenworth on their maps; the planning of excursions by which buyers were brought to the city; the entertainment of conventions, quite in the modern manner, except that visitors were conducted


about the city in horse-drawn vehicles; trade trips, also in the modern mode, to adjacent cities.

     The need of advertising the city again came before the board. It was decided to confine the advertising, this time, to the columns of the local papers and to pamphlet publications. The Evening Standard [16] and the Sun [17] arranged for special editions setting forth facts regarding the city. Five thousand copies of each were mailed out by the advertising committee. One hundred daily papers were mailed each day over a period of a year to reading rooms, boards of trade and hotels. Pamphlets on coal, trade and industries were widely distributed. Probably as a result of this campaign inquiries about Leavenworth came from many sections of the country and many manufacturers expressed an interest in locating in the city. But they expressed, generally, a hope of securing a subsidy from the city in the form of sites, stock purchases, etc.

     The proceedings for this period indicate that dissension was raising its head insidiously within the ranks. The following constituted part of a report to the board by the committee on advertising, March 8, 1888:

     "Capitalists are looking towards this city. They desire to come and help us to enjoy our prosperity, that is, if we intend to have any, which is a matter entirely with ourselves, and this committee believes the time has come when it is better to speak out plainly. There seems a disposition among our people to talk. Every man has a pet scheme of his own, and he stays at home and takes care of it. The letters that have come in response to our advertising have been handed by the secretary to committees that exist and were appointed by the board of trade, but no action has ever been taken by said committees . . . . The board of trade at the present time is the laughing stock of the city. It is neither use nor ornament."

      A special meeting was called at which there was a general airing of grievances. Probably the relief afforded by this opportunity to speak out in meeting enabled disgruntled members to settle down again, temporarily, to the consideration of such matters as street paving, taxes, the development of clay beds and new coal shafts. It was becoming increasingly evident, however, that the board had come upon dull and profitless days. New blood was needed, new incentives, and, incidentally, more money. Hoping to attract to its membership a large number of the younger business men of the community, the fee was at this time (May, 1888) reduced to ten dollars.

16. The Evening Standard, Leavenworth, was published July 24, 1881-1903. -- Kansas Historical Society, History of Kansas Newspapers, 1916, p. 223.

17. The Sun, Leavenworth, was published October 4, 1887-1890. Ibid., p. 223.


      A last glimpse is had, about this time, of an institution that was soon to pass into the limbo of outmoded transportation. Consideration was given to the suggested purchase by the city of the ferry boat, "Willie Cade." The original charter for this ferry had been granted by the territorial legislature in 1855; it was later amended and renewed. The "Willie Cade" had plied between Leavenworth and the Missouri side for many years, charging toll for persons, wagons and teams, and earning a fair profit for its owner, Capt. A1 Cade. Although ferry receipts in 18871888 had been satisfactory, the captain wanted to retire and was eager to dispose of his boat and privileges. But apparently the board took no action, for the ultimate fate of the "Willie Cade" is not disclosed in the minutes.

     There also came before the board the subject of a pontoon bridge, proposed by Vinton Stillings as a practical plan for linking the east and west banks of the Missouri river. Stillings had applied for a franchise in 1885, but had met with opposition. Those in control of the railroad bridge did not want a rival bridge leading into the heart of the city. Owners of a ferry operating between the Missouri side and a point one and a half miles below Leavenworth also fought the project. The War Department objected on the ground that the Missouri was a navigable stream and that the proposed bridge would interfere with river traffic. However, upon examination of the model, which showed that provision had been made for opening the bridge when necessary, a charter was granted. Inasmuch as the old Kansas and Missouri bridge, built in 1871, had never been of much benefit to Leavenworth because of its location three miles above the city, the board responded with interest to Stillings' plan, and sent a committee to Nebraska City to investigate a pontoon bridge in operation there. Another committee investigated the feasibility of the plan for Leavenworth. Both committees reported favorably and resolutions were passed asking for bids on construction. Despite the support of the committees, opposition developed, and in the end the bridge was financed entirely by Stillings. The Kansas City Star, April 5, 1925, thus describes the official opening:

     "On an August morning in 1889 a pair of quivering horses with distended and snorting nostrils squatted on their haunches at the foot of Cherokee street, in Leavenworth. Behind the horses was hitched a fire engine of the type used in that day, black smoke pouring from its stack. Stretching away across the yellow tide of the Missouri river floated a slim ribbon of pine boards. The driver on the seat of the fire engine coaxed the horses and slapped his reins. Patrick Burns, chief of the Leavenworth fire department,


talked to the horses and patted their shaking flanks. Suddenly the horses leaped forward and went galloping across the flimsy-looking structure. A great shout went up from the thousands of spectators massed on the water front as the fire engine rocked its way across. At the Missouri end of tile bridge the driver wheeled his team and trotted them proudly back. The first pontoon bridge to span the lower reaches of the Missouri was declared officially opened."

     It is recorded that Mayor D. R. Anthony had not favored the bridge and that on the morning of the opening he sent the police wagon to the scene to take celebrants, returning from the Missouri side, to the station. The bridge did a thriving business until 1893. A village sprang up at the eastern end and flourished as long as Platte county was "wet" territory. The story of the pontoon bridge has in it something of the passing of an era, the flavor of the old West giving way to the new.

     A new phase of the coal situation arose during this period. It was felt that the mining of coal at the State Penitentiary shaft for any use other than by the state was harmful to labor. However, in the investigation of the matter by the board, it was quite clearly brought out that whatever in the situation worked hardship upon miners wrought equal hardship upon workmen in other industries also maintained by the penitentiary. The following resolution was passed

     "Resolved, That the legislature of the state of Kansas be respectfully requested to enact a law prohibiting the manufacturing of any articles or using any of the convicts in any manner that shall come in contact with either skilled or unskilled labor."

     Early in 1889 the financial affairs of the board became a disturbing element. Fees had not been paid regularly and expenses had mounted. The restoration of the original cost of membership, twenty dollars, did not entirely relieve the situation. It is recorded that in November of that year "an animated and interesting discussion took place, in which each member of the board of trade took part, as to the necessity and importance of maintaining the board of trade intact and infusing into it new life and vigor, [because of] the great good it had accomplished for our city in years past and the work still before it. It was unanimously resolved to maintain it."

     Of significance during the period 1888-1892 are the many national projects which the board was asked to support. Among them were: the centennial celebration; the Torrey bankrupt law; the deep harbor at Galveston; opposition to the Conger lard bill; Nicaragua


canal; opening of the Oklahoma Indian lands; opposition to the Butterworth bill; western states commercial congress; trans-Mississippi congress. The breaking down of sectional barriers, the coming together of the parts into the whole, is suggested in these national movements.

     No particularly important project is set forth in the proceedings from 1889 until the end. There are, however, two gaps of several months each for which there are no records. At the close of the fiscal year in June, 1892, President Todd called a joint meeting of board members and other interested citizens for the purpose of reorganizing the board and defining a more comprehensive program of work. It was felt that the organization had served its purpose and had worked as efficiently as possible in view of inadequate support. Leavenworth was surely entering upon a new era of prosperity and the time had come for a "live and pushing organization."

     It is difficult to point to the causes that led ultimately to the discontinuance of the board. There are indications that personal gains were not always forgotten in the larger issues and that indifference, at the last, supplanted the enthusiasm of the first years. Income did not always keep pace with obligations and debts accumulated. It became increasingly difficult to secure unified effort. Probably there was a deeper cause, a current that was rushing along towards a vortex, into which was to be sucked much that had been built up during the ten years of building and expansion. The dark days of 1893 were but a little way off.

     Though goals and methods may be questioned in the light of fuller understanding after fifty years, much achievement may be fairly credited to the board during the ten years of its work. Manufacturing was stimulated, resources and markets were developed, population was increased, and the city was made a place of greater charm. And all of this work went on, though the Leavenworth board of trade came to an end. Out of the general reorganization came the commercial exchange, quite similar in character and purpose and equally imbued with a determination to build a greater, fairer city.

Go to previous article     Go to next article     Go to cover page for this issue     Go to KHQ main page