Jump to Navigation

Ferries in Kansas, Part XV, Marais des Cygnes River

by George A. Root

May 1937 (Vol. 6, No. 2), pages 132 to 146

THE Marais des Cygnes river rises in the northeast part of Lyon county, being formed by the junction of One Hundred and Forty-two and Elk creeks. It flows in a generally easterly direction across Osage and Franklin counties, cutting off the southwest corner of Miami and the northeast corner of Linn before entering Missouri. Early maps designate the stream as the Grand river, but the Osage Indians called it the Marais des Cygnes. A footnote in Andreas' History of Kansas, page 63, states that the northern fork of the Osage was called the Marais des Cygnes until its junction with the Little Osage, the two forks uniting to form the Osage or Great Osage. However, in Kansas the stream is known as the Marais des Cygnes as far as the state boundary, but after it crosses the line it is known as the Osage river. The river is about 445 miles long, approximately 150 miles being in Kansas.

Ascending the river within the state of Kansas, the first ferry location of which we have information was that one at the mouth of Big Sugar creek, in Linn county. In the legislature of 1857, House Petition No. 1 was presented, asking for a charter for a ferry across the river at the mouth of Big Sugar creek. 1 House bill No. 12 was also introduced, granting to Samuel Carmack permission to operate a ferry at that point for a period of fifteen years. This bill was passed and signed by the governor. 2

In 1860 another ferry was projected for this vicinity when a bill was introduced in the house of representatives to incorporate the Osage Falls Bridge and Ferry Co. The company consisted of A. B. Massey, Hardy Keeney, Addison Danford, John Watson, George A.Crawford, Asa Hairgrove, Andrew Stark, Robert B. Mitchell and Jacob M. Fickes. The act gave them ferry privileges for a period of twenty-one years, with power to erect a toll bridge or bridges across the Marais des Cygnes and Big Sugar creek, and to run a ferry across the river at the mouth of Big Sugar creek until such bridge or bridges should be built. Capital stock of the company was listed at $15,000, with shares at $10 each. 3



The next ferry location upstream was probably in the vicinity of old Trading Post, about a mile distant. During the regular session of the legislature of 1860, Mr. G. A. Colton introduced a bill for the establishment of a ferry at that location. Owing to friction between the governor, secretary and the legislature growing out of the removal of the legislative body to Lawrence, and the refusal of the secretary to provide needed supplies for the use of the members, the solons voted to adjourn and did so, without taking action on the bill. 4

Another ferry project for the same locality was contemplated in a bill introduced the same year at the special session by Rep. J. H. Jones; who on January 23, submitted a bill to establish a ferry at the old Trading Post in Linn county. This location was approximately a mile above the mouth of Sugar creek. 5

The earliest ferry within Linn county was authorized by the legislature of 1855, in House bill No. 117. It was established by Martin Taylor and John Ballard, at or near their own ford on lands claimed by them. They were granted special privileges at this point and for a distance of two miles above their ford, for a period of ten years. 6

W. A. Mitchell, in his "Historic Linn," published in The Kansas Historical Collections, v. 16, p. 614, says Taylor and Ballard were given the monopoly of a ferry and ford where the old mill stands, which was built at considerable expense by R. A. Denton in 1870, and was on the Mundell farm. The ferry was operated opposite where Thorton Creager lived in later years.

In 1859 the legislature passed an act granting authority to N. H. Williams and his heirs and assigns to keep a ferry across the Marais des Cygnes river within one mile of Ballard's ford, in Linn county, with exclusive privileges within the distance of one mile on each side of his ferry location. The operator was required to keep a good and substantial boat or boats, sufficient to cross the traveling public, and keep the same in good repair, or in case the boat was lost to secure another. Ferry charges were to be fixed by the county authorities. This act was signed by Gov. Samuel Medary on February 11, 1859, and took effect at once. 7

The next ferry location upstream was at a point near where the road from Twin Springs to the Missouri state line crossed the Marais des Cygnes river. In 1860 Henry Dunbar was granted authority by the legislature to establish a ferry within one mile of the


above location and was to have a ten-year exclusive privilege for a distance of one mile on each side of his ferry site. This location is about three miles northwest of La Cygne. 8

The next ferry location upstream was in present Miami county, where the old "Telegraph" road from Kansas City, Mo., crossed the Marais des Cygnes. Lacking data of Miami county ferries, the writer appealed to the venerable editor and publisher of The Western Spirit, of Paola, who kindly furnished the following:

PAOLA, KANSAS, 4, 15, '36.

DEAR ROOT Hoover and English (Dr. Woodson D. Hoover, pioneer practitioner in Paola, and T. C. English of Osage township, a farmer) operated a ferry at what was known as "Wire Crossing" of Marais des Cygnes river, 6 miles directly south of Paola, in 1867, and continued it until the early summer of 1869, when Mo. Riv., Ft. Scott & Gulf R. R. went through Miami county. There were other owners in latter part of 1866. The operators from summer of 1867 to the close were R. P. Loomis and Henry White. It paid fairly well, even against heavy flood losses, until the railroad was built in 1869. "Wire Crossing" was so named because in 1864-'5 the U. S. government ran a telegraph line from Kansas City, Mo., to Ft. Scott, via Paola. I helped Henry White do ferrying in the spring of 1869. BERNARD JAMES SHERIDAN.

Osawatomie was probably the next ferry location, and a ferry was in operation there the summer of 1855. We have been unable to locate any mention of this enterprise aside from two slight references.

The earliest of these mentions was in a letter written from Osawatomie to the Missouri Democrat, St. Louis, under date of July 27, 1855, and copied in the Herald of Freedom, of Lawrence, on August 18, stating that "A deep cut is made in the banks of the streams for the crossings; and a ferry boat has been placed upon the Osage." The other was by the Rev. S. L. Adair, who referred to it in his testimony in a suit brought by the Osawatomie Town Company 9 vs. Samuel M. Merritt, Jacob Benjamin, Daniel W. Collies, Randolph Hughes and John Yelton, mail contractor, before the land court at Lecompton, in the late 1850's. This location was on the northeast quarter of S. 11, T. 18, R. 23. How long the above ferry operated and who ran it, we have no knowledge, but it must have been taken over by other parties or discontinued, for in 1859 0. C. Brown, H. H. Williams, George W. Cavert, Cyrus Foster, Samuel Geer, S. C. Parish, F. W. Cram, Amos Alderman, Wm. Chestnut, J. B. Scofield, F. Conant, H. B. Smith and others secured a charter from the legislature permitting them to establish and keep a ferry on the Osage


river and Pottawatomie creek. They were to have exclusive privilege for one mile each way from a point opposite Osawatomie for a term of five years, or until the streams were bridged at or near the town. The above-named parties agreed to keep in repair a good and substantial boat or boats, steam or flat, as the wants of the public might demand, but in case of accident or loss of boat were to be allowed proper and necessary time to repair or obtain a new one. County authorities were to fix ferriage rates from year to year, and these were to be posted at the ferry landing. The operators were also required to file a good and sufficient bond. This act was approved by Governor Medary on February 9, 1859, and took effect at once. 10

The next ferry upstream was in the vicinity of Stanton, where Josiah Bundy was engaged in the business at a point known as Bundys' ford in Lykins county. We have been unable to learn the date this enterprise was started. During the session of the 1859 legislature he secured a charter permitting him to engage in the business, with exclusive privileges for a five-year period, no one being permitted to engage in a similar service within the distance of a mile of his ferry. He gave bond in the sum of $2,000 that he would pay all damages ensuing from any neglect or mismanagement of the ferry on his part. This act was approved by the governor on January 28, 1859, and went into effect at once. 11 Horace Greeley, of the New York Tribune, while on his way to Osawatomie to make an address, wrote of it as follows:

We were early on the bank (a mile from Stanton) of the Marais des Cygnes, which was running heavy driftwood, and otherwise misbehaving itself. It had buried up the ferry-rope, without whose aid the boat could not be propelled across its sweeping current; one of the trees to which that rope was attached was now nearly in the middle of the stream; and there had been no crossing for a day or two. But a new rope had been procured and somehow stretched across the stream; whereby we were taken across in our turn, after waiting somewhat over an hour. A mile or so of well timbered and too well watered bottom brought us again to prairie, over which we drove rapidly into Osawatomie, which we reached before 10 a. m. 12

I left Osawatomie on the morning of the nineteenth, in the Lawrence stage, crossing the Marais des Cygnes at Bundy's ferry (where we crossed the day before), and finding the water considerably lower, though still over its regular northern bank, and the access on either side most detestable. 13


Several measures were before the special session of the legislature in 1860 for ferry privileges on the Marais des Cygnes river, some of which passed both houses but failed to get the approval of the governor. One, however, for a ferry at the Morse ford, near Stanton, became a law. This act authorized S. L. Morse to operate a ferry for a period of five years at this point. His charges for ferriage were to be fixed by the county board. 14

The next ferry location upstream was in the vicinity of Peoria, in Franklin county, but aside from a mention in the journal of the lower house of the legislature of a bill to authorize a ferry at the old town of that name, we have been unable to locate any further history. 15

In 1860, Henry Shively, 16 a member of the house of representatives, gave notice at the regular session of that body that he would at an early day introduce a bill for the establishment of a ferry across the Marais des Cygnes. The legislature adjourned before action was taken on his measure. During the special session which convened immediately afterwards a new bill was introduced which passed both houses and was approved by the governor on February 27. This act carried a five-year privilege at a point known as the Sewel ford. Ferriage rates were fixed by the county board. 17

The next ferry upstream was at or close to Ottawa, and the first one in this vicinity may have been operated by Ottawa Indians, who were living on a reservation which embraced lands in this immediate neighborhood. Fred Richmond, an early resident of Ottawa, says that he was the first white boy to live in Ottawa after it was laid out in 1864, and to the best of his recollection the Ottawa Indians operated the first ferry at that point, using ropes. He thought that a Mr. Robbins, who also ran a store, operated a ferry at one time.

The earliest mention of ferries in this locality coming to our attention was one dated 1859. That year D. W. Houston, P. P. Elder, and A. R. Morton and their associates were given authority by the legislature to establish and keep a ferry across the Marais des Cygnes in Franklin county for a term of ten years, with landing privileges on both sides of the river. This act was approved by the governor on February 9, 1859, and took effect at once. 18

An item in the Wyandotte Gazette, of June 30, 1866, stated that


"A good ferryboat has been placed in the Marais des Cygnes, at Ottawa." F. W. Brinkerhoff, Pittsburg publisher, an early resident of Ottawa, recalled a story told by the late Col. J. N. Harrison, better known among his acquaintances as "Curly" Harrison, about Charles Robbins, who ran the ferryboat at Ottawa before the bridges came:

Colonel Harrison said that the late Charles Robbins, picturesque pioneer of Ottawa, was operating the ferry across the Marais des Cygnes at Ottawa. Business was not exactly rushing one warm summer day and Robbins had his ferry docked on the south side of the stream. He was engaged in a game of cards in the shade with some "unemployed" friends. A man appeared on the north side of the river. He called across but the ferry operator did not want to be annoyed. The newcomer kept clamoring for attention, however, and finally Robbins turned around and demanded to know what he wanted. He shouted that he wanted to cross the river. Robbins, peeved by the interruption, shouted the demand: "How much money have you got?" The man who wanted to cross announced that he had a dime. "If you've only got a dime, you will be just as well off on that side as on this side," Robbins yelled back, closing the negotiations and returning to his interrupted card game. 19

Mr. Brinkerhoff in a letter to the author, dated April 13, 1936, gives additional data of this early-day operator. He wrote:

Robbins was one of the first men in Ottawa. I knew him very well. He served for many, many years as justice of the peace and died, as I now recall it, about 20 years ago. He was an early-day sheriff of Franklin county. Robbins had an affliction. He seemed to have no roof in his mouth.

Another story that Harrison used to tell ran like this. Robbins was on his ferry on the south side of the river one day when another fellow afflicted in the same way appeared at the north side dock. He called across to Robbins who got the notion he was being mocked. According to Harrison the battle of words was terrible until a bystander intervened and straightened the thing out.

We have discovered no mention of ferry matters for the Marais des Cygnes in either Osage or Lyon counties, and nothing further for Franklin.


1. House Journal, Kansas, 1857, p. 45.
2. Ibid., pp. 45, 56. Council Journal, 1857, pp. 49, 55, 70, 84. Private Laws, 1857, pp. 165, 166.
3. House Journal, 1860, special session, pp. 356, 391, 692. Council Journal, 1860, special session, pp. 507, 534. Private Laws, 1860, special session, pp. 23, 24.
4. Home Journal, 1860, p. 138.
5. Ibid., special session, p. 64.
6. Ibid, 1855, pp. 199, 202, 226, 238, 249. Council Journal, 1855, p. 147. General Statutes, 1855, pp. 796,797.
7. Private Laws, 1859, pp. 108, 109.
8. House Journal, 1860, special session, p. 329. Council Journal,1860, special session. Private Laws, 1860, special session, pp. 277, 278.
9. This original document is in the Manuscript division of the Kansas State Historical Society.
10. Private Laws, 1859, pp. 115, 116.
11. Council Journal, 1859, pp. 51, 64, 84, 106, 168, 171, 182. House Journal, 1859, pp. 122, 171. Private Laws, 1859, pp. 109, 110.
12. Greeley, Horace, An Overland Journey, p. 31.
13. Ibid., pp. 38, 39.
14. Private Laws, 1860, special session, p. 279.
15. House Journal, 1860, special session, p. 729.
16. Henry Shively is listed in the "Census of 1860," Franklin county, Peoria township, pp. 275, 276. His age is given as 41. He was a native of Indiana.
17. House Journal, 1860, p. 126. Private Laws, 1860, special session, p. 278.
18. House Journal, 1859, pp. 202, 225, 242, 277, 278. Private Laws, 1859, pp. 110, 111.
19. Pittsburg Sun, December 6, 1935.


THE Verdigris river is formed by a number of small branches which start in Chase county, in R. 9 E., and T. 21 and 22 S. The stream flows east into Lyon county, cutting the southwest corner and on into Greenwood county, which it leaves at a point almost east of Eureka. From here it enters Woodson county, close to the town of Toronto, and flows across the southwest corner. Wilson and Montgomery are then crossed in a circuitous fashion before the stream enters Oklahoma. From the state line south the river con-


tinues through Nowata, Rogers and Wagoner counties, and joins the Arkansas river in the extreme northeast corner of Muskogee county, about a mile above the point where the Neosho river enters that stream. The Verdigris is approximately 270 miles long, of which about 158 miles are in Kansas.

Probably the earliest mention of the stream is by Pike, the explorer, who refers to the river in his journal under date of September 10, 1806. 1 Thomas Nuttall, another explorer, mentions the river in his journal on July 14, 1819, and speaks of the rapids in the stream. 2 Maj. S. H. Long also wrote of the Verdigris on September 4, 1819, and gives Was-su-ja, as the Osage name. 3

The first ferry north of the Kansas-Oklahoma line was probably not far from the old town of Parker. This town was established in 1869, named for D. T. Parker, and was located on the east side of the Verdigris, about one half mile north of the state boundary. We have been unable to learn who operated this crossing, or how long it was in service.

Westralia was probably the location of the next ferry, which may have started sometime during 1869. On June 24, that year, the Westralia Bridge and Ferry Company was organized, its incorporators being Eli Dennis, Oscar F. Johns, Wm. D. Bailey, H. C. Crawford and E. T. Saunders. The principal office of the company was to be located at Westralia, and its capital stock was placed at $10,000, with shares at $100 each. The purpose of the company was to establish a ferry across the Verdigris river and to improve crossings and fords on the stream, commencing at the point where the 37th parallel of latitude or south line of Kansas crosses the Verdigris river, thence north up the river for a distance of ten miles, including all fords and crossings on the river. The company was also privileged to improve the banks of the principal crossings and to build a toll bridge within the ten-mile limit at the northwest corner of Westralia. This charter was filed with the secretary of state, June 30, 1869. 4

Verdigris City was the next ferry location upstream. On July 7, 1869, the county commissioners of Montgomery county granted a license to Daniel McTaggart and M. C. Dickey to operate a ferry at this point. Mr. Dickey was one of the founders of Topeka. McTaggart, a Civil War veteran, was an early settler of Montgomery


county, and located on Indian lands in this vicinity soon after the war. He was the first county treasurer of Montgomery county, and later served as a member of the legislature. He also operated a flouring mill and cotton gin, and during the later years of his life he resided at Liberty.

The next ferry location upstream was at Independence. The ferry, which was run by J. W. Jones, was probably started about 1869 or 1870, and was the first ferry at this point. A letter to George H. Wark, of Independence, regarding it brought the reply that "there seems to be a very meager record in the city hall at Independence, but the ferry was operated there near the site of what was afterwards Waldsmith Mill, during the year of 1870 and perhaps part of 1871."

Another ferry upstream was the one operated by E. H. Moseley, at the north line of S. 4, T. 28, R. 15, in Wilson county. This location is shown on a plat of a road running from Humboldt, in Allen county, via Fredonia, to the junction of Duck creek and Elk river. 5 Moseley was an early-day trader among the Osages, and was one of the commissioners who laid out the road.

Toronto was probably the last location on the river to require a ferry, but aside from an item in the Western Home Journal, of Lawrence, January 17, 1871, which stated that "A ferryboat is to be put on the Verdigris at Toronto," we have found no further mention of ferries on this river.


1. Pike, Expeditions (1810), p. 136.
2. Thwaites, Early Western Travels, v. 13, pp. 234, 235.
3. Ibid., v. 16, p. 281.
4. "Corporations" (copybooks from secretary of state's office in Archives division, Kansas State Historical Society), v. 2, p. 94. Andreas, History of Kansas, p. 1565.
5. Original plat and field notes are in the Archives division of the Kansas State Historical Society.


THE Cottonwood river has its source in northwest Marion county where a number of small branches unite. A little over two miles west of the city of Marion the south branch of the Cottonwood joins the larger one, and the combined streams flow in a southeasterly direction through the county to enter Chase at a point about a mile northwest of the village of Cedar Point. From here the river flows in a northeasterly direction, making a bend to the south and east, touching Cottonwood Falls on the north, and thence in an easterly direction to leave Chase county at a point about two and one half miles due east of the village of Safford, where it enters Lyon county about one mile west of the village of Plymouth. From here it flows in a circuitous course, touching the southern limits of Emporia, and on into the Neosho about three miles northwest of the town of Neosho Rapids. The Cottonwood has the distinction of being the largest tributary of the Neosho. It is approximately 137 miles long,


about 42 being in Marion, 58 in Chase and the balance in Lyon counties. Its drainage area is estimated at 1,690 square miles. 1

A writer in the Kansas City (Mo.) Times, of July 22, 1930, wrote that a small steamboat brought from Lake Michigan, plied up and down the Cottonwood in the early 1880's. The boat was known as the Maude Murphy, and was named for a popular teacher in the Marion schools. This boat is also mentioned in a Handbook of Marion County, published in 1886.

The first ferry on the Cottonwood upstream was located a short distance south of Emporia, about two blocks south of the old Soden mill, and was operated by "Big" and "Little" Jim Moore father and son. This enterprise was started in 1866 or 1867, and continued until the bridges came. The late E. M. Hinshaw, of Emporia, at times assisted in the running of the ferryboat. His son, John E. Hinshaw, has a lively recollection of the old ferryboat, and in a letter to the writer describes it as a rope ferry. A cable was stretched across the river, and a wheel rode on top. A windlass with spokes wound or unwound as the boat crossed over.

Mrs. Martha S. Rees, 1901 Rural street, Emporia, also remembers the ferryboat. She was living south of the Cottonwood river at that time, and recollects that the ferry was located a short distance south of Soden's mill.

Mrs. Flora I. Godsey, Emporia, in a letter to the writer, stated that she had talked with Mrs. Hallie Soden, daughter of Emporia's early miller, and a Mrs. Stack, and that they both had spoken of the large, flat-bottomed boat used occasionally when the river was up.

Ordinarily the Cottonwood was easily forded, the ferryboat being used when highwater prevailed.

Agitation for a bridge began early in 1867 and at that time the river was too high to be forded, 2 so it is more than likely the ferrying in this county ceased this year or the next.

The next ferry upstream was in Chase county, near the town of Cottonwood Falls. The only mention of this we have discovered is the following item and advertisement in the Chase County Banner, Cottonwood Falls, January 10, 1869:

Wood's Ferry Boat is in running order. Persons wishing to cross the Cottonwood will always find a safe and easy passage. This ferry being only three fourths of a mile below town, it will accommodate the travel going to Council Grove as well as that passing down the Cottonwood. This arrange-


ment will also relieve our Butler Co. friends from the necessity, as has frequently been the case, of waiting upon the bank of the Cottonwood until a large freshet had subsided; as it will be but a very little out of their direct line of travel to Emporia and other points farther north and east.

WOOD'S FERRY is Now IN RUNNING ORDER. One Mile Below Cottonwood Falls. My Boat is 36 feet long, 14 feet wide, and perfectly safe. The toll is as follows: Loaded wagon, $1.00; Empty wagon, 50; One horse and wagon, 50; Single Horse and Rider, 25; Footman, 15 ; Loose cattle and horses, 5 cents per head; Sheep and hogs, 2 cents per head; Teams of over two horses, or one yoke of Oxen, 10 cents additional for each animal. S. N. WOOD.

So far as we have been able to learn, this completes the history of ferrying on the Cottonwood river.


1. U. S. Department of Agriculture, Weather Bureau, Daily River Stages, Part IX, p. 47
2. Emporia News, February 8, 22, 1867.


SPRING river rises in the western part of Lawrence county, Missouri, flows in a slightly northwest direction across it and Jasper counties and enters Kansas in Cherokee county. It runs in a generally southern course out of Kansas and into Ottawa county, Oklahoma, where it unites with the Neosho river. The stream is about 100 miles long, twenty five of which are in Kansas.

The first ferry on the river north of the Kansas line was in the immediate vicinity of Baxter Springs. Frank M. Perkins says:

Mr. Geo. A. Root, BAXTER SPRINGS, Ks., Aug. 9, 1932.
Topeka, Kan.:

DEAR SIR. Yours of July 2 rec'd and will say I have interviewed every old timer here in regard to the ferry matter.

The Baxter Springs Bridge and Ferry Co. never did function.

A. Willard built and operated a cable ferry from 1867 to the time the bridge was built over Spring river in 1886. This was on what is now called 12th street or River street and is one half mile east of Baxter. There was a ferry over the Neosho at Chetopa, and one over Spring river at Boston Mills, about 6 miles up the river from Baxter.

There was a ferry known as Pooler's ferry in Oklahoma, about 20 miles south of here. Mose Pooler was a half-blood Cherokee Indian.

Yours truly,

Another ferry in the vicinity of Baxter Springs was known as< Stanley's ferry, and was operating in the spring of 1870. At meetings of the county commissioners on May 2 and 3 of that year, a petition was presented by J. S. Van Epps, asking the board to appoint commissioners to view, locate and lay out a road running from Water street, in Baxter Springs, to Spring river, thence along that


river south to Stanley's ferry. This petition was granted and J. S. Van Epps, R. Little and C. Harvey were appointed commissioners, who, together with the county surveyor, were to view and survey this road on May 23, 1870. No further mention of this ferry has been located. 1

On March 2, 1869, the Baxter Springs Bridge and Ferry Co., was organized, its projectors being Wm H. Hornor, Goodwin Vanwinkle, E. W. Botsford, A. S. Dennison and D. W. King. This organization was capitalized at $50,000, with shares at $25 each. Baxter Springs was designated as the principal place of business, and the company contemplated building a bridge or operating a ferry on Spring river near there. This charter was filed with the secretary of state March 10, 1869, 2 but according to Mr. Perkins the company got no further.

Boston Mills, about six miles up Spring river from Baxter Springs, was the next ferry crossing. The mills were on the west side of the river. The post office of Destine was here also, the military road passing between the mills and post office. Boston Mills was about two miles north of Empire City, 3 and is shown in the Third Annual Report of the State Board of Agriculture of 1874.

John Broylis operated a ferry on Spring river in Cherokee county, but we have been unable to locate any data concerning it, other than the casual mention that the ferry was an intermediate point on a state road running from Sovereen's ferry on the Neosho river, to Columbus and via Broylis' ferry to the state line. Milton Douglas, Fred Wagoner and John Broylis were the commissioners who laid out the road, the latter probably being the operator of the ferry. 4


THE Ninnescah is formed by two branches, the North and South Forks, which unite slightly northwest of the village of Venice in Sedgwick county. The North Fork rises in the southeast part of Stafford county, flows slightly to the northeast and enters Reno county in Range 10 W., Township 24. Describing an arc the stream passes close to Sylvia and Arlington, thence eastward, passing just south of the village of Castleton, thence to the southeast into Sedgwick county to unite with the South Fork. The South Fork is the longer of the two branches and rises in Pratt county in Range 14, near the center of that county from north to south. It has a


practically east course through that and Kingman counties, thence to the southeast and across the southwest corner of Sedgwick, uniting with the North Fork, the combined streams then entering Sumner county and crossing that county to the southeast to join the Arkansas river about three miles north of the town of Oxford. The North Fork is approximately 77 miles long, while the South Fork to its junction with the Arkansas is about 147 miles in length. Ninnescah is an Osage word, and the meaning has been variously given. One rendering is "Beautiful squaw." l The late James R. Mead, of Wichita, who lived among and traded with the Osages, in a paper on the "Origin of Names of Kansas Streams," read before the Kansas Academy of Science, said the word is an Osage (Dakota) name meaning "good spring water," from the great number of springs coming out of the tertiary gravels of its upper course. 2 Another authority gives the word as Nen-ne-es-cah, an Osage word, meaning "white water." 3 Andreas' History of Kansas, page 1525, says the Ninnescah is a beautiful stream and being fed altogether from springs, its water is pure and clear.

The earliest mention of ferries on this stream is the following from the Arkansas City Traveler, of June 20, 1877: "The body of John Broderick, who was drowned some weeks since by the upsetting of a ferry boat on the Nenescah river, has been recovered." Lacking opportunity to consult county records we are unable definitely to locate this ferry, or give the names of its operators. Since the only mention we have found appears in papers near the mouth of the stream, we are convinced the ferry was in Sumner county and close to the Arkansas river.

Another item mentioning the ferry is found in The Sumner County Press, Wellington, February 21, 1878: "The Nennescah river was past fording last week and the ferry at London crossing was brought into requisition."

Nothing further has been found concerning Ninnescah ferries.


1. The Workingman's Journal, Columbus, May 20, 1870.
2. "Corporations," v. 2, p. 37.
3. Andreas, History of Kansas, p. 1169.
4. Laws, Kansas, 1871, p. 302.


THE Walnut river has its source in the northeast part of Butler

county, and flows slightly southwest, passing Augusta to the east and south, and on into Cowley county. By a circuitous course the stream continues southward through Winfield and joins the Arkansas river in the southeastern part of Arkansas City. The

1. The Leader Courier, Kingman, April, 1900.
2. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science, v. 18, p. 216.
3. Arkansas City Traveler, February 13, 1878.


river takes its name from the abundance of walnut timber which grew along its course. The Walnut is about 130 miles in length, approximately 75 miles being in Butler county and the balance in Cowley.

The first ferry on the river upstream was in the vicinity of Arkansas City, and apparently was in operation as early as 1877. We have been unable to learn the name of the operator of this ferry, the date it started, or the length of time it was in service. Aside from the following items from the Arkansas City Traveler, of June 20, 1877, we have found no other mention:

At last the Walnut is fordable and the farmers are permitted to come to town without the exquisite pleasure of a ride on the ferry and a walk the balance of the way.

The saw frame belonging to Lippman's mill, sunk in the Walnut river by the capsizing of the boat, was fished out yesterday. It was lying fifteen feet under water and was bedded 18 inches in mud.

Another ferry upstream was located at the south entrance of Winfield, and was operated by Thomas Wright. He was granted a license by the county commissioners on February 1, 1871, and was authorized to collect the following rates for ferriage: For a two-horse team and wagon, 75 cents; horse and buggy, 25 cents; 1 horse, 15 cents; footman, 10 cents; loose horses and cattle, 15 cents; sheep and hogs, 5 cents each.* This ferry probably functioned when necessary, up to the completion of a bridge across the Walnut near Winfield.

So far as we have learned no other ferries operated on the Walnut river.


ONE of the shorter but most interesting streams of Kansas is Independence creek, in Doniphan and Atchison counties. This stream has its source in a number of small branches some of which rise in the southwestern part of Doniphan county and the others in Lancaster township, Atchison county. The creek forms a small part of the boundary between Atchison and Doniphan counties before its confluence with the Missouri, at a point about two and one half miles above the city of Atchison. Independence creek is approximately fifteen miles long, about equally divided between Atchison and Doniphan counties. 1


The first mention of this creek, which was not named at the time, was by the French explorer Bourgmont, who in 1724 referred to it while on a visit to the Kansas Indians at this point, calling it "a small river." To Lewis and Clark belong the credit for the naming, when they camped there on the evening of July 4, 1804. Their journal of this date says:

The morning of the 4th July was announced by the discharge of our gun.

. . . After fifteen miles sail we came to on the north a little above a creek on the southern side, about thirty yards wide, which we called Independence creek, in honour of the day, which we could celebrate only by an evening gun, and an additional gill of whiskey to the men. 2

Maj. Stephen H. Long's Yellowstone expedition stopped at the mouth of the creek in 1819, and in his journal he marks the stream as Independence creek. The expeditionary force of Capt. Howard Stansbury camped on the headwaters of the stream in 1849 and also designates it by that name. 3 The probabilities are that the name bestowed by Lewis and Clark is the one by which it was first known to the whites.

So far as we have been able to discover, there was but one ferry on Independence creek. It was operated by Joseph B. Beatty, and was running during the later fifties. In a pictorial edition of the Atchison Daily Globe of July 16, 1894, is an item about Col. A. G. Ege, a well known early-day Southerner of Doniphan county. The colonel was a frequent Atchison visitor, who came by way of the ferry, and was almost always accompanied by a pack of hounds. The article stated that he always carried a pistol, and one of his modes of diversion was putting a hole through some bystander's hat without hitting him. On one occasion, while at the Independence ferry, the colonel took a shot at a man's hat but, aiming a trifle too low, creased him. Being a gentleman, the colonel took the injured man to his own home and nursed him until he was recovered.

Just how long the ferry was operated we have not learned. But since the legislature of 1858 passed an act granting to Jacob N. McCall, Egbert M. Lee, A. J. Allison, Benjamin Wrigley and E. W. Stratton, members of the Kansas Express Stage Company, the right to erect a toll bridge across Independence creek within two miles of its junction with Deer creek, 4 it is probable that Mr. Beatty soon after discontinued his ferry, for the legislature of 1859 passed an


act granting him the right to construct a toll bridge across the creek at a point known as Beatty's ferry. 5


ACCORDING to Harry Johnson, writing in the Garnett Review, of July 12, 1934, a ferry run by Charles Ellis, spanned the "North Fork" of Pottawatomie creek, in Anderson county, where the present bridge on highway No. 73W is located. No dates were given, but the time was before any stream in the county was crossed by a bridge. The Pottawatomie figured quite prominently in the troublous times of territorial days, the Pottawatomie massacre taking place at Dutch Henry's crossing. The creek, like most small Kansas streams, was fordable the greater part of the year, requiring ferry service only during the occasional periods of high water. On such occasions the ferryman charged one dollar each for taking wagons across.

On one occasion, following a rainy spell, Yankee Robinson's circus, the first one to show within the confines of Anderson county, drew up before the ferry. They were to show in Garnett that day. Having pulled through the sticky mud of the valley to the bank of the river where the ferry was located, the boss in charge was not long in accepting Ellis' offer to ferry his outfit across for $1 a wagon.

Thirteen wagons had been taken across and Ellis had collected a dollar apiece for same, when a teamster decided to water his team. Spying a place where it appeared practicable to get his horses down to the water, he finally reached the creek and at the same time discovered that a ford was located at this place in fact he saw a settler of the neighborhood drive into the water and start across, the muddied waters not reaching above the horses' knees. The circus teamster hurried back to where the balance of the teams were pulling up the steep bank on the south side of the stream, shouting the news as he came. The whole circus outfit at once started a search for Mr. Ellis, who, having witnessed the teamster making for the ford to water his team, and knowing his discovery of the ford, wisely locked his boat to the bank and suddenly departed from the scene. Not finding him, the circus outfit returned to the task of getting the wagons to the top of the hill, the show's one and only elephant ably assisting in this chore. Yankee Robinson's circus showed in Garnett in later years, crossing the North Fork on a bridge, high above where the ferryboat operated.


* "Commissioners' Records," Cowley county, 1871.
1. Everts, Atlas of Kansas (1887), pp. 26,, 29. Anderson's Atlas of Doniphan County, Kansas (1927), p. 3. Ogle's Standard Atlas of Atchison County, Kansas (1903), p. 7.
2. Lewis and Clark, History of the Expedition (1814), v. 1, p. 21.
3. Kansas Historical Collections, v. 10, p, 838. George J. Remsburg, in Atchison Daily Globe, November 8, iy05.
4. Private Laws, Kansas, 1858, p. 39. House Journal, 1858, pp. 82, 246. Council Journal. 1858, pp. 271, 273.
5. Private Law&, 1859, pp. 21, 22.