Every town booster knew that having his town on a major road was important. Without any restraint, the Bogus Legislature authorized 56 territorial roads, including:

  1. Fort Scott to the Missouri line at or near Phillips' crossing of the Upper Drywood creek
  2. From a point opposite St. Joseph, Missouri to Fort Riley, via Pawnee

  3. Fort Scott to the Catholic Osage mission
  4. Osawkee to Grasshopper Falls
  5. Leavenworth to M. P. Rively's store on Salt creek, via the United States Farm
  6. From the Missouri state line through Cofachiqui city, thence across the Neosho river and by best route to Fort Atkinson

  7. Shawnee Mission church to Tecumseh
  8. St. Joseph to Marysville
  9. The Santa Fe road between the east line of Kansas and Council Grove
  10. The Santa Fe road between Fort Atkinson and Bent's old fort
  11. From Delaware on the Missouri river to Calhoun on the Kansas river, where it divided, the left fork crossing and terminating at Topeka and the right fork intersecting the military road from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Riley. [Blackmar, History, 586-588]

The Bogus Legislature also established a general system for surveying and constructing roads. After a survey and layout was made, road overseers in each county were to supervise construction and maintenance by work crews made up of all male residents 16 to 45 years of age, each of whom was obligated to the county for one month of work. All wetlands and streams were to be bridged, so long as no bridge cost more than $50. Roadways were to be no less than twenty nor more than forty feet wide and cleared of trees that would truly "incommode" a horseman or carriage. No stump higher than eight inches could be left in the roadway. No territorial funds could be applied to territorial roads. [Schirmer, Milestones,1-4]

Design for Pratt Truss Timber Bridge,
patented 1844

But in territorial Kansas, counties had no funds either. In 1856, for example, Brown County gave commissioners Henry Adams and R.L. Kirk warrants against the county's credit in the amount of $104.25 for their survey of the county's portion of a road between Atchison and Marysville (but denied their claim for expenses in the amount of $12.93) [Morrill, Brown County, June 1856.] There was no cash available for payment.

The second session of the legislature, meeting at Lecompton in 1857, amended the road law of 1855, providing roads could be established at any time within two years after authorization. The second session also created 38 additional territorial roads, but still provided no funding. [Blackmar, History, 586-588] The tradition of local provision for roads carried well into the 20th Century. The 1859 Wyandotte Constitution, approved as the basis of Kansas' admission to the union, sealed the state treasury against road construction by providing that "the state shall never be a party to carrying on any works of internal improvement." [Schirmer, Milestones,1-5]

A realistic estimate of the cost of building a road in 1855 can be found in the appropriation by Congress of $50,000 for constructing a military road from Fort Riley to the Arkansas River "at any point which the Secretary of War deems most desirable for military purposes." Lieutenant Francis S. Bryan and his party left Ft. Riley on July 30, 1855 and surveyed a road to Fort Atkinson, near Dodge City, where the Santa Fe Trail was intersected. Bryan reported that most of the road was over open prairie and since there was no timber to provide stakes, he urged a large wagon train soon be taken over the route to mark it. Major bridges would be necessary at the Solomon, Saline and Smoky Hill rivers and lesser structures on several creeks. Oak trees were available on the banks of the Solomon and Saline, but there was no suitable timber on the Smoky Hill.

In February 1856, a contract was let to J.O. Sawyer to build five bridges for the low bid of $38,400. At the Solomon, the contractor worked from mid- June to mid-July hauling wood and building false work. On July 24, the river flooded and carried away the false work. The contractor started over, but heavy rains in late August and September delayed completion, including construction of ice breakers, until October. At the Saline, work was slow with the river at flood stage and full of driftwood. On the Smoky Hill, conditions were better but construction was slowed by the necessity of hauling timber from the other sites. Realizing he was losing money, Sawyer appealed to the army engineers to allow him to omit ice breakers on the Saline and Smoky Hill bridges. Since the Solomon bridge had to be built longer than designed, Sawyer was allowed to trade out the work. However, when Sawyer put in a claim for "extra work," not in his contract, the army engineers forwarded the claim with a recommendation that it be disallowed. All concerned agreed Sawyer had lost money on a rather indefinite contract, but the War Department did not pay the claim. [Jackson, Army Engineers, 40 ff.]

Charles Clark