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 Kansasat Lecompton, Douglas, Tecumseh and the mouth of the riverand 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.
The legislature of 1857 authorized two ferries across the Missourione at Wyandotte and the other at Quindaro; one across the Marias des Cygnes at the mouth of Big Sugar creek, and five across the Kansas, to-wit: one at Calhoun, one on the road from Bernard's store to Leavenworth, one on the Leavenworth and Peoria road, one at Ogden, and Hugh Cameron was granted the privilege of operating a ferry in section 14, township 12, range 19, near the city of Lawrence.
By 1859 western travel had become so great as to demand ferries over some of the other Kansas rivers, and the legislature of that year passed some thirty acts providing for the necessary crossings. Among the ferries thus established were those over the Solomon, Smoky Hill and Republican on the road leading from Fort Leavenworth to Bent's fort, across the Kansas at Manhattan, the Saline at Salina, the Republican at Bacheller, the Big Blue at Oketo and near the present town of Irving, the Neosho at Humboldt and Neosho Falls, and a steam ferry was established across the Missouri at Iowa Point. Ferry privileges were also granted over the Arkansas river near the mouth of the Fontaine Que Bouille in Arapahoe county, now in the State of Colorado.
The old-fashioned ferry usually consisted of a flat-bottomed scow, at each end of which was fastened a short rope with a loop or iron ring at the outer end. Through these loops or rings ran a rope stretched across the stream and fastened securely at either end. The motive power was the ferryman, who, by pulling upon the rope, dragged the boat slowly across the river. Ferry charges were often as high as $1 for a two-horse team and wagon, or 25 cents for a footman, and the man who held the exclusive privilege of conducting a ferry on a road where there was much travel often had a sinecure. A few ferries were established by the later territorial and early state legislatures, but as roads were opened upon fixed lines bridges were built and the ferry fell into disuse. After the Civil war came the railroad which changed the whole method of travel by displacing the stage coach, etc., and one of the old flat-bottomed ferry boats would be a curiosity to many people of the present generation, although a few primitive ferries are still operated in out-of-the-way districts.Pages 636-637 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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