Kansas Historical Quarterly - Ferries in Kansas, Part VIII, Neosho River, Concluded
by George A. Root
November 1935 (Vol. 4, No. 4), pages 373 to 387
Transcribed by Gardner Smith; digitized with permission of the Kansas Historical Society.
NOTE: The numbers in brackets are links to footnotes for this text.
THE next ferry upstream was in the vicinity of Erie. About the beginning of the Civil War the four Wikle brothers settled on the Neosho. They were Unionists, and previous to their settling in Neosho county had lived in Texas. On account of their loyalty they had to leave that state. The two younger brothers, John M. and Samuel M., entered the Union army, enlisting in Company K, Sixth Kansas cavalry, on May 14, 1862, and were mustered in the same day. They served till the end of the war and were mustered out at DeVall's Bluff, Ark., John M. having been promoted to the rank of corporal in K company. The other boys, Henry and Jeptha, stayed in Neosho county, Henry operating a farm about a mile south and half a mile west of Erie, just south of the river, the corner almost touching the river. This location was near the south end of the island somewhat to the west of Erie. The island was covered with a dense growth of heavy timber, and Henry and his brother Jeptha established a ferry about the year 1868 which connected with the island, it being used almost exclusively for bringing out wood. The ferry landing was near the south end of the island in T. 28, R. 20, this location being just above the site of the present bridge.
On January 23, 1869, three of the Wikle brother -- J.L., H.M., and S.M. -- John King and Samuel Davis obtained a charter for the Wichita Ferry Co. The principal office of the company was at Erie. Capital stock of the new enterprise was placed at $500 with shares $50 each. The company proposed to maintain a ferry across the Neosho river at a point about 1,000 yards below where the county road from the town of Erie to Oswego, in Labette county, crossed the river, this location being described as in S. 8, T. 29, R. 20 E., and to include territory to the west line of S. 36, T. 28, R. 19. The banks of the Neosho where the ferry was to be located belonged to J.L. Wikle. This charter was filed with the secretary of state February 1, 1869.
About the year 1886 or 1887, John Hall, a Neosho county attorney, acquired the land on this island previously mentioned, and established a ferry connecting with it. He had obtained a contract with one of the railroad companies which operated within the county, to furnish railroad ties, and used this ferry to get them across the river for delivery. The ferry apparently became a community convenience, and was operated by anyone who wished to make use of it.
The first bridge built at Erie was constructed in the early 1870s. This structure was put out of commission in 1883, when ice broke up early in the year. The stone piers of this old structure had square corners, and when great slabs of ice came down with the current and struck these sharp corners, they soon tore out a layer of stone. Succeeding ice cakes tore out more and more until this end of the bridge fell upstream into the water. Until a new bridge could be built to replace this one a temporary ferry was operated close to the location of the old Wikle ferry. On March 2, 1884, a proposition to vote bonds for a bridge south of Erie carried. The Neosho County Republican, of Erie, in its issue of February 28, 1884, favored the proposition and stated, "All must realize the importance of a good bridge across the river at this point." J.W. Lynch, of Iola, was awarded the contract for the stonework for $1,500, while the bridge contract went to the Missouri River Bridge Co., of Leavenworth, at $4,200. The new structure was a combination of iron and wood, and was completed early in 1885.
A dam was built across the Neosho during the early 1870s, just below the bridge, to furnish water power for a grist mill. This mill was run by Branner & Snow in the late 1870s, and was subsequently purchased by Johnson & Kyle, who operated it for a number of years. It finally burned about 1902, and nothing much remains to mark the site. It was one of the common sights in the early days to see folks going to this mill with their grist. One fifth of the finished product was the usual "toll" for grinding, this being a more equitable charge than that attributed to one of the frontier millers, who upon being accused of being unfair, retorted "Well, there's the toll in one sack and the grist in the other. Take your choice."
>High water in 1882 or 1883 put the bridge at this point out of commission, and a ferry was operated for a time. A traveling circus was carried over the river on this ferry. When everything else had been safely gotten over, the elephant was led down to the ferry landing. He just got one foot on the boat and felt it give beneath his weight. He backed off at once and no amount of persuasion could induce the elephant to again set foot on the boat. However, he willingly took to the water and swam across.
John Gregg, of St. Paul, in a letter to the author, mentions this ferry which operated after high water carried the bridge away. Mr. Gregg states that about 1898 he built a small steamboat which he operated up and down the Neosho for several years above the dam, the river affording sufficient depth of water for boating purposes. When this dam went out it spoiled navigation. His boat was thirty-eight feet long, eight feet at bottom, and ten feet at top -- sharp at both ends, and had a reversible engine, with speed of about eight miles an hour. The boat would carry from eighty to ninety passengers, using the two decks. It was used chiefly in taking church and school picnics upstream to some picnic ground.
The dam mentioned in the foregoing paragraph backed water upstream for several miles. Following the flood which carried the dam away, the channel of the river shifted to the west side of the island. Where the Hall ferry was located the banks were quite high -- from fifteen to eighteen feet above average low water. This gorge has filled in considerably during the passing years, and trees are now growing in the old channel where the ferry was operated.
About the year 1865 Stephen E. Beach established a ferry three eighths of a mile south of a small trading post called "Osage City." This "city" consisted of one little log house. The ferry was located about two and one half miles east of Chanute, and was operated until 1871, ceasing on completion of the bridge east of Chanute. Mr. Beach hung a cable across the river, attaching it to a large tree on either side of the stream. One of the trees so used still stands on the west bank of the river. "This was the first ferry in the county, regularly established, with a cable, so far as I know.," wrote Mr. J.J. Hurt, of Chanute. Osage City was later changed to Rogers' Mills, as there were six post offices of that name in Kansas.
Chanute was established in 1870, and if any ferries operated there before the building of the bridges, we have failed to locate mention of them. The city has been well supplied with bridges over the Neosho, one having been built on the road directly north, one east of the Santa Fe tracks, and one east of the city. About 1931 a new bridge was built north of the city, being located west of the old one. A bridge also spans the Neosho just west of the village of Shaw.
Humboldt, about eight miles above Chanute, was the location of the next ferry. Having no opportunity to consult Allen county commissioners' journals, or newspapers of that vicinity for the ferry period, the following account has been prepared from articles which appeared in the Humboldt Union of September 24, 1931, and February 9, 1933:
Up to the close of 1867 the only way to cross the Neosho at Humboldt was by fording. There was a choice of two fords -- the Thurston ford, which crossed the river some 500 feet above the dam, and Blue's ford, which crossed at the lower end of the Humboldt community park and entered the Neosho a short distance from the present septic basin.
When the river channel was full of water the only way to cross was in homemade skiffs or small boats. When the river had risen but little it was crossed with a team by roping the wagon together, making the wagon bed fast to the chassis and swimming the horses. If this precaution was not taken the wagon box would float away and perhaps the front and rear wheels would float off in different directions should the kingpin be lifted from its position. Loss of life was of frequent occurrence when this precaution was not observed.
Up to 1867, when plans were made to start a ferry, this was the only way the river could be crossed. The building of the first boat created much interest in the community. Twenty or more men were employed in its construction. Isaac C. Cuppy was the prime mover in the enterprise. The boat was long and flat with square ends, and had a capacity of two teams and wagons. It was built on the water's edge on the side of the river nearest town, so that it would not be necessary to transport it any distance when completed. When the boat was ready for launching a cable one and one half inches in diameter was stretched across the river and made fast. Two pulleys were a part of the boat's equipment, one at each end. To these was attached a rope, perhaps twenty feet long. By pulling the front end of the boat as closely as possible to the cable stretched across the river, and giving plenty of slack to the rear, the boat was propelled in oblique fashion, the current furnishing the power. When it reached the opposite shore a rope was thrown to some one on shore who pulled the boat close to the bank and fastened it. It was a slow process, sometimes twenty teams on either side waited to be crossed, which would take about a day, for the women and children had to be unloaded. The horses were unhitched and driven onto the boat, for teams sometimes became frightened at their new surroundings and tried jumping overboard. Then the wagons were run onto the boat. At length the boat was loaded and ready to weigh anchor. Sometimes this took about an hour. On reaching the opposite shore the boat was unloaded and a new cargo taken on, for the ferry took them going and coming.
This ferry got under way in May, 1868, when Isaac Cuppy, who lived west of the river, petitioned the commissioners of Allen county for permission to construct and operate a ferry across the river west of Humboldt for one year, which permission was granted. He paid into the county treasury $10 for his license and filed a bond for $5,000 for the faithful performance of his duties as ferryman. His ferriage rates were: For each wagon, buggy or carriage, drawn by two horses, or mules, each way, 35 cents; each wagon, buggy or carriage, drawn by one horse, 25 cents; horseman, 10 cents; sheep and hogs, per head, five cents; horses or cattle, 10 cents; footman, five cents.
More or less trouble was occasioned when the river was high. At such times the water rose to the point where it almost touched the cable. In early days immense amounts of driftwood would come down during floods, and on one occasion this caused the cable to snap, tearing the ferryboat loose from its moorings, and boat and all went down stream never to be returned. Another boat was built and put into commission, and it also got away and landed some ten miles down the river. J.H. Osborn, of the Osborn Lumber Co., took a contract to bring the boat home for $10, which he finally did, but it is said he was sorry long before the job was finished. When the river was low the ferryboat did no business at all, for the people used one or the other of the fords.
Late in 1868 there was a movement within the county in favor of bridges, the old ferry being too slow and uncertain. On January 27, 1869, a county election was held to vote on the proposition of issuing bonds to the amount of $35,000 for the purpose of building half a dozen bridges, one of which was to span the Neosho at Humboldt. Evidently the taxpayers did not look with favor upon the proposition, for the bonds were badly defeated; out of a total of 406 votes cast, only 29 were in favor of the bond issue. Matters dragged along until the following year when the Humboldt Bridge Co. was organized on January 25, 1869. The capital stock of the company was $20,000, in 200 shares. The company proposed to build a bridge over the Neosho at the juncture and intersection of Bridge street with the river in Humboldt. Nine directors were to manage the company's affairs, those named for the first year being W.W. Curdy, C.H. Pratt, Watson Stewart, Peter Long, Chas. Fussman, G.P. Smith, Moses Neal, Wm. Wakefield and E.C. Amsden. This charter was filed with the secretary of state, January 28, 1870. Upon the election of officers Maj. Joseph Bond was chosen president and W.W. Curdy, secretary. Work started on the bridge during the summer of 1870, and it was completed by September, following. The Union Pacific, Southern branch, now the M.-K.-T., reached Humboldt with its passenger trains in April, 1870, and while the bridge was under construction, traffic used Thurston ford if the water was low and the ferry if the water was high.
The bridge, costing originally $9,000, was a one-arch affair and was planned to carry a maximum load of not to exceed 2,500 pounds. It was operated as a toll bridge up to the time it was taken over by the county. Free bridges had been built above and below Humboldt, and the toll bridge was driving trade elsewhere; therefore there was nothing else to be done but to secure the bridge from the Humboldt Bridge Co., eliminate the toll and make it free. This was done in 1881. For nearly a third of a century more it was used, when on February 3, 1933, the old steel structure was removed from its supports and allowed to plunge into the waters of the Neosho to make room for a modern new concrete arch bridge. There are other bridges over the Neosho within the county -- a new steel bridge on the Chanute road, and another built for the Monarch Cement Co.
There was a crossing on the Neosho six miles below Humboldt on the present Chanute road. Wagons entered the river just east of the old bridge, and it was necessary to proceed up the riffle to about the location of the new steel bridge before a place could be found where the bank made it possible to leave the river. This was used in 1868, and was the ford used by the freighters going to Osage Mission, Oswego and Chetopa. The river was again crossed somewhere above Montana. The crossing or ford described above was said to be the most dangerous between Humboldt and Chetopa. It was one of the worst located and necessitated a long pull through the water.
Humboldt, on account of its being the oldest town in the county and being the seat of the government land office as well, was quite a road center. Beginning with 1865 and ending with 1871, nine roads were laid out which affected Humboldt. Two ran from Garnett to Humboldt; and one each from Humboldt to LeRoy, Humboldt to Elk river, Humboldt to junction of Duck creek and Elk river, Humboldt to the south line of the state, Humboldt to Wichita, Humboldt to Arkansas City and Humboldt to Chetopa. Plats, field notes and commissioners' reports of most of these are on file in the Archives division of the Kansas Historical Society.
Iola, about seven miles above Humboldt by land, or nine or ten by the river, may have had a ferry, but we have found no mention of any.
Iola was well connected by roads to various parts of the county and southeastern Kansas. One of the first established was the second mail route into Allen county, which ran from Lawrence to Humboldt. This service was to commence on July 1, 1858, and a few days before it started, J.W Scott, J.M. Evans and Harmon Scott went out with a wagon load of poles and laid out and marked a trail from Hyatt to Carlyle, which later became the main wagon road north. The first mail carrier was Zach Squires, who carried the mail while riding a small mule.
In 1865 the legislature established a road from Fort Scott to Iola, a distance of thirty-nine miles. J.W. Bainum was the surveyor.
Neosho Falls, Woodson county, is the only town in that county on the river that might have had need of a ferry, but so far as our investigations have gone, we have been unable to find any mention of a ferry that was operated there.
Le Roy, in Coffey county, about seventeen or eighteen miles above Neosho Falls by the river, was the next ferry location. During the special session of the 1860 legislature a bill was passed authorizing John B. Scott, Thomas Crabtree and Richard Burr to keep a ferry over the Neosho at that point. They were to have exclusive privileges for one mile up and one mile down the river, for a term of five years. This act was signed by Gov. S. Medary, February 11, 1860. Whether the above-named gentlemen started their ferry at this time we have been unable to learn. However, a ferry was started within the next year or two. An exchange of letters with the editor of the Le Roy Reporter brought the following history:
LE ROY, KAN., Sept.20, 1935.
DEAR SIR -- As advised in my previous letter, G.W Ringle and W.B. Mosley are the only old-timers around here who remember anything definitely about the only ferry on the Neosho river at this point. Mr. Mosley was not a resident of Le Roy at the time but lived in an adjoining township. Mr. Ringle, however, actually operated the ferry for a time. His story is:
The ferryboat was built by a man by the name of Bracket Love, early in the '6Os -- the exact date is not remembered. Ben Kerns, who owned the brewery near the site of the ferry, bought it from Love. Ringle made a contract to run it on shares. As he remembers it, his operation of the ferry was about 1865. The date is reasonably well fixed in his mind because of a peculiar accident which happened on a fourth of July, which both he and Mr. Mosley believe was in 1865. The town had decided to put on a whooping celebration--doubtless to celebrate the close of the Civil War. The grove where the celebration was to be held was across the river and was known at that time as "Scott's Grove," after John B. Scott (who with Richard Burr and Thomas Crabtree had laid out the town of Le Roy). To facilitate the passage of the celebrants, a foot bridge had been built across the river. During the night (3d) the river rose several feet on account of rains up river and the foot bridge was washed away. So resort had to be made to the ferry for transportation. Ringle was in charge of the ferry. On the first attempted trip so many people crowded on the ferry that it sank, and this resulted in a great deal of excitement, but as the boat was still near the bank, there was no loss of life. The bedraggled celebrators then waited until the boat could be bailed out, and it made many trips to get everyone across the river.
Both Mr. Mosley and Mr. Ringle are agreed that the ferry was not used a great deal during the ordinary stages of the river, as there was a usable ford in the same vicinity.
The ferry was located at approximately the foot of "C" street as it is now known.
This about tells the story. I have asked both Mr. Ringle and Mr. Mosley to take plenty of time to try and remember anything about the ferry that they can, but both are agreed that there is not much more to be said.
Yours very truly,
Le Roy was laid out in 1855, at which time roads were few and far between. The town was connected with the county seat, Burlington, and also with towns south and east of Le Roy, for trading purposes. By 1861, it became an intermediate point on a road which ran from Ohio City, Franklin county, via Le Roy to Belmont. In 1863 two new state roads reached the town. The first ran from Ohio City, via Mineral Point to Le Roy, a distance of thirty-seven miles. Jackson Means was the surveyor of this road, the plat and commissioners' report of which are in the Archives division of the Kansas Historical Society. The second was a road also starting from Ohio City, by way of the northeast corner of S. 23, T. 19, R. 18, and Mineral Point to Le Roy. This was authorized by the legislature, and D.C. Weatherwax of Franklin county, James R. Means of Anderson county, and Edward Drum of Coffey county, were appointed commissioners to establish it. Another road was provided for by the legislature of 1865, which started at Mapleton, Bourbon county, and ran via Ozark and Elizabethtown, Anderson county, to Le Roy. W.J. Brewer, Bourbon county, Joseph Price, Anderson county, and J.B. Hosley, Allen county, were the commissioners. Another road was established from Le Roy to Humboldt, via Neosho Falls. This road was surveyed by G. DeWitt, and his plat and field notes, together with the report of the commissioners, is on file at the Kansas Historical Society. Le Roy was also an intermediate point on a road laid out in 1870 which ran from Garnett to Fredonia.
Burlington, approximately twenty miles by the river above LeRoy, was the location of the next ferry. Lacking opportunity of consulting Coffey county commissioners' journals, we are unable to state when this ferry was inaugurated or by whom. The earliest mention of the enterprise is an item from a Lawrence paper which stated that since the Burlington bridge was carried away by recent floods in the Neosho, the enterprising citizens of that town had gotten together and inaugurated a free ferry service. Another mention of the Burlington ferry appeared in an item in the local paper, the Neosho Valley Enterprise, of November 29, 1859, which stated that "Mr. Gibbs: near the sawmill is engaged in repairing the old ferryboat preparatory for the high-water season." A ferry, apparently, was in operation as late as 1863, Andreas' History of Kansas, page 652, stating that in the spring of that year William Gibson was drowned by the sinking of the ferryboat at that place.
An article first published in the Neosho Valley Register, of Iola, and copied in the Kansas State Journal, of Lawrence, March 19, 1863, doubtless refers to the Burlington ferry. It states that on March 16, 1863, one Pleasant Landers, a resident of Avon township, was returning from a trip to town, when his horses refused to be driven onto the ferryboat. Accordingly they were unhitched and led onto the boat, and the partially loaded wagon drawn on by hand. In addition to the team and wagon, the ferryboat contained Mr. Landers, Misses Sarah Vince and Mary Jane Gibson and Henry Atherly and William Gibson who were operating the boat. The load, apparently, was not evenly distributed, too much weight being on the upper end of the boat. When near the opposite shore and in the swiftest part of the current, the boat dipped beneath the surface and the force of the current carried it under, when all on board were washed off, excepting Gibson and his sister who succeeded in clinging to the railing. The team swam ashore, carrying with them Landers and Atherly. Miss Vince started drifting with the current, but managed to get hold of the railing of the boat which was floating near, and was soon rescued. The ferryboat was still attached to the swing rope, and rode up and down with the current, sometimes one end being three or four feet above the water and the next moment as far below, carrying with it the Gibsons who still clung to the railing. After several such plunges, Gibson lost hold of his sister and was swept away, his sister still clinging to the boat. Later the rope was cut and the boat drifted down the river. When near the pieces of the old bridge, B.F. Ash plunged into the river, carrying with him one end of a rope, and succeeded in reaching the boat. This rope he made fast and the boat was drawn ashore, Miss Gibson being in a nearly insensible condition when rescued. Every effort was made to recover the body of young Gibson. He had been a member of a Kansas volunteer regiment, and had been wounded in the knee by a rebel musket ball during the Battle of Drywood. His lameness probably prevented him from saving himself.
A move toward a bridge in Burlington took shape early in 1858, when an act was passed by the legislature granting A.D. Searl, Robert Frazer and Judson A. Larrabee authority to erect a toll bridge across the Neosho at that point. The act specified that the bridge should be a substantial one, and that it be kept in good repair so as to render the crossing thereon safe and convenient. The following rates of toll were authorized: For one horse and rider, 10 cents; each single horse and mule, five cents; each head of work cattle, two cents; each head of other stock, one cent; each horse and carriage, 25 cents; each horse and wagon, 50 cents; each six-horse or an ox wagon, 75 cents.
The privileges granted this company were to be exclusive for a period of twenty-one years. Gov. J.W. Denver approved the act on February 5, 1858.
The above-mentioned bridge, perhaps, was the one carried away in the flood of the following year. Just when the next structure to span the river was built we have not discovered. However, a modern bridge 916 feet long spans the Neosho at this point, completed early in July, 1935.
Burlington became quite a road center during the first decade of its existence. In addition to local roads within the county, a road was established from Leavenworth to this point in 1859, it being a trifle over 96 miles in length, running via Lawrence, Minneola and the Sac and Fox agency in Franklin county. The plat of this road, together with the field notes signed by J.B. Stockton, commissioner, are on file at the Kansas Historical Society. Another road, established in 1864, ran from Burlington to Fall River, via Janesville. This thoroughfare was about 41 miles long, and traversed the counties of Coffey, Woodson and Greenwood. The plat, together with field notes and commissioners' report, is on file at the Historical Society. Another road, a little over 13 miles long, was laid out in 1866, and ran from Burlington to Mineral Point; another, established in 1871, ran from Burlington to Quenemo; another, established the same year, ran from the southwest corner of Coffey county to Winfield, via Osborn settlement and Eureka, Greenwood county. Plats, surveyors' notes, etc., of the last three named roads are also on file in the Historical Society.
Ottumwa, approximately eight miles by river above Burlington, was the next point where a ferry may have been operated. During the session of the 1860 legislature, House bill No. 289 was introduced authorizing Rosetta Smith, her heirs and assigns, to keep a ferry across the Neosho river at or near the town of Ottumwa, and to have exclusive privileges within two miles of that town for a period of five years. The act specified that a good and substantial boat or boats should be provided sufficient to carry the traveling public, the same to be manned by good and safe hands. Rates of ferriage were to be fixed by the board of county commissioners. This act was approved by Gov. S. Medary February 27, 1860. Whether the ferry ever operated we have not learned.
Emporia, some forty-five or more miles above Ottumwa, following the crooks and turns of the river, was the next ferry location. The first ferry over the Neosho in this vicinity is said to have been started about 1865 by William O. Ferguson. However, it has been impossible to verify this date. The earliest printed mention of the ferry we have found is in the printed proceedings of the board of county commissioners, of April 1, 1867, which recites:
W.O. Ferguson and J.J. Campbell filed petition praying for license to run ferryboats on the Cottonwood and Neosho rivers.
Ordered by the board that the County clerk be instructed to issue license to Ferguson & Campbell to run boats as follows: One across the Cottonwood river at Soden's mill, and one across the Neosho near Rinker's ford for one year, rates of ferriage for the same to be as follows: For 4 horses and wagon, 75 cents; 2 horses and wagon or carriage, 50 cents; 1 horse and wagon or carriage, 35 cents; man and horse, 25 cents; footman, 10 cents; loose cattle and horses, per head, 10 cents; loose sheep and hogs, per head, 5 cents."
That this may have been the start of this ferry is indicated in the following item from the Emporia News, of April 5, 1867, which says:
W.O. Ferguson and J.J. Campbell have their long wished for ferryboats in good running order -- one on the Cottonwood, near Soden's mill, and the other at Rinker's ford on the Neosho. Hereafter, when either of these streams get on a high, the enterprising proprietors will be on hand to set you across, dry shod, for a reasonable compensation.
This location was just above the crossing known as the Rinker ford, named for Royal Rinker, who settled on the north bank of the river. This ford was considered the only safe and reliable crossing. On account of heavy rains it frequently happened that it was not safe to ford the stream and this was probably responsible for the establishment of the ferry at this point.
There appears to be considerable conflicting testimony concerning this ferry, one authority stating that it was run for a year or two by Peter Bishop, who sold to Mr. Ferguson who moved it up the river to a point below the mouth of Allen creek and just below the Fawcett & Britton sawmill, The stage to Emporia often crossed on the ferryboat, but the horses could not pull the loaded wagon up the steep bank of the river at this location, so the passengers were obliged to get out and help push it up the bank before they could proceed. Wagons loaded with corn for the Emporia market were also obliged to unload here, and the grain was carried up the steep bank by the sackful on the shoulders of the driver. This new location was near what is known as the Holmes ford, just below the Country Club dam. "Jack" Holmes, from whom it took its name, was one of John Brown's men at Osawatomie.
The following from a letter from the daughters of Mr. Ferguson adds some more to the history of this ferry:
EMPORIA, KAN., Oct. 7, 1935.
MY DEAR MR. ROOT -- Replying to your letter of August 2, concerning our father's connection with the early day ferry on the Neosho northeast of Emporia, we wish to say our information is limited and most of the old-timers are dead.
We do know from Mr. Wm. Hammond, now ninety-eight years old, our father owned the ferryboat for about two and one half years.
Mr. C.A. Bishop, our friend and neighbor, tells us his father, Simon Peter Bishop, ran the ferry for father but did not own it.
The place of crossing is on the Wm. Hammond's farm at the bend in the river, a short distance above the present "Rinker" bridge at the point where the old "Burlingame road" would touch the Neosho as it made its diagonal way toward the new Emporia.
Our father, Wm. O. Ferguson, was born in Ohio. The family followed the western migration into Iowa. Three sons came on into the turbulent Kansas. Father entered the state March 27, 1857, and camped on the site of the present City of Leavenworth. He came on to Lawrence and in 1859 to Emporia. He served four years in the Civil War. Returning to Emporia he engaged in general merchandising. Doubtless the ferry was of aid in this as well as a convenience to others. The lumber of our present home was brought by wagon train from Topeka and some of our furniture from Leavenworth.
The bridge directly north of town on the Neosho was built about '68 or '69, so the ferry must have been in operation between the years '65 and '68 or '69.
Mr. Bishop has a hazy memory that the ferry was sold to W.T. Soden. We have not been able to verify this. There was, however, a ferry south of town at Soden's, on the Cottonwood, as early as '67 . . .
We will make more inquiries, and should we learn anything more definite in the near future will write you, but fear it is a false hope. Miss French knew no more than we. Her information came, we think, from the Plumbs, and the original members of this family are now all gone.
MISS LOU E. FERGUSON
MRS. DAISY FERGUSON
718 Constitution, Emporia, Kan.
P.S. It occurred to me the drouth years of '69, etc., may have caused the ferry to die a natural death. There was a good ford a short distance below and the present "Rinker" bridge was not built until middle '8O's.-D.F.G.
Jacob Stotler, editor and publisher of the Emporia News, while on a tour of the county had occasion to cross the Neosho, and in his issue of July 26, 1867, said:
Supplying ourselves with one of Crowe Brothers' fast teams we hauled up in front of Bill Ferguson's ferryboat on the Neosho north of town at an early hour. The river had been passable the evening before, and Mr. Bishop, the ferryman, not knowing the river had raised during the night, and supposing there would be no use for the boat, was not present. Two or three lusty yells brought the good natured phiz of our friend Tom Milburn to view on the opposite side of the stream, where the boat was anchored. "Do you run this ferry?" we inquired of Thomas. "Not by a d -- d sight," was his soft reply. After telling us the man lived a mile and a half away, he finally thought he could "run her over," and we told him to pitch in. After tugging awhile we landed "on the other side" of this obstruction, fully convinced that Tom Milburn can lay stone wall a "doggone sight" better than he can run a ferryboat. Nevertheless we return thanks to Thomas for his assistance.
Aside from the Santa Fe trail which crossed the county, in 1854 there was no other road. Some Indian trails, barely wide enough for the Indians to go in single file, were the only thoroughfares. The first wagon road or trail across the Neosho was blazed by John Rosenquist in 1855, who cut down trees on each side of the Neosho to open a road wide enough for wagons. Mrs. John Rosenquist, in speaking of the lack of roads in 1855, said the early settlers of her neighborhood went back to Withington's Inn, near Allen, and then followed the Santa Fe trail, otherwise they would get lost, as there were no houses or distinguishing landmarks to be guided by when off the trail. A year or so later, as settlers came in they got their bearings, and so the Burlingame road came into use.
The first permanent road into Emporia was one laid out from Burlingame. This was established by government authority. Oliver Phillips drove the first wagon over this road in February, 1857, when he drove diagonally across the prairie to help lay out the Emporia townsite. The road crossed the Neosho near the Rinker ford. A stage station was established at the Phillips place, and there was much travel on the road.
In 1859, a road was laid out from Lawrence to Emporia, via Bloomington, Clinton, Twin Mound, Georgetown, 110 creek, Superior, Sac Trail, and Waterloo, a length of 69 miles. A.D. Searl was the surveyor, and his plats, field notes and the commissioners' report are preserved by the Historical Society. Another road, authorized by the legislature of 1861, ran from Minneola to connect with the Santa Fe road, via Neosho Rapids, Emporia, and Cottonwood Falls, and ended in Rice county, near Lyons, being a little over 180 miles in length. Another road, established by the legislature of 1861, ran from Emporia to El Dorado via Bazaar and Chelsea, a distance of sixty-one miles. This road was surveyed by C.F. Eichacker, whose plat and field notes are in the Archives division of the Historical Society. In 1866 a state road was laid out from Emporia to Eureka, by R.G. Soule, James Kanver and Edwin Tucker. This was ten miles shorter than the usually traveled route as well as an improvement on the old road.
The first movement for a bridge over the Neosho within Lyon county was in the year 1858, when a bill was introduced in the legislature for the incorporation of the Neosho River Bridge Co. This charter was for a fifteen-year period, during which the company was to have exclusive privileges at or within five miles of the town of Emporia. The act passed both houses but was vetoed by Governor Denver. The first permanent bridges erected on the stream were provided for by an election of 1867. This included one for Emporia -- the Merchant Street bridge -- and one at Neosho Rapids.
So far as we have been able to discover, the ferry operated by Mr. Ferguson was the uppermost and last ferry located on the Neosho river.
Thanks are hereby tendered to Mrs. Flora I. Godsey, Miss Lou E. Ferguson, Mrs. Daisy Ferguson Grimes, William Allen White, Glick Fockele and others for assistance in collecting this data on upper Neosho river ferries.
49. Interview with an old resident of the county.
50. Charters, v. 2, p. 19.
51. Ed. L. George, Erie, Kan., is authority for the above statements. He was one of those employed in cutting ties.
52. Neosho County Republican, Erie, February 12, 26, 1885.
53. Statement of A.A. George.
55. Letter of J.J. Hurt to author.
56. Corporations, v. 2, p. 242.
57. W.W. Curdy became a resident of Topeka during 1887, and engaged in a general merchandising business, which he carried on for several years.
58. Humboldt Union, September 24, 1931, February 9, 1933; Iola Register, July 5, 1932.
59. Humboldt Union, October 1, 1931.
60. History of Allen and Woodson Counties, Kansas
61. Laws, Kansas, 1865, p. 145; 1867, p. 261. Field notes, commissioners' report and plat in Archives division.
62. Private Laws, Kansas, 1860, special session, p. 289.
63. John B. Scott was a pioneer of Coffey county and Le Roy. The land upon which the town stands was pre-empted or rather claimed by Mr. Scott and Frederick Troxel. He kept the first post office and a country store in a log house on the Wilkinson farm. He was also the first justice of the peace, being commissioned in 1855.
64. Thomas Crabtree was one of the earliest residents of Le Roy, purchasing an interest in the townsite. Richard Burr arrived from California in 1856 and purchased a third interest in the townsite, which was surveyed in 1857. Mr. Crabtree and Isaac Chatham built the first frame house on the site, in 1855. He was later a member of the Masonic Lodge of Le Roy. -- Andreas., History of Kansas, p. 658.
65. Laws, Kansas, 1861, p. 247.
66. Ibid., 1863, p. 85.
67. Ibid., 1865, pp. 143, 144.
68. Ibid., 1866, p. 224.
69. Lawrence Republican, July 7, 1859.
70. "Census of 1860," Coffey county, lists an L. Gibbs, Burlington, age 52, carpenter; wife, E. Gibbs, age 43, born in England; and four children, aged 18, 12, 9, and 2, respectively.
71. William Gibson, son of Samuel Gibson, is listed in the "Census" of 1860," Coffey county, age 24, and a farmer.
72. Pleasant Landers, 26, a farmer, was a native of Arkansas -- "Census of 1865," Coffey county.
73. Sarah Vince, aged 20, a daughter of A.H. Vince, was born in Ohio. -- Ibid.
74. Mary Jane Gibson, aged 20, was born in Ireland. She was a daughter of Samuel Gibson. -- Ibid.
75. Private Laws, Kansas 1858, pp. 48, 44.
76. Laws, Kansas, 1859, p. 585.
77. Ibid., 1864, pp. 207, 208; 1866, p. 225; 1871, p. 229.
78. House Journal, 1860, special session, pp. 375, 730; Council Journal, 1860, special session, pp. 431, 495, 519, 548.
79. Emporia News, April 5, 1867.
80. Simon Peter Bishop lived in the Rinker neighborhood, three or four miles northeast of Emporia, settling there in 1865.
81. Laura M. French, History of Emporia and Lyon County, pp. 271, 272.
82. This was probably James H. Holmes, who was associated with John Brown during his operations in Kansas in 1856.
83. Mrs. Floyd I. Godsey, in letter to author.
84. French, op. cit., pp. 269, 270.
85. Laws, Kansas, 1859, p. 585.
86. Ibid., 1861, p. 247.
87. Ibid., p. 248.
88. Emporia News, Jan. 12, 1867.
89. House Journal, 1858, p. 372.
90. French, op. cit., p. 268; Emporia News, Feb. 22, 1867.