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Kansas Historical

JAMES C. MALIN, Associate Editor

Volume II


(Kansas Historical Collections)


Published by

The Kansas State Historical Society
Topeka, Kansas


Contents of Volume II

Number 1 February, 1933


FERRIES IN KANSAS : Part I Missouri River George A. Root, 3




THE ANNUAL MEETING: Containing the President's Address; Report of
the Executive Committee; Report of the Secretary and Treasurer; Elec-
tion of Officers Kirke Mechem, Secretary, 72

RECENT ADDITIONS TO THE LIBRARY Compiled by Helen M. McFarland, 90



Number 2 May, 1933


FERRIES IN KANSAS: Part I Missouri River Continued George A. Root, 115

THE FIRST BOOK ON KANSAS: The Story of Edward Everett Hale's
Kanzas and Nebraska Cora Dolbee, 139




Number 3 August, 1933



FERRIES IN KANSAS: Part II Kansas River George A. Root, 251


THE ROBINSON RIFLES Gen. Wm. H. Sears, 309




Number 4 November, 1933


THE SHAWNEE SUN : The First Periodical Publication in the United States
to be Printed Wholly in an Indian Language Douglas C. McMurtrie, 339

FERRIES IN KANSAS: Part II Kansas River Continued George A. Root, 343

THE JOHN BROWN PIKES Frank Hey wood H odder, 386







Kansas Historical

Volume II Number 1

February, 1933






GEORGE A. ROOT is curator of archives of the Kansas State Historical Society.

MARVIN H. GARFIELD is instructor of history in Roosevelt Intermediate
School, Wichita.

HENRY F. MASON, a former resident of Finney county, was a justice of the
supreme court of Kansas for twenty-five years. He died in 1927.

BLISS ISLEY is a well-known Kansas newspaper man of Wichita, Kan. His
present address is Phoenix, Ariz.

NOTE. Articles in the Quarterly appear in chronological order without regard
to their importance.


Ferries in Kansas

Part 1 Missouri River

OETTLEMENT of that portion of present Kansas bordering on
O the Missouri river at once established the need of communica-
tion with the outside world. Steamboats were not yet making regu-
lar trips up the "Big Muddy," so some other method of water trans-
portation must be made use of. Mackinaw boats 1 and bull boats 2
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 ac-
ceptably. 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 Mis-
souri, 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 Canton-

1. A flat-bottomed boat with a pointed prow and square stern, using oars or sails, or
both, used especially on the upper Great Lakes and their tributaries.

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.



ment 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 ex-
amples. 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." 3

Up to the meeting of the so-called "bogus legislature" (the legis-
lature 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

8. Albert R. Greene, "In Remembrance," Kansas Historical Collections, v. 11, p. 486.


Kansas. The arrangement is not chronological, but rather, geo-
graphical, beginning near the mouth of the Kansas river and pro-
ceeding 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

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 4 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 isued 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 fol-
lowing rates:

For a loaded wagon and team, $2.

Empty wagon and team, $1.

Dearborn and horses, or gig and horses, 62^ cents.

Man and horse, 37Ms cents.

Single person, 18% cents.

Horses, each, 18% cents.

Sheep, hogs- and cattle, each, 3 cents.

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 a French trapper and voyageur. Deatherage History
of Greater Kansas City, p. 188.


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%
cents; 2 bits, 25 cents; 4 bits, 50 cents, and 8 bits a dollar. 5

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 West-port 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, 6 who conducted it until 1843 when he sold
it to his son, John C. McCoy. 7 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. 8 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

5. Gatewood, History of Clay and Platte Counties, Missouri, p. 113; Deatherage, His-
tory of Greater Kansas City, pp. 187, 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

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.

8. History of Kansas City, Mo., pp. 295, 296; Goodspeed's History of Wyandotte
County, Kansas, p. 468.


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. 9

Another ferry was operated by one Aaron Overton in May, 1830,
at the mouth of Rose's branch. 10

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. 11

In November, 1831, Allen Overton had a ferry at Overton's cross-
ing. Shrewsbury Williams operated one in 1832, and Samuel Gragg
established one in 1833. 12

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. 13

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. 14

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. 15

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

9. Deatherage, History of Greater Kansas City, p. 188.

10. Ibid., p. 188.

11. Gatewood, History of Clay and Platte Counties, Missouri, p. 101.

12. Ibid., p. 119.

13. Ibid., pp. 118, 119.

14. U. S. Biographical Dictionary, Missouri, p. 313.

15. Gatewood, History of Clay and Platte Counties, Missouri, p. 572.


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. 16

Early in the 1840's 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 en-
joyed 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. 17 During the period between the
early 1840's and the latter 1850's 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 direc-
tions. One ran northwest to Quindaro and on to Parkville, Mo.;
one to Leavenworth; one to old Shawnee Mission, where it joined

16. Reminiscences of Washington Henry Chick, MS., in the Kansas State Historical

17. Gregg, Commerce of the Prairie, v. 2, p. 144.


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 Wyan-
dotte 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. 18

Joseph C. Ransom & Co. were authorized by the legislature of
1857 to maintain a ferry across the Missouri river between Wyan-
dotte and Kansas City, Mo., 19

William Walker, 20 Thomas H. Doyle, Cyrus Garrett 21 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. 22

The legislature of 1858 granted a charter to Silas Armstrong , 23
W. Y. Roberts, 24 S. W. Eldridge, 25 James McGrew 26 and James D.
Chestnut, 27 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

18. Andreas, History of Kansas, p. 1230.

19. Laws, Kansas, 1857, pp. 157, 185.

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.

21. Cyrus Garrett was a Wyandott, born about 1835.

22. Laws, Kansas, 1857, p. 157.

23. Silas Armstrong was born at Xenia, Ohio, in 1810. He was president of the Wyan-
dotte City town company and became wealthy. He died in 1865.

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

26. James McGrew was born in Pennsylvania in 1822. In 1859 he settled at Wyandotte,
and was engaged in various occupations. He died in Kansas City, Kansas, January 19, 1911.

27. James D. Chestnut was probably one of the directors of a South Carolina company
that came to Kansas early in 1856. Kansas Historical Collections, v. 15, p. 415.


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. 28 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. 29

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. 30

On May 23, 1867, the Kansas and Missouri Ferry Company, of
Wyandotte, was chartered. J. B. Scroggs, 31 Charles S. Glick, S. V.
Morse, D. M. Cable, J. A. Berry, 32 Isaiah Walker, Russell Garrett, 33
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. 34

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 ap-
pointed 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

28. Laws, Kansas, 1858, pp. 70, 71.

29. First Biennial Report, State Board of Agriculture, 1877-78, p. 455.

30. Laws, Kansas, private, 1860, p. 287.

31. John B. Scroggs was an Ohioan, born in 1838. He removed to Wyandotte in 1866,
and later served as county attorney and as mayor of the city. His death occurred June 28,

32. J. A. Berry was a resident of Wyandotte county during the latter fifties, and for a
year and a half published the Wyandotte Democrat.

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