Thursday, September 9, 2010

Kansas Ferries.

One of the problems that confronted the early settlers of Kansas was to provide some means of crossing the streams. Roads had not yet been opened, and bridges were therefore out of the question. The first territorial legislature passed more than a score of acts granting to individuals the privilege of operating ferries. Twelve of these acts related to ferries across the Missouri river at Leavenworth, Atchison, Delaware, Doniphan, Kickapoo, Boston, Iowa Point, Palermo, Iatan, Whitehead, opposite St. Joseph, and at Thompson's ferry. Four ferries were authorized across the Kansas—at Lecompton, Douglas, Tecumseh and the mouth of the river—and one across the Big Blue on the road leading from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Kearney. Doubtless the tide of emigration westward justified the establishment of more ferries across the Missouri than the other streams, but when it is remembered that the first legislature was composed chiefly of Missourians who were interested in making Kansas slave territory, it is obvious that numerous ferries over the boundary stream would enable the pro-slavery forces of Missouri to find easy crossings into the territory in order to control the early elections.

Ferry across the Kaw at Lecompton Kansas. 338 miles west of St. Louis Mo., 1867.


Marshall County, Kansas.

In 1852, Francis J. Marshall, a Missouri freighter and hotel owner, came out to establish a ferry. On a knoll a short distance from the present-day Trails Park, Marshall built a log trading post, a few cabins, a blacksmith shop, stables and corrals. At times hundreds of wagons with thousands of pioneers were camped in this area, waiting for their turn to cross. Pioneer death from illness was common, and diaries tell of many graves near the crossing. Marshall charged up to $5.00 per wagon and 25 cents per head of livestock to use the ferry. The ferry operated until 1864 when the first bridge at Marysville was built.

In 1854 Mr. Morrow arrived in Kansas and purchased six hundred and forty acres of land on the Kansas side of the river. He arrived in the state two months before it was opened for settlement and began working for George M. Million, operating a ferry. There was only one man living on the town site of Atchison at the time. In the spring of 1855 Mr. Morrow began operating a ferry by horse power and in the fall of the same year he operated a side wheel steam ferry, which had been brought here from Brownsville, Pennsylvania. In 1857 he became captain of the steam ferry Ida, later running the steam ferry Pomeroy, after which he went to Brownsville, Pennsylvania, where he built the transfer boat William Osborne, remaining there eight months while the work was in progress.

In 1844, John B. Wells established the historic "Rialto Ferry," which operated between old Rialto, on the Platte County side of the river, to a point above Fort Leavenworth, from where it connected with the great emigration road. From that time to 1865, it was one of the main outlets on the Missouri river for the great tide of emigration to the west. John B. Wells was a Kentuckian, who became one of the sturdy and prominent pioneers of the Platte Purchase. He was born in 1800, settled at Weston in 1837, and died near there in 1890.

Solomon Ryan, started a ferry in 1867 and continued to operate it for a number of years, greatly to the convenience of the public. Old letters and local histories have mention of this ferry as it became a general stopping place for travelers, many families camping near by for a rest before penetrating farther into the Indian country.

The Fort Leavenworth-Fort Scott-Fort Gibson military road crossed the Kansas river at what was variously known as Delaware Crossing, Grinter's Ferry, Military Ferry, Secondine, etc. Moses Grinter, a well known member of the Wyandotte Indian tribe, operated a ferry there are early as 1831. It was a prominent place in the early days. Several trading posts were operated there; also the government blacksmith shop, which was an important industry in those days. A post office was established there in 1849.

Cowley County, Kansas, 1878.

In 1878, Messrs. W. H. Speer and Amos Walton, two leading public spirited citizens of the county, equipped a "ferry flat" with a 10 horse-power threshing machine engine, and by several trips up and down the river for a distance of 60 miles from Arkansas City, demonstrated beyond a doubt that a steamer could be successfully propelled on the Arkansas river at any season of the year. The flat was fifty feet long, sixty feet wide, and drew ten inches of water, this novel little craft visited Grouse creek, the Walnut river, Salt City, the Kaw Indian Agency, Oxford and other points along the river, and attracted crowds of people wherever it went. At Oxford a public reception was tendered its officers and crew. These experimental trips were all made while the river was at its lowest stage, and prior to the annual "June rise."

Shawnee County, Kansas, 1878.

SOLDIER TOWNSHIP.--- The first white settlement was made in 1840 by three brothers, Frenchmen, named Joseph, Ahean and Louis Papan; though French, they were natives of St. Louis. Theirs was the first white settlement made in the county. The Papan Brothers started the first ferry across the Kansas river in 1842, but the great flood of 1844 washed away all their houses and boats, and they went back to Kansas City, soon returning, however, and in 1846 were again at their settlement.


Sidney W. Smith moved into the township in March, 1852, and established a ferry across the Kansas river, which he ran for eight years.

SILVER LAKE TOWNSHIP.--- The first rope ferry ever established across the river above Wyandotte, was in 1852, by Sidney W. Smith. Hiram Wells and John Ogee established the first and only deck ferry boat ever on the Kaw river; they commenced running it in 1853. Joseph and Louis Ogee also established a ferry the same year, which was continued until 1869. These three ferries were maintained within a quarter of a mile of each other.

Cloud County, Kansas


Mr. Byrne, in connection with John Dowell, bought the first ferry that ran across the Republican river at Clyde, called the Clyde Ferry Company. It was established in 1871.
There was a great deal of travel at that time and it proved a lucrative transaction. About three years ago Mr. Byrne went into the watermelon raising business. The ground thus planted averaged per acre from twenty to twenty-five dollars.


Abner Furgeson was granted a ferry license on July 11, 1867, and at once he, in connection with Jonah Wilcox, commenced the operation of a ferry across the Neosho near where it is spanned by the iron bridge.

Pottawatomie County, Kansas.

Louis Vieux, a Pottawatomie Indian, once operated the first ferry along the Oregon Trail to help travelers across the Vermillion River near Wamego.

Lincoln County Beacon --- - Thursday, March 10, 1881

Masters Walter WOOD and Clifton BACON manage a skiff ferry on the river a short distance above the mill. They are enterprising lads and we hope they will make piles of money.

MURDEN - TYLER Winfield Scott MURDEN born Oct 8, 1852 married Priscilla TYLER born Jan 10, 1857. They married August 1, 1874. Murden was a judge in Caney, Kansas. He was also a blacksmith and had a ferry across the Caney River.

1857 - Alex and John Smith came and operated the ferry across the river at Whiskey point (south of the present hospital and golf course at Ft. Riley). They also took a claim on Lyons Creek ( a mile north of the Lyona Church).

Baldwin Ledger, August 27, 1897.

The Lecompton ferry is one of the oldest means of transportation in the state,
having been established in 1855 by W. K. Simmons, Wesley Garrett and Evan Todhunter.


Ana said...

Interesting... I was searching this info for my uncle. He will be happy for such a great info. Thanks for sharing...
Ferry Companies

Patty Campbell said...

I like this article. Do you have more on ferrymen specifically along the Military Road before they built bridges? Specifically, the Little Osage 12 Miles North of Fort Scott, Marmaton at Fort Scott, Sugar Creek at St. Mary's Mission. Or early grist mills, blacksmith, trading posts like Old Wind Mill in Lawrence? What reference do you have for loose information called "Delaware" as this is more likely the "Kansa" Prairie Band Native Americans on Sugar Creek?

Dennis Segelquist said...

Patty this info came from the Kansas Historical Quarterly of 1935, it was in 8 parts I only have part 7. There is a site that have all 8, parts here is the URL.

If this doesnt work search George A. Root, you'll be looking for a site called: Full text of Kansas Historial quarterlies. You will be able to do a name search at this site.