Early History of Rock Port and Atchison County [Missouri], part 1
from writings of John Dopf, founder of the Atchison County Journal (now the Atchison County Mail)
[part 2] [part 3] [part 4]
transcribed and compiled by: Sue Farmer - seb82148@yahoo.com

County Journal

Sept. 2, 1915


By John D. Dopf


Upon the occasion of The Journal’s 53rd anniversary the editor wrote to John D. Dopf, the founder of this paper, requesting that he write a series of articles on the early history of the Journal.  The following is the first chapter of what we believe will be the most interesting bit of history ever written of Atchison county.


            St. Joseph , Mo. , Aug. 25, ’15 .

Editor Atchison County Journal:

            In response to your letter of recent date, will state that The Journal will not be 52 years old until September 19th next.  The mistake occurs from the fact that for several months The Journal was issued twice each week.

            On the 31st day of August, 1862, Col. P.A. Thompson came into the office of The Missouri Democrat, St. Louis , Mo. , in search of a printer competent to publish a country weekly.  The foreman called me to his desk and introduced me to the Colonel.  A few words and we had contracted for a three or four weeks’ trial, and I agreed to meet him at the North Missouri depot the following morning at 4 o’clock .  There were no street cars in St. Louis then, and I had a long walk, as the N.M. station was as near St. Charles as St. Louis .  I arrived in time to get on the train.  I was made acquainted with the fact that Rock Port was my destination, and that there was a stage ride of 75 miles to complete the journey; that the paper was owned by a company of five men:  Col. P.A. Thompson, F.M. Thompson, C.V. Snow, A.B. Durfee and John W. Enoch, and that is purpose was “to create Union sentiment!”

            The train reached St. Joseph after midnight , over 20 hours on the way. 

            The following morning I went to Pennick & Loving’s drug store and purchased a bundle of rag paper from one of their salesmen, (Harry C. Carter, still living in St. Joseph) at 25 cents per pound and paid at the rate of $4 per hundred for its transportation to Rock Port, by express. 

            The following morning I started on one of several of Fink & Walker’s overland stage coaches and arrived at Rock Port on Sunday morning about 3 o’clock and put up at the Rock Port Hotel, kept by a man by the name of Garrison, and was assigned to room No. 13.  I soon fell asleep but was soon aroused by the tramp, tramp, tramp of a moving army.  I retreated in haste and found rest for the remaining hour till dawn on a bench in front of the hotel.

            After breakfast I made the acquaintance of Dr. J.Y. Bird.  Dan Snyder was the agent of the stage company and was the first citizen to greet me and was one of my best friends for more than forty years.  The same is also true of Dr. Bird as long as he lived.

            There was no church in Rock Port ; there were no sidewalks, no school house and one graveyard, where Indians, Negroes, Germans, Irish, English and French slept in peace together, now known as Elmwood.

            During the day I made the acquaintance of about the entire population of the town and not a few from the country.  Hon. A.E. Wyatt was then sheriff, and I wish I could give you a picture of him as he then appeared.   The union between his cowhide boots and his homespun and woven blue jeans t4rousers was not perfect but I found that his heart was in the right place. 

            In the afternoon Jimmie McNickle came to the hotel, and his story of having killed a wild turkey, while engaged in digging a grave to bury the body of Dr. Ellis’ fourth wife, was told.  McNickle was at once engaged as “devil” for The Journal, and Monday morning, Sept. 4th, began the task of moving the old Rock Port Herald office from Dr. Richard Buckham’s drug store where the Buckham block now stands, to a two-story frame building on the west side of Main street on lots now occupied by Christian Bros. store.  The Journal had the second floor, Dr. John Dozier occupied the first floor.  E. L. Clark, father of Clark McColl, was postmaster, and occupied the first floor, south of Dr. Dozier; John C. Hope was his assistant.  North Star Lodge No. 157, A.F. & A.M., used the room over the post office for a lodge room.

            Early on Monday forenoon Wm. T. Buckham, clad in blue jeans and butternut wearing a coonskin cap and armed with a double-barreled shot-gun, entered the office, and all hands went up.  He wanted to know if we needed any help, and we thought we did.  He laid aside his gun and coat, rolled up his sleeves and took hold like a veteran.  He had been “devil” on the old Herald, and I’ll bet he’s still a “devil of a good fellow!” and everybody knows it.  Later in the day Wm. M. Campbell, joined the gang and he was employed regularly.  We worked days and nights as well in an effort to get a paper out as soon as possible, but there was much to do.  The office was “pied” and “dumped” into boxes, kegs, barrels and bags, and there was also considerable job printing to be done before the first form was put upon the old Washington hand press.

            If you can get a copy of The Journal of Sept. 19, 1863 , you will find that it reads:  Vol. 1, No. 1; P.A. Thompson, Editor; John D. Dopf, Publisher.

            If this does not reach the waste basket, I will write another chapter. 






Sept. 9, 1915


By John D. Dopf





            The first work done in Rock Port by this writer was to make entries in his diary and to balance his cash book and count cash on hand, which was ten cents.  Took cash to the post office and deposited same with Deputy Postmaster, John C. Hope, at this time a druggist at St. Joseph, and received in return two three-cent postage stamps, two envelopes and two sheets of note paper, on one of which I wrote a letter to Sister Mary and on the other a letter to another Mary, whom I now call wife.  These two letters were largely devoted to unfavorable descriptions of Rock Port and its disadvantages; no very great admiration for its inhabitants not the limited view I had of the surrounding neighborhood and my then rather forlorn condition, and I sang;

            “I’m hard up, I’m hard up,

            But I never shall forget when I was better off,

            But may be well off yet!”


            The week following I changed my mind about the town and the people and especially about the people.

            John W. Smith, Bennett Pike, John L. Shelters and L.H. Ruland were boarders at the hotel, and they made me fell somehow that I was the equal of the Prince of Wales or any other potentate, great or small.

            Everybody was interested in the success of The Journal and every man, woman and child was a “booster”.  Everybody solicited subscribers at $2.00 per annum, cash in advance, or $2.50 if not paid before the end of the year.”

            Rev. Kirk was the first name entered on the subscription book.  He was the father of Margaret Caudle, grandfather of Theodore Caudle and numerous other Caudles.  Then came Jacob Hughes, Enoch D. Scamman, Thos. Holland, Geo. F. Smith, John ox, George Steck and everybody else who could read.  Two hundred copies were printed.  Over half of these were delivered by carrier or taken from the Rock Port post office.  There was a post office at Linden , McKissick’s Grove, Sacramento , Sonora and Scott City , and several copies were sent to each of those places. 

            At that time there was a mail route from Halsie’s ferry, on the Nodaway river, near the present site of Burlington Junction, known far and wide as “The Possum Walk Route”.  It was served by an old man who walked across the trackless prairie most of the distance, about twenty-five miles, arriving at Rock Port Friday night and returning the following day, Providence permitting.  I believe this was the first R.F.D. in the United States , but was not so called.  If any reader knows one that ante-dates Possom Walk, write it down and send to The Journal. 

            The members of the county court in 1863 were Franklin Merrill of Center Grove, Michael Kime, Walden Grover and Elijah Needles, of Needles Ferry.  Jas. M. Templeton was county clerk and lived near Rock Port on a farm, now the home of his widow.  A.E. Wyatt was sheriff and lived in the old home of Stephen F. Nuchols and the residence of the late Geo. L. Bischof.  A.B. Durfee was treasurer, and lived in Rock Port , on the place now owned by Jack Davis.  John W. Smith was assessor and was at home any place in the county. 

            The probate court business was transacted by the county court and Mr. Templeton was clerk of the probate court, clerk of the circuit court and ex-officio recorder of deeds.  A.E. Wyatt was also collector of revenue by virtue of his office as sheriff. 

            Notwithstanding the many duties imposed on Mr. Templeton he found many days and hours which he spent on the farm, never neglecting his official duties.  If a better man than James M. Templeton ever lived in Atchison county, I never heard his name.  That he held his place as a public servant for more than a quarter of a century, warrants the statement that he was the political ideal of the people. 

            All of the public officials above named were men of sterling worth and performed their duties with marked ability and integrity. 

            Silas Woodson was judge of the circuit court, composed of the counties composing the Platte Purchase – Atchison , Andrew, Buchanan, Nodaway and Platte .  Allen Vorhies was circuit attorney for the same judicial district.  Prince L. Hudgins, Gen. Jeff Thompson, Willard P. Hall, Stephen Vorheis, William Herren, Rufus K. Crandal, Silas Puyear, A.B. Durfee, Bennett Pike and one of two attorneys from Nebraska , composed the roll of attorneys admitted to practice in the court. 




Sept. 16, 1915


            In this chapter I will lead your thought in recollections of the first settlers of Atchison county.  Frenchmen were without doubt pioneers, as they were the first explorers along the shores of the Big Muddy – traders and hunters.  The only one I knew was LaMoreaux, and I suppose his son, Moses LaMoreaux, and other descendants are still living on the lands he settled upon in the hills southeast of Hamburg on as fine a tract of land as the sun ever shown upon.  When the surveyors were running the line between Iowa and Missouri in 1835 or 1836 he was there, and the line divided his farm.  They [. . . . ] of cast-iron monuments every ten miles on the line, and one of those was planted at the east of the bluff overlooking the Missouri Valley .  Another Frenchman had a home adjoining LaMoreaux on the north in Iowa , I think his name was LeBo, and there may have been others near by. 

            I guess Henry Roberts was the first American pioneer in Atchison county.  He had a claim on the bank river below St. Deroin, then a trading point.  His cabin stood near the river in a grove of bur oaks.  He lived there several years after the founding of The Journal, and was a man of high standing and many good qualities. 

            A German colony from St. Louis settled above and near the old Fugit or Barlow mill in the year 18__.  Cornelius Schubert, Martin Grebe, Wm. Hartman, Geo. F. Smith, Michael Steck, father of Capt. Geo. Steck, Martin Rhoda, father of Mrs. Geo. Bird, and a number of others whose names I cannot remember, formed the colony, and with two or three exceptions all were living in 1863.  Martin Grebe was a cabinetmaker, Cornelius Schubert was a civil engineer and laid out and platted all of the old towns in the county, prior to 1860.  If I am not mistaken, Wm. Hartman was a shoemaker, and all were farmers.  Other Germans came from Indiana , from Germany , and various other states.  John Fox and Peter and Philip Walter, George and Frederick Traub, Klinkhardts, the brewer, Haltswager, the blacksmith, Sommerheuser, another brewer, the Rapp brothers, Geiger brothers, Wagners, Salfrank, a blacksmith and wagonmaker, Vogler, Henry Spreitzer, Conrad Deatz, John and Henry Knierim, Conrad Stickerod, and perhaps others whom I have forgotten and all of these settled near Meek’s Mill, now Rock Port.

            It may be stated that the men whose names have been given were German noblemen, and their descendants were of like mould.  They spent many days, weeks, months and years in labor of the hardest, and does not labor ennoble men!  They were the builders of a new civilization in the wilderness, and laid well the foundations thereof, and as evidence of this I ask your attention to the schools and churches, the College, the County Home, the splendid roads and bridges and the grand men and women of intelligence and culture, the industrious and progressive farmers and promoters and the magnificent homes in town and country, to be seen on hill, valley and streets which surround the home of The Journal. 

            I omitted the names of Tom and Tony Mitchell, Phillip Reitz, Henry Warneke, Charles Renner, Jacob Mulhaupt, George Ebner, Harry Moses and the Sanders brothers (Leopold, Jacob and Simon), Richard Gaede, C.H. Imhoff, and Herman Zieke, the basket-maker, and also the Reiter family, which may be given more extended mention later in these reminiscences. 

            Away out on the prairie, seven miles, there lived John McCrander, in 1863, and Oscar Utvitts was his nearest German neighbor and he lived at Center Grove.  The in and about Linden lived Cleopfil, Boettner, Wolf and Branstine, and all of them were born across the Atlantic ocean and crossed the Great Deep in sail vessels. 

            Uncle John Wright, of Rock Port , is or ought to be a German.  If he is not he can deny it in The Journal, at legal rates.  There was also a Tennessee Dutchman near Watson, John Garst, whose wife was a good Republican, and he was a good Democrat.  I will also mention Uncle Jimmy Dyche, a splendid old gentleman. 

            I slept, and there passed before me another crowd of German fellow citizens and I recognized among them John Zulauf and his clerk.  He was the keeper of a “guesthouse” and sold beer and pretzels for more than forty years on Main street , and was only before the court once as a violator of the laws of the country of his adoption, and his clerk never drank beer, whiskey or wine.  The Brodt Bros. were the proprietors of a first-class licensed saloon in Rock Port.   There was John Reiter, head of the famous Reiter family, and a druggist.  He was a band-master and composer of splendid ability.  Phillip Kessler meandered by, and will be remembers as a jolly gentleman every hour of his life.  He also was a good musician.  Then I saw that stalwart and competent layman from Linden , Geo. Klaus.  I know many of your readers will remember his eloquent speech made in Rock Port on the even of the election to move the county seat to Tarkio.  And now here comes Henry Luhrs.  I know you like to meet him; I always did and he seldom failed to call when he came to town.  Geo. F. Muinch, father of Charley, the grand old bachelor, who has dodged Cupid’s arrows for about fifty years.  I believe Dr. G.W.E. Chamberlain was of German descent as well as being the Huckleberry Finn registered by Mark Twain.  There was that little short, active cabinetmaker, Nick Petry, and Sutter, the brewer, Ben Dappin, the Flying Dutchman, the stage driver.  West Clark was represented by David and Adolph Bertram, Daniel Groh, Fritz and Henry Hahn, Jacob Walker; Benton, by Fritz Langhenning, Jake Seifkas, Ben Bowers and Ben DeBuhr.  And still they passed in review; Harmon Cooper, John Johnson, Johnson Harmes, Henry and Fritz Schierkolk. 

            When I arrived in Rock Port nobody knew I was of German descent.  I soon was made acquainted with the fact that the Dutch were not held in high esteem by some of the leading citizens, for Geo. Traub had cut down a flagpole that stood on vacant lots north of the present site of the Bank of Atchison County, one dark night shortly after the beginning of the misunderstanding between the North and South on the slavery question.  All Germans were called Lopeared Dutch, Dirty Dutch, Big Mouthed Dutch, Amsterdam Dutch, Rotterdam Dutch and just plain Dam Dutch. 

            Now, I have written so much that you will discover that I am not neutral, but am hoping to see the Germans whip everything and everybody who wants to fight.  If they triumph, the Irish and the other oppressed of Europe , Asia and Africa may be able to govern themselves without the aid of a British Parliament.  Civilization will not suffer if victory crowns the Imperial German colors.


            P.S. – I have rambled all over the county thinking and writing about the Germans.  Next I will go for the Scotch, Canadian English, Irish and French and perhaps a few natives. 




Sept. 23, 1915


            In April 1862, General Gray, in command of the Department of Missouri, issued General Order No. 24, enrolling the male inhabitants of the state of military duty.  Those who were loyal were organized and sworn into service.  Those who were in sympathy with the South paid a commutation tax of $20.00 and a levy of a certain per cent on their assessed valuation.  I enrolled with the loyal or enrolled Missouri Militia, and was assigned to a company to run the Missouri Democrat, and was a sergeant in command of a patrol guard.  Dan Jouser, the present manager of the Globe-Democrat, was then bookkeeper and was the orderly of the company.  Fishback was the captain and the McKee Bros. were the two lieutenants. 

            When I left St. Louis I had to procure a transfer, and shortly after the first issue of The Journal, Cap. George F. Smith organized a company and I was elected 1st lieutenant.  The Journal office was military headquarters as well as our arsenal.  Our parade ground was the Rock Creek valley southwest of the M.E. church, South, and the present site of the old Christian church. 

            Quantrill’s Guerillas had spent the previous 4th of July in Rupe’s Grove and there were rumors that members of his clan were still haunting Irish Grove and the hills along Mill Creek and the Nishnabotna bluffs. 

            Horsethieves and jayhawking bands rode across the country by night and had no respect for the politics of the horse or mule that they found in the pasture o unlocked and unguarded barn.  Thirteen horses were stolen from the hitchracks on Main street one night between sundown and eight o’clock .  Aquilla Beck slept in his livery stable just north of The Journal office.  One dark night in the latter part of November, just about the time he usually retired, he heard the crack of a rifle shot which came from the direction of the home of Sheriff Wyatt.  He at once reported at the arsenal, where I was sleeping, wakened L.H. Ruland, F.M. Thompson and about a dozen others who promptly reported at headquarters for arms and ammunition, and as quickly the cavalcade, or whatever you may call it, rushed to the conflict.  A deep gully led southwest from a point near the high school grounds to the fence at the Wyatt home, along which the entire force crept silently in single-file.  A council of war was held and it was decided that I should go forward and reconnoiter, being a single man and of course the most worthless man in the army; if killed there would be no great loss.  I sailed or sallied at once.  My armament consisted of one old musket and two Colts’ navy revolvers, loaded.  Advancing cautiously I reached the rail fence where I was met by Siegal, Jimmy McNickels’ big mastiff dog.  He greeted with his usual laugh and a friendly wage of his great, bushy white tail.  I immediately ordered the force to advance “double quick”.  Climbing the fence, we advanced to the front door of the house, and with arms ready to fire, demanded:  “Surrender!” in tones of thunder.  Wyatt and McNickel came to the front at once and explained that a coon was after the chickens, and Jimmie had taken a shot at and killed the coon. The war was over, the Battle was won and the army retired in good order to rest for the remainder of the night on well-earned laurels.  While there was much street talk about this event, it did not get notice in The Journal. 

            Notwithstanding the unsettled conditions, the paper increased its circulation and 25 or 30 new subscribers per week were often added to its circulation. 

            Col. Thompson was an excellent editor, and his political articles were always excellent reading, and he was as good a reporter of local events and matters of person interest.  He was a born leader and his influence extended all over Northwest Missouri and outside of party lines.  He believed in honest politics and put his beliefs into practices.  There are men of all political parties still living in Atchison county who will bear witness that to his work on The Journal during the two or three first years of its existence, as well as his advance to and council with the people, resulted in a great measure to restoring peace and quiet in the county, and saved many lives and much property.  The Journal was fulfilling its mission of “creating Union sentiment.” 






Sept. 30, 1915


            Atchison county was well supplied with doctors in 1863.  Dr. J.Y. Bird, Dr. Arnold, the Buckham brothers (Richard and Robert), Charles V. Snow, John Dozier, John Ellis, David Whitmire and Dr. Moore, are all whom I remember, and they were all good ones; what they lacked in knowledge they made up in generosity and goodness. 

            Dr. Richard Buckham performed the first marriage ceremony, preached the first funeral sermon and officiate at the birth of the first white child born in the county, and that boy was William Millsap, still a resident of the county.  Dr. “Dick”, as he was best known, belonged to the Thompsonian school of physicians and had great faith in lobelia No. 6 and ginger tea.  He was a Christian preacher and a farmer and a stockraiser and also a Republican politician and represented Atchison county in the Missouri legislature later. 

            With the exception of one, the others were allopaths and believed in heroic doses of calomel, jollop, blue mass, quinine and whiskey.  Dr. John Ellis believes in all kinds of remedies, any kind or no kind at all.  If his patient survived he was cured; if he died he was buried. 

            Dr. C.V. Snow was a great politician and knew the whole story from 1774 to date, and would rather talk politics than to eat, sleep or saw off a leg.  He was a Democrat and a Union Democrat, loyal to the flag.  If he had any religion he was a Mormon, but was satisfied with one wife. 

            Dr. Arnold was of English origin, related to the Arnold who wrote “The Light of Asia,” and to Mrs. Ward, who was the author of “Robert Elsmere.”  He was the representative in the Missouri legislature in the early days of the Civil War; a staunch Union man, a splendid physician, a genial gentleman, able as a write and for many years the leading physician of Omaha. 

            Dr. David Whitmire was successful in his practice and the best read and most studious of the lot.  “Boss” Miles may be induced to tell how the doctor “practiced” on him when he was about to die of la grippe. 

            The roster of those who succeeded the old-time doctors is too long for this chapter but may be found in The History of the Platte Purchase which is being written. 

            Among my personal effects was a guitar.  It was a good one and cheap at $30.  I had taken two lessons only, but could tune it and could play accompaniments in two or three keys.  A few evenings after the first issue of The Journal had been printed, I sat in the twilight thumbing the guitar, when footsteps on the stairs warned me that visitors were coming.  It was Sheriff Wyatt and the “devil”.  The sheriff demanded the cause of the “noise”, and I had to tell him.  I lit a lamp and showed him the cause.  He took it in hand, looked over it, struck a few chords and said: “It’s a fine instrument, is in tune and you play.”  I denied the charge.  He continued:  “If we had a violin we could have some music.”  McNickle said:  “I can get a fiddle.”  He disappeared double-quick and returned “on time,” bringing with him the owner of the “Fiddle” and the “fiddle”.  It was brown with age, greasy from use and had only one string.  The bow was short of horse hair and was greasy, too.  Prof. E.L. Clark was a visitor while Jimmie was absent and the two went out in search of rosin, and were successful.  I had plenty of new strings, and in a very short time we were practicing our first piece.  The “noise” attracted many visitors, and among them Tom Mitchell, one of the village blacksmiths, who listened to one number, and then asked permission to join us.  Consent was granted and he went for his “noise-maker”, and soon returned with the longest clarinette I ever saw.  It was out of fix and had to be soaked in a bucket of water.  Reeds were adjusted, and then the three-piece orchestra, Rock Port ’s first orchestra, received an ovation which closed near midnight . 

            These free concerts were of frequent occurrence during the fall and winter, for the people of Rock Port had a musical ear. 

            In February, 1864, it demanded a brass band.  The begging committee raised $450 n less than one hour, and the instruments were ordered from Balmer & Webber, St. Louis , to be shipped by the first steamer.  The boat on which the goods were shipped was attacked by guerrillas, near Glasgow , and a music ball passed through the big Eb tuba.  The damage was covered by a piece of copper taken from the bottom of a washboiler.  Very few people are still living who suffered the torture that followed the advent of the brass instruments and two drums.  Gradually the “noise” modulated into melodious melody and the Rock Port band was much in demand. 

            So many memories come flocking to my thought as I write that I hardly know what to write, where to begin or where to stop, hence I shall have to stop now, without referring to the Canadians, Irish, Nova Scotians and English, as I promised in the last chapter. 





Oct. 6, 1916


            William Dunbar was surveying for Wrice D. Schooler, son-in-law of S.F. Nuchols, one of those beautiful Indian Summer days in October, 1863.  No Surveying party was well equipped unless it had at least one fallon of whiskey in the commissary department.  The place was on the Schooler estate and the line a half-mile long, crossed steep hills and deep ravines.  To establish the corner half-way on the line was the object, but the falling off at the government corner was more than four rods, owing to the fact that the surveyor did not know that the magnetic needle was about 11 degrees west of the North Star. 

            Mr. Schooler came to The Journal office the next day to tell the editor his troubles, just as everybody does today when trouble calls at their abode.  The editor did not print it in The Journal, but the county court was made acquainted with the facts in the case, and after proper investigation, the resignation of Mr. Dunbar resulted, and the Court looked about for a successor and finally this write was appointed his successor.  I had already been appointed deputy sheriff, and now I had nothing to do but run The Journal, survey roads, land and townsites and act as the sheriff’s deputy. 

            On a trip to the northeastern part of the county, in a region where settlers were few and far apart and roads and bridges were none, I discovered the Sellars Brothers ranch, near the Iowa line and west of Walden Grove.  There were three or four men at the place and no woman in sight.  They treated me with all the hospitality they could command.  I think at least one of those men is still on earth and must be more than one hundred years old.  The Sellars Bros. were Englishmen; were wealthy in cattle, land and money and could not take The Journal because they only came to Rock Port to pay taxes, and there was no post office nearer than 18 or 20 miles. 

            William Barber, who lived near the Iowa line, east of McKissick Grove, was another Englishman.  His son, the late Dr. Barber, of Fullerton , Neb. , was for many years one of The Journal’s best correspondences, over the signature of “Blue Jeans”.  He was the innocent cause of a battle between two young men who each accused the other of being the author of the “Blue Jeans Letters.”  The item which caused the trouble simply stated the fact that, “Two Young men living in the Grove (no names given) were rivals for the hand of the most beautiful girl in the neighborhood.”  The father lived longer than the son.  Both were living two years ago.  They were pioneers of Nance county, Nebraska , as well as early settlers in Atchison county. 

            William and James Hunter and their wives, the father and mother of Dr. McMichael and Duncan McDonnell were from Nova Scotia .  Both of the Hunters served on the County Court at presiding judge.  They were all farmers and stock men.  I would like to write of the many good things I know about Duncan McDonnell, but everybody knows he is a good man, but would fight as quickly as an Irishman. 

            James Gaffney (“Irish Jim” as I first knew him) was a stage driver on the Fink &* Walker Overland Stage Co.’s line from St. Joseph to Council Bluffs , and drove the coaches that carried at least two great editors:  Horace Greeley and myself.  He could write better editorials, but I wrote the kind the devil could red, while he wrote the kind the devil could not read.  Irish Jim could “throw the silk” over four horses and with it pick a gad-fly off the near leader’s ear every time he hit there, and he drove like Jehu!  I made his acquaintance on my first trip from St. Joseph to Rock Prot.  He gave up his job after the close of the Civil War and went to farming and raising fine stock on a fine tract of land on the hills east of Corning , Holt county.  He was large of bone, strong of muscle and big of heart, and was withal a real Irish gentleman. 

            There were Tim and Andy Whelan, who came with the builders of the K.C. St. Joe and C.B.R.R., and settled near Watson.  Andy moved to the head of Cow Branch, where I suppose he still keeps open house for the hungry, thirsty and friendless, like all other Irishmen.  James O’Riley was also a builder of the same railway, and kept at it until he married an American farmer’s daughter, but he got lonesome on the farm and moved to Rock Port, where he spent the remainder of his days respected and trusted as long as he lived there.  He served in the British army, in the Crimean war and also in a New York regiment in the Civil war, and as he did not know nor care about the number of his regiment, he was not a pensioner.  He only was able to tell that his comrades were Irish.  Barney McMahon was a young Irishman who came to Rock Port with Dr. J.W. Blackburn in the 60’s and who purchased a farm a mile east of Capt. Steck’s place on the south road to Tarkio. 

            There may be one or two of these foreigners whom I have forgotten, but who will be remembers when I write The History of the Platte Purchase. 

            There was a Frenchman by the name of Bilieveax who was a stage driver at the time Irish Jim was driving.  He was great on “hoss talk” and vivid in telling startling adventures in which he was an actor.  “Happy Jack” was another stage driver and stuck to the box and the bottle as long as there was anything in either.  Then there was Doc. Small, the gentleman-driver, always well dressed and courteous, king hearted and generous.  I must not forget Frank Farmer, who quit driving to run the “2 Curious” saloon at Phelps City . 

            Near the end of my first year I had given the company notice that I would quit with No. 52 of Vol. 1 and wished a settlement.  The settlement showed that I had paid the stockholders the amount they had invested, had bought and paid for $250 worth of new materials, that all bills were paid and there was less than $100 in uncollected bills. 

            The stockholders decided that I must stay and Col. Durfee was authorized to fix the terms.  He offered to give me the office.  This I refused, as well as an increase of salary.  I finally agreed to buy the office, provided the company would give me time to pay for it.  The price was fixed at $750, $250 cash and the balance in two annual payments at ten per cent per annum.  No security was to be given, either personal or by chattel mortgage.  However, Col. Thompson was to continue to write the political articles until I learned more about politics, and I always thought this was the best part of the bargain.  Col. Thompson believed in honest politics and practiced it as well.  It has been said that “the good a man does lives after him,” and this is true in the case of Col. P.A. Thompson.  His life in Atchison county consisted in every-day acts of goodness and generosity, and there are hundred still living in Atchison county who can truthfully say: he was my best friend. 

            Prior to the National Republican convention of 1864, there was much opposition to the re-election of Abraham Lincoln.  Salmon P. Chase, Old Greenbacks as he was called, was the only man who stood any show of being the candidate, although there were a host of men who were then great statesmen.  The Journal declared for Chase, and the flag staff on The Journal office carried the Stars and Strips at the top and beneath it a Greenback six feet in length and under that a streamer with the “Salmon Chase for President.”  The opposition to Mr. Lincoln was because he was too slow in freeing the slaves and arming them.  The wisdom of his action was made apparent in the year that followed his reelection.  Following his nomination The Journal placed his name, with that of Andy Johnson and Missouri electors, at the head of the editorial page. 

            At that time, a qualified voter could vote at any precinct in the county by making oath that he had not voted that day at any other voting place.  The Democratic party had no organization, and although there were quite a large number of votes cast for county and state officers, there was not a legal vote cast for the National Democratic ticket.  I was a candidate for the office of county surveyor and received over 700 votes, with three votes for Dunbar , and I know he voted for me; but I had only lived in the county about fourteen months and my many faults were not known then as they were brought to light in after years. 

            In those days county newspapers had no chance for success and were generally run at a loss or starved to death.  Delinquent tax lists of all the counties in the state were printed by the State Printer at Jefferson City , and the 25 cents per tract was taxed as costs on each tract and the State Printer drew the cash from the state treasurer as soon as he could present his bill after the last type was set.  Notice of sheriff’s sale was given by printed hand bills, and the list of county expenditures was made public in a written list posted in the court house, or, at the option of the County Court, by printing the same in a newspaper published in the county, and it often happened that the tax-payers never knew how the money was expended. 

            As soon as the General Assembly met at Jefferson City, I had prepared bills providing that delinquent tax lists should be printed in a newspaper in the county, and if there was no paper, then in the nearest paper published, the price to be ten cents per tract; also a bill providing that notice of sheriff sales be printed in some newspaper printed in the county, and another relating to court notices and fixing the price.  Co. Thompson took the bills to Jefferson City , and having the acquaintance of about all of the members, he had no trouble to have the bills passed almost with opposition.  There being no papers in Holt, Nodaway and Worth counties, I printed the lists in 1865 for the four counties, and could have had as many more if I could have got men to set the type.  Nodaway county paid me over $800 for the first year, $250 from Worth, over $400 from Atchison and about $350 from Holt.  In the course of three years paper were printed in almost every county of the state.  At present there are over one thousand county newspapers in Missouri and they are generally making money, and I am glad to know that I helped to make them prosperous. 





Oct. 14, 1915


            In July or August of 1864 an orderly rode swiftly up Main street, Rock Port, bearing a message to Col. Bennett Pike to report to Gen. James Craig, with all the available men under his command in Atchison and Holt counties, who were of the enrolled Missouri Militia, to mount as many as possible and to report without delay.  Gen. Sterling Price was reported to be advancing on Kansas City .  The carrier came just after noon , and at 3 p.m. 60 men had reported and all but a dozen were mounted.  Two wagons carried blankets, coverlets, quilts and extra arms.  Orders concerning foraging were strict, but provided for impressing horses, if necessary as well as for sustenance, appraising the same and giving owners receipts for property taken. 

            At sundown we stopped at the home of Judge David Bertram.  He gave a fat steer and it was butchered for supper.  The wagons contained coffee and sugar and various kinds of bread and cake and several sacks of flour.  The Judge had many stands of bees, and that night he robbed several stands and we had bread, honey and milk for breakfast and broke camp at break of day.  We had been re-enforced by a half dozen mounted men, and several were to come on the stage line.  About 1 p.m. we came to the home of Judge Ish, of Holt county, near Hackberry Ridge.  I asked him if he had any horses.  He said all he had left was a span or two of mules that nobody could ride.  The mule team was just what we needed to carry the troop to St. Joseph , and the negro driver was called from the field where he was hauling oats to the barn.  The Judge told me no one but the negro could drive them.  I thought different and selected one of the Collins brothers to act.   The oats were quickly unloaded and a wagon-box substituted for the rack and the men who were not mounted quickly filled it and Collins took the lines.  The barn sat at the crest of a hill and a hundred yards away was a bridge across a gully filled with brambles, vines and crab apple brush.  There was no brake on the wagon and the team went down the hill like a shot, missed the bridge and landed in the gully, Judge Ish and the negro laughed, the men used profane language and the mules kicked.  Nobody was seriously injured. 

            Arrangements was made with the Judge for Tom, the negro to drive, provided he would be permitted to return next day, and he would make no charge for team or driver.  He also wanted Tom to be treated well, but the mules, he said, could take care of themselves, but no white man should be allowed to drive them, and there was not a man in the company who could be hired to make the attempt. 

            We camped that night near St. Joseph in a beautiful grove, and nearby we found a field of oats in shock, from which we took a load of oats for feeding our horses and mules.  The day following we found that the oats were the property of Judge Henry Vorhies, and when I asked the price of the oats, he said:  “If you came from Atchison county to defend my home, I can afford to give you all the oats I raised, and more if you need them.  If you need provisions come to my smokehouse and get what you want.”      

            After breakfast and guard mountain, Orderly Sergeant A.F. Tiffany and I went to Gen. Craig’s headquarters in the Patee House to report.  We found him in no good humor, as a crowd of “butternut” residents of Holt and Andrew had just reported that “the thieving Atchison county Militia had robbed them of horses and provisions.”  Our report was in writing, and consisted of the company roster and a list of the property taken, the price agreed upon and other data. 

            The “butternuts” were recalled and asked to produce the receipts which had been given them for the “stolen property,” which they did, and they later had the horses returned and the provisions paid for.   The General used some profanity before he told them to go home. 

            After they had departed, he appointed me on his staff, with the rank of captain.  I took a quarter of an hour to think about it, and then very respectfully declined.  The General complimented me on my good judgement and we retired. 

            The third morning at guard mount there was mutiny in the ranks.  The muster-roll was in alphabetical order and the Brazeales, father and George, served 48 hours on guard duty, and when their names were called for the third time they “stacked arms”.  George Brazeale said:  “I’ll be dad-swizzled!  I’m willing to stand two days at a time, but danged if I do all the time!” and the mutiny was put to sleep by mounting four men who had not served. 

            After Co. Q. of the 52nd Mo. M. had served 21 days and “Pap” Price had been driven to the Osage Range , we broke camp and hastily returned in good order to our respective homes, strictly observing the Hardest Tactic for conducting a retreat on the return of a victorious army.  There was no one killed, wounded or missing to report, and not a man claimed to have killed anybody or anything but a few quarters of beer or vinegar. 

            The report of this expedition was made to the Adjutant General of the state at Jefferson City , and before November 1st, following, all members of the company were paid for their services in full, in Missouri Defense Warrants, which passed at par in the payment of state taxes. 

            During the fall or winter of 1863 Dr. Cunningham and family located in Rock Port.   L.P. Cunningham was a printer and a younger brother, came to the office to finish the trade which he had started to learn east of the Mississippi river .  During my absence “at the front,” L.P. managed the office, wrote a few editorials and read the Revised Statutes of Missouri, and in this way prepared himself for admission to the bar, on my return he mounted a horse and rode to Platte City, where circuit court was in session, Judge William Herron, presiding, and was given a certificate on answering three questions:  What is your name?  Can you read and write?  How old are you?  Judge Herron told me that he issued the certificate because of the address, appearance and proper demeanor of the man, believing that he would make an excellent advocate, and he was not mistaken.  Cunningham was successful as an attorney and as a financier and the builder of the Frisco railway with little money and the confidence of Eastern financiers who bought the bonds of counties in Eastern and Middle Kansas, scarce a year old and with cities with court house, jail post office, churches, colleges, public schools, banks, hotels and public parks that only had an existence only in elaborate blueprints showing the Frisco railroad, with depot, machine shops and round houses, while, in fact, the only inhabitants were, jackrabbits, wolves, buffalo, prairie dogs and rattlesnakes.  However, these blue print cities have materialized and grown much beyond the imagination of the engineers who put them on the map and the Kansas bonds have all been paid off long years ago.  Last heard of Cunningham he was known as Hon. L.P. Cunnigham, of Kansas City . 





Oct. 21, 1915


            Robert and John Lynn were the first arrivals from Canada .  I do not know how they came, but am sure they did not walk over.  If you are curious to know, ask them.  Aunt Margaret McMillan came with them, and Wm. Thomson either came along or soon followed, and each bought land west of Cow Branch.  Robt. Bought 160 acres south and west of Cow branch bridge and started a musery thereon, and Thomson bought about 400 acres, adjoining, 80 acres of which he bought at $3.75 per acre, and the highest price paid was not as much as $5.00.  Today these farms would bring $200 per acre and they are worth at least $400.

            Hon. M. McKillop came to Rock Port in, I think, about 1865; a graduate of Union College , New York , was a Canadian by birth, and, being a civil engineer, as well as a lawyer, I appointed him deputy surveyor, in which capacity he served for several years.  He and A.E. Wyatt with Col. A.B. Durfee and myself organized the Banking of Durfee, McKillop & Co. , one of the first banks established in Northwest Missouri , after the close of the Civil War.  Our capital consisted of sufficient cash to build a two-story brick at the corner on Rock and Main streets and buy the safe.  We did business one year on the confidence of the people, and made money.  I then withdrew from the firm, taking with me the real estate business and the abstract of titles.  The banking business is still carried on at the same place, with more cash in its vaults and perhaps with greater confidence on the part of its patrons.  After I left the bank a short time, the Youngers, Polk Wells and perhaps some of the James family visited the bank with the purpose of drawing the cash on hand.  It was early on the morning of the day they attacked the Riverton, Iowa , bank.  I met Cole Younger in St. Joseph , a short time after his release from the penitentiary, and asked him why he did not rob the bank at Rock Port ?  He said:  We did not like the looks of the men in the bank – James O’Riley, the janitor and this scribe – and the numerous guns sticking around in convenient places ready for instant use; and they did not look good either. 

            John and Archie Cook, Peter and John Sillers, Murdire, David and John Alliston were among the Canadians who came to Atchison county before the building of the Tarkio Valley railway and settled on large tracts of prairie lands when the best improved land could be bought for $5.00 per acre or less. 

            Joseph Waugh, of Dunbar Castle, Scotland, who came and settled east of Walkup’s Grove before there was more than one county bridge between Rock Port and his ranch.  He was a bachelor and bred race horses. 

            John Tyson, I think, was also a Scotchman and came to Atchison county about the same date was Waugh did and bought 1280 acres of prairie land and some timber land near the Holt county line and two miles west of the Nodaway county line, improved it and a few years later grew more sheep and produced more wool than any other breeder in the state. 

            John and David Alliston settled adjoining Robert Lynn, near the head of Cow Branch about the same time that Lynn and Thomson began to improve their holdings.  John Alliston and Zeke Colvin were killed in a railroad wreck near Creston , Iowa .  David Alliston later became interested in gold mining and at his death was wealthy. 

            In closing this rambling epistle I wish to say concerning these foreigners referred to herein:  They were all good men and true --- men of brawn and brain, and no disgrace to the land of their birth. 





Oct. 28, 1915


            The Journal was scarce six weeks old, when there came to Rock Port a man with a camera and a box of snakes of various kinds.  He was a good looker, was well dressed and behaved like a gentleman, and my intimate acquaintance for more than half a century has not caused me to change my views about Joseph Bachelor, of St. Joseph, and notwithstanding the fact that he was the cause of much trouble to myself and many others, in the days of long ago, he intended no wrong to me or any other human being.  He made ambrotypes and tintypes and was an excellent artist.   I think he was a single man at that time, but joined the army of benedicts half a hundred years ago.

            William Campbell, my journey printer, spent all his spare time in Bachelors gallery at the court house in learning to catch the shadows by day, and studying chemistry and reading works on art by night, for two weeks or more, and then he bought the camera, chemicals and stock, excepting the snakes, paid all the cash he had and a note for $75 to balance, to which I subscribed my name.  This was my first trouble and then they came “thick and fast.”  He moved the outfit into the back end of The Journal office and informed the public that he would make pictures Saturday afternoon of each week thereafter.  All kinds of people came to get their pictures took.  They came from Iowa , Kansas , Nebraska and from all parts of Atchison and Hold counties, Missouri , and while the weather was good, Saturday was like circus day, and the late comers stayed until they could be accommodated.  The rush continued until the stock had been about exhausted, and then Campbell decided he wanted to quit and go West, and he turned the business over to me without reserve, and among the assets I found a book of instruction which I read carefully and I thought I could take as good pictures and not half try.  I tried and failed.  Of course I did, for the essential points in taking pictures were omitted.  The devil and I held a conference, and with our combined knowledge, I made another attempt, and there was a very faint outline of the features of the devil on the plate, but it was blacker than any devil I had ever seen before, nor have I seen a blacker one since.  Before the stock of plates was exhausted I was confident my troubles were over and I ordered $50 worth of stock and enough chemicals to last at least a year, and as soon as they arrived I announced that pictures would be taken at any time, day or night, at The Journal office, and I had plenty of customers.  If I was not at home McNickle “took ‘em”, and if the girls had no jewelry and the boys had no watch chains, we put them just where they should be for a quarter extra, and we charged from $1.50 to $3 for a pictures, according to size and quality of case and trimmings.  And yet I had nothing to do but take pictures, survey lands, act as deputy sheriff and publish The Journal, and I can prove it by Capt. Steck, A.E. Wyatt, D.A. Colvin, John Shelters and Billy Dunbar. 

            Early in December 1863, a good man with an ox team appears on the street in front of The Journal office with a big load of dry wood which he wanted to trade for The Journal, and we took him up without giving anybody a chance to raise the price.  A wood sawer and his son were quickly employed to saw it in two, and all hands and the devil helped to split it and carry it into the office.  As the last armful was being loaded the devil called our attention to what appeared to be a large which wall, a thousand feet high, moving down Rock Creek, a mile away, and before the last stick was housed it enveloped the dawn like a London fog and lamps had to be lighted to enable the force to set type.  It was 10 o’cl9ck when the storm struck the town and by noon there was about a foot of the beautiful spread over the town and surrounding country.  A threshing machine, driven by four span of horses, was engaged in threshing for the owner of the Hamilton farm and the straw was being stacked northeast of the horsepower.  When the storm struck the stack, it stacked the straw on the eight horses and the driver, and before the threshers could dig them out and unhitch, the most of the men had frostbitten ears and fingers.  The woodman and his oxen was on his way home and was on the high prairie west of town and was badly frostbitten before he reached the home of E.D. Scamman.  At break of day the following morning the snow was all down, and was nearly three feet deep and the mercury had fallen from 50 degrees to 4 or 5 degrees below zero, and The Journal had about all the wood on Main street where it would do the most good.  The Rock Port Hotel had enough wood to cook the breakfast, warm the dining room and office, and no more.  John W. Smith and I held a conference and decided that we wanted to eat cooked food.  Across Rock street and on the alley back of the Masonic Temple , stood a log cabin that had been used for various purposes:  Dwelling, stable, grocery, and blacksmith shop.  We decided to burn it at the hotel, and to abide consequences.  The cabin belonged to E.D. Scamman and he was two miles away with an ocean of snow and zero weather between, and no telephone connections.  Garrison, the landlord and his son were instructed to demolish the cabin, cut it up and use it to the best advantage.  Smith and I agreed that whoever met Scamman first would buy the cabin as cheaply as possible and we would divide the cost.  I bought it before the week-end for $10, after which I told him it was practically in ashes. 

            The Journal kept jogging along with winter of 1863 and was doing its best to fulfill its mission, just as it has done for the past half century, and I believe it has had much to do with the unanimous Union sentiment that prevails, and today I believe there is not a man, woman or child of mature age, who could be induced to take up arms except in defense of the Star Spangled Banner. 

            Early in December, 1864, a journeyman printer came from the office of the Glenwood ( Iowa ) Opinion in search of a “sit”, and he was as quickly employed as he asked for it.  His name was Josh Bodenhamer, and he was capable as a printer and able as a writer.  He was genial and jolly, a good dancer, and ever alert to advance the interest of the paper.  I was worn out with boarding around, had a house without a tenant, a sister in Wisconsin and a sweetheart in Illinois , and Josh said I was foolish not to get a cook.  I took his advice and about the middle of the month I started for St. Louis in company with Col. Thompson, F.M. Thompson and Zeno Russell, with William Thompson as muleteer, in an open spring wagon.  The drive was made to St. Joseph in twenty-five hours, in time to take the train which left at 6 o’clock a.m.   It took us two hours longer to reach St. Louis than it did to drive from Rock Port to St. Joseph .  However, the state owned and operated the H. & St. Joe, and the North Missouri railroads, and they were run safely and not to make fast time.   Compared with the railway of today, to which we belong, they were just a joke. 

            The object in going by way of St. Louis was to get money enough to pay the preacher, get the license and a big bunch of bills for traveling expenses.  I spent Sunday in St. Louis and Jackson W. Ruland advanced me $170 so that I could get off for the North early Monday morning. 

            It was almost four years since I had seen the little girl who was to become the future cook at Hillcrest.  When I arrived I found Miss “Pokie” under the doctor’s care, and he said I had better move on, and I did, going to my boyhood home, and there I spent eighteen or twenty days and most of the nights in holiday frolics with many of my old schoolmates. Three, however, were not there.  They had fallen in defense of the flag and the National Capital. 

            When I returned to Illinois I was rejoiced to find the young lady had recovered and had consented to take me for “better or worse,” and I had yet to ask the consent of father and mother.  Mrs. Burnett was not ready to give her consent – thought Mary was too young – only 20, but I finally persuaded her to say “yes”.  I then hunted up father and asked him about it.  He said I could have her and welcome, as he wanted to go to Missouri himself and would as soon as he could sell his home property.  Charley and I went after the license, and returned by way of the Methodist parsonage.  With the license I enclosed a $10 greenback and told him to be at “woodland” at 11 o’clock , January 11, 1864 , and not tell his wife or anybody what he was going to the country to do. 

            I may be writing too much about private affairs, but this being the only time I was ever married and the best wedding I ever attended, I hope your readers will pardon me.  The bride had an interview with the parson before the ceremony, and told him she objected to the word “obey” in the ritual and he changed it so that it read:  “Love honor and be gay”, and I was so excited that I did not not3 the change, but the first time I ordered the little cook to do something she did not wish to do, she gave me to understand that she never promised to obey me, and I can truthfully say that I am glad that she never did, only when my commands were reasonable.