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

The significance of the Telegraph road from Wyandotte up the west side of the Missouri river in 1858-60 was not so much vehicular travel as it was to serve as access for construction and maintenance of the first telegraph line in Kansas Territory. This line was extended up the river to Ft. Leavenworth, Atchison, St. Joseph, and Omaha, and became a link in the first transcontinental telegraph established by Western Union in 1861.

Ironically, this line was constructed across eastern Kansas just as the Pony Express was being initiated. Completion of the telegraph meant the end of the Pony Express in 1861.

This was not, however, the first telegraph service for Missouri river towns. As early as 1851, the St. Louis & Missouri River Telegraph Company was extended up the east side of the river to Weston and St. Joseph. Subsequently, Missouri was crisscrossed with local telegraph lines, and the Weston & St. Joseph branch was allowed to deteriorate and was finally abandoned in 1859 when Charles M. Stebbins rebuilt the line from St. Louis to Kansas City. Stebbins goal was to construct a transcontinental line, but Western Union, with superior financial backing, was able to buy him out. They offered him a position as superintendent for the construction of the line in Kansas, which he accepted. Construction was commenced in December, 1858, and was completed to Atchison by January, 1859. This line crossed the Kansas river at Wyandotte and continued north through Quindaro and the Delaware Reserve to Ft. Leavenworth. By the end of 1859, the line had been built through Doniphan, Geary City, Palermo, and Wathena to St. Joseph.

Edward J. Lewis, who traveled from Kansas City to the Colorado gold fields in 1860 via Atchison, Troy, and Nebraska City to the Platte river, states in his memoirs that he "followed the telegraph wire (from Atchison) to Doniphan, where it left us. Heard railroad train above Doniphan; also saw railroad partly graded below Doniphan."


John E. Sunder, "Telegraph Beginnings in Kansas," (KHQ v.25 p. 32-38).
Edward J. Lewis, Colorado Magazine, v.14 p.206. Bird, p.83-91
S&V p.96, 103, 106 126, 152, 160, 162, 182 & 203.

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