by George A. Root
May 1936 (Vol. 5, No. 2), pages 180 to 190
Transcribed by Gardner Smith; HTML by Name withheld upon request;
digitized with permission of the Kansas State Historical Society.
NOTE: The numbers in brackets are links to footnotes for this text.
THE NEXT FERRY LOCATION upstream was near Salt City, Cowley county, between seven and eight miles from Arkansas City. On June 12, 1871, the Salt Springs Ferry Co. was chartered, its incorporators including C.R. Sipes, William Wright, W.J. Walpole, M.J. Martin and E.A. Fish. This company was capitalized at $200, with shares at $10 each. The principal office of the company was at Arkansas City, and the company proposed to operate a ferry on the river at the N.W. 1/4 S. 8, T. 34, R. 3 W. This corporation was to exist for ten years, the charter being filed with the secretary of state June 17, 1871. 
Mr. Walpole received a license from Cowley county to operate a ferry at Salt Springs (now Geuda Springs) four miles north and five miles west of Arkansas City on August 22, 1871. Evidently Walpole did not operate for any length of time, as John Murray was given a license to operate at Salt Springs on August 22, 1872. Ferry charges were usually the same as established for the Thomas Night ferry which were: Two-horse team and wagon, 75 cents. One-horse team, 50 cents. Horse and buggy, 25 cents. One horse, 15 cents. Footman, 10 cents. Loose horses and cattle, 15 cents. Sheep and hogs, 5 cents each. 
In the Geuda Springs News of June 15, 1933, George M. Briggs related some of his experiences, and mentioned a ferry operated by a John Conley over the Arkansas at a point nearly a mile east of Geuda Springs about the year 1874, when a bridge was completed at this place.
During the flood in the river on May 20, 1877, bridges at Arkansas City, El Paso and Wichita were carried away. A similar condition must have occurred at Salt City the same year, for the Oxford Independent of September 6, stated that "a flat boat is being constructed upon the west side of the river and will be sent to Salt City, where it will be used in the absence of a bridge."
Just how early this ferry went into operation has not been learned. However, the Traveler early in October, 1877, stated that it "is well patronized and meets the favor of every one." In the issue of October 21, the following complimentary notice was printed:
"In another column will be seen the advertisement of the Salt City ferry offering to cross parties at any time of night or day for the small sum of twenty-five cents. The route by the way of Salt City is a good one, and generally favored by freighters going to the Indian agencies in the territory."
The advertisement follows:
"Salt City Ferry. -- This ferry is located on one of the best crossing points on the Arkansas river, within one mile from Salt City, and on the most direct route to Caldwell and the Indian agencies. Teams or horsemen taken across at any hour of the day or night. Good shelter for stock and ample accommodations for travelers at the city."
This ferry must have operated for a number of years at this location, and is shown in Edwards Atlas of Cowley County, 1882. The following are the last mentions of this enterprise we have located: "A ferryboat is to be placed on the Arkansas east of Salt City. Wm. Berkey has the contract for constructing it. -- Arkansas City Traveler, August 29, 1877. "The boat formerly used as a ferry at Salt City will be loaded with wheat and floated down the river to Little Rock. -- Sumner County Press, Wellington, July 25, 1878.
The next point above Salt City where a ferry operated was at the town of Oxford; about five miles distant. This town was settled in the fall of 1870, and was first known as Napawalla or Neptawa, for an Osage chief. 
Locally, Oxford was known as "Big Cottonwood Crossing," no doubt from the large trees bordering the river at this point. The name was changed in 1871 to Oxford. One of the first conveyances for crossing the river there was a rude dug-out or skiff, about fourteen feet long, fashioned from white ash, made about 1871 by John and Lafe Binkley and A. Morrill. The Binkley brothers operated the first store opened in the town, and the boat was probably a convenience for patrons who lived on the opposite side of the river before the ferry was put in operation. 
On July 1, 1871, the Oxford Ferry Co. was organized, T.J. Barton, E.S. Tonance, W.M. Boyer, J.H. Nyton and J.M. Patterson being incorporators. The capital stock of this enterprise was listed at $3,000, with shares $50 each. The principal place of business evidently had not been decided on at the time of incorporation, as the charter stated it would be at any point in the state of Kansas as best suited the convenience of the directors. T. J. Barton, William Barton and I.T. Confan, of Belle Plaine, and J. Romine and R. Walker, of Oxford, were named as directors for the first year. This charter was filed with the secretary of state July 5, 1871.  It will be seen that the company did not give any specific location for the ferry, and may not have operated one.
Just sixteen days later the Oxford Ferry and Bridge Co. was organized, the incorporators being O.E. Kimball, John G. David, Charles Tilton, John Dunlap and Thomas M. Moss. This company had a capital stock of $50,000, with shares at $100 each. The principal place of business of the new company was at Oxford, and its ferry was to be located at or near the crossing of the state road leading from Labette City, Labette county, to Meridian, Sumner county, at or near the south line of S. 12, T. 32, R. 2 E. of the Sixth P.M., the west landing adjoining the townsite. This charter was filed with the secretary of state July 21, 1871. 
This company obtained a license from Cowley county on July 16, 1871, and operated the ferry about a year. 
The following pertains to the ferry at this point and gives a good idea of the volume of travel that came to the ferry in the early days:
"Mr. A.J. Keeley, the ferryman, informed the editor that on Monday (July 15) he had ferried over the river twenty-two two-horse teams, eighteen horsemen, fourteen footmen, four buggies, two four-horse teams and nineteen head of loose stock." 
During 1872 a toll bridge built at this point supplanted the ferry. Toll rates were 35 cents for two-horse team, Winfield charging 50 cents for a similar service. This bridge, as well as every other one in the county was destroyed by the big flood of 1877.
Several years later another ferry was started at this point. A neighboring paper mentioning the new enterprise said that "the ferry boat at Oxford tipped up and put one man in the river." A subsequent item from the same source reported the ferryboat as doing a fine business crossing freight and passengers. 
This ferry was supplanted by a pontoon bridge, which was in running order late in 1877 or early in 1878. An item in the Oxford Independent, copied in the Arkansas City Traveler, of January 23, 1878, said:
"The new pontoon bridge is now in place and proves to be a great success. The crossing of the Arkansas at this place was never better or safer in our most prosperous days. The pontoons, five in number, are safely anchored, and stayed by strong guy ropes, and the intervening spaces covered by portable but broad, safe bridges, with bannisters running the entire length. Why cant we do the same thing at this place?"
This bridge had scarcely been gotten into usable shape when a sudden rise in the river tore it loose and broke it up, crossing being suspended for about a year.  Apparently nothing was done to remedy the situation until early in 1879. On January 30 the Arkansas River Bridge and Ferry Co. was incorporated, its promoters being John Murphy, Angus Carroll, Clark Scott, John F. Coldwell and William Sherburne. This organization was capitalized for $5,000, with shares of $100 each. The principal place of business was at Oxford and the charter was for twenty years. The company proposed the construction and maintenance of a toll bridge and ferry across the Arkansas river at Oxford, at a point on the river within a distance of 200 feet south of the site of the bridge erected by the Oxford Bridge and Ferry Co. in the year 1872. This charter was filed with the secretary of state January 31, 1879. 
The last mention we have located concerning a ferry at Oxford is in 1881, the Oxford Weekly of March 11 stating
"Mr. Richardson sailed through town last Saturday on the ferryboat on wheels, with the stars and stripes flying, and safely launched the same at its old moorings. Mr. R. generally accomplishes what he undertakes."
A new concrete bridge 575 feet long, with seven spans of 77 feet each, was completed just east of Oxford and dedicated on June 20, 1930, with Gov. Clyde M. Reed, as the principal speaker. The bridge cost $55,000. It was erected on the site of the old ferry landing of 1871, and appropriately marks U.S. Highway No. 130. At the christening it was planned to use a bottle of wine for this time-honored ceremony, but as the sheriff declined to furnish anything more potent, a bottle of water was used instead.
The next ferry up-river was in the vicinity of the town of Ninnescah. On February 21, 1871, the Arkansas and Ninnescah Ferry was chartered, the incorporators being Silas Rain, Marion McCoy, E.H. Prentice, John A. Henry, and Mahlon Barr. This company was capitalized at $2,000, with shares $50 each. It was proposed to operate a ferry across the Arkansas river at any point desired between the mouths of the Ninnescah river and Cowskin creek, their principal office to be at any point within the limits of the state of Kansas as best suited the convenience of the board of directors. Directors chosen for the first year were T.J. Barton, William Barton, James Hamilton, George Hamilton and Walter Smith, all of Augusta.  There is some doubt whether this ferry ever operated, the charter probably having been secured for speculative purposes.
Just one week later, March 1, 1871, the Ninnescah Ferry Co. was chartered by L.B. Wansley (Wamsley?), Ernest Palmer, R.C. Gordon, Burr Mosier and C.M. Kellogg. The principal office of the company was at a point opposite the town of Ninnescah, and its purpose was to operate a ferry across the Arkansas river above the mouth of the Ninnescah river, and extending four miles in Sumner county. Capital stock of the enterprise was $500, divided into five shares. This charter was filed with the secretary of state March 5, 1871.  No further history of this enterprise has been located.
The first ferry across the Arkansas river in present Sumner county was started January 25, 1871, by David Richards. It was located at a point opposite present Belle Plaine, on S. 35, T. 30, R. 1 E.  Just how long this enterprise functioned we have not discovered.
El Paso, now Derby, about five miles north of the Sumner-Sedgwick county line was the next point to have a ferry. This town was started in the fall of 1870 by John Haufbauer and J. Hont Minnich, and during the spring of 1871 they operated a ferry, having been granted a license for that purpose on March 4. They were required to file a $1,000 bond for the ferry privilege and pay a $10 license fee to the county.  At a meeting of the board of commissioners on April 7, 1871, the following ferriage rates were established:
"For one span of horses and loaded wagon, 75 cents; each additional span 15 cents; one span of horses and empty wagon or other vehicle, 50 cents; horse and rider, 25 cents; each foot passenger, 20 cents; two yoke of oxen and loaded wagon, $1.00; each additional yoke, 20 cents." 
There appears to have been very little water in the Arkansas channel during 1871, but this ferry operated up to 1873, when a toll bridge was built by the El Paso Bridge Co. The structure was ready for traffic by July 7, the county commissioners approving the following schedule of toll rates:
"For wagon and two horses, or one yoke of oxen, 25 cents, for each additional horse or ox 10 cents. For horsemen 10 cents. For footmen, 5 cents. For loose cattle or horses, per head, 5 cents. For loose cattle, hogs and sheep, 2 1/2 cents per head. 
During the flood of 1877, this bridge was washed away. A new bridge was completed during the winter of 1879-1880. 
Wichita was the next point up the river to have a ferry. During the special session of the legislature of 1860 a bill was introduced in the council to establish a ferry across the Arkansas at a point near the mouth of the Little Arkansas. Samuel F. Wright, John Sharkey, John McShane, H. Harrison Updegraff, John Frame and their associates were to have exclusive right and privilege of maintaining and keeping a ferry at that point for a term of twenty years, no other company being permitted to operate within four miles of the point selected. This ferry franchise was no doubt obtained for speculative purposes, for "section 2" of the act specified that the company should have five years from the date of the passage of the act, or sooner if the interests of the traveling public required it, to keep and maintain a good boat or boats, sufficient to cross the traveling public in a reasonable time; failure to do so would forfeit the charter. It was provided that in case of accident they should have time to replace or repair their boats. Neither Sedgwick county nor Wichita had yet been organized and the act provided that the county board nearest the ferry should fix toll rates, etc. The bill was introduced in the council by Senator Updegraff and passed that body on February 6. It was messaged to the house of representatives that afternoon and was referred to committee. In time it was referred back to the house without amendment, for passage, but for some unexplained reason the measure received no further consideration from that body. 
A recent history of early Wichita states that records of the government survey of June 28, 1867, mention a ferry and ford across the river between present First and Second streets. This survey locates the east bank of the river where the present Missouri Pacific depot is now located. The Arkansas river that year was said to be bank full all season. Indians who had occasion to cross ferried their families over in "tubs" fashioned of a single buffalo hide, and swam their horses. Those "tubs" were probably the "bull" boats, much in vogue in early days on western streams where buffalo were plentiful. 
On March 6, 1868, a company composed of E.P. Bancroft, B.O. Carr, M. Greenway and James R. Mead, organized the Arkansas River Bridge and Ferry Co., with a capital stock of $20,000, divided into shares of $100 each. The company proposed to operate bridges and ferries across the Arkansas river at any and all points within the boundaries of Sedgwick county. Their charter was filed with the secretary of state March 16, 1868. 
This probably was the first ferry that operated at Wichita, and Greenway was the individual who ran the boat for the company. L.C. Fouquet, of Chandler, Okla., an early resident of Wichita, has the following to say of Greenway in an article published in the Humboldt Union of July 5, 1934:
"Greenway was a frisky, funny entertaining fellow. I could tell you of how at one time while entertaining a crowd at F. Shattners saloon, butcher knife in one hand, singing a combination of war and scalping songs and dancing, he, with a ferocious face at its finishing part, scared them pretty bad. (Me too.) I was watching from behind the spectators and as he was somewhat under the influence of liquor and was getting apparently more ferocious in the way of handling that butcher or scalping knife most of them realized that be was now crazy and was likely to at once put the knife into use. He started on one, but one of the cowboys quickly got on the floor behind him and pulled one of his feet which caused him to fall down. He got up in a ferocious rage, and somehow managed to get out of doors. I did too and run clear out of danger, booh . . . I never tried to find out how they managed to quiet him. However, he always was a nice friendly fellow to me and others when sober. But he always had a bottle with him. Perhaps you might say, how did you know. Well, he was the owner of the ferry boat and I run it for him . . . On a beautiful Sunday he came up the river in his little canoe, perhaps to see how I was getting along. But everything was at a standstill. So he invited me to take a ride with him in his little thing which he rowed from one side with a peculiar oar.
Victor Murdock, in the Wichita Evening Eagle, of November 17, 1932, gave the recollections of S.L. Dunkin, and had the following to say of the old Wichita ferry:
"The river at Wichita was once very wide, carried a lot of water and was measurably free from "islands." The eastern end of the ferry was somewhere east of the Broadview hotel of this day. Incidentally the first plat of this addition shows the present corner of Waco and Douglas as nonexistent. It was river bank then. The western end of the ferry was north of the present Midland station. On each bank was a wooden tower and from tower to tower stretched rope. The raft was attached to this trolley rope by two ropes, these ropes equipped with wheels. The raft had no power. It crossed and recrossed the stream by a manipulation of the current of water. Going from east to west the rope on the west side of the craft was slackened, and going from west to east this rope was tightened and the rope on the east end of the raft slackened. The force of the current did the rest in either trip.
If the ferry business was as good in 1870 as the prices for ferriage, operators must have been able to "clean up" handsomely. Commissioners records recite:
"At a special meeting of the board of county commissioners held at Wichita, June 13th, A.D. 1870, the rates of toll for the Arkansas ferry were fixed for crossing -- footmen each 20c. For man and horse, 40c. For two-horse team, 75c. For four-horse team, $1.50. For freighting teams, $5 . . . Ordered that the license fee for the Arkansas Ferry be fixed at $10 per year and clerk issue license therefor. Board adjourned. J.M. Steele, clerk. C.S. Roe, Dpty. Co. Clerk." 
The next mention of the Wichita Ferry in commissioners proceedings was on July 1, 1872, when W.A. Sayles was granted a license on payment of $10 for a years privilege. 
The first move for bridges within Sedgwick county was taken by the board of county commissioners at a meeting held on November 11, 1870, when --
"It was ordered that a special election be held on the first Tuesday in April, 1871, at which the following questions shall be submitted to the people. Shall the county commissioners be authorized to issue county bonds for the purpose of building bridges. $1500 to build a bridge across the Little Arkansas river on the township line between Ranges 24 and 25, Range 1 West. $500 to build a bridge across Chisholm creek on the section line east through Section 22, Township 27. $500 to build a bridge across Spring creek on the quarter section line running East through Sec. 13, Towns. 29, Range 1 East. . . J.M. Steele, Co. Clerk per Fred Schattner, clerk. N.A. English, Chairman Board Co. Comm." 
On March 4, 1871, Fred A. Sowers, county clerk, recorded that the commissioners "Ordered the publication of a notice calling a vote for the issuing of bonds to build bridges in the sum of $3,000. $1,500 for bridge over Little Arkansas; $500 for bridge over Chisholm creek and $500 for bridge over Spring creek." 
Within the limits of Wichita, the first bridge to span the Arkansas was a toll bridge on the line of Douglas avenue, erected by private enterprise, William Griffenstein, N.A. English, James R. Mead, Nelson McClees and Charles Gilbert being its projectors. This was a combination of wood and iron, and had eight spans of 100 feet each, with a 16-foot roadway and a toll house at each end. The bridge had stone piers and abutments resting on foundations of piling driven deep into the river bed. The contract price of the structure was $29,000. It had been said the company was short of cash when the bridge was opened for traffic, June 12, 1872, and that they traded in some town lots in part payment. Just five days before the bridge was opened the board of county commissioners adopted the following rates of toll:
"Two-horse or mule team and wagon, 50 cents. Each additional team, 10 cents. Four-horse or mule team and wagon, 75 cents. Six-horse or mule team and wagon, $1. One horse or mule with buggy, 25 cents. One yoke of oxen and wagon, 50 cents, Each additional yoke, 10 cents. `Two or `Three yoke of oxen and wagon, 75 cents. `Five or `Six yoke of oxen and wagon, $1.25. Empty wagon, (extra) 25 cents. Loaded wagon, (extra) 50 cents. Lead horse or mule, 10 cents. Horse-man, 15 cents. Footman, 5 cents. Cattle per head, 5 cents. Sheep and hogs, per head, 2 cents. No charge shall he made for team recrossing same day." 
By the latter part of 1874 there was a growing sentiment in favor of making this a free bridge. At a meeting of the county commissioners, on December 12, that year, it was ordered that a donation of one thousand dollars be granted to the Wichita Bridge Co., upon condition that the bridge be made free within a period of three months. At this same time an election was ordered by the commissioners to be held February 6, 1877, in order to purchase the bridge.  This met with popular approval and the bridge was taken over, the county paying $6,400. 
Wichita did not have many early-day roads. Several trails entered the county before its organization in 1870. One of these branched off from the Osage or Black Dog trail in Chautauqua county, turned northwest, crossing the southwest corner of Butler county and the northeast corner of Sedgwick county a few miles east of old Camp Beecher, site of present Wichita. Another road or trail ran from Fort Harker, southeast through Wichita, and down the east side of the Arkansas river, to Fort Gibson, in the Indian territory. The Chisholm cattle trail ran north from the Indian territory and ended at Wichita. This trail was later extended from Wichita to Abilene by Joseph G. McCoy, where McCoy had persuaded a number of large Texas cattlemen to drive their cattle for shipment east over the Kansas Pacific railroad. In 1869 a state road running from Humboldt to Wichita was established by the legislature. This road was 112 miles in length, and ran through Allen, Woodson, Greenwood, Butler and Sedgwick counties.  In 1871 another state road was provided for by the legislature, to run from Solomon City to Wichita. This road, seventy-five miles long, ran through Dickinson, Saline, McPherson, Marion, and Sedgwick counties.  That same year a petition was presented to the board of county Commissioners for a road running from the south line of the county to a point on the Arkansas river opposite the Wichita ferry. Messrs. S.K. Davis, S. Mann and A.S. Dodge were appointed as viewers, and their report was accepted and the road ordered. 
The next mention of a ferry above Wichita was in the vicinity of the Cimarron crossing of the Arkansas, in present Gray county. An early writer mentions that the river at this point in times of freshets was crossed by means of a rope ferry, the boat or scow being a wagon bed rendered watertight by being covered with skins. 
The westernmost ferry on the Arkansas within limits of present Kansas was at Pierceville, on the line of the old Santa Fe trail. This point was a post office as early as 1873, being located then in old Sequoyah county -- later Finney county. This point is in the eastern edge of the county, on S. 13, T. 25, R. 31 W. A road crossed the river here, ran parallel with the river westward a few miles, thence across the sand hills to the southwest.  This ferry was started in 1879 and was operated till about the fall of 1886. The following is from Leola Howard Blanchards Conquest of the Southwest, pp. 198-199:
"The Barton Brothers operated a ferry during those years [1879-1886], which made it possible for people south of the river to trade at Pierceville. They could haul a load of four tons and made trips whenever teams and wagons appeared on the opposite bank and hailed the ferry. They used a saddle horse to pull away from the bank, by tying a rope to the saddle horn. Once out in the current, a sail was hoisted and it didnt take much paddling to get the boat across. The fall of 86 they started across with five tons of coal, there was a strong wind blowing, and in spite of its big load the boat was carried along at a rapid rate. The sail was dropped as usual when within thirty feet of the bank, but the boat refused to stop, and shot clear over the bank, wrecking it beyond repair."
During the session of the Territorial Legislature of 1860 several bills were introduced for the establishment of ferries on the river close to the mountains, in territory then Kansas but now Colorado. One of these provided for a ferry at the mouth of the Fountain Qui Bouille, and the other at the town of Huerfano. The projectors of this last-named enterprise were to have the power to charge such rates of toll as might be prescribed by the tribunal transacting business for Arapahoe county, Kansas.  No further history of this enterprise has been located.