Robert Y. Shibley, Marysville, Kan., is one of the early pioneers of northern Kansas. He passed through the early hardships, privations and struggles of the formative period of the State, and has reaped a rich material reward, as well as enjoying the satisfaction of having taken an active part in the building up of the great West. Robert Y. Shibley is a native of South Carolina, born in Edgefield District, December 20, 1839, and is a son of James and Elizabeth (Lamb) Shibley, both of English descent. The father was a large cotton planter and a slave owner before the war, and the parents spent their lives in South Carolina. When a boy sixteen years of age Robert Y. Shibley ran away from home and came to Kansas with the single ambition of hunting buffaloes. His desire in that direction was occasioned by reading a letter from David R. Atchison, who at that time resided in western Missouri. Mr. Atchison, as history records, had the distinction of serving as President of the United States by virtue of his office as Vice President, from Saturday night to Monday morning. Mr. Shibley made the trip to Atchison, Kan., from his home in South Carolina mostly by water via the Tennessee, Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri rivers. In addition to the distance traveled by water he walked over one hundred miles overland in making the trip and he reached Atchison, Kan., April 1, 1856. At that time the slavery controversy was the all-absorbing question in Kansas and the bitterness that prevailed between the pro- and anti-slavery advocates was at its height and conflicts between these opposing factions were of frequent occurrence. On April 10, 1856, just ten days after his arrival in Kansas, Mr. Shibley joined a company of one hundred men under Sheriff Jones, of Kansas Territory, who had instructions from the territorial legislature to go to Lawrence and destroy the Eldridge Hotel and the "Free State Press." The hotel had been fitted up with port holes for defense purposes, which was construed by the legislature as making preparations for war. The company marched from Atchison to Lecompton, then the Territorial capital, and here Sheriff Jones with his men captured a six-pound cannon and a quantity of ammunition, and at this point they were joined by three or four hundred more men. They then marched on Lawrence, taking a position on the hillside commanding the town, having couriers in advance to warn the inhabitants to leave the town. Upon arrival there they found the town practically deserted, and they then entered the village, destroying the "Free State Press" and throwing the equipment into the river, and after completing this work they proceeded to carry out their orders as to the destruction of the Eldridge Hotel, and accordingly planted their six-pounder about a hundred yards from that building and fired several shots into the building until it was reduced to a mass of ruins, which was fired, and thus its destruction was completed. They burned Mr. Robinson's house and returned to Lecompton, returning the cannon which they had taken, and started on their return to Atchison; when at Easton they were attacked by a party under command of James Lane. At this time they had become scattered into small groups and Mr. Shibley was with the party which encountered Lane. They took refuge in a blacksmith shop and Lane's men continued to bombard them throughout the afternoon. The blacksmith shop was riddled with shot and the besieged men laid as close to the ground as possible for safety. About 4 o'clock in the afternoon Lane's men proceeded to run a load of hay against the shop, with a view of setting it afire and thereby burning the shop. However they fought off Lane's men and succeeded in setting fire to the load of hay when it was about seventy-five yards from the shop. One of Lane's men was wounded in the fight. They remained in the shop until after dark, when they proceeded on their way to Atchison, none the worse of the encounter except some bruises from flying stones and timbers from the cannon shots. Shortly after this a town site company was organized in Atchison, of which Mr. Shibley was a member, and they purchased eight head of mules and the same number of cattle, with wagons and provisions, from David R. Atchison, and started west June 2, 1856. They went as far as where Marysville now stands, and during this entire trip of about one hundred miles they saw but one house. This was occupied by a man named Rubedeau, who afterwards became a prominent citizen of St. Joseph, Mo. At that time he was located on the plains with the purpose of trading with the Otoe Indians. Mr. Shibley's party camped with him over night. They arrived at the site of Marysville July 1, 1856. Frank Marshall had settled on the Big Blue river near this point and ran a ferry. He named the place, where the ferry crossed, Marysville, after his wife, Mary Marshall, thus the town, Marysville, derived its name. The party made an investigation of the country around this section and being favorably impressed with it located 320 acres and laid out a town site, calling it Palmetto in honor of South Carolina, as most of the party were natives of that State. A year later the town of Marysville was laid out. There are two streets in Marysville which are only one-half block apart and the reason of which is generally unknown. However, it was due to the fact that Frank Marshall, the first settler, had built a log store before the town was laid out and to accommodate him an extra street was laid out in order to pass the front of his store, which is now the main business street of Marysville. The town of Palmetto became an addition to the town of Marysville. Mr. Shibley was a member of both town-site companies and they agreed to call the place Marysville, for the reason that Mr. Marshall had given the place where his ferry crossed the river that name at an earlier date. There are only two members of these companies living at the present time, as far as Mr. Shibley knows, and he is the only one living in Marshall county. The town site of Palmetto was on the main-traveled road, or trail, leading to the west. Parties on the way west often camped at this place and in the spring before Mr. Shibley and his party came here a party of emigrants on the way to the "Promised Land," as Utah was then called, were attacked by cholera and died by the hundred, and left the hillside dotted with new graves as mute testimony of ravages of that disease. A postoffice was established where the stage coach crossed the Big Blue river, in October, 1854. It was given the name Marysville and Frank Marshall was the first postmaster. This was the first postoffice established after this part of the Territory was named Kansas, officially. In 1858 Mr. Shibley went to St. Louis and bought a saw mill, which he brought to Marysville and set up on the Big Blue river. He owned large tracts of land up and down the river, which was about the only timber land in that section, and did a thriving business. He also did sawing for the settlers, who often hauled logs thirty or forty miles to his mill. In 1860 there was a complete crop failure, and in 1862 he went to Atchison with his ox teams and contracted to haul a quartz mill from Atchison to Central City, Col. On his way to Central City he passed through Marysville, where he learned that Indians were on the war path along the Little Blue river in Washington county. Here he joined a company of about twenty men and they set out after the Indians, who had done considerable damage and carried off three white women, who were later rescued and returned to the settlement. General Sheridan then went in pursuit of the Indians and followed them to Colorado, where he defeated them with heavy loss. Mr. Shibley resumed his journey west, following the trail of the army, arriving in Central City, Col., without further trouble from the Indians. The trip took nearly all summer and in some instances it required as many as twenty yoke of oxen to haul his load over the mountains. After delivering his load he returned to Marysville, where he engaged to haul a load of corn to Fort Laramie for the Government. He received eleven cents per pound for hauling, and even at that price it was not a profitable venture, as the price, of provisions were so high. Sugar was seventy-five cents per pound and hay was $120 per ton. He also hauled wood to Fort Julesburg at $100 per cord. In 1864, after he returned from Fort Julesburg to Marysville, he sold his freighting equipment and engaged in farming and stock raising on the Big Blue river, where he owned six hundred acres of land, which he has since operated. He made a trip to his South Carolina home in the fall of 1867, returning to Kansas the following spring. When a boy he was a neighbor and schoolmate of Senator Benjamin Tillman. Mr. Shibley's career has been filled with many exciting incidents of pioneer life. On one occasion, in 1858, while working at his mill he heard some firing near the ferry and upon investigation found that some disappointed prospectors, returning from Colorado, had driven off the ferryman and taken possession of the ferry, but in a short time the settlers recaptured the ferry, and in so doing killed three of the prospectors. While Mr. Shibley left home for the purpose of hunting buffaloes in Kansas he never had the opportunity to engage in this sport until 1860. This was one of the dry years and there was neither water nor grass on the plains. He went about thirty miles west of Marysville, where he found great herds of buffaloes, and in two days' hunting secured all the buffalo meat that two yoke of cattle could haul. He lived on this meat that winter.
Mr. Shibley was married, May 28, 1872, to Frances Blanchard Covell, a daughter of George and Caroline Blanchard, natives of Connecticut. Mrs. Shibley was born, reared and educated in that State and came to Kansas with her parents in 1870. They settled in Marshall county at the place later known as Blanchville. The father was a carpenter, but after coming to Kansas did not engage actively in any business. He and his wife were Quakers and Mr. Blanchard was contractor and builder for Spragues in building houses for cotton mill employees. He was a man of considerable means and at his death left a great deal of property. He remained in Marshall county until his death. To Mr. and Mrs. Shibley have been born five children: Robert F., Marysville; James G., a Government employee at Washington, D. C., in the Chemical Department, married Miss Bell and they have two children, Bettie and Louise; Ludie C., married Benjamin M. Bell, stockman, Beattie, Kan., and they have two children, Francis and Woodrow Wilson; Horatio B. resides in the State of Washington, and Ethel E. resides at home with her parents. The family are members of the Methodist Episcopal church, and for over forty years Mr. Shibley has been a member of the Masonic order and Mrs. Shibley is a member of the Eastern Star.
Mr. Shibley has met with merited success, and after an active and eventful career, in which he has played no small part in the development of the State, he is spending the latter days of his life practically retired. He is one of the substantial men of Marshall county, well and favorably known in that section.Pages 512-515 from a supplemental volume 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 October 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM196. It is a single volume 3.
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