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



Nov. 4, 1915


            It is not more than fifty years since the wedding at “Woodland Home”, Ogle county, Illinois , and as I was the only newspaper reporter present, it has never before been reported.  The bride was well dressed in a brown broadcloth traveling suit.  The groom wore $16 boots and the conventional black that cost the beg end of a $100 greenback, and was so badly frightened that the lavender kids were forgotten. 

            The dinner was great and well prepared, consisting of turkey – and all the other “fixings” that usually make a farmer’s feast and makes the table groan.  If the “table groaned” we did not notice it, but the parson, the hired man and the boys did.  It was not served in “courses,” but anybody and everybody were told to try the 19 or 20 kinds of food as well as several kinds of drinks.  After dinner father and I went to the barn to prepare for the wedding trip to Missouri .  Father said:  “John, I am not able to fit you and Mary out as I would like to do, but if you will get a bed tick you can fill it with the finest oats straw you ever saw.”  I did not get the tick but carried several arm loads to the sled. 

            While we were engaged at the barn the boys and the hired man had filled the sled box with several large dry goods boxes, trunks and hand-baggage.  Before the clock struck two we bade the company good bye, and there was no throwing of rice, old shoes, beans or cabbage as we sailed across the frosty fields for Polo, ten miles away. 

            At the station the boxes were shipped as freight to St. Joseph , Mo. , and the baggage checked for Quincy , Ill. , Dr. Allen, an old friend of Father Burnett, intercepted the party as I was buying tickets and said we could go no further until we had supped at his home, and we did. 

            It was eight o’clock the following morning when we arrived at Quincy .  The river was breaking up, and no ferries were running, and it was necessary to walk across the ice, paying toll whenever there was a rift in the ice.  At noon we had reached Palmyra and were greeted by two or three brass bands and several thousand of the colored population of Missouri , who had received their freedom the 11th of January by proclamation of the Provisional Governor of the state of Missouri . 

            The conductor informed the passengers that they could dine at Palmyra and have at least an hour for the performance.  My wife, yes, my wife, had made the acquaintance of a real old lady who was opening up a lunch basket intending to eat a cold dinner, and the new Mrs. Dopf asked her to dine with us, and she did, also repeated at every eating house between Palmyra and St. Joseph, and as it took more than 36 hours to cross the state, feeding the old lady was a joke on my shrunken pocketbook.  Two days were spent in St. Joseph , and we visited Uhlman’s photograph gallery and had our first pictures taken as wife and husband, and it showed the head of the house seated and the mistress standing at his side, with her hand on his shoulder.  If you could see the picture today, you would never guess that the two had been married less than a week. 

            Early on the morning of the third day I met “Rock” Frost, manager of the stage company, and asked him to place the names of myself and wife on the waybill to Rock Port , and I would pay Dan Snyder on arrival at home.  This he refused to do, and gave as a reason that the writeup of the company two months before out to be sufficient reason why he should not grant my request.  I told him that I could engage an ox cart and a good driver who would land me in advance of his crippled horses, and that myself and wife would not have to walk up the steep hills along the way.  After some emphatic remarks on both sides, “Rock” said:  “I will do this:  I have two old men, two old women and yourself and wife more than the coaches will carry; all are billed for Rock Port, and I will send you _________ by daylight, stopping over at Forest City over night, and the company will charge nothing, but you will have to wait two or three hours before you can start.”  Of course I could not refuse so liberal an offer, as it represented more than $20, the best pay I ever received for a local writeup – about one dollar per line.  “It pays to advertise!”

            One of the old ladies was the same woman who took warm meals with us along the H. & St. Joe R.R., and had been visiting friends in St. Joseph .  One of the old men was Col. Jim Carnes, of Ohio , and the other two a preacher and his aged wife from Beaver, Pa. , who owned lands in Atchison county. 

            The weather was fine and the roads dry and dusty; the horses were fresh and frisky; the drivers were dry and thirsty, and sometimes crusty when the bottles were empty, and they cursed and swore and ripped and roared when the beer gave out. 

            Forest City was our place for supper, and the old lady took another warm meal at our expense, and our pocketbook grew thinner.  After supper the old lady attempted to return to the parlor, and in doing so, to avoid passing a window for the parlor door, walked into an open cistern with two or three feet of water at the bottom.  Her cries for “Help!” soon attracted attention, and she was quickly saved from a wet burial, carried to the kitchen, and removing her wet clothing over $1,500 was found in her stockings. 

            The day following we proceeded on our journey and took our Sunday dinner at Milton , at the home of Wm. Graves, and it was a good one, too.  His son, John Graves, who lives at or near Fairfax , can tell all the facts, especially about his admiration of the bride. 

            About 4 o’clock p.m. we arrived at Rock Port and were welcomed at the home of Dan and Mrs. Snyder.  Snyder fed the stage passengers at a long one-story frame building on Water street , but kept no lodgers.  His wife had the reputation of being the best book between St. Joseph and Council Bluffs .  He charged half a dollar for all anyone could eat, and I am sure he lost money often, and was only saved from bankruptcy by his patrons who had moderate appetites.  However meats and vegetables were cheap.    

            There had been another wedding at Rock Port recently and a charivari was expected, and I had saved enough to meet the necessary expense of the affair.  The other bride and groom were not far away and about 9 o’clock Capt. Walkup (it was not Co. Riley) called the roll of his company, which was composed of every able bodied citizen not present.  Mr. Snyder put on his coat and hat, took Navy revolver from his desk and went out at the front door.  Bileveaux followed with a two gallon jug, contents unknown.  Dan returned in a few minutes, put away his gun and remarked:  “There will be no disturbance in this neighborhood tonight,” and there was none.  I believe the other couple was Uncle John and Aunt Hannah Wright.  If they are not guilty, they cannot prove their innocence. 





Nov. 11, 1915


            I wish you could place a half-tone of some other of the old timers of Rock Port at the front of this chapter.  If I were permitted to name the man I would suggest Dr. Cunningham, as I shall devote a part of this article to what he did for Rock Port and Atchison county besides prescribing quinine, whiskey, calomel, castor oil and poke root.  He called at our sanctum early one morning, following a day spent in riding over the almost impassable roads, and said:  “Mr. Dopf, I observe that the murky substance in our soil, permeated with water, adheres to the wheels of the vehicles with such tenacity that it is with the greatest difficulty that the quadrupeds can propel the vehicle along, through and across our thoroughfares.”  I replied that he was doubtless correct, but there was no dictionary in the office.  This was the last effort the Doctor made to overwhelm us with his extensive vocabulary. 

            Later on he came to the office on Saturday evening and was greeted by a dozen or more of the leading citizens of the town.  He wanted to know why there was no Sunday school in town, and many amusing reasons were given, and many food reasons, as well.  However, the crowd agreed that if a man could be found to do the praying the Rock Port Sunday school would organize next day at 2 o’clock p.m.   Esquire William Sparks agreed to officiate as chaplain; Dr. Cunningham was elected superintendent; this scribe, secretary, J.W. Smith, treasurer, and E.L. Clark, librarian.  In those days there was no lesson helps but there was real bible study.  There was much memorizing, and many pupils could repeat the four gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, as well as the Psalms of David and Proverbs.  There was as many classes at this first meeting as there were bibles.  The session, aside from business, was a short one and closed by singing:  “I want to be an Angel and with the Angels stand!”

            On the way down town a wicked boy expressed an opinion that “no decent Angel would stand with such a crowd, and that such singing would scare the devil!”

            There was at this time one other Sunday school in the county and that was at Sonora .  There may have been others but there were home affairs and kept no records. 

            “Tall oaks from little acorns grow!” 

            Likewise great growth has been made in this field of endeavor, and greater are still to be made in the future, and it needs no prophet to foretell that this will be when creeds have crumbled to dust and love of God and Man have taken their place and the nations of the earth shall sing the song the shepherds heard on the plains of Bethlehem. 

            Rev. Calvin Allen was the first preacher to visit The Journal.  His Circuit covered the larger part of the Platte Purchase, and he rode at the risk of his life.  He carried a pocket bible and a Colt’s Navy, and at some places the bible and the navy lay side by side on the pulpit.  He was a man of courage and good of purpose.  There are a few men still living in Rock Port who will remember him perhaps better than I do.  A year ago he was living at LaClede , Mo. , preaching for the Methodist Episcopal church. 

            Sunday school picnics were not of frequent occurrence during the Civil War period and it will be a good guess to say there were none from 1850 to 1865. 

            Perhaps it was in the fall of 1864 that Gen. Clinton B. Fisk, commanding the several military posts in Missouri , Kansas and Nebraska , with a company of Black Horse Cavalry as his body guard, left St. Louis on a tour of inspection of the various posts along the Missouri river from St. Louis to Omaha, and incidentally to look up the Sunday schools along the wayside.  Ample notice of his coming preceded him, and the Rock Port Sabbath school gave notice that there would be a picnic at the Milsap grove, near the present site of the school house, north and west of the Dug Cut road, and invited everybody to come and bring enough good “eats” with them to feed Gen. Fisk, his army and the horses and anybody else who might be hungry.  The notice brought an immense crowd of people.  The came from Iowa , Missouri and Nebraska , and there was a great abundance to feed both man and beast.  Many soldiers had just come home from the army and they came and brought their sweethearts or their wives of recent date.  There was a band or two, and there was music in the air.  The bands played, the children sang and the bugler showed his skill by blowing the calls that were at that day so familiar that the school children could whistle them when they were playing soldier. 

            Gen. Fisk was introduced to the people by Capt. Steck, who was officer of the day, and he made no bad mistake when he said he was the best Sunday school man in the world, for I think the introduction caused the General to do his best to make the people believe that Steck had told the truth. 

            The dinner followed and it took about two hours to eat that dinner.  The people ate half an hour and rested and then went at it again, and so continued until there was nothing left to be wasted.  Nobody went away hungry anyhow. 

            Capt. Steck then announced that there would be a “balloon sensation!” and the people would have to leave the grove the better to observe this wonderful spectacle.  A German shoemaker by the name of Schultz, father of Mox Schultz, had prepared a very large paper balloon and several small ones, and they were to be sent up immediately.  The big balloon, eight or ten feet in diameter, was filled with hot air, and to the lower end was attached a large bunch of cotton, saturated with alcohol, which was lighted as the balloon left the earth.  The balloon arose in majesty and acted all right until it struck a stiff breeze blowing over the bluffs, when it went over on its side, caught fire and came to the ground in the thickest of the crowd – and it was the first balloon “sensation” of Atchison county. 





Nov. 18, 1915


            Col. James Carnes was Colonel of the 105th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and we listened to many interesting stories concerning the “unpleasantness with our Southern relatives,” and he seemed to have only seen the humorous side of the conflict.  We were but a few miles out of St. Joseph when it was discovered that beneath the rough exterior of the old war veteran there was a genial, courtly gentleman of culture and commanding ability, and he found the whole party attentive listeners, and the drive, “Happy Jack” drove quietly as possible over the rough places so he could listen, too.  Although we were almost two days on the road or at the Wayside Inns, the Colonel continued as the principal entertainer. 

            The morning following our arrival at Rock Port , Mr. Carnes disappeared and nothing was seen or heard of him for at least two weeks, and then he came to meet his wife and daughter.  He told me that he had purchased lands near the Missouri river , in the Buckham neighborhood, a mile or two west and north of what is now Langdon, and was building thereon a hewn log house.  He wanted the lands surveyed as soon as possible, so he could fence it, and said he intended to live there for the remainder of his life. He also wanted to know where he could get lime with which to “daub the chinking” between the logs.  I told him he had better not introduce such an innovation lest he be classed with the F.F.V.s, as the old settlers of that neighborhood were the Blue Grass region of Kentucky .  He was ready to take chances, as his wife might demand something even better than the house he was building. 

            When I went to survey the land, a month later, I found the house occupied and well furnished and the wife and daughter were well pleased with the new home and its surroundings.  They were people of culture and I greatly enjoyed the days I worked at “ Cottonwood Mansion .” 

            Eighteen hundred and sixty-five was the year of the invasion of the lightning-rod peddler as well as that of the sewing machine agent, and of course he could scent a new house long before it came to view.  Mrs. Carnes insisted on having the “Mansion” properly rodded.  Mr. Carnes protested to no purpose, for no Colonel with a regiment at his back could withstand the charge of a vendor of lightning rods when backed by an intelligent woman, and the vendor go a good dinner and a contract to rod the house at 50 cents per foot and $1 per point.  The rods were put down to water, at least ten feet, and extended a like distance above the highest peak of the roof.  The bill was more than $30, and everybody was happy when the Colonel paid the bill and the vendor drove away.  In due course of time, by reason of contraction and expansion, caused by cold and heat, the rod parted and the lower section fell to the ground, so that it became a menace instead of a protection.  An approaching storm brought the Colonel from the harvest-field to the house.  Mrs. Carnes at once asked him t6o repair the break as soon as possible, as the roar of distant thunder indicated that a violent electric storm was rapidly approaching.  The Colonel protested:  Mrs. Carnes insisted and hastily procured a leader and bade him ascend, and he did.  With one hand he carried the ground-end of the rod and ascended the ladder, then, reaching upward he grasped the upper rod.  When he thus closed the circuit, he received a “shock” so violent that he was thrown to the ground, and he at once became confident that a metallic conductor on his home was a decidedly good thing, if it had no breaks in it.  Mrs. Carnes came to his assistance with a pair of heavy leather gloves and the rod was properly adjusted before the storm broke in fury.  A number of tall cottonwood trees were felled by the lightning within a short distance of the house, and what might have happened at the house had not the rods been properly connected, is too terrible to think about. 

            Col. Carnes was elected Presiding Judge of the County Court in 1866 or 1867 and made a most excellent public servant.  There were in those days few public roads and bridges were few and far between the hose that were in use were of poor construction and dangerous as well. 

            One bridge spanned the Nishnabotna river.  It was situated at Sam King’s distillery and only a few feet from the present site of the Colvin bridge.  It was neither a Howe Trus. nor a Cantilever.  It was built in three or four sections, “toggled” together with log-chains and trace-chains, and the whole structure rest5ed on cribs built of large logs on each bank of the river.  It might have been called a suspension bridge.  It had a lateral swing of three to five feet in the center, and it went up and down according to the load it carried.  That bridge was certainly “fearfully and wonderfully made”, and the builder’s name was unknown and his descendents should be glad of it.  He was perhaps an old bachelor.  The old thing looked just like one of those poor unfortunates. 

            The “Ishna” as it was called by Bennett King, and the “Nishna” by other old timers, was crossed by numerous ferries, which paid state and county license, and charged `0 cents for footmen, 25 cents for hose and rider and 50 cents for a span of horses or oxen and wagon.  If the passengers were strangers these prices were doubled.  These crossing places were near some farm house, and from the mou5th north were at Frank Groh’s, John D. Campbell’s, E.S. Needles’, Soloman Hackett’s, Dan Morgan’s, Young Woolsey’s, John Walburn’s and the Bill Lewis place where the stage line crossed the Nishnabotna river, two miles southeast of Hamburg. 

            Bridges crossing the Big Tarkio were at Milton , at Gilkinson’s, at Fanning’s mill, and northeast of Center Grove, known as the Bush bridge.  There was no bridges on the Little Tarkio.  The Middle and the West Fork of B9ig Tarkio poured their waters into that stream near “Hunkadora”, and a number of bridges were necessary in order to get to or away from Hunkadora.  Bridges were so numerous and so close together that you could not tell whether you were on the east or the west side of the stream nor what stream you had crossed or were going to cross.  Hunkadora would have been Tarkio had not the railroad company objected to the building of so many bridges.  The Middle Fork was bridged at the Bartlett school house.  The west Fork was bridged near the Graves-Golden-Bennett farm.  There was a bridge on Rock Creek, near the Hunter Cut, and one east of Linden , at the Barger place. 

            Up to this time there was little use for bridges.  The settlements were mostly on the west side of the county, and the few settlers on the east side raised cattle and hogs, mules and horses, and did not want bridges and would not have them.  However, land hunters were looking for homes; land was cheap -- $3 to $5 per acre – and the spirit of improvement was abroad and sentiment was changing. 

            The destruction of roads and bridges caused by the storms of the past six months may appear serious, but is nothing as compared to that which confronted Judge Carnes and his associates, but they “______ out” just as the present court will have to do. 





Nov. 25, 1915


            PEACE was declared April 15, 1865 , exactly four years aft the firing upon Ft. Sumpter, and it will be remembered by the few remaining citizens of Rock Port who can remember the event that it was a great day that following the proclamation, for it was not known at Rock Port until about 10 o’clock on the morning of the 15th that war had ended.  Four years of war, with all its horrors, had not hardened the hearts of the American people.  There were tears of joy; there were cheerful greetings by all, and ere the sun had set perhaps the entire population of the county had heard the glad tidings.  This general rejoicing was not alone by the victors.  Those who favored the “Lost Cause” generally were found with those who rejoiced.  If there were any who felt otherwise they made no mistake by hiding their feelings.  One cheerful old Southern sympathizer, however, declared that “The South will whip you’ns next time,” and nobody disputed his words. 

            One week had hardly passed before the pessimist put in an appearance and he saw “in the near future great disaster than had visited the land in the four years just past.  The army would disband and the soldiers would fill t5he country with outlaws, and raping, murder, arson and robbery would mark their paths from ocean to ocean and from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.  The national debt would never be paid, and old England would seize the national capitol and the United States would become Southern Canada and Old Mexico would annex Texas and the Southwestern territories,” and if this did not happen one wise old Prophet of Disaster declared: The Indians will drive what few whites are still living into the Atlantic ocean or the Gulf of Mexico.”

            None of these things happened.  The soldiers came home.  The young men came and married “The Girl I Left Behind Me!”  Those who had wives when they enlisted or who came back were married before the war closed and re=enlisted, came home and went to work just as though nothing had happened.  It is a fact that even old bachelors who had not the courage to ask for a wife before the war came boldly to the front, picked out the best, proposed, was accepted and married and made model husbands, too. 

            Will the pessimist never die?  Will he never get killed?  Can he be killed?  He is still with us and is telling how this nation will suffer after the great Eastern war closes if it ever does. 

            Capt. Geo. Steck is a type of many of the Federal soldiers who came from the army with a thankful heart, little meat on his bones, full of good intentions and empty pockets, and your readers all know he is a model citizen, and has prospered financially. 

            “Coon” Deatz came back form the Confederate army and walked to the home of Dr. J.Y. Bird, one mile south of Rock Port.   He had a few ragged clothes, twenty-five cents and perhaps a few graybacks.  After working for Dr. Bird one year he came to Rock Port for the first time in over five years, bought a breaking plow and harness and went up Rock Creek and commenced breaking prairie by the acre.  A year later he bought 160 acres of land and improved it, and became in later years one of the most prosperous farmers of Atchison county.  He was a good citizen, too. 

            Charles Patton, when discharged from the army, was 21 years old and could neither read or write.  He married and his wife educated him, with the aid of the school teacher, who boarded at their home.  The last known of Patton by this writer he was running a saw mill for Uncle Sam on an Indian reservation near the Manitoba line, and drew $250 per month. 

            Good soldiers make good citizens, good husbands, good fathers.  Most soldiers are good.  This refers to the volunteer soldier.  I do not care to discuss the character of the soldiers of the regular army.  They are good, bad and indifferent. 

            I contend that the American Volunteer Army from Colonial days to date has done more hard fighting and gained more victories worth while, than all the trained armies of the world since the walls of Jericho were blown down by the wind from rams’ horns as the Jews marched seven times around the beleaguered city, keeping step with the crude music (?) they produced. 

. . . Selah!




Dec. 2, 1915



            Early in the spring of 1866 or 1867 I went to St. Joseph to look for any stray railroad that felt inclined to build a line that would pay good dividends from date of running the first train until the end of time, and I had not met with any discouraging talk from St. Joseph business men. I left St. Joseph early in the morning by rail for Savannah , then the terminis of the Platte Country Railroad.  The road was at that time owned by the State of Missouri and was built from Weston to Savannah .  It was not much railroad, but “beat nothing just a little bit”.  A few years later it was stolen from, sold or given away by the state, and the state made a great mistake when it disposed of it.  At that time the state was “long” on railroads and “short” on cash. 

            I was doing more thinking in those days than talking and gave no attention to the talkers on the train.  A stage coach was waiting our arrival at Savannah and most of the passengers climbed into the coach. I mounted to the seat beside the driver and we were off in a hurry.  We stopped at Fillmore long enough to change the mail and then crossed the Nodaway river, crossing at a ford just below Hollister’s Mill, and two miles farther west stopped for dinner.  The dinner consisted of fried bacon swimming in a sea of fat, corn dodgers, black coffee without sugar or cream – price 50 cents.  At my side sat a young man who seemed to have no craving for dinner.  Finally he pointed to the plate of bacon and asked me to name it.  I told him to eat thereof and name it himself.  He took a small bite, made an effort to swallow it, but failed, slipped the unpalatable morsel from his mouth to the side of his plate, arose from the table, paid his bill and left the room.  I followed.  A few words between us resulted in an introduction and that young man’s name was A.L. Williams, and I claim him as a friend to date, and one that never fails. 

            I told the driver we would walk on while he hitched up a fresh team and half a dozen other passengers followed.  We were soon out of sight of the house and further on came to the forks of the road.  Williams and I turned to the left.  The footmen behind us called our attention to the fact, as they thought, that we were not going the right road.  Half a mile further on we were overtaken by the “coach and four”.  To the driver we explained that the other passengers had persuaded themselves to take the righthand fork.   After calling loudly for the “right-handers” the driver remarked:  “They can walk to Jackson ’s Point and get their supper with us.”  We went by the way of Oregon and Forest City to deliver the mail and thence to Jackson’s Point (now Mound City) where we took supper and the supper was just a little better than a duplicate of dinner.  The passengers had not reached Jackson ’s Point up to the hour of our departure, and never “showed up,” and the good Lord only knows what became of them, but such was “life in the far West.” 

            We proceeded on our journey without incident until we reached the Big Tarkio valley below Milton , and then our troubles commenced.  High water on that stream had made the crossing almost impossible, but with the aid of rails, rolls and chunks we finally reached the bridge, which at that time was almost half a mile south of Milton and at the foot of a very steep hill, up which we walked and pushed the coach, while the driver whipped and cursed the horses.  John Van Gundy, I think was postmaster, and he was called out and changed the mail while all hands rested and returned thanks and then proceeded on our journey, but there were other mudholes before we reached the hills, and if the road has not been changed, there are still a few in that neighborhood, but not so deep as the “bottomless pits” on the roads of long ago. 

            The ancients of Atchison county and the balance of the Platte purchase, surveyed and marked public highways from one neighborhood to the next point of importance by the shortest and most direct route, along the best natural grades, following lines of least resistance, and such was the postal road from Savannah to Council Bluffs . 

            About 1 o’clock a.m. we reached the top of the hill about two miles from Milton and thence to the Vogler Branch, we went merrily along; but the bridge at the Vogler Branch was gone.  Mr. Vogler and his boys helped us build a crossing and then we learned that the Hughes bridge had been washed away.  The driver decided that he had heard that Rock Creek could be forded near the Bird place, now owned by Judge Sizemore.  The place found and the approach was all right.  The horses crossed all right and went up the steep bank but were unable to draw the loaded coach up the bank and the waters of Rock Creek was washing our feet and wetting our trowsers.  Everybody got out, climbed over the horses backs, took their grips and walked up town.  The driver unhitched the horses, took the way mailbag from the front “boot” of the coach and followed us to the hotel where he reported progress to Dan Snyder, the stage agent.  It was four o’clock , day was breaking, but no sleep for Williams and I.  Williams looked for a job.  I had one and went to work.  In less than a week Williams was measuring calico, weighing sugar, coffee and tea early and late for the firm of P.A. & F.M. Thompson, dealers in general merchandise, groceries, etc. etc. and making friends with the patrons of the firm.  If he had time to spare it was not spent in idleness.  He was an adept in practical jokes and there were victims, many.  Later on he met his Waterloo , when Al. Colvin, John Grieve, “Andy” Johnson and A.F. Tiffany organized in self defense. 

            Saturday was then a great day for trade as well as “drunks”, dog-fights, men-fights and horse-racing.  Indoor sports were dancing and the national game commonly known as “draw poker”. 

            “Abe” was not long in getting well acquainted with Western “ways and means” as well as Western manners and methods, and he decided that Rock Port had a good bunch of fighters, and he proceeded to give them appropriate fighting names.  Wm. M. Blake was “Doublin Trix;” A.F. Tiffany, “Barny Aaron;” J.D. Dopf, “Donney Harris” – both feather-weights – John McNeal, “Pop Tuckley;” Abe L. Williams, “Patsy Sheppard;” D.A. Colvin, “Joe Coburn;” Geo. Blake, “Sugar Jim;” William Thompson, “Oyster Jack;” Lee Sanders, “Tim Hussey;” W. G. Bartholomew, “Ned O’Baldwin;” Robt. Hunter, “Nat Bowley”.  There were others, but it is long years since those actors were playing comedy and near-tragedy in, around and about Rock Port that many of their names have been erased from memory’s tablet. 

            “Tim Hussey” was a “heavy-weight” not skillful with his “dukes”, but when he fell on his man that man never came to the scratch again. 

            Fearing you readers may decide that we were a “brutal gang,” it can be stated as a fact that no blood was ever spilled by anybody; no eyes were ever blacked or blued and all were good friends and true. 

            “Patsy Sheppard” stayed with the Thompson’s until they went to Phelps City and engaged in merchandising, banking, farming and feeding.  He extended his acquaintance and increased in popularity as a trade getter, and became popular with all the pretty girls in eastern Nebraska , southwestern Iowa and northwest Missouri , and it is needless to say that he picked out the best of the lot and got married.  About this time he went to Nodaway county and sold goods at Barnard for several years, then he went to Maitland and there enlarged his business, but the hard times and too liberal extension of credit to his customers caused him to go broke, and he turned over his entire stock, notes, cash, books and household goods to his creditors and went to Maryville and engaged to write life insurance for the New York Life Ins. Co., and was so successful that the company sent him a round trip ticket to New York City, $250 cash, feasted him and paid all of his incidental expenses for a week or more, because he had made the best record of more than one hundred Missouri agents had made during the preceding year. 

            Several years later he went to South Dakota and laid claim in 160 acres, improved and lived thereon until received a patent, and he kept on writing insurance just the same old way.  Then he moved back to Maryville , and if your life is not insured you had better go over and get it fixed before he comes after you. 

            Now, Mr. Editor, I would not have asked for so much space in your valuable paper had it not been for the fact that he met a mutual friend a few days ago and wondered if I had forgotten him.  This may answer his question in part only.





Dec. 9, 1915


            The first horrible tragedy of the war of 1861 at Rock Port was the killing of Edward Grebe, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Martin Grebe, on Main street , near the old Rock Port Hotel.  I do not remember the date, but it was but a short time after the firing on Ft. Sumpter .  The street was filled with armed men and they were generally insane and anxious to kill.  The Secessionists were in the majority, as only nineteen men had voted for Abraham Lincoln in 1860, and as far as my knowledge extends, A.E. Wyatt is the only man of the nineteen now living.  The man who shot young Grebe is unknown to this writer and was certainly unknown to his friends, else he would have paid the penalty ere the sun went down. 

            The event caused great excitement and the news spread rapidly over the county as well as to Iowa and Nebraska .  Some Union men went 6to Iowa and joined the volunteer regiments which were rapidly filling up.  Most of the able-bodied secessionists turned their faces to the southward with the purpose of joining “Pap” Price, while others went to Nebraska City , “The Mecca of the Unterrified!”  Most of the old men stayed in the county and shouted for Jeff Davis when they met in the woods. 

            After the funeral of young Grebe the Union men hastily organized, mounted their horses and started in pursuit of their south-bound neighbors, whom they overtook on the bluff-road, near where no stands Craig, and here was fought the battle of “Fistafunda”.  The Federal forces consisted of two detachments, the one under command of Col. P.A. Thompson, taking the valley route, the other taking the stage road through the hills, and the two detachments met just southeast of Craig when the battle raged.  The Southerners were still half a mile in advance when the Northerners joined forces and they kept widening the breach until they had placed a good mile between themselves and their pursuers, their horses having been fresh at the beginning of the battle.  There was no bloodshed in the battle. 

            At about the same date the battle of Blain’s Lane was fought near Mound City and resulted in one killed and one wounded. 

            Some of those who engaged in the battle of “Fistafunda” returned to Rock Port , and one, at least, enlisted in a Nebraska regiment, and, if alive is drawing a good pension from “Uncle Sam”.  The tactics of the Southerners in the events above recorded are commendable under the circumstances.  “To fight and run away, You may live another day!”  “It is better to a live coward than to be a dead hero.” 

            I was at one time stationed at a blockhouse on the west bank of the Osage river , a few miles below Jefferson City .  There were many squirrels in the woods, and I took a small rifle in hand and went forth to slay a few and was successful in getting a nice string.  I was lost, however, but the sun was shining and I turned my face toward “Sol” and came to an opening on the bank of the river, where I sat me down on a stump to rest.  I had rested but a few minutes, when nine men on horseback, armed with long rifles, appears on the opposite bank of the river three or four hundred feet away and about seventy-five feet above my level.  They stopped and after a few seconds raised their rifles to their shoulders and fired in the direction of the stump upon which I sat.  I returned the fire and ran, and I could run in those days. 

            In the summer of 1862 five or six steamboats, loaded with army supplies, were burned at the levy in St. Louis .  I was selected by the United States Secret Service to go to Jerseyville , Ill. , to look up the incendiaries.  I played the part of an Irish rebel for two weeks before I was satisfied that I had “Spotted” a part of the gang, and on a bright Sunday morning I walked down to the railroad station to wait for a west-bound train.  The train was late and perhaps I was anxious and walked up and down and around the depot platform.  When I came near the group of touch looking men, heard one of the men say:  “Get a rope!” and one or two men started up town in a hurry.  I walked eastward along the railroad tracks behind the line of freight cars to the second alley and up the alley, crossed the first street and at the second street corner watched for the men with the rope, and I soon saw them with the rope.  Then I ran westward down the street leading to the depot and then down the first alley.  The train was coming and the welcome whistle of the locomotive was what saved me from pulling hemp that day.  The active use of a strong pair of legs helped to make good my escape from one “Necktie social.”  I would advi8sed everybody to practice running as a “Safety First” exercise. 

            Killing men was practiced in the early days of The Journal frequently, not only in Atchison county, but with greater certainty and safety as you neared the equator.  More than one hundred men have been killed in Platte county in the past seventy-five years and there has never been a legal hanging in the county.  Judge Lynch, however, has held several terms of court down in that neighborhood.

            There was some fighting done about Weston but no great forces were engaged, but there was considerable running.  Now most of the able-bodied down that way are running for office or soon will be.  If I wanted office I would never go to Platte county unless I had killed a man or two. 





Dec. 16, 1915


            Many things happened at Rock Port during my first two years in the village.  P.A. & F.M. Thompson had the largest stock of goods in the county in a building where the Masonic Temple now stands.  E.L. Clark had a small stock of wet and dry goods, tobacco, cigars, dryed herring, matches, pens, ink and paper, on the corner now occupied by Christian Bros. department store.  There was a saloon in the cellar under the southeast corner of the Rock Port Hotel.  Dr. John Dozier sold drugs from the building under the Journal office.  Across the street a man by the name of Hunter had a harness shop.  On the corner where now stands Spulock’s drug store, was Pike & Durfee, Attorneys at Law.  Capt. John C. Hope made saddles and harness and read and repeated Shakespeare to his patrons while they waited, in a small shop where Bischof’s hardware store now stands.  On the west bank of Rock Creek, not far north of the depot, old Mr. Spencer made boots and shoes and repaired them.  Pat Murphy was the tinner and his shop was about where the M.E. church South now stands.  Geo. Traub, Chas. Salfrank and Thompson Mitchell were the blacksmiths and wagon-makers, and they did most of the work in their line for the county.  Chas. Renner was the Merchant Taylor, and a jolly German was he, as well as a philosopher. 

            These business men generally had a notion that they could do all the business and that competition would mean death to their interests. There had been more business before the war, and vacant buildings were now more numerous, two to one, than those occupied. 

            It is not on record that G. W. Reed, editor of the Rock Port Herald, stayed in town long enough to get out the second issue of the Herald after the war begun.  If you want to kill a town dead stop the newspaper.  If you want to build a city start a live newspaper at the first crossroads, and two or three more of the same kind as soon as possible.  There are not less than three good towns over in little Worth county which were cross-roads twenty-five years ago.  Each of these towns have newspapers, and their editors are alive.  A town without a newspaper is a good place to buy business. 

            Fourteen years ago Endicott , New York , was not on the map.  A few days ago a gentleman handed me a bundle of newspapers.  I found it to be a very handsome country weekly of 64 pages, printed on the best quality of rag print, and beautifully illustrated with photogravure.  About fourteen years ago Endicott, Johnson & Co., bought several hundred acres where the city now stands, because it was cheap and had excellent water-power thereon and pure water for domestic use.  They laid off a town and built a shoe shop.  They employed other shoemakers and sold them lots cheap on which to build homes, and at present they have many thousand employed in the making of shoes and the Endicott shoe is worn by rich and poor everywhere in the United States .  There is no such poor land in the Platte Purchase as that which surrounds the city of Endicott .  A Kansas grasshopper could not make a living on an acre of ground near Endicott. 

            If the shoemakers of Rock Port who pegged shoes from 1863 to 1865 had only followed the plan of Endicott, Johnson & Co., Rock Port would now be a city of at least 25,000; but we all make mistakes occasionally.  I do every day. 

            However, Rock Port has done well, and is still on the map and will spread itself over much more of the best dirt the sun ever shown upon. 

            I think it is in the year 1864 that a man walked into the office and asked me where he could rent a store.  I told him I thought he could buy one cheaper than he could rent, and showed him where he could find Col. Thompson.  He returned in half an hour and told me he had rented a large two-story building, 25x90 feet, on the corner where Ed. V. Kuntz’ store now stands, and which had formerly been owned and occupied by Dillon & Hawke, for the sale of merchandise.  He then asked for advertising rates for one year, and was informed that $100 would be charged for one column one year, etc.  He took two columns, and told me to edit his ad, which I proceeded to do, and it read about as follows:

            “L. & J. Sanders, dealers in general merchandise, dry goods and groceries, hat, caps, boots, shoes and clothing, notions, etc. etc.  Corner of Main and Cass streets, Rock Port , Missouri . 

            That advertisement appeared in The Journal one year without change.  In addition many locals were inserted calling attention to the advantage of trading the L. & J. Sanders.  Sanders Brothers dissolved partnership later on.  Leopold moved to a smaller building near the southeast corner of Main and Mill st4eets and was appointed postmaster.  Jacob opened with his share of the stock on the corner where now stands the Masonic Temple .  After making as much money as they needed, raising families and helping to build up the town and improve the country, the Sanders Bros. sold out and left for the far West.  Jacob went to Pueblo , Colo. , where he died, and the last heard of Leopold he was a wholesale dealer in liquors in San Francisco , California . 

            Lyman B. Stivers succeeded E. L. Clark and put the largest and best selected stock of merchandise brought to Atchison county in those days.  He was from Cincinnati , Ohio , and brought with him many years experience in the business. He later took a partner by the name of Frame, but the partnership was of short existence.  Both were single men when they made their advent, but shortly each took women partners for life. 

            Then came Christian Imhoff, the “Merchandise Prince,” who sold nobody his goods without he had the “cash on the counter first.”  He refused the banker credit for 100 pounds of flour before the bank opened in the morning.  When the cash came he filled the order and “delivered the goods” by carrying 100 pounds of Davis ’ Best on his back to the banker’s home half a mile away. 

            Many men of many kinds have sold many goods of many kinds, both wet and dry goods and hardware in Rock Port since those golden days of long ago.  If all had prospered as those did who made these early efforts in the business world and had enlarged and extended their trade, and advertised in The Journal, The Democrat, The Granger, The Agitator, The Mail and some other defunct papers – names forgotten – Rock Port would have been the metropolis of the Platte Purchase. 





Dec. 24, 1915


            July 4th, 1864, was the first National Holiday which I helped to celebrate in Atchison county, and to date I have had something to do with one hundred and fifty, more or less, during my sojourn in the Platte Purchase. 

            It was a tame affair as I now regard it, as compared with many that have followed.  The nation, at that5 time, was in great peril and there was great fear that the Union of states might be dissolved.  None had such abiding faith in The All Father as did Abraham Lincoln, who was guiding the Ship of State over the stormy sea of war.  But the sun shown as bright as it ever shown on a July morning, as we journeyed the hills through Union City, along the bluffs, passing the home of Jacob Hughes and thence across the valley to the Colvin bridge, where was found ample shade under the tall cottonwood, elm and sycamore trees on the bank below the bridge where now stands the home of Warren Melvin. 

            One thing about that celebration will abide with me while memory lasts – the dinner, the like of which is seldom in evidence in these degenerate days on such occasions.  I had many invitations to dine with other friends but had accepted an invitation to eat with Col. P.A. Thompson, and had to decline with many regrets, all except in the case of Col. A. B. Durfee’s invite to eat his “grub”.  I knew3 it was a tie between Mrs. Sue Thompson, her daughter Belle and Mrs. Sallie Durfee, and I just had to divide time with the twain.  There was no frills on any of the eats, just plain, substantial food; the best of bread, roast chicken, good coffee, cakes and pies, pickles and golden butter, and all in great abundance.  No ice cream and gingersnaps; no finger-bowls and napkins.  It was well cooked and well served, and so generously were you asked to be helped to more, that I really regretted that I was so small that I could not be more accommodating unless I were permitted to stand up.  I wish to state that the Thompson and Durfee families were in a state of preparedness on that occasion that would even satisfy President Wilson and make his White House dinners look like 30 cents. 

            There was the usual talk before dinner, the reading of the Declaration of Independence, patriotic songs and music by the Rock Port band.  The program was arranged on the ground and to suit the crowd.  Hen they wanted some one to speak they called him out, and when they wanted a song they said so and it was sung; when they wanted the band to play they demanded it and they responded as often as they could blow. 

            After dinner there was more talk, more singing and more blowing and some more eating and drinking and about four o’clock there was a benediction and everybody went home.  There was a dance at Rock Port that night, in the Masonic hall on the hill where S.M. Smith lived when I was last in Rock Port.   About nine o’clock the rain began to fall in torrents and it rained all night and we had to carry the girls home in the morning.  Very few of the people are living who remember the events of the day, and I have forgotten most of them myself. 

            July 4th, 1865 , was celebrated at Sonora in a beautiful grove a mile or more north and west of town, on the banks of the Missouri river , and was attended by a much larger crowd than the one that attended the 1864 meet.  Notice had been given in the Rock Port and Brownville papers, as well as the Sidney , Iowa News, and there was no lack of patriotic oratory, much more music and better singing.  The vocal music was conducted by Prof. Workman and his family, all of whom were good musicians.  Lot Watts also added his voice to the chorus and A.E. Wyatt struck the high notes and I went down the cellar to find the low ones.  Peace had been declared and everybody was feeling good and the orators sent the Eagle out of sight.  I did not crate, but did eat. 

            Capt. John Hope decided that the great feature of the celebration of July 4th, 1866, would be a “Barn Dance,” and the grounds selected was on the hill south and west of the stand-pipe on the road to Union City, then the rival of Rock Port.  The underbrush had been grubbed and the earth leveled and thoroughly packed down by the committee, and then covered with wheat bran.  The night of the 3rd it rained and the dancing rounds the next morning at sunrise had the appearance of an immense buckwheat cake and not enough butter in sight to make it edible.  The sun shown on it, however, and by 10 o’clock it was ready for the dancers.  The celebration had all the features of a real frolic until it was about time for dinner, when Edward Stiles, Jr., was not to be found, and the crowd at once became a searching party.  As the woods were largely inhabited by wolves, panthers and wildcats, the question of the whereabouts of Eddie became matter of serious consideration and the crowd so recently enjoying themselves, were filled with anxious forebodings.  In less than an hour after the alarm was given, Eddie was found about a mile from the celebration grounds and restored to his parents, and the remainder of the day was spent in rejoicing that the lost was found. 

            I believe the next celebration held in a beautiful bur-oak grove across the branch at the north end of Pittsburg avenue .  It was a barbecue and James Buckham furnished the beef, and he and Capt. Hope did the roasting.  Boss Miles sent up the Eagle, and I wish you would ask him to tell how he was invited to eat that big Thanksgiving turkey that was stolen from his ____ on Thanksgiving morning after it was ready for the roast.  I would do so myself if it were not “contrary to the statutes in such cases made and provided.” 





Dec. 30, 1915


            I am reminded today that the holidays of 1915 and 1916 are at hand.  Everybody is talking about Christmas and New Years days.  Those who are not talking are thinking on the same, and those who are not talking or thinking are reading about the coming events.  Pictures of Santa Claus fill the newspapers and magazines and the ambiquitous Saint has his headquarters at every store, shop, hotel, saloon, care, garage and livery stable in every city, village and hamlet on earth, if I believe half I read.  It is safe to say that there are more men and women, boys and girls now trying to be good for a week or two, even though he has to run away from himself to accomplish that high purpose. 

            The holidays of 1843 and 1844 have not grown dim to my memory, although I have helped to celebrate many since then that were more elaborate, but none more joyous and happy.  My stockings, real stockings, knit for me by a dear old-fashioned grandmother, and pinned together by mother, were hung beside the fireplace in a miner’s cabin in the Badger state, and father told me how Santa Claus would come in a sleigh ladened with toys for girls and boys, drawn by four reindeer and how quickly he would “down der shimney come, and der socks to fill for his good little poy, Shonney!”  And it all came true. 

            Twenty years later I spent my first Christmas and New Years days in Rock Port.   Mr. _____ Colvin, wife and daughter came to Rock Port about the 23rd of December and went to the home of Mr. and Mrs. John L. Shelters whose home was on the corner of Cass and Kansas streets, where he passed away on the day following.  It was arranged by friends that Col. Pike and Miss Abbie Durfee was to watch until midnight and I and a young lady with whom I was acquainted were to watch till morning.  The body was placed in the house next north which was to be occupied by the Colvin family.  It had snowed all day and at 9 o’clock a terrific blizzard set in.  I went to the young lady’s home and found that she had already gone to the Colvin home, and I followed. I advised the watchers that they had better all go home on account of the difficulty of getting away later on, or on the morrow, and that I would watch alone.  It was still snowing in the morning and the roads to Elmwood were so badly drifted that the burial was attended with much difficulty. 

            Miss Hasha Thompson departed this life at the home of her brother, P.A. Thompson, on the 31st day of December 1863, and was interred the day following at Elmwood, which was perhaps the coldest day of the winter.  But few persons ventured outdoors and only eight to ten persons went to the cemetery, and all who did returned with frozen ears, nose and fingers, except the writer. 

            If there was any celebrations of the holidays at any place in Atchison county that season no report thereof reach The Journal office.  However, it is not recorded that Santa Claus was less active in those days of trial, suffering and mourning, than he had been in the past.  No present day fads, follies nor fashions can dim the glories of the old-fashioned Christmas at home, with father, mother, grandfather and grandmother, uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters around the old fireplace, making merry with song and story the long winter evening before Christmas.  Neither can modern invention displace the Christmas Tree, nor drive Santa Claus from his Throne of Ice nor silence the Christmas Bells. 

            In the past seventy years I have heard many good stories about Santa Claus, have read much more, but never heard nor read anything about his father and mother.  He must have an interesting history and I would like to have a copy of it to read, although it might occupy the remaining days of this life.  He appears as represented in all the pictures I have seen as a jolly old man, dressed in the same old suit.  He never wears an evening dress although he is out all night and appears at many receptions.  He appears to be of German origin and must feed on beer and pretzels. 

            I will venture the statement that the first Christmas entertainment in Rock Port after the advent of The Journal was held in the old Methodist church.  I do not remember the date nor just what was done, but there are many fathers and mothers now living there who can tell you all about it, and I hope some one more competent that I will favor your readers with a good story about that as well as the many subsequent entertainments that have been given on the same ground around which so many pleasant memories cluster. 

            If any boy or girl who is a reader will give me the exact age of Santa Claus, I will agree to give the winner a suitable Christmas present in 1916 if I am living at that date.