Be Wise Today: 'Tis Madness to Defer!
SANTA FE, COME TICKLE US UNDER THE CHIN.
A GLORIOUS DAY.
For years our people have talked of navigation on the Arkansas Rver from
Little Rock or Fort Smith to this place. The columns of this paper have
been freely used by numerous parties in attempting to prove the practicability of running a line of steamboats on the "raging Arkansas," and in
these communications statistics from all over the country have been put forth to convince the people that the saving in the cost of transportation
was of such magnitude as to justify the outlay of a good round sum in experimenting. The "shovers of the quill" pictured in glowing colors the
immense advantages river navigation would give the town, county, and the whole of Southern KansasCthe entire State, we may say, for that which
benefits one portion of the State benefits all, directly or indirectly.
Railroads were desirable, it is true, for the building up of a town,
and for carrying away the surplus of farm products; but transportation by
was the "consummation devoutly to be wished," as thereby the farmers would be enabled to sell their produce at a nearer and much better market.
It has been clearly proved that where one town prospers through the means of a railroad, half a dozen excel it through the advantages possessed in
having a water outlet.
In all the efforts of our people to satisfactorily demonstrate that the
Arkansas is a navigable stream for boats of light draught, they have met
most bitter opposition and ridicule at times from the towns remote from the river's banksCand even the press from some of the towns have seen
fit to hurl lance after lance at the handful of men at the mouth of the Walnut who were struggling for the advancement of the whole country as well
as for the good of the city of Arkansas City.
Our citizens have sent representatives to Washington, in order to enlist
the sympathies of our Congressional delegates, but until quite recently
these Congressmen have displayed a singular apathy in a question of such commercial importance.
They preferred to vote yes on the appropriation bills before that August
body, whether it be for draining some man's cow yard in the East, or for
building a cordwood landing on the Missouri or Mississippi, but would not try for an appropriation to help the thousands of people who would
be benefitted by the improvement of the Arkansas.
One tenth of the useless expenditures on wild cat railroads which have
been sanctioned by Congress would put a line of steamers on this river and
build all the landings between our city and the mouth of the river. Still those in power remained inactive and apparently disinterested.
Nearly three years ago Messrs. Berkey, now of Salt City, and Wintin built
a pine flat boat at this place, loaded it with flour, and started for Little
Rock. It was purely a venture, and a private one. Both parties were satisfied that a boat could go down the river with a good load, and they
realized that the best way to demonstrate this to the satisfaction of everyone was to make the trip, or trial. It would furthermore serve to draw the
attention of the people of Arkansas to the incalculable good to be drawn from the success of those engaged in the work. The boat started in low
water, but after the first two or three days little or no trouble was experienced in making the trip.
Well can we remember the Sunday morning when they were advertised to
start. The bridge over the Arkansas was crowded with spectators eager
to see the first boat from Arkansas City start for the South, and the churches were mainly filled with empty benches.
News from that unassuming flat boat was watched for with as intense interest
as though the lives of all on board were in peril. This enterprise was
not a success financially, but it was the cause of sending Mr. Samuel Hoyt east the following summerCthe Centennial summerC
with instructions to do all in his power to get a boat to come up to
this point. Mr. Hoyt went to Ohio, where he purchased a light draught
steamboat, and engaged a captain and crew to make the trip.
They steamed down the Ohio and into the Mississippi, the father of rivers,
and thence down to the mouth of the Arkansas. Here they experienced
considerable trouble with high water, as the engine was not powerful enough to work against the strong current of the Arkansas, but after a delay
of several weeks they got as far up as Little Rock, where the boat was abandoned, it having become evident that it was not the right sort of a boat
for this river.
The failure of this enterprise was a damper on the spirits of our people,
and the enemies of the project crowed louder than ever over our loss. It
was considerable of a loss, as the boat cost three thousand dollars, and only sold for three hundredCnot to mention the expenses of Mr. Hoyt
during the many weeks of his absence.
Not entirely discouraged, however, several parties in this vicinity have
been constantly writing to prominent men in Little Rock, in the hopes of
reviving the interest in this great project, and our representative in Congress, the Hon. Thomas Ryan, has taken the trouble to work up an
appropriation of $30,000 for the purpose of a survey of the river from Little Rock to WichitaCthe result of which was, an enterprising and
wealthy firm of that city, Messrs. Eisenmayer & Co., together with other gentlemen, exerted themselves in the cause, and chartered a steamboat to
make the trip. To do this, quite a sum was made up to protect the boat from loss, and an agent of the firm, Mr. Charles Schierholz, was sent up
here to buy old wheat for shipment.
The news that the steamboat "Aunt Sally" had started from Little
Rock reached here Tuesday, the 25th of June, and from that time the topic
conversation has been nothing but steamboat. Even now there were many who openly laughed at the idea of a steamboat coming to our city, and
considerately informed us that if we held our breath until that boat arrived, it would be a long while ere we breathed.
Those who had been friends to the enterprise hoped on, though hardly
daring to express their convictions that their hopes would be realized.
"Have you heard anything from the steamboat?" was asked every minute in the day almost, and though the answer was always in the negative,
their expectations continued to raise with each passing day.
Last Saturday an Indian brought the startling news that the boat was
seen to pass the Osage Agency on Friday, and that it was then past Kaw
Agency without a doubt. Still those of little faith ridiculed the possibility of such a thing. Saturday afternoon some even claimed that they heard
the whistle of the steamer and everybody was on the qui vive for news. On Sunday morning groups of men could be seen on the houses, with
strong field glasses, looking for the tell tale smoke, and at about 9 o'clock, while many were leisurely taking their late Sabbath breakfasts, their ears
were startled by a loud, though hoarse, sound in the direction of the river, which men familiar with such sounds instantly recognized as the whistle
of a steamboat.
For a space of a minute or two, probably, nothing was heard, when one
of the wildest yells that ever ascended to the empyrean rose from all over
the town. Everything was confusion, and the men engaged in a mad race for the livery stables, each anxious to secure a conveyance. Soon another
and louder whistle from dear old "Aunt Sally" nearly upset everybody within hearing, and the town just cut loose and ran for Harmon's ford,
where the great column of smoke told us the precious receptacle was resting.
Excitement! There wasn't a sane person in the crowd of three hundred
men, women, and children who went stringing down to the water. Arrived at
the ford, we saw the long looked for "Aunt Sally."
There may be nothing wonderful in the appearance of a small river packet,
built for the plantation business of the south. Many of the spectators
on that Sunday morning have seen some of the handsomest crafts that ever rested on water; have spent days and nights in those magnificent
vessels that sail in the great chain of northern lakes, and have crossed the mighty ocean, the while taking their ease in the most superb staterooms
that can be fitted up for the convenience of mortals; but we seriously doubt if any of them ever experienced so much pleasure as they did when
they gazed on the form of "Aunt Sally," and realized that the navigation of the Arkansas River was no longer problematical, but an accomplished
Cheer after cheer rent the air, and the crew of eight that had been first
to make this trip were received with open arms. Men, who heretofore had
been first to church, forgot that this was the Lord's day, and that the preacher stood in the pulpit waiting to break the bread of life to their hungry
souls. For once their spiritual appetites were appeased, and for fear that gnawing sensation, peculiar to famishing souls, would assert itself before
they were through with the hand shaking, several buggies were supplied with enough "spirits" to revive the fainting ones. This was a better sermon
to the lost of our community than was ever thundered from any pulpit in the land, and one whose effect would be lasting.
After an hour of talking with the river men, everybody was invited on
board, and in a few minutes we were placidly gliding along the smooth
surface of our beautiful Walnut River. And just imagine our sensations! We felt deliciously; felt as if "our back was buttered, and a convoy of
angels, with rainbow-tinted wings, were pouring golden syrup upon our head until it trickled down even into our brogans;" or as if we had been
intended for peach marmalade and spoiled in the cooking. Thrills of ecstasying joy coursed through our system like a two-year-old goat going
uphill. We felt as though we had been let loose at a picnic dinner before anybody else was in sight. Felt better than after a Saturday night with Col.
Bennett, Capt. Leach, and Evarts, the Secretary. In fact, we were felled, stunned, overwhelmed, and dum-fuzzled.
We wanted to see the man who said our river wasn't navigable, and then
wanted to see him slapped into a straight-jacket for lunacy. We wanted to
see him kicked by a jackass, though we were willing to let the contract out to someone else. We wantedCpshaw! We didn't want anything, only to
be let severely alone, that we might contemplate upon the future of Arkansas City, that sits on a hill, and from her throne of beauty is yet destined
to rule the commercial world of Southern Kansas.
Glancing down the vista of time, and gazing into the now almost certain
future, we saw a glorious fulfillment of the promises made in our
emigration circulars, and felt that though we had fought for this for years, and against home opposition, too, still we were blessed beyond our
desserts. Time and again had our faith weakened, and in despairing tones, we could cry out, "How long, O Lord, how long?" and then we would
read a few kind and friendly (!) notices in the Winfield, El Dorado, and Wichita papers relative to a tub at Arkansas City that could float on a
But "he laughs best who laughs last.@ Sneak into your holes, you
insignificant, twinkling, inland towns, and never dare to stand in the broad,
effulgent rays sent forth by a seaport city. Yes, pull your holes in after you, and leave not a trace of your miserable hamlets on the face of the
earth. To fetch your metropolitan sportsman down here, and ere he returns he can "a tale unfold that will harrow up your soul, and make each
individual hair stand up like quills upon the fretful porcupine.@ Then come down yourself and you will go back firm in the belief that "verily, the
half had not been told," you will feel like pulling the "blue gingham apron of the sky" over your pale, dim little phizzes and keeping dark. The
supply of greens will even fail, and the dilapidated carcass of the old woman with a case knife will breathe her last in one of your mud puddles, and
rolling up her eyes like a dying duck in a thunderstorm, will pass o'er the jasper sea, and her history and yours will be as a tale that is told.
After the trip in the morning, the gentlemen connected with the boat,
viz: Captains Barker and Lewis, proprietors; Messrs. Chapman and Smith,
pilots; Mr. Colton, citizen of Little Rock, and Mr. Baird were driven uptown, and the crowd stopping at Schiffbauer's store, the doors were
thrown open, and they filed in to partake ofCwell, there was a general good feeling pervading the people, and they did justice to all that was
handed out. By this time the hotel man warned them that it was time for attending to the "solids" required by the inner man, and they repaired to
the Central Avenue, the guests of Mr. Chas. Schiffbauer, who sustained the reputation for liberality that this firm has gained.
In the afternoon the country people poured in from all quarters, as the
news spread like wild fire that the steamboat was here, and that an
excursion would be given at four o'clock.
At the appointed time the banks on either side of the river were lined
with those anxious for a trip on the first steamboat that ever came up to
At five o'clock the boat shoved off, with three hundred and seventeen
persons aboard, and gave them a delightful voyage, while our brass band
favored them with some of the finest music they had. Truly it was a pleasant sight, and an occasion long to be remembered by the participants.
The day ended as quietly as it had begun, and with the exception that
the people were gathered in groups, earnestly discussing the pros and cons
of the case, no one would have supposed anything unusual had occurred.
And now for the boat and the trip from Little Rock. The "Aunt Sally"
(God bless her!) is a regular river packet heretofore plying between
Perryville, Arkansas, and Little Rock, carrying cotton mostly. Her length is 85 feet, width 18 feet, and she draws 12 inches light and 18 inches
loaded. At the registering office at Memphis she is registered at a capacity of 65 tons. She is owned by Captains Barker and Lewis, both of whom
are river men of large experience. They left Little Rock on Tuesday, 18th inst., and reached Ft. Smith the Friday following, a distance of 280 or 300
miles. Left Ft. Smith on Friday, the 21st, and reached this place Sunday morning, the 31st of June, though they could have been here Saturday
night as well. The report of every man on board the boat is that they had no difficulty in coming up, and they were surprised a steamer had not
been up here years ago. The current is strong and swift, but with a boat built especially for a trade with this part of the country, they could make a
round trip in eighteen days. In coming from Ft. Smith here they ran but 107 hours, and estimate the distance at about 450 or 500 miles.
The plan in navigating this river is to run a line of barges. A solid,
compact boat, with a powerful engine, could make a fortune soon in plying
between this point and Little Rock. The fact is self-evident, yet a few figures may not be uninteresting. The pine flooring which our people buy
costs but $15 per thousand in Little Rock, and we have to pay $60 for the same quality at Wichita. Pressed hay cannot be bought there for less
than $15 or $18 per ton, while we can lay it down at the wharf here for $5. Corn is worth 60 cents per bushel there, and in two months you can
buy all you want for fifteen cents per bushel. Again, the towns around here and the agencies south of us in the Territory create a demand for an
immense amount of groceries, etc., which trade Little Rock may as well have as to let St. Louis have it, while the saving in freight would buy a boat
or two in a little while.
But there is no need of enlarging upon the benefits from an outlet by
water. The people must see it in this light, and ere long we shall see a
line of steamers plying between Little Rock and Arkansas City. Amen.
[THE BOAT "WICHITA" COMING TO ARKANSAS CITY.]
TRAVELER, JULY 3, 1878.
The fast "flat" WICHITA loosed her moorings at island No. three,
last Saturday after-noon, headed for Arkansas City, sailing master, Finely
steer, who had the rudder hung for the occasion, Tom Woodman; cook, W. D. Russell; cabin passengers, Will Woodman, Capt. Cornell, and several
This boat will touch all the intermediate points and probably some others
not in her shipping log. We hope she will never meet with the mishap
that will compel her master to order the helm hard too, on account of the cooks being taken short, on provision, or the order issued to throw out
her grappling irons and take reef around the cook's shirt tail. Beacon.
[COMMUNICATION FROM "BILLY BARLOW" - SALT CITY.]
TRAVELER, JULY 3, 1878.
SALT CITY, June 20, 1878.
Commodore Berkey made another successful voyage down the raging Arkansas,
with less water than Columbus started to sail on. His boat was
launched at the post called Oxford, and we are informed they took a load of fruit and lumber to Salt City. His enterprise and perseverance as a
navigator is commendable to all.
TRAVELER, JULY 3, 1878.
KANSAS CITY shipped 100,000 bushels of corn to St. Louis, last week,
on the first line of barges run between those two cities. Barge navigation
on the Missouri River promises to be a success, and will result in making Kansas City the city of the WestCthat is, until a line of steamers is
established between this point and Little Rock.
Arkansas City Traveler, July 3, 1878.
The boat that came up from Arkansas City, last Wednesday evening, attracting
the citizens of the city almost unanimously, to the foot of the long
bridge, was propelled by a belt and windlass. Her apparatus broke when near here, and the Captain hove to for the purpose of repairs. He said he
came here to get shafting. Beacon
to Subject Index Page
to bbott's home page