FIRST GLIMPSE OF KANSAS - WHEN THE YANKEE FREE STATE MEN CAME - DELIGHTS OF PIONEER TRAVEL BY STEAMBOAT - WHEN GOVERNOR REEDER CAME AND WENT - FIRST STEAMBOATS TO NAVIGATE THE KANSAS RIVER - THE "EMMA HARMONS" FAMOUS TRIP - THE "LIGHTFOOT" BUILT IN KANSAS - A NOTABLE VOYAGE UP THE KANSAS RIVER - QUINDARO'S FAMOUS SIDE-WHEELER - KANSAS RIVER STEAMBOATS - STEMBOATS THAT WENT DOWN - WHEN BOATS WERE OPERATED FOR THE RAIL ROADS - AN END TO STEAMBOATING.
The steamboats that plied the Missouri and Kansas rivers in fifties and sixties, before the railroads were builded, had an important part in the making of Kansas and Wyandotte county. The hulks of steamboats of those early days that lie buried in the shifting sands of the Missouri round about the Wyandotte levee above the mouth of the Kansas river, or a few miles up stream or down stream, if only they might speak, could tell many delightful tales of that most charming, most picturesque and most potential epoch which our state, our county and our city has ever known. They were the common carriers of the commerce of the new west. More than that, they were freighted down with the ideals, the hopes and the ambitions of the Kansas emigrants, men and women, makers of Kansas.
The wooden canoes of the Indians, the flotillas of pirogues of the French voyagers and traders, and their successors, the keel boats, had disappeared from the western rivers and in their place had come steam boats, some of them of splendid construction and magnificent in appointments. It was said that in 1856 upwards of sixty steamboats were running on the Missouri from St. Louis up to Kansas City, Wyandotte, Quindaro and Leavenworth, and some of them to St. Joseph. The Kansas river also was traversed by steamboats of lighter draught, its navigability recognized, and the ports along the river as far up as Junction City felt the life-giving throb of their commerce until a legislature was hoodwinked by the railroad interests into a declaration of its unnavigability.
Nearly all of those pioneers who figured in our early history caught a first glimpse of Kansas from the deck of a steamboat in the Missouri river at the mouth of the Kansas river, and many are the delightful stories of the impressions of that first glimpse and of the emotions that were awakened. Hon. Albert R. Greene, one of those early day pioneers, writing for the Kansas State Historical Society from Portland, Oregon, recently, gives the following first glimpse in 1855 of Wyandotte:
"The first glimpse of the territory, obtained from the deck of a steamer ascending the Missouri, was at Wyandotte, where the Kansas river emerges from the bluffs and mingles its clear waters with the turbid and tawny flood of the greater stream. That was Kansas, the New England of the west, and the immigrant in his enthusiasm as gladly gave up the Missouri for the Kansas as he exchanged the land of sloth, superstition and slavery for the heritage of freedom and honest labor. The writer speaks from experience. My father's family had been nearly ten days in coming from Peoria, Illinois, the most of the time on an over-crowded boat on the Missouri river, and when the clerk of the boat, the "A. B. Chambers," Mr. J. S. Chick, since prominent in the history of Kansas City, pointed out a yellow hillside with a few unpainted shanties scattered along a winding road that led from the river to the dense oak woods at the top, and said, 'That's Kansas,' it seemed good to us. We were dumped out on the sandy shore of the river at the mouth of the Kansas, and pitched our tent among a community of immigrants similarly situated, and waited for the promised boat to carry us and our effects up the river. A number of boats came down the river during the two weeks that we waited, but none ascended the river while we stayed there. Our experiences in this camp dispelled, in a large measure, the romantic illusions, received through the magnifying lenses of immigration literature, The gales which kept the sand in constant motion and deposited a portion of it regularly in the cooking utensils around the camp fire; the numerous muscular mosquitos that paid it, nightly visits; the carousals of grog-soaked Indians, who made informal calls on us daily; the betrayal of confidence in a fellow immigrant, by which we suffered the loss of the family pictures, a wooden-wheel clock, a grindstone and Butterworth's Concordance of the Holy Scriptures, etc., all tended to the conclusion that life in Kansas was not all an elysian dream. My pleasantest recollection of that camp is a wonderful spring that issued from the base of the cliff and poured its clear, cold waters into a basin in the yellow clay, and, brimming over which, it trickled down the bank into the Kansas river. Many a time I went there, a disappointed, half sick, lonesome boy, and played that this was the same old spring that had bathed the butter crocks in the milkhouse at our Illinois home, and the fancy brought a pleasure that warms my heart to-day."
John J. Ingalls never tired of telling of his first view of Kansas from the deck of the "Duncan S. Carter," which bore him up the Missouri river in 1858. The impression on the then young man made him a loyal and true Kansan, heart and soul, the evidence of which was observed in his public acts and his private life from the time he sat in the Wyandotte Constitutional Convention, all through the years of his splendid service in the United States Senate and on to the close of his long and useful career.
It was the "Nodaway," an early side-wheel boat, that brought a part of the Wyandots to this section in 1843. Other steamboats were on the rivers before and after that, carrying emigrant Indians, missionaries, explorers, adventurers and soldiers, and quite a few of these had thrilling adventures. One of these was of a boat that did not come into port at Wyandotte. That was the "Haidee." It started up the Missouri river from St. Louis in December, 1849, and was caught in an ice jam at Portland, Missouri. Percival G. Lowe, of Leavenworth, author of "Five Years a Dragoon," once president of the Kansas Historical Society, was caught on the boat. He and a detachment of soldiers, made the march of three hundred miles to Fort Leavenworth through ice and snow.
The New Englanders, most of them Free Soil men, began to come in 1854. In a letter dated "Boston, September 18, 1854," Thomas H. Webb, the secretary of the New England Emigrant Aid Society, wrote: "It is a singular coincidence that our pioneer party of New Englanders crossed Lake Erie on the 'Mayflower' and went up the Missouri river on the 'Polar Star.'"
And it was an eventful trip that of the "Polar Star." August Bondi, of Salina, a revolutionist of Austria, came to Kansas and soldiered with John Brown. With him was Dr. Rufus Gillpatrick, also a noted Free Soil advocate and fighter, who located near Ossawatomie. Pardee Butler and John Martin, of Topeka, who was afterwards senator, made their way to Kansas on the "Polar Star." H. D. McMeekin, a member of the Pawnee legislature of 1855, was a passenger on the "Excel," on its first trip in 1854.
James H. Carruth and wife, of Lawrence, were passengers on the "J. M. Converse" in 1856, Mrs. Miriam Davis Colt, author of "Went to Kansas," was a passenger on the "Cataract" in 1856.
Notable among the men and women who came out from New England on steamboats to help make Kansas were the members of the "Kansas Andover Band." Grosvenor C. Morse was a teacher and preacher, and he it was who founded the Kansas State Normal School at Emporia. Sylvester Dana Storrs stopped at Quindaro and founded a Congregational church. Roswell Davenport Parker started a Congregational church at Leavenworth, going from Quindaro to that place by stage after his arrival. Richard Cordley, the last of the band to reach Kansas, went overland by stage with his wife to Lawrence and for more than fifty years was pastor of Plymouth Congregational church, the first church of that denomination to be started in Kansas.
Many of the pioneers of Kansas, outbound from the states east of the Mississippi river, told and retold their delightful experiences of travel by steamboat. Among the emigrants of '57 from New England to Wyandotte was Don A. Bartlett, a lawyer, and his wife, Mary Louise Bartlett. She afterwards became the wife of Byron Judd and among the charming stories she told a few years before her death, which occurred in 1908, was of her trip to Kansas City by water. "The war spirit was running high," she said. "There was a strong feeling of partisanship. There were heated wrangles and heated arguments. We did not conceal the fact that we were Free State people, but were treated with the greatest respect and consideration even by the most ardent pro-slavery sympathizers.
"When we reached Kansas City, or what was then called Westport Landing, the crew of the steamer tried to hold our goods, refusing to unload them, although we had paid the freight in advance. Mr. Bartlett was a lawyer and he remained at the landing till late into the night, and it was only by threatening to tie up the steamer by litigation that the crew was finally induced to release them. In the meantime I had gone to the old Gillis hotel and was resting there till Mr. Bartlett came. I never shall forget that wildly excited throng of men and how they stared when I, the only woman there, entered the dining room. But, Mrs. Judd added, "while they were all wrought up to a high tension by the war spirit, every man behaved in my presence like a true gentleman."
Governor Andrew Reeder came up on the "David Tatum," and arrived May 5, 1856, making the journey in four days from St. Louis; but when he left Kansas May 24th, of the same year, disguised as a woodchopper, he rode on the "J. M. Converse."
John W. Geary, the third territorial governor of Kansas, came on the "Keystone" in September, 1856. The boat touched at Quindaro and then went on to Fort Leavenworth, where Governor Geary disembarked.
The Ashland Colony from Ohio came to Kansas on the "Express," in 1856. The boat took them up the Kansas river to Junction City where they were located. In the party of sixty were Henry J. Adams, Franklin G. Adams, Matthew Weightman, William Mackey and wife, of Junction City.
Senator Henry Wilson, of Massachusetts, was a passenger on the "New Lucy" and landed at Quindaro May 24, 1857. From the steps of the hotel he made his first speech in Kansas.
George W. Veale and wife left Evansville, Indiana, March 29, 1857, on the steamer "White Cloud," in company with the family of the late Judge Crozier, of Leavenworth. They arrived at Quindaro April 7th and there began the responsibilities of married life.
Ex-Governor George W. Glick and wife came to Kansas in March, 1859, on the steamer "Alonzo Child." This famous boat afterwards was captured and burned with twenty others in the Yazoo river by the Confederates, to prevent them falling into the hands of Union forces.
Lewis Hanback went up the river to Lawrence in 1866 on the steamer "Alexander Majors," and he became celebrated as an eloquent public speaker by telling of his first impressions of Kansas obtained from the deck of that steamer.
The Chouteaus had flotillas of keel boats which were used to carry freight to the trading posts on the Kansas river. During the spring rise in the river Secondine, now Muncie in Wyandotte county, became a rival of Westport, now Kansas City, as a depot of supplies, the cargoes coming direct from St. Louis and New Orleans. These were the first attempts at navigation. The Chouteaus also had pirogues on the Missouri and Kansas rivers. Lewis and Clark tell of the use of rafts on the Kansas river by the Frenchmen who ascended as far as eighty leagues. But the steamboats finally displaced the crude craft of the early days.
The first steamboat to ascend the Kansas river was "Excel" in the spring of 1854. It was bought for a packet in the Kansas river trade to ply between Kansas City and Wyandotte at the mouth and "as high as she can get." The boat did a large freight and passenger business and was of great service to the early emigrants. On one trip it carried 1,100 barrels of flour to Fort Riley. Once, on returning, the distance from Fort Riley to Kansas City was covered in twenty-four hours and thirty landings were made. Captain Charles K. Baker, who died a few years ago at Rosedale, was the pilot of the "Excel," and was regarded as the most skillful man that ever turned a wheel on the Kansas river.
The "Hartford" and the "Emma Harmon" were the first boats to ascend the Kansas river after the emigration of the white settlers set in. The "Hartford" was built in Cincinnati at a cost of $7,000. It was a flat-bottomed, sternwheel steamboat. On April 5, 1855, it started from Cincinnati bound for the junction of the Smoky Hill and Republican rivers in Kansas, having a cargo of one hundred tons and a large passenger list. It was an ill-fated trip. The cholera broke out among the passengers and crew after leaving St. Louis on May 3rd. It caused the deaths of many of the passengers and they were buried in the sand. The boat reached Wyandotte on May 12th and left May 20th. It arrived at Lawrence May 21st, ran to the mouth of the Big Blue and there had to wait a month for the river to rise. The members of the Cincinnati and Kansas Land Company, who were passengers, intended going further up stream, but in the delay they decided to locate at Manhattan and there they set up their ready-made, "knock-down" houses they had brought from Cincinnati. The ill-fated "Hartford" was set on fire by two drunken Pottawatomie Indians who were kicked off the boat by the clerk. It was totally destroyed.
The "Emma Harmon" and "Financier No. 2" preceded the "Hartford" on the upriver trip.
On the afternoon of May 19, 1855, "Emma Harmon," a small sternwheeler, left Kansas City "for Topeka and way landings." There were twenty or thirty passengers aboard, among the number George W. Deitzler, Gaius Jenkins, John Speer and family; Mr. Gleason, wife, son, and daughter, the latter afterwards being Mrs. Hubbell, of Lawrence; Brinton W. Woodward, Philip Woodward, Mr. DeLand and family, L. P. Lincoln, and John W. Stevens, the latter with a printing-office to start a paper in Manhattan. The entire party was supplied with firearms, and Deitzler had one hundred Sharp's rifles. The river was high and the boat made good headway, but, as a precaution, the pilot ordered her tied up for the night when they reached Chouteau's Landing, a distance of ten miles from the mouth.
The next day the boat was off with the first gleam of light, and as the sun rose with a perfect day, the passengers thronged the upper deck, eager to enjoy the beauty of the scene; the ever-changing panorama of the winding river, dotted with islands, among which the boat turned this way and that in its course against the current; the stately cottonwoods shining in the glory of their new foliage; the rock-bound bluffs; glimpses of emerald prairies in the distance, and over all, the soft skies of early summer. Occasionally an Indian cabin was to be seen, with its occupants ranged in silent wonderment near it, but these were the only signs of civilization, and the forests were as silent and pathless as the river. About noon the boat went to the bank to get a supply of wood, and the passengers gathered their first wild strawberries of the season. Shortly after starting again they were hailed by an Indian, who made them understand that he wanted a flatboat towed up the river. The steamer was accordingly brought alongside and made fast to the flatboat, and then proceeded on its journey. This Indian proved to be an intelligent Shawnee named Tooley, who had built the craft for a ferryboat for Blue Jacket's crossing of the Wakarusa, in anticipation of the immigration to the territory. It being Sunday, the passengers engaged in religious worship, and Tooley joined them, offering a fervent prayer in his own tongue. At the mouth of the Wakarusa the tow-lines were cast off and the passengers waved a parting salute to the red man, who proceeded to "pole" his ungainly craft up the smaller stream.
Just before sunset of May 20th the "Harmon" reached Lawrence and landed at the foot of New Hampshire street. It was a great day in the history of the town, and everybody hurried to the river bank to greet the unexpected but welcome visitor. The passengers and officers of the boat were given an ovation, and every available vehicle was used to convey them to the city, chief among the number being a spring wagon belonging to Mrs. Samuel N. Wood.
The steamer "New Lucy" was a large sidewheeler of four hundred and seventeen tons. The "A. B. Chambers" was one of the best boats on the Missouri river and carried much of the traffic to Kansas. It was owned by Captain Alexander Gilham, of Kansas City. Finally it sank at the mouth of the Missouri above St. Louis.
The steamer "Lightfoot" was the first boat built for Kansas, and bore across the stern, this legend, "Lightfoot, of Quindaro." W. F. M. Arny and Matt Morrison commanded in the order named.
It was a stern-wheeler of one hundred feet in length and twenty-four feet beam, with a hold of three or four feet and had no texas; the pilot-house being the only structure above the hurricane deck, and this extending but a few feet above; the remainder being below and the floor of it being but a few feet above that of the cabin. There were a few staterooms and the freight capacity of the boat was probably seventy-five tons, on a draft of eighteen inches. It was built by Thaddeus Hyatt, of New York City, who was an enthusiastic friend of Kansas and always ready to spend his great wealth in any way for her advancement.
The first and only trip of this boat on the Kansas river began at Wyandotte April 14, 1857, and ended May 9th of the same year. The run to Lawrence, a distance of sixty miles by river, occupied three days, owing to a low stage of water and high winds. At De Soto the smoke stacks ran afoul of the ferry rope, and this and the gale of wind wrenched them down to the deck, a further occasion for the delay.
John Speer was a passenger on his way home to Lawrence from an eastern trip In the interest of free Kansas. The following facts are gleaned from an account of the trip published in the Lawrence Tribune, of which he was the editor:
"On April 7, 1857, the steamboat 'Lightfoot,' built expressly for the Kaw river trade, arrived at Lawrence landing, at the foot of New Hampshire street, loaded down with freight and passengers. It was considered at the time a great event in the history of Lawrence, and Captain Bickerton was on hand with his favorite cannon, 'Old Sacramento,' to fire a national salute in honor of the formal opening of steamboat navigation on the Kaw. Several steamboats larger than the 'Lightfoot' had made trips up the river at different times before this, but it, was given out that the 'Lightfoot' had been built expressly to run on the river from Kansas City, Wyandotte and Quindaro to Lawrence, and the people flattered themselves that Lawrence was about to become almost a seaport, or at least a port of entry for cheaply freighted goods. We are truly sorry that we have not preserved a full list of the passengers who came up on that historic steamboat, but, we do recollect a goodly number of them, some of whom were coming as fresh immigrants to the territory, and others returning to it from a visit to the east. Among the latter we remember General C. Babcock, then postmaster at Lawrence; General S. C. Pomeroy, then an agent of the New England Emigrant Aid Society; Paul R. Brooks, then a prominent merchant; Mrs. C. I. H. Nichols, then and since well known as a writer and lecturer, accompanied by her two sons and a daughter; Miss Bernecia Carpenter, a highly educated and accomplished young lady who strongly attracted the attention of the enthusiastic young poet, Richard Realf; Horace A. W. Tabor, his brother John F. Tabor, and sister, Mrs. Moye, the brothers bringing each a young wife fresh from the hills of Vermont. W. F. M. Arny was the chief manager of the 'Lightfoot;' in fact, he seemed to have full charge of the boat in every department. He was supercargo and bottlewasher, everywhere present, and bound to shine.
"The voyage from Wyandotte to Lawrence lasted three days, partly in consequence of a strong head-wind which blew down the steamer's smoke stacks and forced her to remain tied up to a big walnut tree, not far from Desoto, all day Sunday, giving Mr. Arny a good opportunity to display his talents as chaplain, which he improved to the utmost.
"The boat remained at Lawrence a few days and then undertook the return trip to Wyandotte, which, owing to low water and ignorance of the channel, consumed the time until May 9th, as has been stated, the greater part of the time being spent on sand-bars. Upon reaching Wyandotte the boat abandoned the Kansas and entered the Missouri river trade, but of her ultimate fate I am not advised."
The "Otis Webb," Captain Church, 1857-8, was a side-wheeler of one hundred tons burden, and was built at Wellsville, Ohio, in the summer of 1857, by Governor Charles Robinson, Otis Webb, Fielding Johnson and Colonel George W. Veale. She was brought to the mouth of the Kansas in the fall of that year, and entered service in the following spring, making regular trips from Leavenworth to Topeka. Johnson and Veale had a store at the site of the present government building in Topeka, and all the goods for this store were brought up the river on the "Webb." She drew twenty-six inches of water, and cost seven thousand dollars. One of her cargoes was said to have been a saw mill outfit for the Emigrant Aid Company. This boat finally found it more profitable to run in the Missouri trade, and had a route from Quindaro and Parkville to Fort Leavenworth. It once essayed a trip on the Little Platte on Missouri, and struck a snag. Its bones are there yet.
The "Bee" was another popular boat on the Kansas river in the early days. It ran between Wyandotte and Fort Riley.
The following is believed to be a correct list of the steamboats which first and last, in greater or less degree, participated in the era of Kansas river navigation:
"Excel," Captain Charles K. Baker, Sr., 1854.
"New Lucy," 1855,
"Hartford," Captain Millard, 1855.
"Emma Harmon," Captain J. M. Wing, 1855.
"Financier No. 2," Captain Matt Morrison, 1855.
"Saranak," Captain Swift, 1855.
"Perry," Captain Perry, 1855-6.
"Lewis Burns," 1856.
"Far West," 1856.
"Brazil," Captain Reed, 1856.
"Lightfoot," Captains W. F. Arny and Matt Morrison, 1,857.
"Lacon," Captain Marshall, 1857.
"Otis Webb," Captain Church, 1857-8.
"Minnie Belle," Captain Frank Hunt, 1858.
"Kate Swinney," Captain A. C. Goddin, 1858.
"Silver Lake," Captain Willoughby, 1859.
"Morning Star," Captain Thomas F. Brierly, 1-859.
"Gus Linn," Captain B. F. Beasley, 1859.
"Colona," Captain Hendershott, 1859.
"Star of the West," Captain G. P. Nelson, 1859-60.
"Eureka, " 1860.
"Tom Morgan," Captain Tom Morgan, 1864.
"Hiram Wood, 1865.
"Jacob Sass," 1865.
"E. Hensley," Captain Burke, 1865.
"Alexander Majors," 1866.
At the mouth of the Kansas river and along the eastern shore of Kansas many steamboats went down in the early days. "First Canoe," as the Indians called the steamboat, was a stern-wheel boat that sank in the mouth of the Kansas river in 1858. The "Cumberland Valley," one of the early boats of which little is known, went down opposite the Wyandotte levee in 1840. The "A. B. Chambers," one of the boats that brought emigrants to Kansas, sank at Atchison in 1856. The wreck of the "A. C. Bird," lies buried near Liberty Lauding, below the mouth of the Kansas river. "Admiral No. 1" went down at Weston, Missouri, where the "Anthony Wayne" sank in 1851, three years after. The "Bennett," a government wrecking boat, was herself wrecked in 1852 at the mouth of the Kansas river while making a run to the assistance of the "Decotah" at Peru, Nebraska. The "Boonville" was wrecked in the bend above the mouth of the Kansas river as far back as 1837, and the bones of the "Aggie" are somewhere in the river near the Hannibal bridge at Kansas City. The "Arabian" and the "Delaware" found their last resting place at the bottom of the river near Atchison. The "Hesperian" also was nearing the same port when she struck a snag, and went to the bottom. In 1855 the "Express" found a watery grave near Leavenworth.
The building across the state of Missouri of the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad, the first to reach the Missouri river, called for a steamboat passenger service from Kansas City, Wyandotte and Quindaro to St. Joseph until the Missouri Pacific reached Kansas City from the east. The "Delaware" was a splendidly equipped steamboat that brought from St. Louis in 1857 two locomotives for service on the Hannibal & St. Joseph at the western terminus, before the gaps in Missouri were completed. The boat passed Quindaro June 9th of that year and the entire population of the town turned out to welcome it. The locomotives were named "Buchanan" and "St. Joe." The "Hesperian," a large side-wheel packet that had been operated on the lower Mississippi river, was brought up and pressed into service for the Hannibal & St. Joseph, and it did a rushing business until 1859, when it burned opposite Atchison. The first locomotives for the Missouri Pacific were brought to Wyandotte by the "T. L. McGill." Meanwhile the "New Lucy" carried passengers from this point down to the end of that railroad at Jefferson City, in 1857. The "Platte Valley" was also one of the boats used to carry passengers for the railroads. The "Sallie West," a freight boat for the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad, sank at Kickapoo in 1859. The "Bee" was a favorite passenger boat between Wyandotte and Fort Riley on the Kansas river.
The steamboats had hauled the locomotives up the Missouri river and helped the railroads get a start. Then the railroads returned the favor by putting the steamboats out of business. The floods carried away the Union Pacific bridge at Wyandotte, in the spring of 1866, and the big side-wheel steamer, the "Alexander Majors," was chartered by the railroad company to carry freight to Lawrence until the bridge could be rebuilt. But that was the last of the steamboating on the Kansas river. The railroads slipped a bill through the Kansas legislature in 1864, entitled, "An act declaring the Kansas, Republican, Smoky Hill, Solomon, and Big Blue rivers not navigable, and authorizing the bridging of the same." The bill gave the railroads "the same right to bridge or dam said rivers as they would have, if they never had been declared navigable streams."
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