by George A. Root
May 1933 (Vol. 2, No. 2), pages 115 to 138
Transcribed by Gardner Smith
digitized with permission of the Kansas State Historical Society.
NOTE: The numbers in brackets are links to footnotes for this text.
PORT WILLIAMS was the next settlement above Iatan. The town was incorporated by the legislature of 1855, and was located about two miles northwest of present Oak Mills and about eight miles below Atchison, at a big bend in the river, which has since disappeared. A hand ferry had been established to this point from the Missouri side about 1854, by Jake Yunt, who did quite a thriving business. This primitive mode of transportation soon gave way to steam in order to keep up with the rush of settlers. The town never attained any great size, but was quite well known over the country, its ferry no doubt being accountable for this. It "had its town bullies, and fights were of frequent occurrence.... It was common for farmers to go to Port Williams every Saturday afternoon to witness the fights and drunks." According to W.J. Bailey, the place was probably named for William Johnson, owner of the claim and cabin called "Fort Williams," and called Port Williams after steam boats and ferryboats began to land.
In all probability the earliest ferrying carried on in territory embraced in present Kansas, of which there is written or printed record, was begun in the fall of 1818. In October of that year the first United States military post west of the mouth of the Kaw river was established on an island in the Missouri river a few miles below present Atchison. This island was given the name "Isle au Vache" by the French and was known to Americans and traders as "Cow Island." The following year the Long Expedition spent some time on this island. Keel boats, first brought up the Missouri river with supplies for the new outpost known as "Cantonment Martin," were the crafts made use of by the garrison stationed there for the better part of a year. The post was located on the upper part of the island about opposite Iatan, Mo., and probably on the west side of the island, that site being selected on account of the abundance of large timber close by.
Sumner, about five miles up the river from Port Williams, had the next ferry. This town, not far from Cow Island, was located at a point on the river known as the "Grand Detour" to the French trappers, and was laid out by free-state men, becoming a rival of Atchison. During its palmy days Sumner had a daily newspaper and a number of commodious buildings. John J. Ingalls, of Atchison, was numbered among its residents during its infancy. During the early sixties the town began to decline, its population drifted away, and many years ago the last vestige of the town disappeared. Prior to 1858 Sumner depended on the ferries of neighboring towns, but that year Messrs. J.W. Morris, Cyrus F. Currier and Samuel Harsh were granted a twenty-year license for a ferry across the Missouri at this point. The act also prescribed that no other ferry should be established within two miles of the present limits of the city. The following rates were made a part of the law:
Each foot passenger, 10 cents.
This ferryboat plied between Sumner, Atchison and the Missouri side, enjoyed a good patronage during the first few years, and probably lasted about as long as the town. Atchison, three miles above Sumner, was a natural trade terminal. Roads radiated from there to the north, west and south. One led to Doniphan, one to Hiawatha, one to Leavenworth. Others led to Monrovia, Grasshopper Falls, Pardee, Indianola, Tonganoxie, Lawrence, Lecompton, and Superior, in Weller (now Osage) county. It was the starting point for the Pony Express during most of the time of its existence. The Holladay Overland Stage line and the Butterfield Overland Despatch had headquarters here and ran their stage lines from this place. During the latter fifties and the early sixties an immense freighting business was carried on from this point, and the ferries did their full share in bringing outfits and freight across the river for transportation to the far West. Some idea of this freighting business, the firms engaged, numbers of men and stock employed and pounds of merchandise transported, may be gleaned from the following in the Atchison Union of July 23, 1859: "D.W. Adams & Co., 709 wagons, 900 men, 6,429 oxen, 41 horses, 627 mules, 3,019,950 lbs. merchandise. A.S. Parker & Co., 245 wagons, 268 men, 2,806 oxen, 1,000,140 lbs. merchandise."
The ferries had no opposition in local river trade until 1875, when the bridge across the Missouri was opened for traffic.
George M. Million started a ferry opposite Atchison about 1850. He was of German descent, and had formerly lived in Cole county, Missouri. As early as 1841 he had occupied the present site of East Atchison as a farm, in the vicinity of Rushville. At that time the bottom land east of Atchison was covered with tall rushes and was known as Rush Bottom. During winter Million cut wood which he hauled to the river bank and sold to steamboats in summer. Two miles above Million's place was "Manley's landing," where freight for Rushville was loaded. Million accumulated money and in the late forties operated a store, trading with the Indians for furs. During the California gold rush his ferry did a thriving business with the emigrants. In May, 1854, when the Kansas-Nebraska bill passed, and Kansas was thrown open for settlement, Million "squatted" on the present townsite of Atchison, building a log shanty. Later he sold his squatter right to the Atchison Town Company. Million's flatboat ferry was followed by Port Lamb's horsepower ferry.
George M. Million, Lewis Burnes, Daniel D. Burnes, James N. Burnes, and Calvin Burnes were granted a charter by the legislature of 1855 to maintain a ferry at Atchison over the Missouri river, and have exclusive privileges for a period of twenty-five years. The landing place on the Kansas side was at the foot of Atchison street. After obtaining their charter the company executed a bond for $1,000 for the faithful performance of duties. Rates of ferriage adopted were:
Two-horse wagon, or wagon and one yoke of oxen (loaded), $1. Same, empty, 75 cents.
A man named Alcorn was operating a horse ferryboat on the Missouri at Atchison in 1856, and the Challisses, who were operating a rival ferry and boat called the Red Rover at this date, purchased a three-fourths interest of Alcorn, paying $1,600 for his franchise, and took over the business. In 1857 William L. Challiss, Luther C. Challiss and William E. Gaylord took over the franchise and license of the Atchison steam ferry. The following advertisement of the new ferry firm appeared in the Atchison Champion early in June:
"TO KANSAS EMIGRANTS: The Atchison Steam Ferry is now in full operation. Having received our new commodious boat, we are fully prepared to cross wagons, horses, cattle, footmen, etc., at any time without delay. "Atchison being situated in Kansas on the great western bend of the Missouri river opposite Bloomington, Buchanan county, Missouri, is the best crossing, the nearest and most convenient point to all the territory north of the Kansas river. Persons going to the southern part of the territory will also find it the best place to cross the Missouri.
There appear to have been some complaints against the original proprietors of this ferry, and the county commissioners attempted to pass a resolution forfeiting their license. The proprietors objected on the ground that as they had received their charter from the legislature it was not at all probable that the court of commissioners could take it away. The ferry under different management continued in operation until the magnificent railroad bridge was built across the Missouri in 1875, when the old gave way to the new order of things. This ferry had been in operation before Atchison was laid out.
The following regarding the Atchison ferry is condensed from an account in the Atchison Daily Globe of July 16, 1894:
"In the fall of 1858 Doctor Challiss went to Evansville, Ind., and contracted for the building of a steam ferryboat. This was completed in November and started for Atchison. In December it was frozen up in the Missouri river at Carrollton, Mo., and left in charge of a watchman. The crew was made up of old acquaintances of Doctor Challiss in New Jersey, and these he brought to Atchison in two stage coaches hired for the purpose.
Samuel C. Pomeroy owned a one-quarter interest in the J.G. Morrow and S.C. Pomeroy and the wreck of the Morrow cost him $5,000.
The ferryboat Ida hauled the locomotive "Albany" across the Missouri river in April, 1860. This engine was to be used on the Marysville or Palmetto & Roseport railroad, the first railroad to be built west of the Missouri river. On May 23, 1861, the Ida was reported to have arrived at Leavenworth, bringing the Atchison military company, "All Hazard," which immediately went into encampment at that place. During the early days of the Civil War a close watch was kept on those leaving Atchison on ferryboats. Those departing without permission were arrested. The Ida was taken to Leavenworth on completion of the Atchison bridge, and was in service there many years.
The steamboat William Osborn, used for a ferryboat at Atchison in 1866, was built at Brownsville, Pa., and reached Atchison May 9, 1866, with 150 tons of rails for the Atchison & Pike's Peak railroad. It took forty-four days to make the trip from Brownsville to Atchison.
Henry J. Adams, son of Franklin G. Adams, a resident of early Atchison, recalls the ferry operating there during his early boyhood days. In a statement written at request of the author, he says:
"I well remember the old steamboat ferry at Atchison in the late sixties. My young mother, Harriet Elizabeth Adams, usually did her morning shopping at the wagon market on the south side of Commercial street, about where the Byram hotel stands. If the ferryboat was about to land, we children used to clamor to be taken down to the 'levee,' or boat landing, to witness the wagon teams, horsemen and live stock scramble down the gang plank from the boat to the sloping stone coping which continued up from the water's edge to the Commercial street level. Then it was an exciting performance to see the transfer mule and his heavily loaded dray scramble up this incline. If the mule made a slip everyone was in luck if the load in going back landed against the boat railing. If the dray did not so land, the poor mule was likely to provide a feast for the big river catfish.
The next ferry up the river was at Doniphan, about three miles above Atchison. The town was organized in 1854 and located on the site of an ancient Kansas Indian village, where Bourgmont, the French explorer, established his headquarters in 1724. A trading post on the opposite side of the river had been established some years earlier by Joseph Utt, and this may have influenced him in selecting this point for a town. During its palmy days Doniphan had a population of about 1,000, had a weekly newspaper, and was quite an important political center, being midway between the mouth of the Kansas river and the Kansas-Nebraska boundary line. The Leavenworth Herald of March 13, 1858, in speaking of Doniphan and its surroundings said: "Smith's bar lies one mile above the town and extends completely across the river, which makes Doniphan the head of navigation for heavy-draught steamers. There are four natural roads leading out into the surrounding country.... A steam ferry has been provided for." The territorial legislature of 1855 passed an act providing for the location of a road from Doniphan to Kelly's ferry, in the northeast part of the county.
For some time in the 1850s John Landis operated a ferry between Doniphan and Rushville, Mo. In 1855 he was granted a charter by the territorial legislature to operate a ferry on the Missouri with a landing place on the west side at the town of Doniphan. The charter granted exclusive privileges within the limits of the town as far as the claim of said lands extended. This ferry, according to the Leavenworth Herald, March 3, 1855, "had a good ferryboat."
Landis' ferry operated between Doniphan and Rushville, Mo., before the above charter was granted, and according to one of the territorial papers, had a good ferryboat.
Palermo is about five miles above Geary City and fifteen miles above Doniphan, at the mouth of Wolf creek. The town was established in 1854-1855, and boasted one early-day paper-the Palermo Leader, founded in 1858.
Two ferries for the new town were authorized by the legislature of 1855. One charter was granted to Loren S. Meeker, Richard Hubble and John W. Mockbee for a term. of fifteen years, and the other charter to John Stearwalt, his heirs or assigns, to keep a ferry across the Missouri river opposite Palermo for a period of twenty years. The above ferries were to be regulated by Doniphan county, were for local needs only, and may not have lasted long.
Two years later the legislature of 1857 authorized F.M. Mahan and Job V. Kimber to operate a ferry across the Missouri river from Palermo for the term of fifteen years. Ferry charges were fixed by the county court of Doniphan county and any charge made or extorted more than the rates fixed by the court was to create a forfeiture of all their privileges under the act.
The next year Barney H. York, George K. Sabin and Frederick W. Emery, members of the Palermo City Company, were given authority by the legislature of 1858 to operate a ferry across the Missouri river at the city of Palermo for twenty years. Their charter provided that no other company should establish a ferry within two miles of the present limits of the city of Palermo, and also listed rates of ferriage as follows:
Single passengers, 10 cents.
St. Joseph was about eight miles above Palermo by the river. As early as 1826 Joseph Robidoux, of the infant village of St. Joseph, had a flatboat ferry in operation, for the convenience of his employees as well as for the Indians who wished to visit his trading house to swap pelts and robes for various commodities kept by the trader. "The landing on his (east) side was about where Francis street struck the river, and the road led from there southwest to the agency ford of the Platte river, where it forked, one branch leading to Liberty, Clay county, and the other to the Grand-river country."
St. Joseph was one of the most convenient towns on the Missouri river for the departure of overland emigration and traffic, and for a number of years following the discovery of gold in California the city and ferries did a big business. Beginning with the spring of 1849 the rush for California began. There was one continuous line of wagons from east to west, as far as the eye could reach, moving steadily forward. Some wagons were drawn by cows.; other gold seekers were afoot, taking their worldly goods in handcarts. There were two ferries at St. Joseph at this time, and they must have been kept busy. This rush continued unabated until about the first of June, 1850, when it eased up a little, although belated gold hunters passed through for months afterward. St. Joseph offered advantages to the emigrant and adventurer which no other river town possessed. Prices were a trifle lower than charged at Independence at the time and this must have had its influence in deciding whether to start westward from St. Joseph or Independence.
"During two and one-half months, from April 1 to June 15, 1849, the number of wagons that crossed there was 1,508, and averaging four men to a wagon would make 6,032. At Duncan's ferry, four miles above St. Joseph, 685 wagons crossed; at Bontown, Savannah and the ferries as far as the Bluffs, 2,000. This is a total of 4,193 wagons. About 10,000 crossed at Independence, making a total of 27,000 persons. There were about eight mules or oxen to each wagon, giving a total of 37,544 head of stock "
A California-bound emigrant in 1852 describes crossing the Missouri at St. Joseph during early May. He had arrived at that point the evening before.
"...We soon unloaded our goods and camped upon the plain just below the town. The whole neighborhood for miles around was full of emigrants, tents here and tents there, the white covers of wagons and tents looked as though they had been prepared for a grand army. And indeed they had been, for here were armies of men, with a goodly sprinkle of women and children. The city of St. Joe is much the gainer by the emigration. Thousands of dollars are spent here annually by those who cross the plains, it being one of the principal points where the emigration leaves the river. We here bought one yoke of oxen, a span of mules, and many other 'fixins,' and made preparation for starting over the plains. There were hundreds of wagons waiting their turn for crossing the Missouri, and there were several boats busy, and among them a steam ferryboat. But their capacity for carrying all the custom that presented itself was too small, and as a consequence there were many teams ahead of us in their turn.
Julius C. Robidoux had the first licensed ferry in Buchanan county, Missouri, across the Missouri river at Rattlesnake Hills, in or near present St. Joseph of today. This license, issued May 7, 1839, cost eight dollars, one-half being for state purposes and the balance to the county. The county court fixed ferriage charges as follows:
For each fourwheeled carriage drawn by four horses, oxen or other animals, $1.50.
Ebenezer Blackiston established a ferry at St. Joseph in the early 1850s, but as the history of his enterprise is so closely interwoven with that of the town of Elwood it is given later on. Other ferries no doubt operated from St. Joseph, but data concerning them have not been located by the writer.
The Wathena Reporter, August 15, 1867, contained the following:
"The St. Joseph and Elwood Ferry Company have received from the city council of St. Joseph, the exclusive enjoyment, for three years, of the right to transport passengers, vehicles, &c., across the river to Elwood in Kansas. The following is the tariff to be charged by the company:
St. Joseph and Elwood were the greatest terminal points in their section, and their ferries did an immense volume of business up to the time of the completion of the railroad bridge across the river from Elwood. This bridge was started in July, 1871, and opened for traffic May 20, 1873.
Elwood, the first town above St. Joseph, and distant about one mile by river, was laid out as Roseport in 1856, the name being changed to Elwood the next year in compliment to John B. Elwood. The site of the town had long been the landing place of ferries operated from St. Joseph. The town at one time threatened to become a rival of St. Joseph, and had a population of about 2,000. It was a good outfitting point for traders and trappers, and was the starting point in Kansas of the east end of the California road, and the first station of the Pony Express on the west side of the Missouri river. It was the most natural terminal point in northeast Kansas, and roads radiated from there to the principal towns in that section. The St. Joseph, Atchison & Lecompton stage line passed through the town and reached Wathena, Palermo, Geary City, Doniphan, Atchison, Winchester, Hickory Point and Lecompton, connecting at Lecompton with lines to Topeka, Grasshopper Falls, Fort Riley, Lawrence, Kansas City, and at St. Joseph with the railroad for the east. St. Joseph men had faith in the future of Elwood and organized a company to build a railroad to connect Elwood with Marysville. Work started in 1859, and ten or a dozen miles were graded. Six miles of track was laid, and the first locomotive -- "The Albany," used from Boston to the Missouri, was landed at the Elwood ferry on April 23, 1860, by the ferryboat Ida, and was pulled up the bank by enthusiastic citizens. The next day a half dozen flat cars were brought across the river and the opening of the first section of the first railroad in Kansas was celebrated.
In the fall of 1852 Henry Thompson established a trading post on the west bank of the Missouri, opposite St. Joseph, operating a ferry for his own convenience, and profit in addition. In 1855 the territorial legislature granted a fifteen-year charter for his ferry. In 1856 the Roseport Town Company, consisting of Richard Rose and a few St. Joseph capitalists, bought 160 acres of land of Thompson for about $10,000 and laid out the town of Roseport. How long Thompson operated his ferry has not been learned by the writer.
Capt. Ebenezer Blackiston, of St. Joseph, also ran one of the earliest ferries to this point, operating a large flatboat which was worked by hand. In 1852 a steam ferryboat called the Tidy Adala was substituted for the old primitive affair. This boat is mentioned a number of times in the Elwood papers between 1857 and 1861.
By 1855 Blackiston had formed a partnership with one Robert Jessee, a prominent resident of Buchanan county, who had served as one of the county judges from 1850-1852. With the meeting of the first territorial legislature Messrs. Jessee and Blackiston applied for a charter for a ferry and were granted privileges for a landing on the Kansas side on land owned by Blackiston, and to employ the use of a steamboat or flatboats.
In 1857 Blackiston contracted for the building of a new ferryboat to take the place of the Tidy (as it was called for short), in order to accommodate the demands of the public as his ferry was then said to be crossing more than all other ferries put together. In 1858 the Pike's Peak travel was at its height and the ferry did a rushing business, carrying hundreds of wagons across. This year Blackiston advertised that his new steam ferryboat would carry twelve or fifteen wagons at a load, and loose cattle in proportion; that it was capable of making the trip in two minutes. The landing was at the foot of Francis street. By the last of June, 1859, the rush was over, Blackiston reporting about forty teams a day, with an average of five persons to a team crossing at that time, this making 200 arrivals daily.
Blackiston was the leading spirit in the ferry business out of St. Joseph and to Elwood, and in 1859 he and his associates were granted a new charter by the legislature for the Elwood ferry. The following year that body amended his charter as follows:
"That Ebenezer Blackiston, his successors or assigns, shall not be compelled to land their boats at any point above Second street, of said city of Elwood, and they shall not, at any time during running hours, which shall be from sunrise till dark, tie longer at said landing than ten minutes, unless necessarily detained in receiving or discharging freight or passengers, or from unavoidable causes."
The Tidy was now getting old and out of date, and about the middle of the year was retired from regular service. The Free Press of July 30 stated that the little craft was fairly engaged in the wood and lumber trade. "This week she cleared on the first trip, consuming only a single day, $90. She will be a great assistance to the river trade in this vicinity. Success to the Tidy." Just how long the boat ran we are unable to say. The next mention of the Tidy is the following from the Free Press, of September 29, 1860:
"Eight years ago the Tidy Adala steam ferryboat of 'ever so many' horse-power, puffed majestically up the Missouri river, and took its place in the great transit route between St. Joseph and the east end of the California road, Capt. Ebenezer Blackiston commanding. Old inhabitants say that the citizens of St. Joseph were frantic with joy at her arrival, and smiled with grim content on the old flatboat which had 'chassezed' across the Big Muddy to the entire satisfaction and the profit of Ebenezer for years before. But every dog must have its day, and the principle applies equally to ferryboats. For years the Tidy stood up to its 'regular' work, and puffed and blowed like a land speculator, crossing and recrossing our raging waters. She was well stoked, carefully piloted and had a good horseshoe nailed on her stubby bow. But, though horseshoes can beat witches, they stand scarcely the slightest show against the snaggy perils of our river navigation. The Tidy got rusty and old, and old-fashioned for the fastidious tastes of later days, and was a year since relieved from service by a large craft, with a big engine and two smokestacks, rejoicing in the name of Ebenezer. Since then the Tidy has been rather a loose character, engaging in all manner of desultory service. She grew old and decrepit, and a week since while being hauled on a dry dock obstinately broke her cables, slipped back into her muddy element, and rolled over, a poor, miserable, wrecked one-horse ferryboat. We are sorry for the Tidy. She had done good service, and much. She bore on her decks the explorers -- God -- 'Em (the reader will fill in) who first found the site of our city, and founded its present greatness, and she has been too closely identified with us to escape with a less obituary. May she rest in peace."
No doubt there were other ferries operating from St. Joseph to the Kansas shore at this time close enough to afford lively competition for his ferry, for Blackiston advertised in a local paper that the St. Joseph and Elwood ferry had reduced ferriage rates to half price as follows:
Footmen, 5 cents,
He also called attention to the fact that this was the largest and best boat ever in use on the Missouri river for ferry purposes, and made trips once in fifteen minutes from sunrise to sunset.
In 1859 the Elwood city authorities became alarmed at the inroads the Missouri was making on the city's water front and took steps to curb this erosion. Two large piers or jetties were built out into the river to deflect the current away from the bank, which was thought sufficient to prevent further trouble. This year Elwood received quite an addition to its population, many of the wage-earning classes living in St. Joseph removed to Elwood, attracted by cheaper rents and lower taxes. The Free Press of October 8 said:
"If the ferry ran earlier in the morning and later in the evening, a majority of the mechanics of St. Joseph would live on this side of the river. Enough have already come to occupy every dwelling that could be obtained. Of the fifty dwellings put up this year, not one is now vacant. Several more are going up, but not enough to begin to meet the demand."
The wisdom of requiring the ferry to remedy the hours of arrival and departure finally roused the city council to action, and an ordinance was passed, late in October, regulating the ferry, and "provided that the ferryboat shall leave for its first trip at 6 1/2 o'clock in the morning and leaving St. Joseph on its last return trip at 7 o'clock in the evening..." Whether the ferry proprietors eventually complied with the provisions of the ordinance we have no knowledge, but the following in the Free Press of November 12 indicated it was not very rigidly observed: "The 'time table' contained in the ordinance we published last week suited the owner of the ferry and a majority of the council. The people might be still better suited if the ferry left the river bank at the time indicated."
This ferry had the distinction of crossing one visitor in 1859 who later became a world-wide figure -- Abraham Lincoln, then on a visit to Kansas during his first campaign for the presidency. Hon. D.W. Wilder, in a letter to the secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, dated December 3, 1902, stated that Abraham Lincoln, Mark W. Delahay and he, who were in St. Joseph at the time, "all sat in the dirt waiting for the ferryboat." They crossed the river and that evening Mr. Lincoln spoke to an audience packed in the dining room of the hotel at Elwood and spent the night in the town.
In 1860 from fifteen to twenty teams a day crossed the river at this ferry during June. About 400 Mormons arrived in St. Joseph the latter part of the month, on their way to Salt Lake City, all having to be ferried across the river. There was much immigration to Pike's Peak and the regions farther west. This was the year of the great drought and the ferry crossed many large droves of stock which were being rushed to market daily owing to a scarcity of feed, prompting a local paper to remark: "At this rate there will be corn enough to feed all we have left." The same authority stated that "A herd of 500 cattle crossed the ferry on Thursday going east. One got his leg fast in the apron of the boat, fell over board and could not be extricated. The ferrymen were finally obliged to cut off his leg with an ax, and the poor ox paddled ashore and was soon made beef."
The winter of 1860-'61 closed leaving the ferryboat in rather a dangerous position. As the ice cracked up in February a sudden rise lifted the boat out into deep water, broke its moorings and carried it down stream to a point below the wreck of the Gaines. Mr. Blackiston, after some effort and trouble, got it back to its place in safety. The boat was somewhat damaged and required about a couple of weeks of repairing before it was got into running order. During this interim the primitive flatboat was made use of The Free Press of March 2 no doubt voiced the sentiment of the people when it said: "We doubt not that everyone will be rejoiced at bidding adieu to the old flatboat and skiff. A number one ferry-boat is a little ahead of an old scow, or even the ancient Tidy Adala -- peace to its ashes."
Early in the spring that year the streets teemed with emigrants and freighters, some of whom were bound for the interior of the territory and others for Pike's Peak. Freighting to Denver increased, the streets being filled with "prairie schooners, all heavily laden, and destined for Colorado. Emigration, however, was not as heavy as the previous year."
In the latter part of July, following, there was a change in ownership in this ferry. A poster announced that it would henceforth be under the superintendence and direction of Wilson & Co. A mention of the change in proprietorship in a local paper stated that the "Wilson is of the A. Beattie & Co. banking house, and the company, we presume, is the old proprietor. May it benefit by the change."
In 1862 the Ebenezer was taken over by the military authorities and converted into a gunboat.
Lack of data regarding subsequent ownership of this ferry prevents giving a complete history. A St. Joseph paper in August, 1866, stated that --
"Capt. William Ellsworth, of the St. Joseph and Elwood ferry, carried across the river on Thursday afternoon 863 head of cattle, and reports that there is still a large herd, in number over 850, in the corral awaiting transportation across. The business of this line has been very large during the past four weeks -- about 5,000 cattle being transported across the river at that point."
Records of the Elwood Ferry showed that 8,000 head of cattle were ferried across the Missouri river in about sixty days during June, July and August, 1866.
Just how late the St. Joseph & Elwood ferry operated we have not discovered, but probably it ran up to the time of the bridging of the Missouri. The following from the Wathena Reporter of August 15, 1867, is the last mention we have found of this notable ferry.
"The St. Joseph & Elwood Ferry Company have received from the city council of St. Joseph the exclusive enjoyment, for three years, of the right to transport passengers, vehicles, etc., across the river to Elwood, in Kansas. The following is the tariff to be charged by the company
Elwood possibly had two ferries that operated in 1858. That year D.S. Lusk, the Elwood Town Company, and their associates, were authorized to operate a ferry at the city of Elwood and opposite or nearly opposite the city of St. Joseph, Mo., for a period of twenty years. No other ferry was to be permitted within one mile of the city limits of Elwood. As no further mention has been found of this enterprise, it is more than likely it was not a very long-lived concern.
Wathena landing, approximately three miles above Elwood, probably was the location of the next ferry to the north, though definite information is lacking. On January 26, 1867, William H. Smallwood, W.B. Craig, William P. Black, G.W. Barr, W.M. Ferguson and William H. Bush were granted a charter for the Wathena & St. Joseph Ferry Company. According to the charter it was proposed to run a ferry on the Missouri river commencing at the northwest limits of the franchise or charter granted to Ebenezer Blackiston by the legislature of 1859, and amended in 1860, which granted privileges between Elwood and St. Joseph. The new franchise was to extend up the river to the north line of fractional sec. 15, T. 3, R. 22, in Doniphan county, and the company was to run a ferry across the river starting at a point between said bounds and landing at or near St. Joseph. The company was capitalized at $20,000, shares $100 each; the principal office being at Wathena. This charter was filed with the secretary of state January 31, 1867.
The Troy Reporter early in February, 1867, stated: "We understand a ferry is to be established the coming season from Wathena landing to St. Joseph." This ferry, according to Frank G. Drenning, a Topekan and former resident of Wathena, was in operation during the early nineties.
According to the History of Buchanan County, Missouri, Duncan's ferry was located about four miles above St. Joseph. No further mention of this ferry has been located by the writer.
Whitehead, about two miles north of Wathena landing, had the next ferry. James R. Whitehead had been a trader at that point before the settlement of the territory. Later a town sprang up, named for Mr. Whitehead, which was incorporated in 1855. That year the legislature granted him a license to operate a ferry with landing at the town and exclusive rights for a mile above and a mile below the town. In 1859 the name of the town was changed to Bellemont, though there was some talk of giving it the name of Oxford. The town has long since disappeared, and a map of that locality thirty years later marks the location as "Belmont Bend."
On July 2, 1855, the Kansas Free State, Lawrence, published a list of post routes recently established in the territory, one of which ran from Whitehead to Highland, Iowa Point and on to Story's Landing on the Missouri river, a distance of forty miles.
Just how long Mr. Whitehead operated the boat we are unable to state. Joseph Penney, a young man, became a subsequent owner of the ferry and business. Early in March, 1860, he had the misfortune to lose his boat while on a trip up the river. The Elwood Free Press of March 17, that year, gives the following account of the accident:
"Bellemont Ferryboat. -- About a week since the St. Joseph and Bellemont ferryboat struck a snag in the bend of the river above Bellemont. Her speed forced her high on the snag and so firmly that all efforts to float her were in vain. Since that time the river has fallen considerably, and though well sparred, she hogs badly and it is thought will be a total loss. She is partly insured. The boat is, we learn, now owned by Joseph Penney, Esq., an enterprising man and a gentleman, to whom the loss will prove a severe one."
Whether Mr. Penney salvaged the boat or not we have not discovered. At any rate, he was operating a boat during the following fall.
Misfortune seemed to pursue the proprietor, for the following year he met with another accident. The Free Press of August 10, 1861, printed the following:
"The ferryboat recently plying between St. Joseph and Bellemont was lost on Monday last. She had not been running since last fall, and was lying at our levee for repairs. While the boat hands were at dinner some person entered her hold and tore away the copper cylinder of her well hole, allowing a large body of water immediately to rush in. When the crew returned she had so far settled that water was pouring in through her dry seams. The Elwood ferryboat attempted to drag out and drop her on a bar in shoal water, but when she reached the current of the stream she became unmanageable and soon sank. She now lies in about fifty feet of water, in the middle of the current. The boat will be a total loss -- no insurance. She was owned by Joseph Penney, Esq., and valued at ten thousand dollars."
The Belmont Kansas Steam Ferry Company was granted authority by the legislature of 1868 to run a ferry from Bellemont to Frenchville, Buchanan county, Mo., for a period of twenty years. This company was capitalized at $5,000 with fifty shares of $100 each. Francis Lajoie, Louis Weiscamp, A.J. Haskell, Constant Pourier and John Gerardy were the incorporators. A second charter was granted the above company February 10, 1870, by the secretary of state. Whether this ferry operated continuously during the succeeding years we are unable to state, no further mention having been located.
Early in February, 1881, the Bellemont Ferry and Transfer Company was granted a 21-year charter by the secretary of state to maintain a ferry and railroad transfer across the Missouri river at Bellemont, for the purpose of transferring railroad cars and engines, wagons, teams, stock, footmen and general merchandise. The limits and boundaries of their grant commenced where the line north of sec. 15, T. 3, R. 22 E., in Doniphan county, intersects the Missouri river, and thence down the right or west bank of the river for four miles. The principal office was to be at Bellemont. The lands and property owned by the company was listed as worth $25,000, with capital stock at $25,000, in fifty shares of $500 each. Robert Tracy, D.C, Sinclair, S.N. Johnson, Joseph Hayton, all of Troy, Kan., and Obe Craig, St. Joseph, Mo., were the incorporators. Their charter was signed February 7, 1881, and filed with the secretary of state, February 8, 1881.
The next town on the Missouri above Bellemont was Boston, Mo. At this point Peter S. Roberts was authorized by the legislature of 1855 to keep a ferry opposite the town of Boston for a term of fifteen years. This location was about ten or eleven miles above Whitehead (Bellemont) and near present Amazonia, Mo.
Another ferry was started on the Kansas side of the river in 1867 in this vicinity, which is in the northeast corner of Burr Oak township, Doniphan county. On February 11, that year, J.W. Young, John Hutchinson, Thomas B. Ree, F. Garner, and H. Lyday formed a corporation known as the Columbus & Amazonia Ferry Company, for the purpose of operating a ferry on the Missouri river, commencing at the boat landing opposite the town of Columbus and extending down the Missouri river to the lower end of Sand Slue Island, their ferry to run across the river starting at a point within said bounds and to have a landing at or near the town of Amazonia in Missouri. The capital stock of the company was $5,000, divided into five shares, and the principal office of the company was to be at Columbus, Doniphan county. This charter was filed with the secretary of state, March 29, 1867. Mrs. Mary M. Holston, of Burr Oak township, wrote of her experiences in Doniphan county for the Troy Chief, in 1916, stating that her father on March 1, 1855, crossed the Missouri river at Amazonia on a flatboat steered with oars.
Kelley's ferry was probably the next crossing point above Columbus, and, according to Geo. J. Remsburg, was operating in the fifties. This ferry was located at the upper end of Burr Oak bottom, in the northwest corner of Burr Oak township, about ten miles northeast of Troy and seven miles west of Amazonia. A territorial road was established from the town of Doniphan to this point in 1855.
Iowa Point, about fourteen miles up the river from Amazonia, was the next point of crossing. In 1855 John S. Pemberton and Harvey W. Foreman were authorized by the territorial legislature to keep a ferry across the Missouri river and have a landing on the west side on land reserved and secured to the board of foreign missions of the Presbyterian Church by a treaty with the Iowa Indians. This reservation had been purchased by John S. Pemberton and Harvey W. Foreman, and they laid off the town of Iowa Point. Their ferry was to have exclusive privileges on the river for a distance of one mile up and one mile down from the town of Iowa Point.
In 1858 a ferry company was organized at Iowa Point, with H. Foreman as president, and a steam ferry was put in operation on the Missouri river. At this time Iowa Point was the second largest city in the territory and led its rival, Leavenworth, in a business point of view. Several wholesale houses were in operation, and their sales extended to points more than one hundred miles away, a long distance in those days. The town built up rapidly. A brickyard was started by Joseph Selecman, and brick was substituted for wood in almost all buildings erected from that time on. With the breaking out of the war and the starting of towns farther back from the river, the town began to decline, and when in 1862 the great fire destroyed the best part of the town, its fate was sealed.
Another ferry was projected for Iowa Point in 1858, the legislature that year authorizing W.D. Beeler, C.M. Williams, William B. Barr and R.M. Williams to operate a ferry across the Missouri river at the town for a term of fifteen years, and with privilege of an exclusive landing place for one mile up and one mile down the river. The company operated under the name of the Iowa Point Steam Ferry Company and in 1860 had its charter amended by the legislature by striking out the word "steamboat" and inserting the words "steam or flatboats" so as to read as follows: "The said company shall have power to purchase and run steam or flatboats, at Iowa Point," etc. Further history of this enterprise has not been located.
The next ferry above Iowa Point was on Rush Island, about three miles up the river. The legislature of 1860 authorized John H. Utt and W.D. Beeler to keep a ferry across the Missouri river, at a point on Rush Island, opposite Forest City, Mo., with the privilege of landing on the main shore above said island, in Doniphan county.
No other ferry was to be established within one mile of the above-named points. Rates of ferriage as established by the act were:
Two-horse or ox team loaded, $1.
No further mention of this ferry has been found.
By the provisions of a treaty concluded at Fort Leavenworth, September 17, 1836, between the United States and the Iowas, Sacs and Foxes, and other allied tribes, the Sacs and Foxes and Iowas were settled on their new reservation west of the Missouri river in what is now Doniphan county, Kansas. Among other items promised these Indians, the government agreed "to furnish them with one ferryboat." As those Indians were settled on their new reservation within the next twelve months, it is likely their ferryboat was put in operation during the year 1837.
White Cloud, about seven miles up the river from Iowa Point, boasted one of the few steam ferryboats on the Missouri in Kansas, and one of the best of its class along the river. On April 18, 1858, Joshua Taylor purchased a small side-wheel steamer and started from Wellsville, Ohio, with the intention of establishing a ferry at White Cloud. His arrival at that point on June 3 was greeted by the firing of anvils by an enthusiastic crowd and a reception on the levee. Mr. Taylor shortly formed a partnership with J.W. Moore, naming their ferry the White Cloud Steam Ferry and their boat the White Cloud. During the immigration to Pike's Peak and the far West their ferry enjoyed a good business. Following the drouth of 1860 this patronage must have fallen off considerably, for during August, 1861, the proprietors made a special effort to encourage passage over their ferry, offering to cross all teams going from Kansas to Missouri to mill and returning, at a considerable reduction from usual rates, if paid in cash; or, they offered to receive flour in payment at the regular ferriage rates, figuring the farmers would be the gainers by availing themselves of this chance. Messrs. Taylor and Moore operated the boat until the spring of 1862, when they sold it to Ozias Bailey, who ran it until 1867, when it met with an accident common to all Missouri river boats, and was so badly wrecked as to render it unfit for further service. Mr. Bailey had formed a partnership with C.W. Noyes, and in May, 1868, Messrs. Bailey and Noyes built a new boat, giving it the same name as its predecessor.
Another reorganization of the ferry must have taken place early in 1870, when the White Cloud Steam Ferry Company was granted a charter, M.L. Noble, C.W. Noyes, J.W. Moore, George L. Moore and D.M. Emerson being incorporators. The company was capitalized at $20,000, shares numbering twenty in all. The corporation was to exist for twenty years, with principal office at White Cloud. Steam was to be the motive power of the new ferry, which was to operate between the city of White Cloud and the opposite shore or bank of the Missouri river, in Holt county, Mo. This charter was filed with the secretary of state, February 3, 1870. Some time in May, 1871, John H. Lynds bought a one-fourth interest in the ferry and took charge of it. In 1874 a new company was organized. On January 30 that year C.W. Noyes, J.W. Moore, John H. Lynds, D.M. Emerson and Daniel Todd became incorporators of the White Cloud City Ferry Company. The new company was capitalized at $10,000, divided into ten shares. Steam was to be used, and the charter was to run for twenty years. This charter was filed with the secretary of state February 2, 1874. In the fall of 1878 Mr. Lynds sold a one-half interest -- he having previously bought from time to time the remaining interests -- to David Bailey. In 1881 Mr. Lynds bought back his one-half interest, thus making him sole owner. In all Mr. Lynds was connected with the White Cloud ferry for forty-one years, retiring from the business in 1912, when his boat, the Harry Lynds, struck a snag and went to the bottom. This ferry has had a long and interesting history and this sketch no doubt has failed to note all the changes in ownership up to the time the last boat operated from White Cloud. The following-named boats (perhaps others) saw active service during the life of this ferry. The White Cloud, Roy Lynds, Winona, Harry Lynds, White Cloud Belle, Jewell, Nancy Lee.
A flatboat ferry was operated at White Cloud for a number of years by a Tennesseean named Stonecyphers.
A letter from Firth Dodd, editor of the White Cloud Globe, of July 28, 1932, regarding ferries of White Cloud, says:
"The last ferryboat to be operated here is now piled up on the river bank, where it was pushed out of the water by an unusually heavy run of big ice when the river broke up in the spring, three or four years ago. It was the Nancy Lee, owned and operated by Joe Gormley, and brought here from Rulo, Neb. It is now a wreck, with the engine and everything taken off. Before that Gormley operated the Jewell, a boat rebuilt by George Nuzum and operated by him until his death. The first Jewell came down the river owned by a man named Lemon. He operated it here during the World War.
Since [I] receiv[ed] the above letter, White Cloud has secured a new ferry. The new enterprise was projected about the middle of October, 1932, by Henry L. Olson. The boat, called the Betty L, was built in Omaha last June. It is 24 feet wide, 65 feet long, and powered by a modern gasoline motor. It carries seven cars at a time. A new gravel road leads to the river, and the landing at White Cloud is at the stockyards landing. The landing on the opposite side of the river, which had to be constructed, is but one mile from the highway. The Globe-Tribune, of October 20, says this is the best ferry White Cloud ever had.
This is the last ferry location on the Missouri river before reaching the Nebraska-Kansas boundary line.
112. A map of Atchison county, published in the First Biennial Report of the State Board of Agriculture, 1877-'78, p. 100, shows the large bend of the Missouri. Before 1903 the river had cut through on the Kansas side, almost eliminating the bend and bringing the channel of the river through the southeastern part of the county. -- Ogle, Atlas of Atchison County, 1903.
117. The Burnes family was one of the prominent and wealthy families of Missouri. James Nelson Burnes, one of the incorporators of the Atchison ferry, was a native of Marion county, Indiana, where be was born August 22, 1827. He was a lawyer, capitalist and a Democrat. He was a "booster" in his community. He financed and built the Chicago & Northwestern railway from Eldon, Iowa, to Leavenworth and Atchison in 1870-'71, and during the same years he started construction of railroad bridges across the Missouri river at both places. In 1873 he removed to St. Joseph. He was elected to congress in 1882, and while serving his fourth term, while on the floor of the house, was stricken with paralysis, his death occurring January 25, 1889.
124. John Landis was a native of Kentucky, born in 1827. He moved to the Platte Purchase in Missouri in 1842, and in 1854 to Doniphan county. Later he removed to Norton county, where he was shot and mortally wounded by one of a band of regulars and died two days later. -- Lockard, History of Norton County, Kansas, pp. 37-41.
158. "The town of Boston was located in Andrew county, Missouri, in Lincoln township, and was first laid out in 1842 on the Missouri river by William Caples and his brother. The town was platted in 1849 under the name of Nodaway City. In 1851 the name of Nodaway City was officially changed to Boston, to correspond to the name of the post office which had been established some time previous under that name." -- History of Andrew and De Kalb Counties, Missouri, 1888, pp. 171-174.
161. Columbus City, Doniphan county, incorporated 1858, by Thomas McCulloch, Henry Wilson, Robert Hays and nine others. Named for Columbus McCulloch, son of Thos. McCulloch. This site was on secs. 20, 21, T. 2, R. 22, Burr Oak township twelve miles north of Troy, and once boasted a population of 300. -- Laws, Kansas, 1858, p. 325; Andreas, History of Kansas, p. 473; Holland, Directory of Kansas, 1866.
168. C.M. Williams came to Kansas in 1855 when he was nineteen, settling at Leavenworth. He worked for a time on a ferry on the Missouri, running from Weston, Mo. 169. R.M. Williams was a native of Ohio, born in 1829. He removed to Kansas in 1854, settling at White Cloud. He served several times in the legislature.
172. Wm. D. Beeler was one of the earliest settlers in Kansas. He was born in Ohio, but was reared in Indiana. He removed to Missouri when but a young man, locating at Greene City, near Springfield, where he married. He once held the office of sheriff of Holt county. Early in 1855 he went to Iowa Point, where in connection with C.M. and R.M. Williams he established a store under the firm name of W.D. Beeler & Co. In the fall of 1858 they closed their store at Iowa Point and removed to White Cloud. Mr. Beeler was a member of the Leavenworth constitutional convention in 1858, and in 1861 served one term as sheriff of Doniphan county. He then returned to his farm, and later was engaged in the sawmill business in White Cloud. He died March 14, 1870.
175. Ozias Bailey was born in Salem, N.H., in 1810. He came to Kansas in 1856 and settled at White Cloud in 1857, and was elected president of the White Cloud Trust Land Company. For several years he was engaged in the mercantile business. Mr. Bailey was one of the public-spirited citizens of the town. -- Weekly Kansas Chief, Troy, April 6, 1916.
178. John H. Lynds was born in 1844, in Illinois, and came to Kansas in 1857, locating at White Cloud. In 1862 he went to St. Louis and engaged in steamboating, chiefly on the lower river. He gradually worked his way up to a good position on the boat. On a voyage down the river, between St. Louis and Cairo, the steamer caught fire and burned to the water's edge, many lives being lost. He saved himself by clinging to a floating wheelbarrow, by which he reached shore. He is probably the only man on record who wheeled himself from the middle of the Mississippi river on a wheelbarrow. He soon after abandoned the river, and returned to White Cloud, where he engaged in the livery business. In 1871 he bought from Noyes & Moore a one-fourth interest in their White Cloud ferryboat, and their entire interest later. In 1887 he built a ferryboat at Jeffersonville, Ind., called the Roy Lynds, and after running it for two years sold it to parties at Lexington, Mo., and then built at White Cloud, the Harry Lynds, which is the ferryboat now running. -- Kansas Weekly Chief, Troy, November 28, 1893.