History of Transportation in Cass County, Missouri
From: History of Cass County, Missouri
By: Allen Glenn
Publisher: Historical Publishing Co.
Topeka Cleveland 1917


In all ages transportation was and always will be the great problem to civilization. So far as our part of an inland country, just opening to the touch of the white man, the Osage village, located at or near the present site of Papinville, was the metropolis. This was the central point from which and toward which all trade, crude as it was, radiated. The white man sought to trade with the Indian. This was the central place of all Osage dealings. The Osages controlled the fur, hide and other articles of then commerce. It was the point where information was obtainable relative to lead, zinc and other mines. It was early and earnestly sought by white traders, as well as early adventurers, whether hunters, trappers or traders. There newcomers were looked upon, at first, with disfavor by the Indian occupants. There was great difficulty in finding an inlet and outlet for this commerce. Some trade went over the then bridle path to St. Louis and points on the Arkansas River. Bear in mind there were no highways, as was soon made, and exist today. This overland trade was too long, tiresome and expensive to so continue long. The white man had nothing to do with this inland center of trade. He had to meet conditions as they appeared to him. It was his work, to work out a way to the outside world for the valuable trade he found here. The waterways here were bad. The Osage River leading to the Missouri River at seasons was quite treacherous, dangerous and unreliable.

In an early day the Governor of the Territory beheld quite a flotilla of flat boats (about a dozen) propelled by human strength, around the then village of St. Louis, and proclaimed a holiday and great celebration over the event. He in an address predicted this was but the forerunner of great commercial activity for the town and country. It did, indeed, prove to be the opening of a way for the, then, interior commerce. This brought the outside world near to the center of trade, by locating trading points on the Missouri River, one at a point, a short distance above the present site of Booneville. This was probably near the mouth of the present Blackwater stream perhaps using the names, of today, where Blackwater, Saltfork and Lamoine River joined and emptied into the Missouri. Franklin of early history was opposite this point on the north side of the Missouri. From this point the overland traffic went by bridle path southward near the present location of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas railroad to where the railroad swerves on the Bates County line to the present site of Nevada. From this place of swerving the bridle path went straight to the Osage village.

Another river point was at Fort Sibley (sometimes called Fort Osage), located between the present Lexington and Independence. A town still remains in this locality and called Sibley. From this point the trade came and went by a bridle path, leading nearly due south to Osage village. The course was most probably, not as usual, along the small water courses, but along the high ridge or backbone between the several small streams, through eastern part of the present Jackson, Cass and Bates Counties, to the objective point, the village of the Osages, on Osage River. This route would take the course through "Grain Valley," "Lone Jack," original town of Pleasant Hill, near East Lynne, crossing Grand River, either at Settles Old Ford, or a crossing near App's Barn, in section 7, township 42, range 30. It most likely was at the latter named place. Here there are evidences remaining to this day of an ancient travel.

Tradition and natural conditions lead us to the belief our early white settlers came by one of these two routes, pushing back to the east and west of the bridle path to locate their cabins and open up farms. It is apparent that the hunter and trapper and small farmer would first come from the first named point on the Missouri. Where the route crossed Grand River in what is now Henry County, parties would diverge, travel up Grand River, and locate along this stream.

It is readily seen that owing to these locations being close to the Osage village and the Indian hostility to farming, settlements would be retarded by the Indians and slower to become permanent. Doubtless many a settler has sought this route and left his bones somewhere along this route. These earliest settlers will never be known, having perished by wild beast's attacks, the rigidness of the winter storms, and fevers of the hot summers, as well as falling victims to Indians. These were heroes and heroines, indeed. We do not appreciate what we owe to them, that, too, whether they so perished by pushing to the front from the one route, or the other.

There was a tradition among the early settlers in the boyhood days of the writer, that the first settler in the borders of Cass County, Missouri, was named Gassaway. He is said to have settled near the river bank on Grand River, at the south end of what in later days was known as "Cockrell Lake." This point is in section 17, in township 43 of range 31, on land now owned by C. L. Vansandt.

Evidence still remain that at some time in the distant past there has been an occupant here. The lake on the south side of Grand River at this point in an early time was known as the "Gassaway Lake." Not until a time with the memory of the writer was it known by any other name. Afterwards it was called "Bates Lake" and more recently "Patrick Lake." What became of Gassaway the memory of early settlers has not been preserved.

Evidences of early settlers lower down the stream are found. However these things may be the probability is the first permanent settlement of the county was in the north part. Wherever it was, the transportation to and from the settler's home and the outside world was of the crudest sort. By foot, by oxen, on horse, these early settlers would wend their way to market. Fort Sibley, and later, elsewhere, taking their furs, hides, small batches of wild fruits, grains and stock - in like manner bringing home family stores. With the quick and rapid development of this country these modes of traffic and transportation multiplied under the genius of our early settlers. Early were seen wagon roads cut out. The ox teams bore the inland commerce to the rivers, from where it went to market by river.

New towns sprang up along the rivers, particularly the Missouri, to vanish as quickly as trade took its march westward. Franklin was a thriving town in 1816 and afterwards became the starting point for a time for the Santa Fe trade. Sibley, at the same time was an important town, having the advantage of being an army post. The soldiers at Sibley, doubtlessly, traveled over what is now Cass County, and seeing its fertility and resources, became in time actual settlers of our county. In a degree this accounts for so many of our people having seen early army service.

The greatest harmony prevailed among these early peoples. As a rule in 1816 they were a high minded, refined and cultivated class. They were not of that disappearing class of ignorant, irresponsible element, "low and indecent grade, worthless for any useful purpose of society."

The practice of the Sabbath being given over to hilarity and useless sports was changed, and in its stead this day was given to worship and meditation. Church spires began to rise here and there along these towns. In week days carts and wagons from the country came to town over new cut roads, to market their produce and gather provisions.

A stranger landing in one of these river towns, inquiring for persons or places in the country was directed to take a certain road, "the two cut road, or the three cut road." These were cuts on trees, marking the line of travel, long since out of date. The change of this manner of transportation soon changed, and to this day we are reaching out for better facilities to get our produce to and from market, and our mode of travel. The traveler was much impeded by the high prairie grass, alternating with fine forests, arranged in order, and yet, he was irresistibly drawn by the appearance of these lovely scenes.

This seeking after the lead fields, pelting and fur trade along these river towns the center of the outlying trading and trapping posts, the growing settlement, showing rapid commercial development, caused a demand for capital, and made the then system of barter and the use of lead, peltries and whisky as currency more and more inconvenient, but the supply of specie, apart from the disbursements by the government, quite inadequate. After much depression, money came to these people and the problem of transportation was largely solved. With it came the greatest material development known in the history of this country.

When we reflect over these conditions we wonder how these scattered settlers, impoverished as they were, ever extricated themselves therefrom. They did, to their own high honor, be praised, and our welfare be to them thanks. It was the brain and brawn of these sturdy pioneers which brought us through these early trials. What has been done since? What are you and we doing to the credit of the future?

In one short life, we have seen the bridle path give way to a great public road thoroughfare. We have seen the flesh propelling power give place to steam and electricity. We have seen the river traffic, propelled by human power, go before the steamboat and railway. Look upon the water courses and see the steam and electrically propelled freighter bearing its burden, the produce of the prairies, forests and mines of the West to the markets of the world. The railway locomotives drawing their long line of cars, of freight and human souls, traversing the land and water, throughout the wide domain of the county. These servants of man are doing that which man cannot do. The boat and the car rushes from city to city, from State to State and from country to country, "from myriads of towering columns gushes, in mimic clouds, the quick breath of our newborn Titan. The ancient rocks echo to his shrill voice, and tremble as he rushes by. He troubles the waters and rides on their crest defiant. From the pine of the frozen north to the palmetto of the sunny south, his train track tunnels the mountains, belts the prairie and spans the flood. Mightiest of kings is this son of fire! Proudest of monarchs is this genius of the lamp and of the fountain." As these reign supreme, the people bless the genius who trained him to use.

What wondrous changes have been wrought in this pristine wilderness of the west, where once the Indian and the wolf disputed with us the empire over nature. No steam whistle heralding the thundering train alarmed the feathered songster of forest, grove and prairie. No lightning flash spoke with the thought from ocean to ocean, and vocalized with a miraculous organ beneath the depths of the sea. Man and woman, side by side, toiled by hand labor in field and shop, where now we have harnessed the giant cyclops of fire, steam and electricity to do our bidding. Toil and weariness have, in a degree, been laid aside by man, whilst the engine plies steadily on to do the work. Small inaccessible villages have grown to beautiful inland cities, seats of science and learning and pleasant abodes of cultivated men and women. The telephone, the automobile, the electric lights and the thousands of blessings which bring the remotest parts of the earth together are among the means of transportation handed down to us.

Cass County now has, approximately, two hundred miles of railroad; Kansas City and Southern along the western part of the county; the Missouri, Kansas and Texas, running east and west through the county near the center; the Kansas City, Clinton and Springfield, running from the northwest to the southeast, through the county; the St. Louis and San Francisco, running from northwest to southeast, through the county; the Kansas City and Rock Island, across the northeast corner of the county; the main line of the Missouri Pacific, across the northeast part of the county, and the southern branch of the Missouri Pacific, from north to south through the center of the county. Every part of the county is now easily accessible to a railroad. There is no county in the state with better railroad facilities.

The county, throughout, has many good well equipped wagon roads. The county is admirably situated for the construction of good roads. Much interest is now being taken to build rock and other class of good roads throughout the county. The county has as great number of automobiles as any rural county. The north line of the county being within twenty miles of Kansas City and no part of the county exceeding a distance of fifty miles from this great market, automobiles serve as a highly useful mode of transportation to and from Kansas City.

By reason of our automobiles, railroads and other methods of transportation we are nearest of any part of the country to Kansas City. Naturally our advantage in location and facilities of transportation make our markets of the very best. We have the first claim on feeding and supplying this city with its 300,000 population. What our farmer has to market, he can put into this market and return to his home in a day's time.

The present public spirit of our present day energetic people we bid fair soon to have connection with Kansas City not alone by rock and highly improved wagon roads, but be borne to this city, individually, and with our produce by electric cars. Day by day we get closer to this market, and ere long we will be a part of and quite a factor in that city's life.

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