Marshall's Ferry

Reconstruction at Marysville, Kansas

The Bogus Legislature enacted the first system for franchising ferries in Kansas Territory, adopting the Missouri law. Although ferries had been run on Kansas waters for many years, until the Legislature acted there had been no restriction on starting a ferry, no rules for operating and no license fees. [Root, Missouri Ferries, 4] Ferries across the Missouri River were chartered by the Legislature--at Leavenworth, Atchison, Delaware, Doniphan, Kickapoo, Boston, Iowa Point, Palermo, Iatan, Whitehead, St. Joseph, and Thompson's Ferry. Ferries across the Kansas River were chartered--at Lecompton, Douglas, Tecumseh, Wyandotte and Pawnee. Two were chartered on the Big Blue River and one on the Marais Des Cygnes River at Trading Post.


Fort Leavenworth was a landing point on the Missouri River as early as 1829 and the Leavenworth City was well served by Missouri licensed ferries before 1855. The Leavenworth Herald in January 1855 carried a story that:

"a large and commodious steam ferry boat is being built expressly for this place, and will be here early in the spring. It will carry two hundred head of stock and fifteen wagons at a time, and cross the river in five minutes."

The Bogus Legislature granted ferry privileges to the Leavenworth ferry company [Council Journal, 62] and the Herald predicted that inside of a month it would be in operation, and stressed the fact that a good ferry would make Leavenworth the great point of entry into Kansas territory, and that it would be the "primary city of Kansas. [Root, Missouri Ferries, 16]


George M. Million had started a ferry opposite Atchison about 1850. Million and his partners, the Burnes family, were granted a charter to maintain a ferry at Atchison, with exclusive rights for twenty-five years. The company executed the required performance bond for $1,000. Rates of ferriage adopted were:

   "Two-horse wagon, or wagon and one yoke of oxen (loaded), $1. 
    Same, empty, 75 cents.
    One additional pair of horses, or oxen, 25 cents.
    Loose cattle or oxen, 10 cents per head.
    Sheep and hogs, 5 cents per head.
    Foot passengers, 10 cents.
    One horse and buggy or other vehicle, 50 cents.
    Two-horse carriage or buggy, 75 cents."

[Root, Missouri Ferries, 117]


John Van Vranklin established the first ferry from Missouri side to Delaware early in 1855, and ran an advertisement in a Leavenworth paper:

"(The undersigned) has been for some time past and is at this time prepared to cross at a moment's notice, all those wishing to cross the Missouri at Delaware. Any one wishing to visit Kansas territory from any point below Weston in Platte county, Missouri, will find that this ferry is the nearest and best point at which to cross the river....His ferry boats are safe and substantial; his ferrymen hardy and experienced; and will at all times be pleased to serve with alacrity, those who may wish to cross the Missouri river at his ferry."

The Bogus Legislature chartered a second ferry at Delaware granting a twenty-year privilege to Messrs. George Quimby, William H. Spratt, William D. Prummell and W. Christison. Their ferry was to be established within the limits of the town and have exclusive privileges for one mile up and one mile down the river on the Kansas side. [Root, Missouri Ferries, 14]


John Landis had operated a ferry between Doniphan and Rushville, Missouri for some years before 1855. The Bogus Legislature granted him a charter to operate a ferry with a landing place on the west side at the town of Doniphan. The charter granted exclusive privileges within the limits of the town. According to the Leavenworth Herald, Landis "had a good ferryboat." [Root, Missouri Ferries, 120]


Isaac Ellis had operated a ferry from Weston to the Kickapoo Indian village since 1839. In 1855 the legislature authorized the Burnes brothers and John and Isaac Ellis to maintain a ferry at a point opposite the town of Kickapoo for a term of fifteen years. The act specified a landing on the Kansas side on land owned by the United States and claimed by John C. Ellis and the Kickapoo Town Association. At the time, it was the only steam-powered ferry on the river from Atchison to far below the mouth of the Kansas River. [Root, Missouri Ferries, 26]


Peter S. Roberts was authorized to keep a ferry opposite the town of Boston, Andrew County, Missouri for a term of fifteen years. This location was near Amazonia and across from the northeast corner of Doniphan County, Kansas. [Root, Missouri Ferries, 133]

Iowa Point

John S. Pemberton and Harvey W. Foreman were authorized to keep a ferry and have a landing on land reserved for the Presbyterian Mission to the Iowa Indians. In 1855 the ferry owners purchased the reserve and laid out a town site. By 1858, Iowa Point had 3,000 citizens and was second only to Leavenworth in size. Iowa Point was a major shipping port between Fort Leavenworth and Omaha with as many as five steamboats per day. [Fitzgerald, Ghost Towns, 10] When the Civil War broke out and as towns downstream grew, Iowa Point started to decline. A fire in 1862 destroyed a large part of the town, and it never recovered. [Root, Missouri Ferries, 135]


Palermo was in Doniphan County, at the mouth of Wolf creek. Established in 1854, it must have showed promise of growth. Two ferries for the new town were authorized by the Bogus Legislature. One charter was granted to Loren S. Meeker, Richard Hubble and John W. Mockbee for a term of fifteen years; and the other to John Stearwalt, his heirs or assigns for a period of twenty years. Both ferries were to be regulated by Doniphan County for local needs only, and may not have lasted long. [Root, Missouri Ferries, 121]


Nimrod Farley was granted a charter to operate a ferry across the river from a point near Iatan, Missouri to the Kansas side, for a period of ten years. Farley did a thriving business in transporting Missouri voters to Kansas to participate in the early elections. An advertisement ran in the Wyandotte Western Argus on March 10, 1855:

"Election in Kansas -- The Ferry That Never Stops. A report having gotten out that one of our boats had been carried off by the ice, we take the liberty of contradicting it. Ours is the only ferry that never stops. We keep two good boats, and when one can't run the other can. All who wish to be in Kansas in time to vote, go to Iatan, and you will not be disappointed, for old Nim is always ready." [Root, Missouri Ferries, 27]


Whitehead was about two miles north of Wathena. The town was named for trader James R. Whitehead and incorporated in 1855. The Bogus Legislature granted Whitehead a license to operate a ferry with landing at the town and exclusive rights for a mile above and a mile below. In 1859 the name of the town was changed to Bellemont and no longer exists. [Root, Missouri Ferries, 132]

St. Joseph

Joseph Robidoux operated a flatboat ferry as early as 1826 for the Indians trading at his post in St. Joseph. During the California gold rush, the St. Joseph crossing was one of the primary routes west. A traveler described the scene in 1852:

"The whole neighborhood for miles around was full of emigrants, tents here and tents there, the white covers of wagons and tents looked as though they had been prepared for a grand army...'here were hundreds of wagons waiting their turn for crossing the Missouri, and there were several boats busy, and among them a steam ferryboat. But their capacity for carrying all the custom that presented itself was too small, and as a consequence there were many teams ahead of us in their turn."

Ebenezer Blackiston had run a large flatboat, worked by hand, across the river from early days. In 1852 he brought the steam ferryboat Tidy Adala to the crossing. In partnership with politician Robert Jessee, Blackiston applied to the Bogus Legislature for a charter at St. Joseph and was granted privileges for a landing on the Kansas side on land he owned in Elwood. Blackiston was the leading ferry owner in St. Joseph and was granted a new charter in 1859 by the free-state dominated legislature. [Root, Missouri Ferries, 125 ff]

Thompson's Ferry

In 1852 Henry Thompson established a trading post in Indian Territory opposite St. Joseph and operated an occasional ferry. The Bogus Legislature granted Thompson a fifteen-year charter. In 1856 the Roseport Town Company, owned by St. Joseph capitalists, bought 160 acres of land from Thompson and laid out the town of Roseport. [Root, Missouri Ferries, 126]


William Simmons squatted on a place he called "Bald Eagle" across from Lecompton in 1852. Simmons operated a primitive on the Kansas River. An early settler described it:

"The wagon boss pointed to a huge sycamore log some twenty feet long, five feet in diameter with an excavation in the center five feet in length, three feet wide and two feet deep, with a 4 X 6-inch scantling for a keel, remarking, 'Thar's the ferry and hyars the ferryman.' As I looked my doubts about the crossing on that log, he answered my looks by saying: 'Don't feel skeery, mister, for she's as dry as a Missourian's throat and as safe as the American flag.'"

The Bogus Legislature granted Simmons and his partners a charter for a Lecompton ferry up and down the river one mile from the landing for a five year period, but not to affect the rights granted the Lecompton Bridge Company. [Root, Kansas River Ferries, 345]


The town founders of Douglas were also granted a twenty-year charter for a ferry. Legislator Mobillion W. McGee was a member of the group as were Indian Agent George W. Clarke and three other pro-slavery men. The ferry, if ever operated, was soon discontinued and in 1858 Paris Ellison was granted a charter at the location. [Root, Kansas River Ferries, 293]


In 1854 Indian trader Thomas N. Stinson and a partner established a ferry at Tecumseh. When the territory was opened for settlement, Stinson located a claim on the river where he laid out the Tecumseh townsite. He was granted a twenty-year charter by the Bogus Legislature with rates to be set by the county tribunal. In 1856 Stinson advertised in the Topeka Kansas Tribune that his was the best crossing on the route from Fort Leavenworth to Council Grove. [Root, Kansas River Ferries, 348]


A ferry at the mouth of the Kansas River was built by the Wyandotte Nation soon after their purchase of Delaware land in 1843. The first ferry was a cable operated flatboat with room for one team and wagon. The Wyandotte ferry was chartered by the Bogus Legislature but sold the next year at auction to Isaiah Walker for $7,000, coincidentally the total amount collected in tolls in 1857. [Root, Kansas River Ferries, 255]


Fox Booth and others successfully petitioned the Bogus Legislature to charter a ferry at Pawnee on the Kansas River. [Council Journal, 78] Booth owned the land on the south bank and the north landing was near the first capital building, on the military road from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Riley. [Root, Kansas River Ferries, 40]

Big Blue River

Legislator Frank Marshall built a ferry at the Independence Road crossing five and one half miles south of Marysville in 1849. The nearby ford was passable when water was low, but Marshall did a flourishing business in high water. The army surveyors located a better crossing near Marysville and in 1851 Marshall established a second ferry there, building a blacksmith shop and a store. Marshall and his partner Albert C. Woodward were granted a charter by the Bogus Legislature for both ferries, a monopoly on the primary road to Fort Laramie, the Rocky Mountains and the west. [Root, Blue River Ferries, 137 ff]

Marais Des Cygnes

Henry Younger proposed a ferry on the "Maridecygne" (sic) to be operated by Martin Ballard and John Taylor as part of a road to the southwest, near Trading Post. [House Journal, 51] The Bogus Legislature charted the ferry for a period of ten years. [Council Journal, 147]

Charles Clark