SETTLEMENT of that portion of present Kansas bordering on the Missouri river at once established the need of communication with the outside world. Steamboats were not yet making regular trips up the "Big Muddy," so some other method of water transportation must be made use of. Mackinaw boats and bull boats used by early trappers and by the military at the time of the establishment of Cantonment Martin were pressed into use, and in the absence of anything better served their day and age very acceptably. When these mackinaw boats were not to be had the white man fashioned a dugout from the trunk of some suitable tree near enough to water to serve the purpose. Rafts were made use of, also. Then followed the primitive ferryboats, formed of two or three dugouts with poles laid crosswise and closely together; later the boats were made from sawed lumber, propelled by poles at first, then by oars, then by means of ropes or cables stretched across the streams, the current often furnishing the propelling force, and then "Old Dobbin" was harnessed and pressed into service. When immigration set in for Oregon, Utah and California, horse-propelled ferries were about the fastest mode of crossing the Missouri, but these were few. In the latter fifties and early sixties steam was adopted by the most enterprising ferrymen.
With the coming of the missionaries and early settlers arose the necessity for permanent roads. These thoroughfares were laid out regardless of section lines, and usually followed the divides. When a stream had to be crossed a good fording place was sought. When this was not convenient or practicable, a ferry solved the problem. Up to the time of the signing of the Kansas-Nebraska bill there were but few ferries owned or controlled by residents living west of the Missouri river -- these being the ones operating from old Cantonment Martin, Fort Leavenworth, Grinter's, Wyandotte, Papan's, Smith's, Ogee's and Marshall's ferry at the Blue.
With the establishment of the territory came an era of town speculation:
"It was the day of small things but great beginnings. . . Opportunity was knocking at every door. There were schemes of every sort, rational and chimerical. The laws of the early legislative sessions furnish abundant examples. If charters had been taxed, the revenues would have embarrassed the vaults of the treasury. It was a time of tremendous mental and business activity. Official sanction was given to operate ferries, toll bridges, and stage lines in every direction. Highways were projected to imaginary cities in the undisputed prairie grass, where flaming lithographs exploited the sale of town lots at fabulous prices before there were any inhabitants except grasshoppers and prairie dogs. Mail routes were established in advance of post offices or settlements, and contracts awarded and paid for by an indulgent government when there was no occasion for any service, and when in fact no service had been performed. The Kansas river and many of its insignificant tributaries were declared navigable streams, when in some of them the catfish actually suffered for water. There were prophets in those days."
Up to the meeting of the so-called "bogus legislature" (the legislature of 1855) there had been no restrictions hampering anyone wishing to start a ferry. Before that body adjourned it had adopted, along with many other Missouri laws, the one regarding ferries. This act was evidently a satisfactory one, for not until 1862 were any changes made in it, and these only regarding amounts of tax to be paid to the county, or forfeits for failure to secure licenses before engaging in business.
The earliest ferries touching Kansas were started by residents of Missouri. These primitive affairs served their day and purpose, enabling residents living on the west side of the Missouri river to keep in touch with the East. With the era of railroad and bridge building which followed the Civil War, however, the day of the ferry gradually passed, until now it is but a memory. With the building of the Hannibal bridge at Kansas City in 1869, the Fort Leavenworth and Elwood bridges in 1873 and the Atchison bridge in 1875, the need for ferries was almost ended -- one being operated at Kansas City as late as 1888, one at Leavenworth -- the Willie Cade -- until about the last of the eighties, and one at White Cloud, which was inaugurated in the fall of 1932, after that town had been without ferry privileges for several years.
The following is an attempt to list Missouri- and Kansas-owned ferries which had any intercourse with the territory embraced in Kansas. The arrangement is not chronological, but rather, geographical, beginning near the mouth of the Kansas river and proceeding up the Missouri. Some, created by acts of the territorial and early state legislatures, may never have functioned; in all probability the charters or licenses were secured by promoters who hoped to "unload" at a good price to other parties. In some cases these charters, granted for a specified number of years and claiming exclusive rights within certain bounds, seemingly overlap. In several instances this may be due to the fact that the first parties allowed their franchises to lapse.
This list, by no means complete, is offered by the writer as the first attempt to gather data on early ferries on the Missouri river. Subsequent chapters will complete the review of ferrying on the Missouri river and will cover the history of ferrying on the Kansas, Republican, Smoky Hill, Neosho, Arkansas, and other rivers of Kansas.
The first ferry operating at or near the mouth of the Kansas river over the Missouri was established in 1825 by Joseph Boggs, a resident of Clay County, Missouri. Richard Linville also started one the same year. A third ferry, operated by John Thornton, was located "at or near the Blue Bank." In May, 1825, a road was laid out from Liberty to Thornton's ferry; another ran from Liberty to the Missouri river "at the boat landing at the town of Gallatin; still another ran from Liberty to the mouth of the Kansas river. From the meager records obtainable it is difficult to locate the exact points of these ferries and landings owing to changes in the river banks and the vagueness in the descriptions of the landing places. When the license was issued to Joseph Boggs, in September, 1825, he was authorized to keep a ferry across the Missouri river 'from the bank where Wyatt Adkins lives.'" He was permitted to charge the following rates:
For a loaded wagon and team, $2.
These charges were regulated by the division of the old Spanish dollar into bits. A bit was 12 1/2 cents; a bit and a half was 18 3/4 cents; 2 bits, 25 cents; 4 bits, 50 cents, and 8 bits a dollar.
Prime's ferry at Independence, Mo., was being operated in 1829, according to Frederick Chouteau in his reminiscences published in Kansas Historical Collections, v. 8.
The settlement of the Platte Purchase had an important effect upon Kansas City, Mo. Up to that time there had been no ferry across the river there other than canoes, but with the opening of this new country there was a spasmodic movement into it from the south side of the river. To accommodate this immigration Peter Roy, son of Louis Roy, who settled at the foot of Grand avenue during 1826, established a flatboat ferry, and in order to provide better access to it than by the old road he cut a new road through the woods from about where Walnut street crosses Fifteenth street, past the present junction of Main and Delaware streets, and thence down a deep ravine along Delaware street to Sixth, thence across by the corner of Main and Fifth streets, diagonally across the public square and thence to the river a little east of the present line of Grand avenue from Third street down. This road afterward became a factor in the concentration of the Santa Fe trade at this place, and was the one mainly used by the heavy freighting teams, as it afforded a tolerably easy grade to the river, and also provided in later years the means of reaching Westport by a short cut. The ferry thus established by Mr. Roy, was conducted by him but a short time when he sold it to James H. McGee, who then lived on a farm south of Sixteenth street. McGee sold the ferry in less than a year to Rev. Isaac McCoy, who conducted it until 1843 when he sold it to his son, John C. McCoy. Mr. McCoy subsequently sold a half interest in it to John Campbell, and in 1854 disposed of the other half to Messrs. Northrup and Chick. This ferry was convenient to the military road running from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Gibson, and was close to the trading posts located on the Kaw near its mouth, and also to several missions located among the Shawnees along the route of the Santa Fe trail a few miles southwest of Westport landing.
In 1828 another ferry was started by a man named Frost.
Another ferry was operated by one Aaron Overton in May, 1830, at the mouth of Rose's branch.
All the above ferries were propelled by oars or sweeps, and it was a good half day's work to take a boat over to the south side of the river and bring back an emigrant wagon.
In November, 1831, Allen Overton had a ferry at Overton's crossing. Shrewsbury Williams operated one in 1832, and Samuel Gragg established one in 1833.
Col. Shubael Allen established a landing on his plantation about 1830, and near by William Yates had a ferry in 1831. In the fall of that year Colonel Allen obtained the ferry and operated it from his warehouse. This ferry was succeeded by Fielding McCoy's ferry.
Allen's landing, from 1829 until the death of Colonel Allen in 1841, was the main point of exit and entrance of nearly all the business and travel of northwest Missouri, in its communication with the outer world by the river. It was for many years the starting point of a large number of the employees of the American Fur Company in their expeditions to the plains and the mountains of the great Northwest.
Isaac Ellis was granted a license in 1838 or 1839 to operate a ferry across the Missouri river, between the Platte county side and the west bank, and toll rates were prescribed.
In 1844 William M. Chick started a ferry at Kansas City. The first boat was simply a flatboat with two men to pull the oars. Later a horse ferryboat was substituted and operated for a year or two. While using the horsepower boat a traveling circus came through and was ferried across the river. Mr. Chick states that there were different kinds of animals to be brought over and that they had no trouble with any except the elephant. It at first refused to come on board, but after much coaxing, was finally induced to do so. The deck creaked but the elephant was finally brought safely across, though not without considerable damage to the boat, which cost $10 to repair. Mr. Chick tried to get the showman to pay the $10, but he refused. Then Mr. Chick sued him, and attached some of his belongings so he could not leave. The trouble was brought before the justice of the peace court in Westport and the showman was made to pay the $10.
Early in the 1840s Kansas City, Mo., and Westport became the depot for trade with Santa Fe and Mexico, as well as with California, Utah and Oregon, and for a number of years following immense caravans fitted out there for the long and perilous journeys to the far West. Westport had one of the best landings on the Missouri, and being most convenient to the Oregon and Santa Fe trails enjoyed a monopoly of the business following these transcontinental highways. Factories sprang up in the growing city, and about everything needed in the transportation business was manufactured on the spot. The magnitude of the freighting business starting from there is shown in the following figures: In 1840 there were five firms or proprietors engaged in the trade, with 60 wagons valued at $50,000. The following year there were a dozen firms similarly engaged, operating 100 wagons, valued at $150,000. In 1842 there were fifteen, with 120 wagons valued at $160,000 and thirty in 1843, with 350 wagons worth $450,000. During the period between the early 1840s and the latter 1850s this business doubled and trebled, for Kansas City's business transactions for the year 1857 amounted to over $3,000,000. This business increased materially during the next few years, when, owing to raiding parties during the Civil War, it practically ceased, the commerce previously enjoyed having moved north to Fort Leavenworth, Atchison and Nebraska City, where it was practically immune. After the war the immense business going west from Kansas City was taken over by the railroads, and the long lines of prairie schooners, each wagon drawn by a team of six or eight slow-plodding oxen or a like number of sturdy Missouri mules and presided over by a picturesque "bullwhacker" or "mule skinner," faded out of the picture.
Wyandotte was the natural distributing point for settlements along the Kansas river and points to the south and west, and was the radiating point for a number of roads leading in different directions. One ran northwest to Quindaro and on to Parkville, Mo.; one to Leavenworth; one to old Shawnee Mission, where it joined the Old Santa Fe trail; one connected with the road to Fort Scott; one to Grinter's ferry, where it crossed the Kaw river and ran up the Kaw valley; one crossed the Kansas river and ran to Kansas City and Westport.
There was a plot along the river at Wyandotte, known as "Ferry Tract," and here the various ferryboats having ferry privileges within the city took on or discharged their cargoes. Ferryboats Lizzie, of Kansas City, Mo., in 1855; and S.C. Pomeroy, of Wyandotte City, the largest ferryboat on the river, put in operation by Capt. Otis Webb in 1857, plied back and forth from the two cities at the mouth of the Kaw.
Joseph C. Ransom & Co. were authorized by the legislature of 1857 to maintain a ferry across the Missouri river between Wyandotte and Kansas City, Mo.,
William Walker, Thomas H. Doyle, Cyrus Garrett and Henry McMullin were granted authority by the legislature of 1857 to run a ferry across the Missouri river, and to have a landing on land owned or claimed by the Wyandotte City Company, or others, within the town limits. Their ferry privileges were to run for twenty-five years.
The legislature of 1858 granted a charter to Silas Armstrong, W.Y. Roberts, S.W. Eldridge, James McGrew and James D. Chestnut, to operate a ferry across the Missouri river under the name of the Wyandotte City Ferry Company, the charter to be for a period of twenty-one years, and to have exclusive privilege of landing at any place on the west side of the river between the point where the Missouri state line leaves the same, and a point one mile above the mouth of the Kansas river on the Missouri river, and at any point on the bank of the Kansas river, one-eighth of a mile from its mouth. Nothing was to infringe on the right of the Wyandotte ferry to cross the Kansas river. This act was vetoed by the acting governor, and was passed by the legislature over his vote. This ferry was operated between Wyandotte and Kansas City, Mo., for a number of years.
It is said a steam ferry was in operation at Wyandotte as early as 1858, but no details are available.
The city of Wyandotte was granted a charter by the legislature of 1860 to operate a ferry across the Missouri river, to ply at any point or points between the mouth of the Kansas river and a point on the Missouri two miles above the mouth, for a period of twenty years. The city of Wyandotte was to run a good and substantial steam ferry-boat within six months from the passage of the act, which was approved by the governor February 14, 1860. The act also provided that the city of Wyandotte should have power to lease the ferry right for any term of years not exceeding the term for which the charter was granted.
On May 23, 1867, the Kansas and Missouri Ferry Company, of Wyandotte, was chartered. J.B. Scroggs, Charles S. Glick, S.V. Morse, D.M. Cable, J.A. Berry, Isaiah Walker, Russell Garrett, H.M. Cook and W.B. Bowman were the incorporators. The capital stock of the company was $50,000 and shares $50 each. The new ferry was scheduled to operate from the levee at Wyandotte across the Missouri river. The charter was filed with the secretary of state May 25, 1867.
During the ferrying era the condition of the levee was paramount. From time to time repairs were made as occasion demanded. In the fall of 1866 the city began to realize the need of better protection from the encroachments of the Missouri. A committee was appointed by the city council to confer with railroad companies, but no decision was reached at that time and no action was taken. The Wyandotte Gazette urged that steps be taken at once, whether the railroads were ready to cooperate or not, stating that if the levee was not preserved Wyandotte would soon lose the great advantage she then possessed over other river towns, that of ample room for the transaction of heavy railroad and river business combined. Apparently nothing in the way of permanent protection had been accomplished up to the latter part of May, 1868, when renewed efforts on the part of the city officials were again made. The Gazette of May 30 contained the following:
"OUR LEVEE. We learn that Mayor Cobb and Mr. Killen have been to St. Louis and had a conference with the directors or some officers of the Missouri Pacific railroad in regard to the protection of our levee. At the meeting of the council on Tuesday evening, a resolution was passed, offering, in case the voters ratify the proposition, to give the railroad company $5,000 in ten-year 7 percent bonds, with right of way and depot grounds, if the company will go ahead and thoroughly protect the levee, from the mouth of Jersey creek to the mouth of the Kansas river. The company has a gang of men now at work throwing in stone, and we presume will accept the proposition. So mote it be."
The ferry business on the Missouri river had no serious opposition until the advent of the railroad. The first bridge to span the river was that of the Hannibal & St. Joseph railroad, built at Kansas City in 1866. Up to this time freight shipments from Kansas and the west had found their way in good part to the mouth of the Kansas river by way of the various wagon roads and the old Kansas Pacific railroad, which was put in operation that year. Late in 1867 that railroad was considering laying a third rail between the state line and the ferry landing to enable the road to handle standard-gauge cars. This was for the purpose of transferring freight from this road to the Kansas City & Cameron railroad.
Moving up the river from Wyandotte we find the next point at which a ferry was operated was Quindaro, about four miles distant.
Quindaro was started as a free-state town in December, 1856. The river at this place had a rocky channel and good banks for landing. By May, 1857, the city had a force of workmen grading the ground near the wharf and Kansas avenue, the main street running north from the river. By July a steam ferryboat 100 feet long, with a 26-foot beam, was running between Quindaro and Parkville, a few miles up the river.
The legislature of 1858 granted a charter to Otis Webb, Charles Robinson and Charles H. Chapin to establish another ferry cross the Missouri river at Quindaro, with one or more landings for a period of twenty-one years. The law provided that no other ferry should be established between the intersections of the west bounds of sec. 22, T. 10, R. 24 E., and the east bounds of sec 28, T. 10, R. 25 E., with the Missouri river. Charges for ferriage were fixed as follows:
Each passenger, 10 cents.
This ferry was convenient to a road from Leavenworth to Wyandotte, was but a few miles below the Parkville landing by the river, and was also the northern terminus of a road running in a southerly direction through the Delaware and Shawnee lands, and on to the vicinity of Paola, Miami county.
Later, George W. Veale, Abelard Guthrie, Fielding Johnson and Julius G. Fisk were granted a charter, by the legislature of 1860, to maintain a ferry at the present limits of Quindaro for a period of ten years. The law provided that no other ferry should be established within two miles of the city, and that the landing should be restricted to and confined within the limits of said city.
A Quindaro ferryboat was sunk by Missourians in 1861, but it is not known who were the owners. The motive claimed was to prevent slaves from escaping.
On July 31, 1866, the Quindaro and Parkville Ferry Company was chartered, Alfred Gray, Alfred Robinson, David Pearson, Francis Kessler and Francis A. Kessler being the incorporators. The company proposed to operate a ferry across the Missouri river, steam, horse, or man power to be used as the company should prefer. The ferry was to run between the dividing line between sec. 29, T. 10, R. 24 E., extending from the east to the west bank of the river, and embracing a strip of land 100 feet wide within these limits. The principal office was at Quindaro, and capital stock was $20,000, in shares of $100 each. The charter was filed with the secretary of state, August 14, 1866.
The most northern ferry in Wyandotte county, as one ascended the river, was operated, on the Missouri side, from Parkville. John Ryan, Solomon Taylor, N.L. Barnard, C.S. Glick and L.F. Hollingsworth were the incorporators of the Parkville Ferry Company, chartered October 3, 1872. The capital stock of the enterprise was $10,000, shares $50 each, with privilege of increasing stock to $20,000. The principal place of business was given as Wyandotte, and the ferry was to cross the Missouri river to a landing at or near where the county road from Nearman station on the Union Pacific railroad running due north strikes the Missouri river. This charter was filed with the secretary of state, October 8, 1872.
The first settlement north of the Wyandotte-Leavenworth county boundary line was a German community known as Weimar City, which was established about 1857-'58. It was near the site of present Pope station on the Missouri Pacific railroad, about thirteen or fourteen miles above Parkville, Missouri, approximately on the NE 1/4 of sec. 33, T. 9, R. 23. This is about one mile below the old town of Delaware, and about seven miles below Leavenworth city of that time. Opposite this place the Platte Valley Ferry Company was established, being incorporated May 15, 1866, with H.T. Greene, James E. Ireland, Robert C. Foster, Archibald B. Earle, L.B. Wheat and D. Hudson Redman as incorporators. The company had a capital stock of $10,000, with shares $100 each. On the Kansas side the ferry operated above Weimar City to a point one mile below where "Seven Mile creek" empties into the Missouri river, and below to the dividing line between Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties. The principal office was located at Leavenworth. The charter was filed with the secretary of state, May 26, 1866.
The next settlement up the river was the town of Delaware, about one mile above Weimar City and six miles below Leavenworth. The town was platted in July, 1854, and was located on parts of Sees. 18, 19, 29, T. 9, R. 23 E. The town was on a wagon road running from Fort Leavenworth to Wyandotte, and was close to the junctions of roads running south to Grinter's ferry and southwest to Lawrence.
John Van Vranklin established the first ferry at Delaware, having it in operation early in 1855, as evidenced by the following advertisement, which ran in a Leavenworth paper:
"DELAWARE FERRY. -- The undersigned has established a ferry on the Missouri river at the town of Delaware, Kansas territory. He has been for some time past and is at this time prepared to cross at a moment's notice, all those wishing to cross the Missouri at Delaware. Any one wishing to visit Kansas territory from any point below Weston, in Platte county, Missouri, will find that this ferry is the nearest and best point at which to cross the river, particularly if they wish to go to the Stranger or Grass Hopper country. This also will be the case with all persons wishing to go to the Kaw country, or visit Calhoun, Lawrence, Council Grove or Fort Riley. He would state, that all persons traveling towards Kansas territory, on the Great Stage route, on the north side of the Missouri river, leading from St. Louis through Columbia, Fayette, Carrollton, Richmond and Liberty and then visiting Kansas, from the country bordering on the Mississippi river, will save weary miles by crossing at this point. His ferry boats are safe and substantial; his ferrymen hardy and experienced; and will at a]l times be pleased to serve with alacrity, those who may wish to cross the Missouri river at his ferry. "March 13, '55 -- 6m. JNO. VAN VRANKLIN."
This ferry operated from the center of the townsite and was said to be the equal of any on the river.
Another ferry was projected for Delaware in 1855, the territorial legislature granting a twenty-year privilege to Messrs. George Quimby, William H. Spratt, William D. Prummell and W. Christison. Their ferry was to be established within the limits of the town and have exclusive privileges for one mile up and one mile down the river on the Kansas side. The company, by one of the provisions of the act, was not required to run a steam ferryboat until the first day of April, 1856. Quimby and Spratt were residents of Delaware, the latter operating a saloon there for a number of years. Christison was a resident of Lexington township, Lexington P.O., Johnson county, in 1860, his name appearing in the printed census enumeration for that year.
While Delaware thus had a good ferry as early as 1855, apparently there was a lack of suitable roads leading to the town. This condition was being remedied early in 1857 by a Captain Hollingsworth, of that place, who was engaged in opening a road from Leavenworth. The road started from the steam mill in the south part of Leavenworth, passed directly by the Muncie Mission and thence to Delaware.
Above Delaware a half mile was the next early-day ferry site. On May 2, 1866, the Junction Ferry Company was chartered for the purpose of operating a ferry over the Missouri river, being granted exclusive privileges and rights at a point where Seven Mile creek empties into the Missouri river, and one mile up and one mile below the mouth of said creek. The incorporators were Richard R. Rees, Martin Howsley, Robert C. Foster, L.B. Wheat, and Henry T. Greene. The organization was capitalized at $20,000 with shares $100 each. The principal office of the company was at Leavenworth City. Their charter was filed with the secretary of state, May 24, 1866.
Fort Leavenworth and Leavenworth City were terminal points on the Missouri river from which highways radiated in every direction. A "Map of the Defence of the Northern and Northwestern Frontier," of 1837, showed roads running from Fort Leavenworth to the arsenal at Fort Osage and from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Calhoun at the Council Bluffs. It was the starting place for the road to Fort Scott and Fort Gibson; to the forts along the Santa Fe trail; to Fort Kearney on the Platte. Later roads led to Fort Riley, to the Big Stranger, to the Grasshopper country, to Topeka, Lawrence, Lecompton, Shawnee Mission, and Wyandotte.
Up to January, 1855, Leavenworth had no Kansas licensed ferry, depending for her needs in river transportation on the ferries operating from the Missouri side. The Herald of January 19 mentioned that "a large and commodious steam ferry boat is being built expressly for this place, and will be here early in the spring. It will carry two hundred head of stock and fifteen wagons at a time, and cross the river in five minutes." The Herald pointed out that the boat would do a heavy business during the next spring as it was expected there would be an immense immigration. The territorial legislature that year granted ferry privileges to at least one Leavenworth ferry company, which up to near the end of July had not started operating. The Herald of July 21 predicted that inside of a month it would be in operation, and stressed the fact that a good ferry would make Leavenworth the great point of entry into Kansas territory, and that it would be the "primary city of Kansas."
Early in 1855 Leavenworth took steps to improve and protect her levee. In March that year the landing had been graded from the foot of Cherokee street to the foot of Delaware. The Herald stated that the improvements made on the levee would add greatly to the appearance of Water street, and when finished would be the best landing on the Missouri river. By 1857 the city had decided to undertake something in the way of municipal improvements. The legislature permitted the city to borrow $100,000 for this purpose. The Herald of April 4, that year, said: "We want a good levee. We want our streets graded and we want the principal streets McAdamized." That this was good policy is evidenced by the increase of business the following year, the Herald of July 3 stating that the levee presented a "busy scene the past week. It has been piled high with goods and all kinds of freight from one end to the other. Dry goods, groceries, flour, lumber, wagons, sawmills, machinery and printing presses, all go to make up the huge pile." Every boat that stopped at the levee landed hundreds and hundreds of tons of freight upon the landing, prompting the Herald to ask "Why does not some enterprising person prepare a report of business statistics of Leavenworth? We believe it would astonish the natives."
With the passing years Leavenworth's trade territory was extended across to the Missouri side, and the ferry company realized that its existence depended upon this outside trade, and took steps to hold it. Freshets in the river from time to time had cut a channel through the low bottoms on the opposite side of the stream, and in 1867 the landing was at the island opposite the city. The ferry company had expended quite a sum of money in building a wagon road across the slough to the island, which served not only as a public highway but also to turn this water back into its proper channel. An earth-and-brush dam was started, and the ferry company was satisfied that if this were completed it would be of great advantage to the city. The city drew an immense amount of trade from the Platte country, and it was manifest that anything which facilitated communication with that neighborhood would tend to the material increase of trade. It was the judgment of competent engineers that if the volume of water which every spring ran through the slough were turned back into the river channel, the sand bars immediately opposite the city would soon be washed out, affording a straight passage to the shore of the island. The ferry people also held to the hope that the Platte county railroad would run to and build its depot upon the island were this done. If this were not done the depot would be built some two miles down the river. The inconvenience which this would occasion was pointed out. The ferry company justly felt that the city should bear a fair share of the burden. The matter was brought before the city council, and the Leavenworth Conservative published the following paragraph showing the action taken:
"Harvey Edgerton, from the special committee on the communication from W.L. Reyburn, in relation to the embankment on the east side of the river, recommended that the city encourage the enterprise by appropriating $2,000 therefor, provided, that none of said amount be paid until said work is fully done according to the dimensions set forth in said communication, and reported as done by the engineer of the city. After some discussion the report was rejected."
The Conservative characterized the action of the council as niggardly and, as the Conservative appropriately suggested, "penny wise and pound foolish."
By the last of February, 1867, the Platte county [rail]road was completed to a point opposite Leavenworth, or near the intersection of the old Platte City road. The roadbed was also made to the depot ground below, but there was not enough iron on hand at that time to finish the work. The company was evidently waiting to see if the wagon-road dyke then being built across the slough would stand the spring rise before extending the line any closer.
The citizens of Leavenworth also had appreciated at an early date the importance of good roads and bridges into the interior. As early as 1858 subscriptions were raised for the purpose of bridging the principal streams on roads leading to and from the city, the Herald insisting that "No move can add more benefits to our city than this." At this time a substantial bridge was being erected across Salt creek, on the Fort Riley road, near Rively's store, while others were needed over the Stranger at Easton, Russell's Mills, and on the Lawrence road, Leavenworth citizens were admonished to "come up and subscribe liberally."
Not until April, 1873, was a railroad bridge across the Missouri river at Leavenworth completed. This was located on the military reservation, a mile or so above the town, and cost between $800,000 and $1,000,000. Just what effect it had on the ferry business is not clear, as ferries operated for years afterward. The bridge was in use up to about 1909, when the eastern approach collapsed. In 1913 the flooring on the Fort Leavenworth end burned. In 1926 the government rehabilitated the old bridge for use as the only free bridge across the Missouri river, furnishing the connecting link for federal highway No.92.
In 1918 Vinton Stillings, of Leavenworth, built a pontoon bridge across the Missouri at a point a little north of the present terminal bridge. The pontoon was 3,600 feet long, 18 feet in the clear, and cost $36,000, being financed entirely by Mr. Stillings. On the east side was a drawbridge to allow boats to pass up and down the river. Toll charges over the bridge were: Vehicles, 50 cents for round trip; foot passengers, 10 cents for round trip. Mr. Stillings has said that during the almost four years of its operation, which began in July, 1888, its revenue averaged $200 a day.
The terminal bridge was constructed during 1893, and was opened for traffic January 2, 1894. It was located a little south of the pontoon built by Stillings, and cost, with tracks, terminal buildings, freight depot, switches, etc., about $480,000.
A railroad meeting was held at Platte City in January, 1857, to discuss the advantages of building a road on the Missouri river opposite Leavenworth, to connect with the Hannibal & St. Joseph road. The advantage of such a road was self-evident. In fact the ultimate success of Leavenworth depended upon the road. Kansas City, the only rival Leavenworth had to fear, was already in the field, and the Herald emphasized that Leavenworth must not allow her rival to outstrip her by a suicidal apathy on the subject, but that it was her duty to keep the project in motion until the work was completed, to enable Leavenworth to enter into favorable competition with others. Railroad talk prevailed, and during the spring or early summer a preliminary survey was made for a road to connect Leavenworth with Cameron, Mo. A little over a year later the Herald, in an able editorial on the subject of railroads, contended that Leavenworth could not compete with other cities on the Missouri river in the commerce and trade of the great West unless she formed means of communication with the East by railroad. Continuing, the Herald said:
"Kansas City and St. Joseph will have railroads running through them in less than eighteen months, and then what position will we occupy, situated between two flourishing cities which have the energy as well as the means to take our present trade away from us?...Unless we establish a railroad connecting...with the East...we will go backward instead of forward....The time has come when the people of Leavenworth must look to her laurels, and let those who are interested take the subject in hand."
While Leavenworth thus early appreciated the importance of a railroad bridge, it was not until 1873 that the tracks actually crossed the Missouri. For many years, therefore, her citizens depended on the various ferries for transportation and communication with the east. The first ferry operated from the city proper was owned by Thomas C. Shoemaker, Jarret Todd, Samuel D. Pitcher and their associates, who were granted a twenty-year charter by the territorial legislature of 1855 to be restricted to and confined within the limits of the city of Leavenworth. The law provided that no other ferry should be established within two miles of the limits of the town, and also prescribed charges for ferriage, as follows:
Foot passengers, 10 cents,
The act also provided that anyone crossing at night might be charged double fare.
In 1860 the law relating to this ferry was amended as follows: "The owners of the ferry privilege granted shall not be required to run their ferryboat or boats for any purpose in the night time, nor at any time when it shall be unsafe to do so, by reason of ice in the river, or other cause. "
This charter was again amended in 1861 to provide that the company should, on the first Monday in September each year, pay to the treasurer of Leavenworth county the sum of $100, "which sum shall be in lieu of all taxes and assessments of every kind and character, on said ferry privilege; and no additional tax, for any purpose, shall hereafter be imposed or levied upon said franchise, by the legislature or other authority." The amended law also extended the franchise fifteen years beyond the limit set by the original act, and likewise provided that "the moneys contemplated by this act shall go to the road fund of Leavenworth county." This company's ferryboat, the Willie Cade, Capt. Al Cade, owner, is also mentioned in Leavenworth Board of Trade proceedings for year 1888, p. 253. This company's charter expired in 1890.
Other boats operated by this same company prior to 1866 were the David Hill and the Ella. In the spring of 1866 the ferry company started work on a new ferryboat, the Edgar, which was built by Frank Wheeler. This boat was to replace the old Ella, which was withdrawn. The new boat, built on the river bank a short distance above Carney's pork house, and launched October 13, 1866, was a large and staunch craft, which cost about $20,000, and was to be used between the city and City Point (East Leavenworth) on the opposite side of the river.
Despite the fact that Shoemaker and his associates had received an exclusive charter for twenty years, one Simon P. Yocum was operating the Leavenworth steam ferry late in November, 1857. Whether Yocum was an associate of Shoemaker is not known. The Herald of the 28th of that month noted that the boat continued to make regular trips, notwithstanding the river was full of floating ice, and was doing a good business. The boat was described as of light draft, capable of carrying a great quantity of stock and several wagons at a time, and could make the trip in less than five minutes. It was also made clear that there was no time lost waiting for the boat. An item in the Herald of December 26 stated that the Leavenworth ferryboat was making regular trips, and that it never stopped for floating ice running until ice closed the river. This staunch little craft was christened the Leavenworth City, and was mentioned by the Herald in its issue of July 3, 1858, which stated that the boat still continued to ply between that city and the Missouri shore, notwithstanding the high water and immense quantities of driftwood. The current was reported as very strong, and the boat had hard work bucking it, "but never fails to make the ripple."
Frank M. Gable, of Leavenworth county, tells of one of Yocum's ferries:
"We crossed the Missouri river on a ferry called the Old Horse boat. This was run by a Mr. Yoakum [Yocum?] and the motive power was a pair of horses that worked on a treadmill. Ice chunks were floating in the river that day, making the crossing very dangerous. Leavenworth did not amount to much then, and I think there was only one grocery store in the town. This was run by a couple of old German bachelors by the name of Ingrum. I believe they were called Fred and Fritz, and were located on the corner where Martin Donovan's transfer office now stands."
The Kansas Weekly Herald, Leavenworth, February 12, 1859, contained the following:
"The following telegraphic dispatch was received by the captain of the ferryboat at this point, from our city marshal (now in St. Louis), who is one of the owners of the boat:
On February 21, 1865, the Leavenworth Ferry Company was incorporated by Isaac G. Losee, Jasper S. Rice, Amien Warner, David Hill and J.M. Orr. The organization had a capital stock of $5,000, divided into fifty shares. The ferry was to be located between the southern line of the military reservation and a point two miles south of the southern line of the city of Leavenworth, departing and landing at any place between the points named. The charter was filed with the secretary of state February 23, 1865.
This company probably ran a boat called the David Hill, named for its captain, David Hill, one of the owners.
A rival ferry, apparently, was operating at Leavenworth in 1859, W.S. Reyburn on April 4 paying $60 for a license. Just how long this ferry was in existence has not been learned.
On July 16, 1866, the Leavenworth and Missouri Bridge and Ferry Company was incorporated, John C. Douglass, A.A. Higinbotham, D.W. Eaves, Lucien Scott and S.J. Danah being the promoters. The charter, granted without time limit, authorized the building of a bridge or the operation of one or more steam ferries across the Missouri river, at or near Leavenworth, and on the Missouri side in the county of Platte, with principal office at Leavenworth. The company had a capital stock of $200,000, and the privilege of increasing it to $1,000,000. Shares were $10 each. The charter was filed with the secretary of state July 18, 1866.
Moving up the river to Fort Leavenworth, we come to the earliest ferry in present Leavenworth county, which was inaugurated in 1829 to meet the needs of Cantonment Leavenworth, established by the government in 1828. The following year, 1829, a military road was cut out from Fort Leavenworth to Barry, in Clay county (Missouri), and Zadoc Martin, a farmer of Clay county, was stationed on the east bank of Platte river to keep a government ferry. Up to that time the men of Fort Leavenworth had used an old mackinaw boat for crossing the Missouri, but "in 1829 the ferry at the fort...was placed in the hands of Zadoc Martin. He was a stout, muscular man, and commanded all about him with despotic power." The work at Fort Leavenworth required the employment of great numbers of laborers, carpenters and masons, and Mr. Martin did a large business at his ferries. The boats for the ferries were made of hewed gunwales, and boards sawed by hand.
This ferry at Cantonment Leavenworth was mentioned by Rev. John Dunbar as early as 1835, when he was missionary to the Pawnees. At that time there was a ferryhouse on the banks of the Missouri, opposite Fort Leavenworth
In 1839 William Hague was granted a license to operate a ferry at Fort Leavenworth.
The first ferry above Fort Leavenworth probably ran from a point on the Missouri, known as Pensineau's Trading House, across the Missouri to a landing point about two miles below present Weston and originally known as "Pensano's Landing." This location, about 1840, became the town of Rialto. A ferry known as the Rialto ferry was in active operation as early as 1854. On October 9, 1855, large numbers of Missourians made use of it, coming over into Kansas territory to participate in the election of John W. Whitfield as delegate to congress. This ferry was running as late as 1862.
Robert Cain, living on Todd's creek, Platte county, Missouri, operated a ferry to Fort Leavenworth in 1836. Mr. Cain, a veteran of the War of 1812, went to Missouri in 1819, and to Platte in 1836, before the Indian title to the lands was secured. He settled at the fine spring at the crossing of Todd's creek, kept the ferry at the fort, and opened a large prairie farm. He supplied the garrison with provisions and stock, taking the contract to furnish supplies for the men and animals, and became a great favorite for his honesty, candor and generosity. No other name except that of Zadoc Martin is so intimately connected with the early settlement of the Platte country. He died September 14, 1868, on his farm in Platte county, Missouri, and was buried on his farm.
In October, 1840, John Boulware, of Platte City, contracted with Platte county, Missouri, to run a free ferry at the foot of Main street for twelve months at $250. He was an early resident of the county, took charge of the "Issue House" in 1835, and sold goods to the Indians and early settlers. He was appointed a major and led a battalion to the Mormon War. For years he was a leader in civil and military affairs This ferry, over Platte river, enabled residents of that village to reach Fort Leavenworth, which was about nine and one-half miles to the west.
About four miles above Fort Leavenworth by the river was the town of Rialto, Mo., about a mile below its rival, Weston. At Rialto July 1, 1844, John B. Wells, a resident of Platte county, Missouri, was operating a ferry which at that time was one of the few that served as a communication with Fort Leavenworth and the Kickapoo Indian settlement to the north. Later Maj. John Boulware and his son, William L. Boulware, became associated with Mr. Wells in establishing the Rialto steam ferry between Rialto, Mo., and Fort Leavenworth, which was said to have been the main crossing for immigration in that section up to 1865.
Following the death of his son, Maj. John Boulware apparently retired from the firm within a year and Mr. Wells formed a partnership with a man named Washburn, under the firm name of Wells & Washburn. This firm carried an advertisement of their ferry in the first number of the Kansas Weekly Herald, of Leavenworth, September 15, 1854. It was as follows:
"To Kansas Immigrants.
Another mention of this ferry appeared in the Herald of June 7, 1856, as follows:
"WESTON STEAM FERRYBOAT. Messrs. Wells & Washburn have just brought out a new and splendid steam ferryboat, the best on the Missouri river. Its crossings will be one mile below Weston, at Rialto. It was built at Pittsburg[h], and brought round for this and other places three hundred tons of freight, mostly lumber. This boat is called the 'Tom Brierly,' after one of the most popular and fast steamboat men on the river. It is 126 feet in length, has three boilers, an engine eighteen inches in the clear, with a five-foot stroke, and wheels that can knock all creation out of the river, and can make its landings in from three to five minutes. The boat is large and roomy, and can carry any amount of stock and wagons. Messrs Wells & Washburn deserve great credit for getting such a magnificent ferryboat. Success to them.
Messrs. Wells and Washburn had their misfortunes the same as other ferrymen on the river. On Thursday afternoon, August 19, 1858, their boat sank at the landing one mile below Weston. According to the Leavenworth Herald, of August 21, the boat was to be raised soon, and another boat substituted while the other was gotten into serviceable shape again.
According to George J. Remsburg, a former resident of Oak Mills, Atchison county, and an authority on early historical matters of that county, one John Gardiner, in 1844, established a ferry between Weston, Missouri, and Fort Leavenworth. How long this ferry was in operation is not known.
In 1861 the legislature granted authority to James Davis to operate a ferry across the Missouri at a point on the west bank opposite Kickapoo Island. The act included special privileges for one mile above and two miles below said point. This ferry was probably located about halfway between Fort Leavenworth military reservation and the town of Kickapoo, and was for the convenience of Weston and Kickapoo.
Kickapoo City, seven miles above Weston, Missouri, was one of the most important of the early settlements in Leavenworth county, dating back to the time of the Kickapoo Indian occupancy. The site of the town was rough and broken, and an unnatural one for a city, and was almost inaccessible from the back country. The town flourished from 1854 to 1856, and was a rival of Leavenworth. It began to decline during the latter fifties, and by the latter seventies contained but two or three houses. In early days mails were brought over from Weston, and Kickapoo City for some time was quite a distributing point for the postal service.
On March 11, 1839, Isaac Ellis procured a license to operate a ferry at Kickapoo. This ferry is shown on Hutawa's Map of the Platte Country, Missouri, published in 1842, and was located about three and one-half miles above Weston, and almost opposite a village of Kickapoo Indians. Isaac Ellis was later associated with the Burnes Bros. and John C. Ellis in the ferry business at this point.
In 1855 the legislature authorized Burnes Bros. & Co., composed of Lewis Burnes, Daniel D. Burnes, James N. Burnes, John C. Ellis and Isaac Ellis, to maintain a ferry over the Missouri river at a point opposite the town of Kickapoo for a term of fifteen years. The act specified they should have a landing on the south side of the river upon land owned by the United States and occupied and claimed, wholly or in part, by John C. Ellis and the Kickapoo Town Association.
The following advertisement regarding this ferry is enlightening in that it states that at that time it was the only steam ferry on the river from Atchison to far below the mouth of the Kaw:
Steam was used on this ferry very shortly after it was established, and during the county seat election of Leavenworth county, October 8, 1856, boats returning from Missouri brought many residents of that state over to Kansas to vote. The company must have had fairly good patronage, for in 1857 their boat crossed every thirty minutes.
In 1860 a charter was granted by the legislature to John Baker to run a ferry across the Missouri river at the town of Kickapoo for a period of five years, he to have exclusive privilege for a distance of three miles up and down the river from said town of Kickapoo.
At the bend above Kickapoo City a ferry was operated by William Thompson, under a charter granted by the legislature of 1855. This was close to the Atchison-Leavenworth boundary line and was the most northern ferry in Leavenworth county.
Lewis' Point was a location about three miles above Kickapoo City and, according to George J. Remsburg, was near present Oak Mills, Atchison county. Sheffield Ingalls' History of Atchison also gives this location. This was about seven miles below the old town of Sumner. Capt. Calvin Lewis had operated a crossing at this place, known as Lewis' ferry, and in 1855 secured a charter from the territorial legislature granting exclusive rights at this point and for one mile up and one mile below for a period of ten years. This was in all probability the first ferry north of the Leavenworth-Atchison county boundary line. This ferry served local needs only and apparently did not cut much of a figure in the line of transportation.
Nimrod Farley, a well-known character who resided in the Missouri bottoms, was the proprietor of another early-day ferry, a little farther north. Farley owned land on the Kansas side near the present Oak Mills, and this furnished him a landing place on the west side of the river. He was a brother of Josiah Farley, who laid out the town of Farley, in Platte county, Mo., in 1850. Nimrod Farley was granted a charter by the legislature of 1855 to operate a ferry across the river from a point near Iatan, Mo., (formerly known as Dougherty's landing), to the Kansas side, this privilege being for a period of ten years. This ferry was one of a number operating on the Missouri during the early days of Kansas, which made a specialty of, and did a thriving business in, the transportation of Missouri voters to Kansas to participate in the early elections. The following advertisement of this ferry appeared in the Western Argus, Wyandotte, of March 10, 1855:
"Election in Kansas -- The Ferry That Never Stops. A report having gotten out that one of our boats had been carried off by the ice, we take the liberty of contradicting it. Ours is the on]y ferry that never stops. We keep two good boats, and when one can't run the other can. All who wish to be in Kansas in time to vote, go to Iatan, and you will not be disappointed, for old Nim is always ready. (Signed) NIMROD FARLEY and J.G.M. BROWN."
Farley finally sold out to George McAdow, who continued the business until the boat was destroyed by Jayhawkers early in the Civil War.
Charles W. Rust, Atchison county pioneer and a former county clerk of that county, now living at San Jose, Cal., in a letter dated October 25, 1926, to George J. Remsburg, says:
"I remember old Nimrod well. He was a neighbor of ours in Missouri and was known as a doctor. He was about the hardest old sinner the Iatan neighborhood turned out, and did a big business on election day in 1855, when the Missourians polled 1,500 in favor of the proslavery candidate at Kickapoo precinct."
In a letter of November 3, 1926, he writes:
"Old Nimrod was a great old joker. I remember one of his pull-offs was, when he met a friend, the first question he would ask was, 'Have you got a chew of tobacco?' No matter whether the reply was yes or no, old Nim would yank a six-inch plug out of his pocket and say 'Have a chaw."'
2. The bull boat was in common use on the Missouri and other Western rivers between 1810 and 1830, being especially adapted on account of lightness of draft. They were shaped much like a light raft and were from 25 to 30 feet long. This framework was covered with buffalo bull hides sewed tightly together. These boats were capable of carrying a cargo of 5,000 to 6,000 pounds. -- Kansas Historical Collections, v. 9, p. 271.
4. Linville sold out in 1826 to an old Frenchman named Calisse Montarges, commonly called "Caleece." He ran the boat until 1830, and it must have been the most popular of all the ferries. The old man was one of the eccentric characters known all along the river, as there have been many others since that time engaged in the transportation of men, animals and chattels from one side of the river to the other. Calisse came to this part of the country soon after the war of 1812 as e French trapper and voyageur. -- Deatherage, History of Greater Kansas City, p. 188.
6. Rev. Isaac McCoy, Baptist missionary, was born in Pennsylvania in 1784, and died in Kentucky in 1846. He removed to Missouri in 1829 and later located near the mouth of the Kansas river. He and his sons surveyed most of the Indian reservations located in Kansas.
7. John Calvin McCoy was born in Indiana in 1811. He came west and assisted his father in surveying in the Indian country. He later settled in Johnson county, Kansas, where he lived many years. He died in Kansas City, Mo., in 1889.
20. William Walker was a native of Michigan, born in 1799, and died in Kansas City in 1874. He was a leader and counsellor of the Wyandotts, and came to Kansas in 1843 with the tribe. He acquired the title of "governor" when he was appointed provisional governor of territory embraced in Nebraska and Kansas.
24. William Y. Roberts was a native of Pennsylvania and born about 1811. He came to Kansas in 1855, took an active part in the territorial struggle, and held many positions of trust. He died near Lawrence in 1869.
25. Shalor Winchell Eldridge was born in Massachusetts in 1816. He was a railroad contractor and came to Kansas in 1856 and leased the Free State hotel that year, and also established a stage line from Kansas City to Lawrence and Topeka. He died at Lawrence in 1899.
40. Charles Herman Chapin was a native of New York, born in 1822. He came to Kansas in 1856 and was identified with the free-state movement. Later he was employed in the United States engineering service. He died in 1889.
57. Henry T. Greene was an attorney at law, born in Hanover, Va. He came to Leavenworth county in 1854, and was a practicing attorney after his arrival. He was a staunch Democrat. -- Andreas, History of Kansas, p. 444.
73. Thomas C. Shoemaker was the first receiver of public moneys in the territory. He came to Kansas about the first of May, 1855, and made Leavenworth his home, where he lived up to the date of his death, February 5, 1857.
74. Jarret Todd came to Kansas July 4, 1854, and settled at Leavenworth. His name appears in Leavenworth city directory, 1859, and also in a census of Leavenworth, 1859, p. 66, in archives department, Kansas State Historical Society.
84. John C. Douglass, one of the pioneer attorneys and early settlers of Leavenworth, was born in Greenfield, Ohio, December 13, 1824. He came to Kansas in 1856 to help make Kansas a free state, and took part in many exciting engagements.
95. John B. Wells was born in Kentucky, November 16, 1800, and died near Weston, February, 1890. He removed to Marion county, Missouri, in 1833, and to Platte in 1837. His name is closely connected with the history of Weston. His steam ferry at Rialto was the highway of immigration from 1854 to 1865. -- Paxton, Annals of Platte County, Missouri, pp. 172. 913, 914.
98. Kickapoo Island probably received its name after the settlement of Kickapoo Indians in that immediate vicinity in the early thirties. The island originally was about two and one-half miles long east and west and one and one-fourth miles north and south at the widest part, near the west end. A map of Leavenworth county in Evarts' Atlas, dated 1886, showed the main channel of the Missouri river flowing to the east of the island. Floods since that date have changed the course of the channel to the west of the island, and the island proper has apparently become a part of the mainland to the east, but still subject to overflow during high water. The island was situated in townships 7 and 8, range 22 east.
102. Lewis Burnes was from Missouri and in 1865 was 60 years of age. He apparently was pretty well-to-do for that day, listing real estate valued at $15,000 and personal property at $5,000. -- Census, Kansas, 1865.