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Ferries in Kansas, Part III, Blue River

by George A. Root

May 1934 (Vol. 3, No. 2), pages 115 to 144

Kansas Historical Quarterly, February 1934 THE Big Blue river, the Kaw's largest tributary, rises in Hamilton county, Nebraska, close to the Platte river. Probably one of the earliest mentions of the stream is to be found in the account of the expedition of Stephen H. Long. Prof. Thomas Say, a member of that expedition, in 1819, paid a visit to a village of Kaw Indians located near the junction of the Big Blue and the Kaw, at which time he referred to the character of the country between the "Blue Earth" and the Vermillion rivers. Rev. Isaac McCoy who, with his sons, Dr. Rice McCoy and John C. McCoy, surveyed Indian reservations embracing territory watered by the Blue, calls the stream "Moh-e-ca-to" or Blue Earth creek. Another early mention is found in Fremont's surveys. The river in modern times has become better known as the Big Blue, to distinguish it from its principal tributary, the Little Blue, which also rises in Nebraska and joins the larger stream in Marshall county, Kansas, about one mile west of Blue Rapids. The Big Blue flows through seven counties of Nebraska--Hamilton, York, Polk, Butler, Seward, Saline and Gage--entering Kansas in Marshall county, about due north of Oketo. From here its course is slightly west of south through that county, then forming the boundary line between Riley and Pottawatomie counties, uniting with the Kansas river at the eastern limits of the city of Manhattan. The Big Blue is approximately 285 miles long, about 100 of which are in Kansas. 1

The first ferry location on the Big Blue above its mouth was at Manhattan. The name of the person receiving the first license at this point has not been learned, as early records of Riley county commissioners have not been available in the preparation of this article. The earliest ferry notice located in the newspapers appeared in the Manhattan Express, February 2, 1861, in a published table of receipts and expenditures of Riley county for the previous year. One item in this list recited that M. J. Gore had paid Riley county $50 for a ferry license. During 1861 Mr. Gore must have



had some sort of an agreement with the merchants of the town, for he was carrying the following advertisement in the home paper early in the fall:


Free Ferry Across the Big Blue River at Manhattan. M. J. GORE, Proprietor. 2

During the special session of the legislature of 1860, two measures were introduced in the House of Representatives for the establishment of ferries across the Big Blue--bills numbered 250 and 310. Rep. George G. Pierce, who sponsored No. 250, also presented a petition signed by Samuel Loomis and others, asking for a ferry. This petition was referred to the Committee on Roads and Highways, but on motion of Mr. Pierce it was withdrawn from that committee and referred to the Committee on Incorporations and Banking. Bill No. 250 was passed by the House and sent to the Council where it was accorded a first and second reading and referred to the Committee on Incorporations. It was evidently smothered there. 3 Bill No. 310 was passed by both houses, but for some unexplained reason failed to become a law. 4

No further mention of the Manhattan Blue River Ferry has been located other than a short item from the Manhattan Standard of April 23, 1870, which stated that the ferry was located at the foot of Poyntz avenue, and the following from a paper in a neighboring county on the opposite side of the Kansas river:

The ferry at Manhattan is in charge of a perfect gentleman, assisted by another man, a perfect numbskull, but neither gentlemanly cleverness nor numskulling could run the boat over without all hands pulling hard, which we did till our hands were blistered, and the sweat ran down like rain, but received the consoling assurance that it would not always be so as the contract for the stone work to a bridge had just been awarded to Messrs. Allison for less than nine thousand dollars, that being the lowest bid by three thousand six hundred dollars than the highest. The iron work was let to Mills of Topeka. I was told that the whole cost of the bridge would be less than thirty thousand. . . . 5

Manhattan was located on the old military road from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Riley. Up to 1855 the bulk of the supplies for Fort Riley were hauled over this road, crossing the Blue at a point about four or five miles above the mouth of that stream and about a


mile below what was known then as Rocky Ford. A bridge had been built at this place by the government in 1854, which was carried away by a flood in 1855. From that time on travel crossing the stream depended on ferries. By 1860, however, plans were maturning for a bridge at Manhattan to care for this traffic. Bills were introduced in the House of Representatives during the special session of the legislature that year, granting franchises for bridge companies, but they failed of passage. 6 However, work started on a toll bridge some time during the year, which was completed in the spring of the year following. The Manhattan Express, of April 20, 1861, stated that the bridge was nearing completion. This structure was opened to travel on May 20, and on May 25 the Express printed the following:

Travelers, the new bridge is in the crossing order; the citizens prefer to cross the bridge--the reason why: 1st. It is safe, easier and more expeditious mode of traveling than the antiquated way of ferrying. 2d. It cuts off one mile of travel from Manhattan to the junction of the bridge and ferry roads. 3d. The toll is only one-half the ferry rates. 6.

In 1864 high water and ice in the Blue must have damaged the bridge, which was, evidently, a pontoon affair, thereby somewhat disrupting mail service. A local paper early that year said: "The ice is out of the river and the bridge back in its place, and the mud has in a measure dried up, so we hope for no more delay of the mails." 7

About three weeks later the same authority had this mention: "The cold snap which commenced a week ago to-day, formed so much floating ice in the Blue river, that it became necessary to swing out the floating part of the bridge. Spring has come again and the bridge will be returned to its old position to-day." 8

By 1867 plans were formed for a new bridge. On January 21, 1867, the Manhattan and Blue River Bridge Company was organized for the purpose of building a bridge over the Blue river to be located between the mouth of the river and a point one and one-half miles upstream in T. 10, R. 8, and at or near the foot of Poyntz avenue, or between the foot of Blue Mont Hill, or a point between the aforesaid named places. The company was capitalized at $40,000, with shares $100 each, and proposed to erect a first-class Howe truss bridge near the present highway north of the Union Pacific railroad. The company was composed of representative Manhattan business


and professional men, which included Isaac T. Goodnow, Josiah M. Pillsbury, S. D. Houston, S. G. Hoyt, John W. Pipher, John Pipher, and Joseph Carney. Their charter was filed with the secretary of state, March 6, 1867. 9

On the organization of the new bridge company, a local paper commented:

Another bridge is to be built over the Blue river at this place. Under the general corporation act of the state, a company has been formed for the purpose, and soon and joyfully we can take a final leave of ferries and boat bridges. They were valuable in their day, and served a useful purpose, but we have outgrown them and are prepared for better and bigger things. 10

High water in the Blue again disrupted mail service in 1867, and the newspaper summed up the situation thusly:

We have received no eastern mail since Wednesday; the floods have so fiercely asserted their power. The railroad bridge over the Blue at this place stands against the marvelous power of the onrushing flood. The bridges to the west of us have not been so fortunate and their being swept away makes Manhattan the present terminus of the Union Pacific. 11

By early March the pontoon bridge was running again, 12 and it served the community for the next few years.

In 1870 a demand for a free bridge was being agitated. The old bridge company at this time was building a new toll bridge, and apparently did not look with favor upon the free bridge proposition. They applied to the court for an order restraining the township from building a bridge at this place. The court, however, refused to issue such an order. A pontoon bridge, spoken of as the Leffer pontoon bridge, had been placed across the river to care for traffic while the new one was being built. Construction work went ahead during the summer and early fall, but when the fall rains commenced work was seriously impeded by high water which carried away the railway of the contractors doing the work, delaying completion several weeks. On the completion of the new bridge the Leffer pontoon was moved up the river and located where the old Barnes ferry operated. One of the local papers was of the opinion the pontoon bridge would be a benefit to the people of that section even though it was a toll bridge, for a toll bridge was better than a toll ferry. 13 The toll bridge was completed early in the spring of 1871.


Following the flood of 1903 in the Blue and Kaw rivers, persons owning small boats did a land-office business transporting individuals across the raging waters of both the Blue and Kaw. Ferry boats were in demand at this time and there were none, so Manhattan city and Riley county shared the expense of building one for use on the Kaw, as every bridge in this vicinity over that stream had been carried away. The bridge over the Blue survived the flood, but it was left in an unsafe condition, needing repairs before it could be used. 14

The following ferry item is taken from Riley county, " Commissioners' Journal," v. 2, p. 99. As no location is given and no further history located, the entry is given herewith: "On October 8, 1878, John Cook applied for a ferry license for the Big Blue river. He was required to give a satisfactory bond, when he was to receive a license without cost. His toll rates were to be as heretofore established.”

Pittsburg, slightly above Manhattan and almost opposite, had the next ferry. This town was laid out in 1857 and was eight miles west of Eldon. When Jones and Russell established their Leavenworth and Pike's Peak Express line, which ran to Denver, Pittsburg became a station on that line. Albert D. Richardson, correspondent of the New York Tribune mentions passing through the village while on his way to the mountains. 15 In 1859 John Flagg received a license from Riley county commissioners to operate a ferry at this point, the settlement in March, that year, having but three houses.

The following is the only other reference we have found of the Pittsburg ferry, and is taken from the printed diary of Christian L. Long, of Selinsgrove, Pa., formerly of Newport, Pa., written in 1859, on his trip to Pike's Peak:

Tuesday Mom, April 26th. Left Eldon 6 1/2 o'clock 8 miles to Pittsburg till 11 1/2 o'clock where we had a stream to ferry which is called the big blue could not cross on account of storm storm ceased at 4 o'clock crossed Encamped on the west bank of the same on the outskirts of a town called Manhattan.

Pittsburg was last shown on maps of about 1860, and has long since been numbered among the dead and forgotten towns.

The next ferry project above Pittsburg was an enterprise known as the Kansas Bridge and Ferry Company, organized March 9, 1866, with a capital stock of $50,000, divided into shares of $50 each. The incorporators were Isaac D. Clapp, John J. Boyd, John Landon, John G. Otis and William P. Douthitt, and the principal office was


at Topeka. This company was formed for the purpose of constructing, operating and maintaining bridges and ferries across the Big Blue river where the township line between 9 and 10 crossed the river in Range 8, and within four miles above said point and below to the point where the Blue forms a junction with the Kansas river. This charter was filed with the secretary of state, March 9, 1866. 16 This location is approximately seven miles above the mouth of the Blue, following the meanderings of the river. If the above company built a bridge or operated a ferry, no record has been located by the writer. Otis and Douthitt were prominent early residents of Shawnee county, the former a paymaster in the United States military service in 1863, and later a member of congress from the fourth district. The latter was a prominent attorney of Topeka for many years.

The next ferry upstream was located at the point where the road from Manhattan to Cedar creek crossed the Blue. Cedar creek is on the east side of the Blue and joins it in S. 30, T. 9, R. 8, about one and one-half miles above the location of the Kansas Bridge and Ferry Company, and approximately one mile almost due east of the Juniata crossing. After having operated a ferry in the immediate vicinity of Rocky Ford for several years, J. H. Barnes secured a license for the Cedar creek location and established his ferry at that point. The county commissioners on granting his license prescribed the following rates of ferriage: "For four-horse team, 25 cents; two-horse team, 20 cents; one-horse team, 15 cents; horseman, 10 cents; cattle, per head, 5 cents; footman, 5 cents." 17

Dyer's ferry, close to three miles above the Kansas Bridge and Ferry Company location, and about four miles from Manhattan by the old military road, was the next ferry location up the river, established in 1853 by Samuel D. Dyer, a six-foot Tennesseean, for the use of the government. Dyer had previously been employed by the government at Fort Scott. He was an old man at this time, was the first settler in Riley county, and built the first house, which has been described as "one story high and three stories long." Dyer was pro-slavery in sentiment, of the Methodist church, South, and said to be upright, honest and of a kindly disposition. 18 He had two sons, Abraham and James, who helped with the boat. This ferry was located on the east side of the Blue, on S. 30, T. 9, R. 7. A little


settlement sprang up at this place, known as Juniata, and sometimes called "Dyer's town," the town consisting of a store or two and a few cabins, in all about nine houses. Dyer operated this ferry for a year or two, when the government built a bridge across the river here, the first to span the Blue. The ferry was then discontinued, travel going over the bridge. Early in 1855 a flood carried away the structure. 19 The quartermaster at Fort Riley built a new boat and again asked Dyer to operate it. This Dyer did, beginning operations without first having secured a license from Riley county as required by law. He was penalized $200 by the county for this neglect. This case was pending in the June, 1856, term of probate court of Riley county, when friends of Dyer started circulating the following petitions in his favor, which were eventually sent to the governor:

To His Excellency the Governor of Kansas Territory:

We, the undersigned citizens of Riley county, would respectfully represent that there is now a judgment now in the courts of said county which was rendered at the last June [1856] term of the probate court by confession on the part of S. D. Dyer against S. D. Dyer for keeping a ferry without a license, and said judgment is for two hundred dollars. Now, we, the undersigned citizens of said county, do not think that it was the intention [of] said Dyer to violate any law or statute of this territory. And as he is an old and poor man with a large family we would respectfully prey your Excellency to remit said fine and judgment, or at least the largest portion of it, as it would be extremely hard for him to pay the sum of two hundred dollars for so trivial an offense when it was as he says unintentional [on] his part by remitting the said fine you would do a favour to an old and good man and reflect the wish of the people of Riley county.

Respectfully submitted this August the 16th, 1856.
Henry Whiteside C. R. MOBLY, one of the county commrs.
A. A. GARRETT, a justice of peace.
C. N. WlLSON.20

To His Excellency the Governor of Kansas Territory:

We the undersigned citizens of Riley county and Territory of Kansas, would respectfully represent to your excellency that a judgment for two hundred dollars is now pending against Samuel D. Dyer in favor of the people of Kansas, obtained from the probate court of Riley county at the June term 1856 of said court, as a penalty for keeping a ferry on Blue river in said county of Riley for a short time without a license from the commissioners of said county.


Your petitioners would represent that the facts under which said ferry was kept are as follows:  After the bridge across Blue river was destroyed the government built a ferry boat and the quartermaster at Fort Riley proposed to said Dyer that if he would attend to said boat and transport all government teams free of charge, he should have the privilege of taking pay from citizens. Your petitioners would further represent that while he kept said boat it was not his intention to violate any laws of the Territory, but honestly believed that the quartermaster had the power and authority to establish and protect said ferry, that he acted in good faith and without any other motive, as soon as he was convinced it was a violation of the laws said boat as a ferry was discontinued by your petitioners and a license obtained from the county and in view of these facts your petitioners would ask your excellency to remit the fine against him.

S. D. Houston A. B. Lee J. S. Williams
Tunis I. Roosa J. M. McCormick S. B. Williams
Ira Taylor C. P. McDonal Zebulon Avey
J. R. McClure Grange Miller Henry Whiteside
John Pipher Samuel Fowler H. B. Nealy
W. Chiltoon Phillip Weiner H. B. Naly
Chas. Barnes M. A. Garrett C. N. Wilson
John W. Pipher Jos. Legore David Hayse
Thomas Reynolds George Tilton William Hanna
G. W. Lee R. S. Hays Samuel Hayse
E. M. Newell G. W. Eubank William C. Dyer
A. Williams 21

It would be interesting to know the outcome of this matter, but no records of the governor's office turned over to the Archives division of the Historical Society have any further mention of the matter.

Samuel D. Dyer and family are listed in the 1855 census, pages 7 and 8, as residents of the tenth district. His occupation is given as farmer, age 50, born in Missouri. His wife's name was Pamelia, age 40, born in Missouri. Eight children were listed, as follows, all born in Missouri: William C., [over] 21; Abraham 0., [over] 21; Lydia, [over] 21; Enoch P., James D., Martha Ann, Sarah, and Mary, minors. The census of 1857 lists two more of the Dyer family who were voters: John N. Dyer and E. P. Dyer. These records are in the Archives division, Kansas State Historical Society.

Dyer must have operated his ferry till about 1858, when a new bridge was completed across the Blue. The first election in what is now Riley county, on March 30, 1855, was held at his house. He was commissioned justice of the peace, October 15, 1856, for Dyer township, which was named for him. His death occurred sometime during the year 1875.

In 1867 necessity must have arisen for another ferry across the


Blue, for the Manhattan Independent of July 27, contained the following: "A new ferry is about to be established on the Blue, just below Rocky Ford. It will be a great convenience to travelers who frequent the Blue river valley. Judge Chaffee gives $100 towards its establishment, and Mr. Collins, an old friend of ours from Exeter, N. H., is building the boat."

Reminiscent of the old ferry is the following from the Rooks County Record,Stockton, of August 18, 1932, which gives the experiences of Dr. J. Seleen, pioneer pastor in the Swedish community of Mariadahl:

The Big Blue was a menace in those days. ... In normal weather one could cross the river in places on horseback, but when high water came it was impassable. The first year I paddled across in a hollowed out tree trunk, which was a great risk at times. Later, some of the more progressive farmers got together and made a good row boat which held seven or eight persons. Then, after a year or two, came the ferry.

The site of Dyer's town or Juniata, later came into the possession of Gen. J. S. Casement, whose son, Dan Casement, owns it to-day, being known as the Juniata stock farm.

Dyer's ferry equipment appears to have been moved about a mile upstream, close to the Rocky Ford crossing, 22 after it passed out of his control. No clue to ownership has been located between that time and 1871, when J. H. Barnes was operating a ferry about a mile above the old Juniata crossing and a short distance below Rocky Ford.

Rocky Ford, something over a mile above the Juniata crossing, was the most important crossing of the Blue in Riley county, and within a mile or so above and below this point the bulk of travel reaching Manhattan and settlements beyond passed over the river< between these limits. A dam was built across the river just below this ford to furnish waterpower for a mill. The "pond" produced by this backwater early became one of the favorite swimming holes for the young urchins of the very early 1870s. Their apparent disdain of swimming suits together with a reckless display of nudism virtually prohibited city ladies from riding out and crossing the river in the cool of the evening, which prompted a local paper to call on the city authorities to put a stop to the practice. 23

A bridge with a 241 foot span was built at Rocky Ford in 1890. 24

Barnes' ferry must have played quite an important role in the


business activities of Manhattan, for the Independent, of January 13, 1871, contained the following:

BARNES' FERRY.--The citizens of Manhattan township by a very decided majority voted to pay seventy or eighty thousand dollars to build bridges across the Blue and Kansas rivers. It was supposed to be a good investment for Manhattan, on the ground that it would lead great numbers to do their trading here who now go elsewhere. It is to be hoped that it was but the commencement of a systematic effort to improve the avenues leading to town. There is not a road leading from town but needs improvement. There are places in them all which, at certain seasons, are almost impassable for want of ditching or bridging. A little money spent in improving these roads would bring in a great deal of trade that we now lose, and would lead to a more rapid settlement and development of the country. But we commenced to write about a ferry--not roads.

Barnes' ferry, just below the Rocky Ford, affords the only convenient means that large numbers of people have of getting to town during high water. As many as five hundred teams have crossed in one month-- besides those who crossed on yearly tickets. And yet there is no legal road leading from the ferry to town. The owners of the land can at any time fence up the tracts on which the road now runs. Moreover, there are two bad places in the road during wet weather, and no one feels encouraged to improve them because of the fact that the road may any day be forced elsewhere, or entirely closed. Mr. Barnes asks that a road be laid from the point where Mr. Phillips' line intersects the Blue river road, along said line to his ferry, and we have reasons

to believe that if a road is once permanently located there, it will be properly drained and kept in order. He asks no money from us--only a right of way. Shall he not have it?

February and March, following hard winters, were anxious months for those operating ferries. A sudden warm spell, followed by a good rain, was almost sure to cause the ice to break, often forming dams, causing the river to rise rapidly, overflow bottom lands, and in many instances carrying away ferry boats as the ice went out. This condition obtained early in 1871, and is described in the following:

The rain of Thursday night, last week, raised the Big Blue considerably. Again ice from the upper waters of the stream formed at the horseshoe bend about seven miles north of the city, and the result was a general inundation of the riparian region thereabout, resulting in no serious damage, however, as far as we have learned. Monday night the ice gave way and swept in a flood down stream. The boat at Paul's ferry was torn loose from its moorings and carried down the river several hundred yards, where it fortunately lodged against a couple of trees in such a way as to be easily returned to its place, and that, too, uninjured. What became of the boat at Barnes' ferry we did not learn. The ice passed the piers of the new bridge here without doing any injury to them. 25


On March 16, 1871, the Barnes family and others formed a company for the purpose of operating a ferry at this location above Rocky Ford. The incorporators were J. H. Barnes, S. B. Barnes, Charles Barnes, S. V. Lee and N. D. Norton. Capital stock of the company was placed at $3,000, with shares $50 each. This location was in S. 30, T. 9, R. 8E., and Manhattan was the principal place of business. Their charter was filed with the secretary of state, March 17, 1871. 26

J. H. Barnes apparently was out of the ferry business by 1874, at which time he was operating a lime kiln. This year there appeared to be need of another ferry north of the Juniata crossing, and The Nationalistof July 17 suggested that Mr. Barnes was the man to put it in operation as he had been in the ferry business before.

C. Gearhart probably succeeded to the ferry business at this point. The Nationalist,Manhattan, early this summer, printed the following regarding the matter:

We understand that what is known as Barnes' ferry has been removed to a point above the dam at Rocky Ford, Mr. Gearhart still continuing to run it, however. We presume that this will result in the putting in of a ferry at the old Juniata crossing, east of the mouth of Cedar creek. To persons residing on the east side of the Blue above Cedar, a ferry at that point would shorten the round trip to Manhattan some three or four miles, which is certainly worth saving. We have heard it intimated that Mr. Downing may move his ferry to that point.

County commissioners' proceedings of July 21, 1874, recite that C. Gearhart petitioned to run a ferry on the Blue at a location about twenty rods above Rocky Ford. He filed the necessary bond and his petition was granted. 27

The following is the last mention we have located of Gearhart's ferry:

GEARHART'S FERRY.--This ferry has been removed from the millpond back to its old place, (near Mr. Barnes') and is now in running order. Mr. Gearhart, who is a very worthy and industrious man, will be very happy to accommodate the traveling public who wish to cross the Blue in that neighborhood. We understand that there are now two outlets to the ferry --one by way of Childs' and one by Dodge's. 28

John Johnson was the next person to operate the ferry near the Rocky Ford dam. He filed a bond for the faithful performance of ferry duties, was granted a license on August 7, 1876, and was allowed to charge the same rates of ferriage as were granted to C.


Gearhart. Two years later he applied for another license, filed the requisite bond, and was granted a license without cost. Ferry rates were to remain as already established. 29

No record of ferry licenses for this location between 1877 and 1880 have been located. On November 12, 1881, John Chalmers was granted a license for the location known as the Rocky Ford dam. 30 No further mention of Chalmers' ferry has been located. It probably was discontinued at the expiration of its license in November, 1882.

Jefferson Brown, on October 6, 1884, presented a petition for a license to operate a ferry at or near the General Casement farm, known as the Rocky Ford ferry, which was granted, his ferriage rates to be the same as at the Joseph Hays ferry. 31

Riley county records of 1888 contain the last mentions of the Barnes ferry. On January 5, that year, Sam Gardner was granted a ferry license and allowed to charge the following rates: "Crossing a two-horse team, one way, 20 cents; four-horse team, one way, 25 cents; horse and buggy, 35 cents; man and horse, 15 cents; footman, 5 cents; loose cattle or horses, per head, 5 cents." 32

On October 11, 1888, William Harrison received a license to run the Barnes ferry, his rates to be as follows: "Four-horse team, 25 cents; two-horse team, 20 cents; one horse and buggy, 15 cents; footmen, each, 5 cents; loose cattle, per head, 5 cents; loose hogs, per head, 3 cents." 33

Paul's ferry, operated by J. W. Paul, was probably the next ferry upstream. It was located at about the SE 1/4 S. 24, T. 9, R. 7, which was approximately one mile almost due north of Rocky Ford. This crossing was being operated as early as 1871--perhaps earlier--although no record of a license for it has been located. The earliest mention of this enterprise was in 1871. When ice in the Big Blue broke up in February, that year, the boat was carried downstream for some distance, finally lodging against some trees, where it was later retrieved and returned to its place undamaged. 34

Early in March, 1872, an individual arrived at this ferry while the ferryman was at dinner. Being impatient to cross at once he hopped into the skiff to work his own way across. When in midstream the boat went off and left him hanging onto the cable. His


calls for help attracted the ferryman who arrived and wanted to know what had become of the boat. The unfortunate victim pointed down stream, whereupon the ferryman exacted a promise to pay $6 for the old cottonwood boat before he would take him out of the water. The promise was given and faithfully carried out. 35 This ferry is shown on the map of Riley county, in Everts' Atlas of Kansas,pp. 84, 85. Mr. Paul is listed in the census of Riley county for 1875 as a resident of Grant township, a farmer, age 37, born in Missouri; wife, Nancy J., age 33, born in Missouri; six children--Charles, 13, born in Missouri; Mary E., 11; John W., 9; Hester J., 5; Martha, 2; and Julia 3 / 12, the last five being natives of Kansas.

Downing's ferry, run by J. M. Downing, apparently was the next one functioning at this point, being operated early in 1872. The first mention of this ferry we have located is the following:

We learn that Mrs. Legore and her three sons, in returning from Manhattan to her home on Mclntire creek, Pottawatomie county, on Monday night, lost three horses, under the following circumstances: They reached Downing's ferry, on the Blue, at about 10 o'clock, and went down the hill pretty fast, the ferryman says. It is said the boat has no apron, and when the wheels struck its front beam, which was high from the ground, it was pushed out into the river by the concussion. The wagon on not rising into the boat dragged the horses back into the river, and they with the running gear, were carried under the ice by the current. The wagon box floating enabled the occupants to save their lives by jumping upon the ice. 36

A subsequent issue of the above paper stated that but two horses were lost, and that there was but one of Mrs. Legore's sons and a young man along at the time of the accident.

In July, 1873, Mr. Downing presented his petition for a license to run a ferry on the Big Blue on the line between the farms of Joseph Hays and Charles Sturgeon. 37 His petition was granted and rates of toll fixed as follows: "Two horses and wagon, 25 cents; each additional horse, 10 cents; one-horse buggy, 10 cents; single horse, 15 cents; loose cattle, 10 cents; foot passengers, 10 cents." 38

In 1873 an effort was made to get a bridge across Mclntire creek,< in the immediate vicinity of Downing's ferry. The following communication gives an idea of what one of the taxpayers thought of the proposition:



To the Voters of Blue Township:

An attempt is to be made, on Monday, Sep. 8, to vote bonds to build a bridge over the lower crossing of Mclntire's creek for the benefit of Downing's ferry. Movements are on foot to establish a ferry a few miles above, and another at the Rocky Ford mill, at points where depots on the M. & N. railroad will be located--and when they are established Downing's ferry will have to be abandoned, thus rendering the bridge utterly useless.

If it was proposed to build the Mclntire bridge where the main road up the Blue crosses the creek I would not object, for one would always be needed there, but it does seem foolish--or worse—-to build one where it is certain to be speedily abandoned. The proposed bridge across Cedar is also needed, but the desire to secure it ought not to lead the voters to absolutely throw away a large sum.

Let us then vote down this proposition and build bridges only where they are needed. And also insist that hereafter such bridge proposition stand on its own merits. ELBOW. 39

Another item about this time stated that Downing's ferry would probably be moved to the old location of the Juniata ferry crossing.

In 1875 a license was granted to A. Johnson to run a ferry at this point, the permit also fixing rates of ferriage. For some reason, not recorded in commissioners' minutes, this license was canceled, and on the petition of Joseph Hays (or Hayes) the license was issued to him. This location is recorded as on lot 5, S. 24, T. 9, R. 7E. Rates of toll were to be the same as prescribed for Mr. Johnson. 40

Mr. Hays, apparently, was running the ferry as late as 1885, although no record of licenses issued to him for the years 1883 and 1884 have been located. His license was dated April 13, 1885. 41

M. E. Bush was the next operator in charge of this ferry, his license being dated October 5, 1885. Ferriage rates allowed by the commissioners were: Four-horse team, 25 cents; two-horse team, 20 cents; one-horse team, 15 cents; footman, 5 cents; cattle, per head, 5 cents. 42

Apparently the ferry was not running during the year 1886, at least no record was found of any license issued. The next year W. W. Graves obtained a permit, his license being dated April 11, 1887, and authorizing him to collect toll rates as heretofore established. 43

G. W. Sigman was next operator at this location, his license being dated April 9, 1888, with same privileges as were accorded the pre-


vious year. Mr. Sigman had scarcely operated his ferry for three months when complaints were filed against him. On July 5, following, a petition was presented to the county board, asking that Sigman's license be revoked. The board listened to the sworn testimony of George Washington, D. A. White, G. W. Hill, Jacob Springer, Rude Springer, Frank White and a Mr. Ninch, all of which was against Mr. Sigman. The board laid the matter over to Saturday, July 7, 1888, the action at that time being set forth as follows:

The matter of revoking the ferry license of G. W. Sigman came up for hearing. The board had listened to the testimony on the day before of the parties who wanted the license revoked, and after hearing the sworn testimony of G. W. Sigman, the board decided to revoke the license of the said G. W. Sigman. And the board made an order revoking said license from and after the expiration of Saturday, July 7th, 1888. 44

M. F. Osburn received the next license for this location, which was dated October 1, 1888. 45

Two more changes in operators are of record for 1889, the first license being issued to L. C. Wiley on January 11, and the last to Theodore DeNoyer, on October 16, who filed a $500 bond for the faithful performance of his duties, and was allowed to charge rates as heretofore fixed for this crossing. 46

Unadilla, Pottawatomie county, was incorporated in 1858 by Arnold B. Watson, Lorenzo Westover, M. C. Keith, Ambrose Todd and S. Newells, and was mentioned in early Gazetteers as late as 1866-'67. In 1859 the legislature granted to Zach Curtis the right to establish a ferry across the Big Blue at this place, having a five-year privilege, with the right and power to land on either side of the river. He was required to furnish a bond for $2,000, with good and sufficient security, and collect ferriage rates as allowed by the county board. This act was to take effect and be in force from and after its passage. It received the approval of Gov. S. Medary on February 2, 1859.--Private Laws, Kansas, 1859, pp. 100, 101.

Stockdale had the next ferry upstream. J. H. Callahan established a ferry near there in 1887, receiving his license from the county on April 11. While his license failed to state the location of the ferry, Everts' Atlas of Kansas, page 84, indicates the ferry was located on the SE 1/4 S. 33, T. 8, R. 7E, this being between five and six miles northwest of Rocky Ford by wagon road, and approxi-


mately two or three miles farther following the river. Callahan's ferry was authorized to collect tolls as follows: Four-horse team, 25 cents; two-horse team, 20 cents; one-horse team, 15 cents; one man and horse, 5 cents; loose cattle, per head, 5 cents; footman, 5 cents. 47

Riley county records show that Callahan took out licenses for the years 1888, 1890, and the last in 1896. 48

A ferry was operated for a time at the town of Garrison, Pottawatomie county. This crossing was about eight miles by river above Stockdale, and a little shorter by road. The village dates back to territorial days, Dr. J. P. Root introducing a bill in the council during the session of the legislature of 1858 for its incorporation. No mention of ferry licenses for this location has been found, but a ferry is indicated on a plat of the county, located on the NW 1/4 S. 7, T. 8, R. 8E., the west landing being on land owned in 1881 by R. G. Allen. 49

Apparently other ferries operated at or near Garrison at different times. Under the head of "Garrison Locals" the Randolph Echo of May 2, 1883, printed the following: "The ferry boat recently purchased by Mr. Webber is now in good running order."

Randolph, about five and one-half miles by road and a mile farther by river, had the next ferry. This ferry was different from any other on the river, inasmuch as it was a community affair instead of a private one. The charter, as filed with the secretary of state, was as follows:


We, the citizens of the town of Randolph in Riley county, Kansas, assembled on this 3d day of June, 1878, do organize ourselves into a ferry corporation to be known as the Randolph Ferry Company, for the purpose of legally holding any real estate or other property that may come into its possession for the use of said company.

The place in which all of its business shall be transacted shall be in the town of Randolph, Riley county, and state of Kansas.

The term for which said corporation is to exist shall be for (20) years.

The number of trustees of said corporation shall be five, to be elected annually by ballot, on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in April each year.

At a meeting of said company held in the said town of Randolph on the third day of June, 1878, the following-named trustees were duly elected: Milton Foreman, John Chelander, John W. Nelson, Axel Axelson and Wm. Pierson. The residence of said trustees is in Randolph, Riley county, Kansas.


The capital stock of said company shall be five hundred dollars, to be divided into one hundred shares of five dollars each.

The aforesaid company was organized for the purpose of operating a ferry across the Big Blue river, at or as near as possible or practical to the said town of Randolph.

Signatures of five members of said company. A. WIKANDER,
State of Kansas, ) ss.
Riley county, )

Be it remembered that on this 8th day of January, 1879, before me a notary public, in and for said county and state aforesaid, came A. Wikander, John W. Nelson, Miles Reed, John F. Beckman and C. A. Chapman, to me personally known to be the same persons whose names are affixed to the fore-going instrument of writing, and duly they acknowledged the same.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my notary seal on the day and year last above written.

[Seal] Wm. Condray, Notary Public.

Filed with the secretary of state, January 24, 1879. 50

While the foregoing charter mentions no specific location for the ferry, it is more than likely it was located on the SW 1/4 S. 12, T. 7, R. 7E., as the Historical Plat Book of Riley County, page 73, shows a ferry for Randolph located at that point. Whether the community ferry was a going concern or not we have not discovered. However, on November 12, 1881, the ferry seemed to have passed into other hands, for Elijah Holden was granted a license for a ferry near the town where the public road leading from Randolph to Olsburg crosses the river. 51 The next license, dated April 8, 1884, went to Elijah Holden and Joseph Hays. 52 In 1885 and 1886 it went to Mr. Holden, the ferry being located between sections 12 and 13, T. 7, R. 6, ferriage rates for 1886 being as follows: Footmen, 5 cents each; man and horse, 10 cents; two-horse team, 20 cents; loose cattle, per head, 5 cents. 53

Holden's connection with this ferry apparently ended in 1887. 54

On July 8, 1887, Peter Jacobson was granted a license for a ferry at this location, being allowed to charge the same rates as accorded to Holden. 55 In 1888 the license was issued to N. S. Bergman. 56 It is probable this ferry was discontinued after 1888, as no further


mention of Randolph ferry matters is recorded in the commissioners' proceedings until July 6, 1903, the year of the big flood, when an entry in the record recites:

The board agreed to make a donation of $200 for the erection of a ferry-boat to be located over the Big Blue at Randolph, and further agreed to pay the sum of $15 per month for the running of the same after February 1, 1904, until such time as the bridge can be constructed and ready for travel. 57

A move for a bridge at Randolph was started during the summer of 1889. Bonds had been voted, materials ordered for the structure, and work commenced that fall. A neighboring community paper, which evidently had not kept posted on the situation, printed the following:

Report reaches us that the bridge company to whom the Randolph bridge contract was awarded will not accept the Jackson township bonds for security. The reason for this we do not know and it may be a rumor. However, their time is rapidly passing and no move is being made to build the bridge.--Olsburg News-Letter, September, 1889.

This item called forth the following reply from the Randolph Enterprise,of October 4, 1889: "This is somewhat of a surprise to the people of Randolph and vicinity, as one carload of material is here and work has been commenced. It will be quite a difficult task to make us believe that we are not going to have a bridge."

Construction was pushed that winter, the Randolph Enterprise of January 23, 1890, reporting that work was going ahead nicely--the ice on the river facilitating the work. This bridge was completed and thrown open for travel about the first of May, 1890, served the community for a number of years, until it was so damaged by floods and the passing years that it had to be replaced. 58

Mariadahl, between three and four miles by land and about twice that distance by river above Randolph, had the next ferry.- This was being operated early in the spring of 1883, perhaps earlier. The first mention we have located is the following item from the Randolph Echo, of March 7, 1883:

One of our esteemed fellow citizens and an ex-captain of the Garrison ferry boat had a slight unpleasantness last week. The difficulty growing out of a settlement of accounts. It seemed there was a small balance due from our citizen, but the question was, who was entitled to receive this money, the owner of the boat or the ex-captain, part of it belonging to the former and part to the latter.

The late commander concluded he would take his share in meat, and wrapped his mouth around our citizen's nose. This plan of adjusting accounts


has failed in this instance to give satisfaction. The said captain hasn't been seen around to any considerable extent since. He bites like a beast.

Another mention of the ferry by the same authority, about a month later says: "George Sender is tending the ferry here and the traveling public can now be accommodated."

A petition for a ferry at or near Mariadahl was presented to the Riley county commissioners in April, 1885, by E. Kallberg and others, praying that Kallberg be granted a license to run a ferry. Kallberg was granted a license upon his promise to furnish a good and satisfactory bond, and was to be allowed to charge the same rate of toll as the Holden ferry was charging. At the July, 1885, meeting of the county commissioners, this license was revoked as the said Kallberg failed to file a bond. It was ordered that the part of the minutes of the April meeting granting license privileges to Kallberg be stricken from the journal. 59

On July 8, 1885, Peter Nelson applied for and was granted a license for a ferry at or near S. 5, T. 7, R. 7. This location is virtually at the village of Mariadahl. In 1887 he also was given a license. 60

A ferry at Mariadahl is shown in Everts' Atlas of Kansas, p. 84, as located on the SE 1/4 S. 32, T. 6, R. 7.

Riley county "Commissioners' Journal," volume 4, pages 295, 297 and 308, recite that in 1906 an effort was made to secure a bridge for Mariadahl for the convenience of residents on the Pottawatomie county side of the river. Riley county commissioners were willing to put up $1,500 towards the project. Evidently this amount was not deemed sufficient to induce township officials in either county to enter into any contract work, and at the October meeting of the county board this offer was rescinded.

Cleburne, about three and one-half miles above Mariadahl by land and about four miles by the Blue, had the next crossing. On October 4, 1886, Magnus Vilander was granted a license to operate a ferry at a point about eighty rods south of where the center line running east and west of S. 15, T. 6, R. 7, crosses the Big Blue river. The county board prescribed a scale of ferriage charges, but the records do not give the particulars. 61 Vilander also received licenses for 1887 and 1888, which apparently were his last. A bridge was under construction at Cleburne in 1890. During the flood of 1903 an emergency ferry was put in operation there, but details are lacking.


On July 3, 1807, a charter affecting Marshall county was taken out by a company known as the Western Bridge and Ferry Company, the incorporators being Rufus R. Edwards, Joseph R. Staley, Thomas W. Waterson and Jerome D. Brumbaugh. The company's headquarters was located at Marysville, and the capital stock of the enterprise was $50,000, with shares at $50 each. The company's object was to build bridges over the Blue river from the point where the south line of the Oto Indian reservation crossed the Blue to a point southward where the township line between townships five and six crosses the river, this being the southern boundary line of Marshall county. The corporation also was granted the privilege to build and maintain bridges on the Little Blue from the point where the north line of Washington county crosses that river to the mouth of the stream, or its confluence with the Big Blue. The charter also desired exclusive privilege to build and maintain ferries between the points above named. This document was filed with the secretary of state July 6, 1867. 62 Further history of this project has not been located.

A ferry at the town of Merrimac, Marshall county, is shown on a plat of that town surveyed in 1858 and filed with the United States land office at Ogden. John P. Hatterscheidt, of Leavenworth, was president of the Merrimac Town Company, and O. P. Barbour, secretary. This townsite was located at the junction of the Black Vermillion and Big Blue, about one and one-half miles north of the Pottawatomie-Marshall county boundary, and approximately thirteen miles up river from Randolph, Riley county. No further history of this ferry has been located. 63

Irving, about three and one-half miles north of old Merrimac, had the next crossing, known as Shipp's ferry. The legislature of 1859 passed an act granting to James W. and William E. Shipp the right to establish a ferry on S. 18, T. 5, R. 7, with exclusive authority to land on either side of the Big Blue for one mile up and one mile down from said point. They were to keep a good boat or boats at the ferry sufficient to accommodate the traveling public. They were to pay the usual tax to the county for this privilege, and the county commissioners were to prescribe ferriage charges not less than the rates usually charged at ferries. This act was approved by Gov. Samuel Medary and was to take effect and be in force from and after its passage. 64


The Shipp brothers, Ambrose, Easton, Martin and James, settled on the south side of the Blue in what is now Blue Rapids township in 1857, not far from Irving of the present time. The following year A. Barry, representative from Riley county, introduced a bill--No. 331--in the house of representatives, to incorporate the Shipsport Town Company. James and W. E. Shipp and Geo. W. Brown were the incorporators. The bill also provided for the establishment of a ferry, which was to be located between the mouth of the Little Blue and the mouth of the Black Vermillion, in S. 18, T. 5, R. 7E., the same location as the ferry incorporated in 1859. 65 House Bill No. 5, also introduced by Mr. Barry, likewise provided for a ferry for Marshall county. 66

No official record of a ferry at Blue Rapids has been located, although one may have been run temporarily, as the following item from the Blue Rapids Times of May 17, 1877, indicates: "Orville Cooley launched a boat on the billowy Blue this week. It was demanded in the interest of commerce and agriculture."

A pontoon bridge across the Blue at the Rapids served the needs of the public during the summer of 1870. This, however, was swept away during a flood late in October following. A neighboring town's newspaper, describing conditions at this place shortly after, said: "Since the pontoon bridge has been carried away at the Rapids, foot passengers are carried over in a row boat. A cable ferry is contemplated." 67

Marshall county is especially rich in historical associations. Through this section, in territory included in townships two and three, the vanguard of Oregon pioneers under Marcus Whitman and others passed during the 1830s, marking a route known for many years as the Oregon trail. Fremont passed through this section in 1842, while searching out a route for a railroad to the west, and mentions passing a train or two of emigrants bound for Oregon. The great Mormon exodus of 1847 also passed through the county, opening a road while on their way to Utah. In 1847 and 1848 these pilgrims rolled along this highway by the thousands, the throng being increased by tens of thousands in 1849, when the immense army of gold seekers started on their way to California. This travel had scarcely begun to lag when it received new impetus in the year 1858 through the discovery of gold in western Kansas in


the Pike's Peak region. There was no let-up during the days of the Pony Express and the Overland Stage, and not until the era of railroad building, which followed closely on the termination of the Civil War, was there any perceptible slump in travel going west.

Independence crossing was the earliest established on the Big Blue, the name no doubt attaching from the large numbers of Mormons from Independence, Mo., who crossed the river here on their memorable trek to the west. All the early traffic through this section crossed the river here, the travelers no doubt being obliged to build their own ferry boats when the river could not be forded. In 1849 Francis J. Marshall established a ferry at this point, having first received permission from the Indian agent to establish a trading house, and authority from the military authorities at Fort Leavenworth to put in ferry boats also. This crossing is described as being on S. 30 or 31, T. 3, R. 7E., being about five and one-half miles south of present Marysville, and about one-half mile south of Shroyer. 68 There was a ford close to this point, but it was passable only when the water in the river was low. Edwin Bryant accompanied an Oregon and California party over this route in May, 1846. The Blue was at flood stage, and his party being anxious to proceed without delay, they set to work to build their own ferry boats, fashioning two dugouts each twenty-five feet long from cottonwood logs about three and one-half or four feet in diameter. These immense canoes were fastened together with a framework that allowed the wheels of the wagons to fit into them. The ferryboat being completed, the craft was launched, ropes fastened to each end and floated down stream to the point of embarkation. As fast as the boat was loaded men on the opposite side of the river pulled the ferryboat across, this mode of transportation being kept up until everything was taken across. On account of the rapidity of the current, and the great weight of the wagons, much difficulty was experienced. "One of the canoes was swamped on the western side in drawing the third wagon from it. The damage, however, was soon repaired and the work resumed. Nine wagons and their contents were safely ferried over during the afternoon." . . . The next day "the business of ferrying was resumed at an early hour, and continued with vigor until nine o'clock at night, all the wagons, oxen, and horses were safely landed on the western bank of the river, where our corral was formed." 69


The Independence crossing was also known as the "lower crossing." Marshall did a flourishing business here up to about 1853. 70

In 1849 Lieut. Howard Stansbury, surveying the route from Fort Leavenworth to Great Salt Lake, located a more practicable crossing on the Blue, about six miles above the Independence crossing. The government opened a road to this place in 1850, and by 1851 and 1852 this upper road and crossing became the favorite one with the traveling public. Here early in 1851 Marshall established his second ferry, built a blacksmith shop, erected a store building and established a store, carrying on a thriving business up to 1853, travel up to this time being divided between his two ferries. The ferry at this new location was situated about 100 yards below where a bridge later spanned the river, while his trading houses were about the same distance above the bridge location. Mr. John G. Ellenbecker, of Marysville, in a letter to the author, says the ferry "was about thirty rods above the present old bridge and sixty rods above the ford in S. 29, T. 2, R. 7E." Marshall's store was as convenient for the Otos and Pawnees as it was for emigrants to the west, and many a dollar of the red man's money was spent at Marshall's for ammunition, whisky, red flannel, bright-colored calicoes, and other essentials to Indian life. Marshall spent his winters at his home in Missouri, coming out to the Blue in early spring and operating his ferries and trading business during the period of California emigration. Only an eye witness can have any idea of the magnitude of the travel at this time, or any conception of the stirring scenes and incidents transpiring in the vicinity of Marshall's during those eventful years. A traveler starting out from St. Joseph in the spring of 1852 said there were thousands of people there awaiting their turn in crossing. The throng was so great that Marshall would cross only wagons and people, compelling owners to swim their stock or ford the river. His ferry boat accommodated three wagons at a time, for which, up to 1852, he charged $5 a wagon, his rate this year being $3 each. Fording stock was something of a risk at times. Cholera had broken out along the road at this time, probably having been brought by emigrants from the Missouri river boats. A number of victims of this scourge had been buried this spring in the vicinity of Marshall's. 71

A California emigrant who reached Marshall's in mid-May, 1852, wrote :


Upon the banks of this river is a post office, carried on, I believe, by private enterprise. There is also a store, groceries, and many articles whereby a person can refit if he is out of such articles that's necessary for the journey. The Big Blue river is quite a stream of water and when it is high has to be ferried. At the time of our crossing the water had fallen so as to be fordable. Although a cold and wet morning the boys took to water like young ducks. The ferry charges are $3 per wagon for crossing. At this point the traveler begins to learn the reality of high prices, especially if he notices the diminution in the weight of his pocketbook from time to time as he has to use it. There are many new made graves upon the banks of this river, perhaps fifteen. We overtook a large train at the ferry. They have near 100 passengers and have lost (we have been informed) ten or fifteen. Put in wood and water and pushed out into the open prairie, and near good grass. . . 72

Marshall was sole operator and owner of his ferry up to 1854, when the Kansas-Nebraska bill was signed. The next year he took a partner, one Albert G. Woodward, and applied to the territorial legislature for a charter, which was granted. This act authorized them to establish and maintain a ferry across the Big Blue at the crossing of the great military road leading from Fort Leavenworth to Forts Kearney and Laramie, and also a ferry at the crossing of the Independence and California road across the Blue, with special privileges from the south line of the Oto Indian reservation to a point one mile below the crossing of the Independence road. 73

Marshall's ferry charter gave him a monopoly on the business along this most widely traveled route. In 1856 he was operating both ferries, and his license granted by county commissioners sitting at Palermo on June 2, that year, prescribed the following schedule of rates for his two ferries: Loaded wagon and team, $3; empty wagon and team, $1.50; carriage and two horses, $2; loose stock, per head, 25 cents.

These rates were materially reduced this year by the commissioners, the new schedule being: Crossing a loaded wagon, $1.50; man and horse, 50 cents; footman, 25 cents; all stock at 25 cents per head. 74

In 1859 Marshall paid a tax of $25 for his ferry license, and the commissioners on March 22 established the following rates: Four-horse team and wagon, $1; two-horse team and wagon, 50 cents; man and horse, 15 cents ; footman, 5 cents.

The above figures were again reduced by the commissioners at a meeting held June 4, following: Two-horse wagon, 50 cents; four-horse wagon, 75 cents; six-horse wagon, $1; loose cattle, per head,


10 cents; hogs and sheep, 5 cents per head; footman, 5 cents; man and horse, 30 cents.

On January 21, 1860, a new schedule affecting all ferries operating in the county went into effect and established the following as the legal rates:

One yoke of cattle and wagon, $1; two yokes of cattle and wagon, $1.20; three yokes of cattle and wagon, $1.65; four yokes of cattle and wagon, $2; five yokes of cattle and wagon, $2.25; six yokes of cattle and wagon, $2.50; two horses and wagon, $1; four horses and wagon, $1.50; six horses and wagon, $2.50; loose animals, per head, 12 1/2 cents; horse and rider, 25 cents; horse and buggy, 50 cents; freight, per cwt., 3 cents.

By 1862 there must have been a demand for lower ferry charges, for at the January meeting of the county commissioners rates were again revised, this time downward, as follows:

For United States mail coach, 40 cents; two yoke of cattle and wagon, 75 cents; four yoke of cattle and wagon, $1.25; six yoke of cattle and wagon, $1.50; two horses and wagon, 50 cents; four horses and wagon, 75 cents; loose cattle, per head, 5 cents; horse and rider, 10 cents; footman, 5 cents.

Marshall was connected with the ferry business until about 1858, when he joined a party of gold seekers and set out for the Pike's Peak region, leaving his brother-in-law, Henry D. Williams, in charge of his trading house and ferry. After the Leavenworth and Pike's Peak Express route was moved north from the Kaw Valley to the old Oregon-California trail which ran through Marysville, Mr. Williams was made a division superintendent of the line. 75 Williams, a native of Missouri, was twenty years old in 1860.

The town of Marysville had been laid out by Marshall in 1855, and the territorial legislature that year passed an act incorporating the Marysville Town Company. Franklin G. Adams, a resident of Marshall county in the early 1870's, gives this description of early Marysville and Marshall's ferry:

During the Pike's Peak rush in 1859, Marysville was a lively place. Early in the spring the ferry was thronged with travelers to the gold regions. Later these travelers began to return. Thousands started back, without ever reaching the mountains. Supplies they had bought to take along with them were sold and almost given away at Marysville and elsewhere. At the ferry this spring a tragedy occurred. Several hundred returning Pike's Peakers had gathered on the west side of the river. Incensed at everybody who had profited by what had proven their misfortune, they charged that General Marshall, the owner of the ferry, had been one of the leading instruments in circulating the fabulous accounts of the riches of the Colorado mines. He had, they said, done it in order to make traffic at his ferry and at his town. They therefore


resolved that, as he had made money enough out of them as they went west, they had a moral right to free ferriage in returning. A part of them took possession of the boat, arresting and confining the ferryman. Word came of the fact to Henry Williams, brother-in-law of Marshall, in whose control the ferry had been left. Hastening to the boat, he demanded that it should be given up. His demand being resisted, he deliberately shot and killed two of the usurpers, when the others quickly abandoned the boat. Lawful ferriage was thereafter paid. Williams was indicted for the killing, but was not convicted. 76

Marshall, in a letter to J. S. Magill, of Marysville, written during the summer of 1895, about four months before his death at Denver, November 23, 1895, gives the following account of the establishment of his trading house and ferry:

In the early settlement of Kansas, it is to be remembered, I established a trading post at the government crossing of the Big Blue river on the road leading to the great west, over which went all the travel starting from Fort Leavenworth and all other points below old Fort Kearney on the Missouri river to new Fort Kearney, Fort Laramie and all the Indian country, Utah, Oregon, Washington and the great emigration to California, which meant at least five thousand to ten thousand people a day from April to July. Over this route went the great Pony Express enterprise to California, which the country now knows partially led to the building of the Union Pacific Railroad.

Most of the time the river could be forded, but often for six weeks at a time it could not be crossed except by means of the ferry. This was one of the greatest thoroughfares which the country has ever known.

I applied to the Indian agent for the privilege of establishing a ferry and trading post at the point where Marysville now stands. It was in the Indian country, and there was no particular agent having jurisdiction over this part of the Indian lands. He informed me that it was the battleground of the different tribes when at war with each other, hence a dangerous place for the establishment of a trading post, as I proposed.

I then applied to Major Ogden, the quartermaster at Fort Leavenworth, for a contract with the government to put in boats, build ware- and store-houses and to supply troops returning from the western forts in the winter time, and he protested that on account of its dangerous proximity to the ground described such an establishment might not last long without military protection. I expressed myself, however, as willing to arrange for my own protection, to which he afterward gave his consent. On securing his permission, I proceeded at once, bought a piece of artillery, mounted it, loaded my wagons and was on my way to the Big Blue crossing at the point referred to within twenty-four hours after my contract with the government. This arrangement was universally concurred in by the officers at Fort Leavenworth. Colonel Sumner, who then commanded the Second dragoons and who afterwards commanded a division in the late war, and Lieutenant Stuart, who was his quartermaster on expeditions into the Indian country in the spring and summer and afterwards known as the rebel General Stuart, of the Black Horse cavalry, on returning late in the fall crossed at this point, always required


supplies for his soldiers and horses, knew of the facts in connection with my enterprise, and I had their hearty cooperation. ... In 1851 the Big Blue river rose to the top of its banks, and perhaps this fact had something to do with the facility with which I secured permission from the government officers to carry out my plans for establishing a ferry, etc. 77

Mrs. Forter in her history gives additional history of Marshall:

F. J. Marshall established a ferry at that point and for a time the place was known as Marshall's ferry. Business thrived and Marshall brought his wife, Mary Williams Marshall, to live here and named the place Marysville in her honor. It will be recalled that in his letter to Judge Magill, Marshall says, "There were five to ten thousand people at this point daily." A careful research shows that about seventy-five thousand people traversed this county and crossed the Blue river either at the lower crossing or at the crossing here, from 1846 to 1856. So it is safe to say Marysville has never had an equal number of inhabitants since that time.

Horace Greeley mentions an incident that occurred at this ferry in 1859. Writing from Manhattan under date of May 24, he said:

. . . Let me close with an incident which is currently reported throughout this region as having recently taken place at a crossing of the Big Blue, known as Marysville (of course not the Marysville of Bull creek), some sixty miles north of this place.

A party of disheartened gold seekers, it is said, were returning from the plains, and came to this ferry, which they insisted on crossing without payment, saying they had no money. The ferrymen refused to take them over until paid (another account says he asked them an exorbitant price) when they attempted to take the boat and put themselves across-- whereupon he drew his revolver, they drawing almost at the same instant. He was, of course, riddled with balls, and fell dead, but not until he had either killed or severely wounded five of his assailants 78

Marysville was the most important point on the old Oregon-California road in Kansas after leaving the Missouri river. It was the starting point as well as the terminus of a number of roads. The legislature of 1855 established the first territorial road to this place, which started from a point opposite St. Joseph, Mo., to the town of Richmond, on the Great Nemaha, thence to the town of Woodson on the Vermillion, and on to Marysville. 79 Another ran from Marysville to Council Grove. 80 The military road from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Laramie, as far as Marysville, and passing through the counties of Leavenworth, Atchison, Brown, Nemaha, and Marshall, was declared a territorial road. 81 Another ran from


Marysville by way of Richmond, or the geographical center of Nemaha county, thence to Claytonville on sees. 15 and 22, T. 3, R. 17, in Brown county, thence to Troy, Wathena, and Roseport, opposite St. Joseph. 82 In 1859 a road was laid out from Elwood to Marysville by way of Wathena; 83 another started from the Blue river, running west on the First Standard Parallel to the Republican river; 84 another, running from Elwood, up Peter's creek, by way of Troy, Lewis' crossing of Wolf river, Highland, Hiawatha, Seneca and Marysville was declared a territorial road; 85 another, established in 1861, ran from Marysville to New Hope, via Washington; 86 another ran from Atchison, via Kennekuk and Granada to Seneca, thence by one branch to Marysville, and, by another branch via Ash Point, Guittard and Oketo, to the Nebraska line; 87 another ran from Marysville, by way of St. George to Wabaunsee; 88 another ran from Fort Leavenworth to Marysville, by way of Holton and Nottingham; 89 another ran from Marysville via Washington, thence by a westerly course up Mill creek to some practicable point on the Republican river. 90 The legislature of 1863 passed an act declaring the road leading from Seneca, on the township line west to S. 36 , T. 3, R. 7E., thence west by north to Marysville, to intersect the incorporated limits of Marysville on the east of Broadway street in that town, thence west to the most suitable point for a bridge across the Blue river, thence to follow the old military road to S. 2, T. 2, R. 5E., in Washington county, thence to follow the old military road to the north line of the state of Kansas, be made a state road. 91 The next ferry location on the Big Blue was at Oketo, close to the Oto Indian reservation, this being about ten miles above Marysville by the river and about two miles less by land. The legislature of 1859 passed an act granting to Henry W. Poor, V. C. Poor and Robert M. Smith the right to keep a ferry at this town for a period of ten years, having exclusive rights from the north line of S. 14, T. 1, R. 7, to the south line of S. 26, T. 1, R. 7, including three miles up and down the river. Ferriage rates were to be fixed


by the county. This act was approved by Gov. S. Medary February 10, 1859, and became effective from and after its passage. 92

The following is the earliest mention of this ferry we have located:

A company, known as Poor, Whitehead and others, have built a ferryboat and laid out a town some ten miles above here, on the Blue, and have located a road from that point east, intersecting the military road at Ash Point, and are directing emigrants by their ferry, telling them it is twenty-five to thirty miles nearer than by the old road. Moses Blanchett, one of the principal men of Ash Point, was directing traffic right straight on the old road, which conflicted with the interest of those living upon the new road.

Last Wednesday a body of armed men arrived at Ash Point from the new road, and informed Blanchett that he must either quit working on the road or they would clean him out; and commenced pulling coats and making other fighting demonstrations. Blanchett then procured a shot gun and returned to the store where the mob was collected, when he was informed by them he must quit working for the old road or leave the country. Blanchett told them he should do as he pleased, when Wilson, with his coat off, approached him, and Blanchett told him to keep off, or he would shoot him. "Shoot and be d----d," was the reply, and Blanchett discharged the gun at him, the shot entering his breast and killing him instantly. Blanchett then fled and was pursued the next day by a large party who intended to hang him on the first tree if overtaken. 93

Frank A. Root, in his Overland Stage to California mentions this ferry. He says that the Holladay stages, which previously had run via Guittard's station through Marysville, were, in the fall of 1862, run over a "cut-off" Holladay had built from Guittard's, via Oketo. This road was known as the "Oketo cut-off," and was laid out by Holladay to spite Marysville. About the middle of October, 1862, stages began running over the "cut-off" in spite of anything Marysville people could do about it. Holladay evidently had first secured permission from the Post Office Department to change the stage route to the new road on which he and other interested parties had expended a lot of money. He had a suitable ferry boat built for crossing the river during periods of high water; and had put in bridges and culverts over small streams and ravines. Naturally Marysville was indignant at the change. The town had been getting mail three times a week by stage. For a month afterwards they were almost without service. Then a man was hired to bring it from Guittard's by horseback three times a week. A petition to the Post Office Department asking for a daily service by coach brought a reply cutting the service to a semi-weekly delivery by horseback. A second petition was sent, when service was cut down to once a


month. A third petition was forwarded after which service was discontinued. For some time after that mail was forwarded by oxteam and freight train from Guittard's to its destination. Finally Marysville hired a man to carry it regularly between the two points. Missouri river papers from St. Joseph, Leaven worth and Kansas City were often a month old when received at Marysville. Marysville, however, got even for this injustice. During a flood in the Blue the ferryboat at Oketo was cut loose during the night and floated away, causing considerable annoyance and delay in the operation of the stage line. Later, parties unknown during the night dug a ditch across the cut-off road, and tore up a stone crossing in a bad slough. That night the west bound stage came along, and the driver not seeing the ditch in the dark, drove into it, the severe jolting that ensued throwing him off the seat and to the ground. A general of the United States army was a passenger at the time and received a good shaking up. He asked the cause of this sudden stop and the driver explained it was probably on account of the ill feeling of Marysville for Holladay. The general at once wrote to the commanding officer at Fort Leavenworth for troops to protect the overland mail line and stage company's property. A few days later a detachment of the Third Wisconsin cavalry was sent out, making its headquarters at Marysville, after which time further trouble ceased. The cut-off was abandoned after about four and one-half month's use and the stages again ran through Marysville on March 4, 1863. 94

Mr. John G. Ellenbecker, of Marysville, furnishes the following regarding the Oketo ferry:

The Oketo cut-off was laid out in 1861 and 1862 by Ben Holladay, and his agents, no doubt, put in a ferry at old Oketo, one-half mile south of the present Oketo, in 1860 or 1861, and provisions were made to cross the stages over the Big Blue at that place especially during high water. There was, however, a good ford there. This point was located in S. 14, T. 1, R. 7E. Since Whitehead was in the employ of Holladay, no doubt the ferry company you speak of--Poor, Whitehead & Co.--were the employes of Holladay. That Poor was Val Poor who came to the Oketo country in 1857. So no doubt the first ferry at Oketo was started by October, 1862, when Holladay's coaches began to travel the Oketo cut-off.

The best living witness I could find at Oketo lately was Oscar DeLair.

He said he came to Oketo in 1866; thought the ferry was then running and ran till the summer of 1867.

This was the northernmost ferry on the Big Blue river in Kansas.


1. Long, Maj. S. H., Expedition to Rocky Mountains, 1819 and 1820, v. 1, p. 136; "Survey of Indian Lands in Kansas," by Rev. Isaac McCoy and sons, 1830-1836, MS. volume, p. 120, and original manuscript map of Indian Reservations in Kansas, in Archives division of Kansas State Historical Society; topographical map of the road from Missouri to Oregon, compiled from the field notes and journal of Capt. J. C. Fremont by Charles Preuss in 1846 and published by authority of the United States Senate.
2. Manhattan Express, September 2, 1861.
3. House Journal, 1860, special session, pp. 217, 226, 236, 297, 338; Council Journal, 1860, special session, pp. 321, 336.
4. House Journal, 1860, special session, pp. 320, 329; Council Journal, 1860, special session, pp. 496, 520, 632.
5. Alma Herald, July 7, 1870.
6. House Journal, 1860, special session, pp. 212, 400.
7. Manhattan Independent, February 8, 1864.
8. Ibid., February 29, 1864.
9. Corporations, v. 1, p. 301.
10. Manhattan Independent, February 9, 1867.
11. Ibid., February 16, 1867.
12. Kansas Radical, Manhattan, March 2, 1867.
13. Manhattan Standard, October 23, 30, November 18, 1870; The Nationalist, Manhattan, January 13, March 31, 1871.
14. Manhattan Nationalist, June 4, 6, 8, 1903.
15. Richardson, Albert D., Beyond the Mississippi, p. 161.
16. Corporations, v. 1, p. 102.
17. Riley county, "Commissioners' Journal," v. 2, p. 411.
18. Kansas Historical Collections, v. 4, pp. 246, 247; v. 12, pp. 426, 427.
19. Ibid., v. 12, p. 426.
20. Original document in Archives division, Kansas State Historical Society.
21. Ibid.
22. Location given in Everts' Atlas of Kansas, p. 84, as S. 30, T. 9, R. 8.
23. The Nationalist, Manhattan, June 23, 1871.
24. Randolph Enterprise, May 1, 1890.
25. The Nationalist, Manhattan, February 24, 1871.
26. Corporations, v. 3, p. 211.
27. The Nationalist, Manhattan, July 31, 1874.
28. Ibid., March 3, 1875.
29. Riley county, "Commissioners' Journal," v. 2, pp. 28, 99.
30. Ibid., v. 2, p. 233.
31. Ibid., v. 2, p. 368.
32. Ibid., v. 3, p. 11.
33. Ibid., v. 3, p. 49.
34. The Nationalist, Manhattan, February 24, 1871.
35. Ibid., March 8, 1872.
36. Ibid., January 26, 1872.
37. This location is on the SE 1/4 S. 24, T. 9, R. 7, and is shown in Historical Plat Book of Riley County, p. 64.
38. Riley county commissioners' proceedings, in The Nationalist, Manhattan July 18 1873; Historical Plat Book of Riley County, p. 64.
39. The Nationalist, Manhattan, September 5, 1873.
40. Ibid., April 23, 1875.
41. Riley county, "Commissioners' Journal," v. 2, pp. 3, 51, 83, 114, 160, 199, 225, 402.
42. Ibid., v. 2, p. 423.
43. Ibid., p. 539.
44. Ibid., v. 3, pp. 19, 36, 39.
45. Ibid., v. 3, p. 49.
46. Ibid., v. 3, pp. 77, 119.
47. Ibid., v. 2, p. 540.
48. Ibid., v. 3, pp. 19, 90, 170, 496.
49. Council Journal, 1858, p. 83; Historical Plat Book of Riley County, p. 55.
50. Corporations, v. 9, pp. 310, 311.
51. Riley county, "Commissioners' Journal," v. 2, p. 233.
52. Ibid., v. 2, p. 345.
53. Ibid., v. 2, pp. 401, 446.
54. Ibid., v. 2, p. 589.
55. Ibid., v. 2, p. 586.
56. Ibid., v. 3, p. 44.
57. Ibid., v. 4, p. 286.
58. Ibid., v. 3, pp. 363, 494; Randolph Echo, March 13, May 1, 1890.
59. Riley county, "Commissioners' Journal," v. 2, p. 402.
60. Ibid., v. 2, pp. 411, 539.
61. Ibid., v. 2, p. 476.
62. Corporations, v. 1, p. 357.
63. Printed plat in possession of the Kansas State Historical Society.
64. Private Laws, Kansas, 1859, pp. 100, 101.
65. Kansas State Board of Agriculture, Report 1877-1878, p. 298; House Journal, 1858, p. 198.
66. House Journal, 1858, pp. 23, 67, 306.
67. Waterville Telegraph, September 30, November 4, 1870.
68. Ibid., April 15, 1870; Kansas State Board of Agriculture, Report 1877-1878, pp. 295, 296.
69. Bryant, What I Saw in California, pp. 62-65.
70. F. G. Adams, in Marshall County News, Marysville, February 22, 1873; Andreas, History of Kansas, p. 914,
71. Marshall County News, Marysville, February 22, 1873; Andreas, History of Kansas, pp. 917, 918.
72. Copy of manuscript of John H. Clark, in possession of author.
73. General Statutes, Kansas, 1855, p. 777.
74. Andreas, History of Kansas, p. 918.
75. Colorado Magazine, Denver, v. 8, p. 232.
76. Marshall County News, Marysville, March 1, 1873.
77. Extracts from letter of Francis J. Marshall to J. S. Magill, secretary of the Marshall County Old Settlers' Pioneer Association, dated Denver, July 22, 1895, and published in Forter's History of Marshall County, Kansas, pp. 65, 66.
78. Greeley, An Overland Journey, p. 59.
79. General Statutes, Kansas, 1855, p. 957.
80. Laws, Kansas, 1857, p. 173.
81. Ibid., p. 174.
82. Ibid., p. 179.
83. Ibid., 1859, p. 584.
84. Ibid., p. 585.
85. Ibid., p. 593.
86. Ibid., 1861, p. 248.
87. Ibid., p. 248.
88. Ibid., p. 248.
89. Ibid., p. 247.
90. Ibid., 1865, p. 243.
91. Ibid., 1863, p. 86.
92. Private Laws, Kansas, 1859, p. 114.
93. Marysville Platform, copied in Kansas State Record, Topeka, June 2, 1860.
94. Root and Connelley, Overland Stage to California, pp. 200, 519-523.