[logo:Kansas Heritage Group]

Kansas History Web Sites


The Kansas Heritage server would like to thank Morris W. Werner for preparing this material.

In the 1930s the Kansas Historical Quarterly published a series of articles by George Root documenting ferries in Kansas. Mr. Root was curator of the Kansas State Historical Society, and meticulously researched his topic. Among other sources, he consulted Kansas state and county records, as well as U. S. Military files for licenses granted to ferry operators. He also checked contemporary newspapers for advertisements and references to ferry operations, and finally, he consulted early settlers for their knowledge of ferry activities. In many cases, a license was the only record found for a particular ferry, which implies that some licenses were issued but never exercised.

According to Mr. Root, Francis J. "Frank" Marshall was issued a license by the U. S. Army at Ft. Leavenworth to operate a ferry in 1849-51 at Independence Crossing of the Oregon Trail near Alcove Spring. He also obtained a trading license from the Indian Agent (?) to establish a trading post at the same location. Mr. Root says the ferry operated only during the emigrant season, and that Marshall returned to his home in Missouri during the balance of the year. The ferry location was said to be about « mile south of present Shroyer, or about 1 mile north of Alcove Spring.* In 1852 the Army persuaded Marshall to establish a permanent ferry and trading post at present Marysville on the Ft. Leavenworth & Ft. Laramie Military Road.

Frank Marshall and Albert Woodward operated a trading post in 1848 at Oketo on the edge of the Otoe Indian Reservation. Perhaps this was the trading license identified by George Root. There was no ferry at this location until 1859 when Ben Holladay established the Oketo Cutoff for his Overland Stage Company.

There is doubt that the Independence Crossing ferry was ever in operation. 1849-51 were heavy travel years, and it seems certain that some of the emigrant journals of the period would have mentioned a ferry at this location. The author has searched published diaries available to him, and no such reference has been found. Correspondence is invited with anyone who can supply additional information. On the negative side, Micajah Littleton, who crossed Big Blue on June 8, 1850, says he found the river up 3 to 5 feet, and had the following comment: "I cannot say how much a ferry is needed here badly." Bernard Reid, Niles Searls and Samuel Dundass, all of whom crossed in 1849, say that the river was forded.

* An "Indian Crossing" is identified on the Public Land Surveys at this approximate location.

Return to the Pioneer Trails Home Page
or return to the Kansas Historic Trails
or return to the Kansas Heritage Server.