Toll Bridge Gateway to the Southwest

      THE FOLLOWING IS AN ARTICLE, WRITTEN BY HEINIE SCHMIDT for his book, Ashes of My Campfire, and used by permission of the author as a beginning for the Toll Bridge story. The article, with the Chapter title, follows:

Recently there came into the possession of the Beeson Museum a ticket granting passage over the old toll bridge for one two-horse team and wagon. The ticket was dated 1873, and signed by John Riney, first toll bridge keeper. It was presented to the museum by Mrs. Louise Zeigler Seiper of Larned, and has been in the possession of her family for 75 years. When the historical bridge was built in 1873, Dodge City was less than one year old and composed of a few frame buildings along front street and numerous tents. The toll bridge was the only bridge over the Arkansas River between Hutchinson and the Colorado state line.
Its construction presented the first "must" situation in the city's history. The buffalo herds had been driven farther south and the cattle were beginning to trample a path across the green carpet of the prairie of Dodge City and the eastern markets. Thousands of wagons laden with supplies were beginning to wend their way south along the cattle trails, ranches, and forts of the southwest. The problem that confronted the city was that of providing a bridge over the Arkansas River to permit increasing traffic to enter the city. Every spring, with the thawing of the snow in the mountains, the river overflowed its banks and flooded the lowlands for miles, making it impossible to ford. Even when water was low the quicksand made passage hazardous.
Accordingly, a meeting was called by R. M. Wright and A. J. Anthony to try to remedy this situation. The meeting was attended by James (Dog) Kelly, Dr. T. L. McCarty, George Reighard, Col. A. J. Hardesty, C. F. Zimmerman, George Hoover, R. W. Evans, Sr., John Riney, and many others.
The county had not yet been organized, so there was but one thing to do, finance the construction of the bridge organize a

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company known as the Dodge City Bridge Company. Friction developed as to where to locate the bridge. One faction headed by Anthony wanted to cross the river at what is now known as Fourteenth Avenue, and the other faction championed by Wright, contended for a Second avenue crossing. They began bidding against each other. Finally after the Wright faction made an extra heavy bid, Anthony threw up his hands in a gesture of surrender, "You fellows have the money on your side, we can't compete with you." So the bridge was built on Second avenue, just west of the present bridge.
After raising the money the builders were confronted by the difficulty of procuring lumber for its construction. There were no lumber yards in the city at that time. The material was finally purchased at Fort Madison, Iowa, and constituted the largest single shipment into Dodge City over the Santa Fe railroad up to that date. It required five box cars to transport the lumber. In his book on Western history, Hoo Doo Brown, who operated a ranch on Crooked creek southwest of Dodge City the first stop on the Dodge City-Tascosa trail, gives a table of the prices charged for passage over the bridge as follows: team and wagon $1.50; 4 to 6 horse team, $2.00; man on horseback, 25 cents; pedestrian 25 cents.
The bridge was operated as a toll bridge until 1885, when the county commissioners acting on a petition signed by citizens, called an election to buy it. The clerk's minutes read:

A petition signed by 594 legal voters of Ford county praying that an election be called for the purpose of voting on the question of issuing bonds for the erection or purchase of bridge across the Arkansas river, immediately south of Dodge City, Kansas, was taken under consideration and argued both for and against.
On motion of J. S. Shoup, the county clerk was ordered to place notices in all the county papers ordering an election to be held Tuesday, July 3, 1885, at the different voting precincts in Ford county to vote for or against the issuing of bridge bonds, $8,000 for erection of a new bridge or $6,000 for the purchase of the old one.

"At this election the voters by an overwhelming majority voted to purchase the old bridge." The late F. C. Zimmerman used to say with a twinkle in his eye, "The only votes cast against the bonds were those of the stockholders."

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For half a century this old bridge functioned as the gateway of the Southwest. Over its rotting planks in the fall of 1878, moved the last load of 5,860,000 buffalo hides shipped out of Dodge City. In the summer of 1886, after the terrible blizzard, the survivors from 10,000,000 longhorn steers trudged over its shaking floors on their way to market. Over it galloped the rear guard of the thousands of cowboys whose nervous trigger fingers for a quarter of a century helped write the colorful drama of the old West, waving their big white hats, shouting and firing a farewell salute to the great cattle industry. In the same year the last creaking freight train rattled its way to the cattle camps of the Southwest, and the crack of the bull-whacker's whip was but an echo. During the ensuing two years over it poured thousands of covered wagons as the homesteaders, their voices raised in song, moved in to take possession of the ranches and established homes to find peace and prosperity.

      So ended Heinie Schmidt's article. The Dodge City Bridge Company article of incorporation is recorded in Vol. 5, page 349, covering dates 1871-1874, of Secretary of State's corporation Books, at the Kansas State Historical Society. It was built in 1873, before Ford County was organized, which means it was in operation before April 5, 1873, the county organization date.

      It was in the spring of 1874 that Andrew Johnson came to Dodge City, at his friend, Charles Rath's request, bringing along a team of horses and a quantity of grain. He had been farming on shares Charles Rath's thousand acres of land at Osage, Kansas. Now Rath had other work for him.

      At the time Andy Johnson arrived Charles Rath, Robert M. Wright, and A. J. Anthony were letting a contract for a toll bridge over the Arkansas River, to a Mr. McCarty of Leavenworth, Kansas. Andy began working with his team on the pile driver used on the bridge.

      The idea back of the toll bridge was probably Charles Rath's. He had had experience in bridge building before for he was one of a corporation for the toll bridge (Walnut Creek Bridge Company) over the Walnut at his trading post and ranch at that location in Peketon County, Kansas Territory, January 10, 1863. All were agreed a way to get the freight across the river was a necessity, now that much government as well as other freight was being moved southward. In those early days, before Colorado drained the Arkansas

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      River practically dry with irrigation projects, the stream was often "swimming full" and made the crossing hazardous. Often more yokes of oxen were needed to pull the load through, the yoking and unyoking making extra work for the freighters, several trips often being made before the whole train was across the stream. Then there was the problem of keeping the merchandise dry for often the wagon beds were too low for the water depth to insure a dry crossing.

      At first everyone rejoiced when the toll bridge was finished. George W. Reighard's mule teams, coming from Camp Supply, were the first to cross the bridge. Prior to that he had forded the stream at Ford Dodge Crossing with his bull trains and mule teams hitched to his freight wagons. The dread of fording the tricky Arkansas River abated, Mr. Reighard and many others, must have been well pleased with the new toll bridge. But shortly, freighters began to try to evade payment of the small sum to get their teams across.

      It was reported, Ford County Globe, October 15, 1879, that "Messrs. Lee & Reynolds have just received a lot of new freight wagons from Chicago, the wheels of which are six inches higher than the ordinary wagon, made especially for crossing the Arkansas River when it is up. This enables them to cross this turbulent stream during high water without wetting their merchandise, besides they save the toll on the Dodge City Bridge."

      John Riney was the first toll keeper. Maude Manary, his daughter, says her mother stayed in the toll house; in other words, collected toll. At first, she had two small boys, Frank and Ed, later Al, and she couldn't keep them out of the water. There was plenty of water in the Arkansas River those days, especially when the snows melted in the Rocky Mountains. As a further attraction, at this point opposite Wright Park, in the center of the river, was a rather large island, to lure the youngsters into the water. Another toll keeper was John Madden Sr. As far as anyone living today can say-all that remains of the old Dodge City Toll Bridge is the toll house or office. No one seems quite certain where the toll house was located but many interested people assume it was located at the northern end of the bridge on the river bank. It was not quite clear how it was acquired but, when the toll bridge was dismantled, John Riney became the owner of the toll house.

      He moved it to his farm homestead two miles out of Dodge

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City and joined it at the back of the house. Although it was a one room office, it was fairly large and tightly built to withstand the storms of those early years. According to Maude Manary, daughter of John Riney, it made a good sized bedroom for her and her sister, Blanche. So there the old toll house still exists, on the John Riney farm, weathered it is true, but a credit to, those early day builders.

      H. F. May and company, proprietors of the Dodge City Flour Mills, destined to become an institution in Ford county, according to a report in the Ford County Globe, June 17, 1879, opened their doors to the public so all might see the inside workings of a flour mill. All the machinery in the mill was in motion. The mill had one of the first stationary engines in Ford county. The Dodge City Cornet Band played a few of their best pieces and speeches were then in order by R. M. Wright, F. C. Zimmerman, Hon. D. M. Frost, Judge Marshall, and the proprietor, H. F. May. It provided early day farmers with a market for their wheat and corn.

      In the beginning, all great expeditions against Indians and other bad men were organized and fitted out at Fort Dodge, later some at Dodge City. These two frontier points represented law and order, beyond there was no law.

      The idea of getting the Box girls away from the Indians originated when Major Sheridan was in command at the fort in 1866. The Box family had been overtaken by Indians while returning to their home. The father was killed because he would not surrender and the youngest child was also killed but the mother and three girls were taken prisoners. The troops garrisoning the fort at this time were in Company A, Third United States Infantry of which Robert M. Wright was a member, holding a non-commissioned officer's rank.

      A guard had learned from approaching Indians that they were Kiowas, old chief Satanta's tribe, and reported to the commander. He sent for Fred Jones, Indian Interpreter, at Ford Dodge and learned the Indians had two pale faced squaws which they wanted to trade for guns, ammunition, coffee, sugar, and flour. The commanding officer permitted them to come into the fort to talk the matter over. The Indians knew they had the advantage and drove a sharp bargain. They insisted on the goods being delivered at their camps in the Wichita

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Mountains, which was quite a feat as well as being a very dangerous mission. Two wagons and an ambulance were soon ready, the wagons loaded with the goods. The party consisted of Lieutenant Haselberger of Company A, Third United States Infantry, an experienced Indian fighter, one non-commissioned officer, Robert M. Wright, and seven privates with Fred Jones as interpreter. They brought back the two girls, one seventeen years, the other fourteen, who were kept at the fort. Both had been badly mistreated.

      They learned the mother and youngest child had been taken to an Apache camp and it was felt that the Apaches would want to trade them in also. But at this time, General Sherman came to Fort Dodge on his way to Washington, who advised the commanding officer not to send any more troops on such a dangerous mission and not to trade any more goods for captives as it would encourage the Indians to more stealing. As they expected, in a few days, the sentry reported a party approaching the fort, who turned out to be Apaches, Chief Poor Bear being with them.

      Major Andrew Sheridan, commander, sent Fred Jones, the Interpreter, to meet them and arrange with the band- chief, Poor Bear, to come into the fort and hold a council, a customary thing in those days when a trade was to be made. When Poor Bear and his warriors came into the fort, Major Sheridan informed them that the great chief, meaning General Sherman, had given instructions that no more goods would be delivered to Indian camps in trade for white women but, if the woman and daughter would be brought in, a council would be held to determine what could be done. At this the Indians left for their camp.

      In about two weeks, Indians by the score crossed from the south side of the river below the fort about a mile, near where the old dry route formed a juncture with the wet route. A guard was instructed to notify the Indians, who proved to be Apaches and numbered about 2,000, that they must not come any nearer to the fort than they were but must camp at a place designated by the commanding officer nearly a mile below Fort Dodge.

      They had brought along the white woman and her daughter expecting to make a big swap. But the commander had a desperate and dangerous plan in mind to get the chiefs and head

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men inside the fort and hold them as hostages until they surrendered the woman and her young child. There were about 175 men, altogether, including civilians, at Fort Dodge, to be pitted against one of the more powerful and desperate tribes on the plains.

      When the time arrived for the council, about one hundred of the chiefs, medicine men, and leading men of the tribe were let through the big gate at the east side of the fort. As soon as they were inside the gate was closed. When they were all ready for the big talk and the customary pipe had been passed around, Major Sheridan had the interpreter inform them that they were prisoners and that they would be held as hostages until Mrs. Box and her daughter were brought in and turned over to them.

      The Indians, who had concealed their tomahawks under their blankets and did not see many soldiers in sight, jumped to their feet in an instant and made a dash at those they did see. But great preparations had been made-mountain howitzers had been double-shotted with grape and cannister, the guns being depressed so as to sweep the ground where the Indians were located. Some of the soldiers were marching back and forth, with guns loaded and bayonets fixed, while a number of others, with revolvers concealed under their blouses, were sitting around watching the proceedings. The main portion of the garrison was concealed in the dugouts, the men all armed and provided with one hundred rounds of ammunition per man. When the soldiers came pouring out of the dugouts and opened fire, the Indians fell back and surrendered.

      One of the chiefs was taken up on the palisades of the fort and compelled to signal the warriors in the camp. In less than thirty minutes, Mrs. Box and her daughter were brought to the big east gate. Major Sheridan then informed the Indians that they could go, issuing a warning he knew would not be heeded not to steal any more women and children.

      The following account of an Indian fight on big Coon Creek on the dry route, September 2, 1868, is by Robert M. Wright: On the night of September 1, 1868, I was coming from Fort Lamed with mail and dispatches when I met a mule team and government wagon loaded with wood going to Big Coon Creek, 20 miles east of Fort Dodge, as there was a small sod fort located there, garrisoned with a sergeant and ten men. These few men could hold the fort against twenty times their number as it was

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all earth and sod, with a heavy clay roof and port holes all around. They could kill off the Indians as fast as they would come up, as long as their ammunition would hold out, but they were not safe outside a minute. They had been depending on buffalo chips for fuel as there was no other fuel available, but as soon as the men would attempt to go out to gather them, the Indians lying in little ravines, would let a shower of arrows or bullets into them. The men we met were taking them wood.

      I told the boys on the wagon not to leave Fort Coon as we called it until a wagon train came by or by all means wait until it was good and dark, as the Indians are suspicious at night and not so apt to attack as in daytime. After parting with the men, Jimmie Goodman, Hartman, and Nolan, I went on to Fort Dodge and arrived just before daylight, the morning of Sept. 2nd.

      After a much needed rest, I went to Tappan's Sutler store in the evening. There were Indian smoke signals in several different directions. They signalled by fire at night and smoke by day and could easily communicate with one another 50 or 60 miles away. While I was standing talking, an orderly came up to me and said the commanding officer wanted to see me at once and I reported to him. He wanted me to select a reliable man and be ready to start with dispatches for Fort Lamed. I selected Paddy Boyle, who had no superior for bravery and determination when in dangerous quarters on the whole Santa Fe Trail. As luck would have it on this night Boyle selected one of the swiftest and best winded horses at the fort. Several of our friends came and bid us goodbye. I didn't think the commanding officer thought we would get through for Indian night signals were now going up in all directions, which indicated that the Indians were very restless.

      When we arrived at Little Coon Creek, we heard firing and yelling in front of us. We went down into a ravine leading in the direction we were going, cautiously, approaching nearer where the firing was going on and made the discovery that the Indians had surrounded what we supposed was a wagon train. The Indians were so busy with the wagon train that they did not notice we were whites until we went dashing through their midst whooping and yelling like Comanches, and firing right and left, arriving just in time to save the men I had met with the wood wagon from being massacred. It was a poor place to make a stand and I knew when daylight came, the Indians

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would probably get our scalps, so I suggested that either Boyle or I try to get through for help. Boyle had the best horse in the outfit, a dapple grey, and he agreed to make the attempt.

      When Boyle started the dapple-grey darted away like a shot from a gun. Indians attempted to head him off, several shots were fired and we thought he was killed. All the protection we had was the wagon. When the Indians quieted down a little, we pushed, by strenuous effort, the wagon until it stood over a buffalo wallow. Once in the wallow, conditions improved so far as bullets were concerned but ammunition was getting low and we knew unless help came before morning, we could not hold out. Finally when the others were wounded and Hartman and I were the only ones left to carry on, we saw we couldn't hold out much longer.

      Seeing the Indians getting ready for a rush from a different direction and knowing they would get us if they did, we saw a body of horsemen coming out of a ravine in a different direction. I hollered and a horseman rode forward with a carbine held over his head, a friendly sign in those days. At fifty feet, I recognized Paddy Boyle, as though he had risen from the dead. Then the whole command advanced, a squadron of the United States Cavalry and our joy at being relieved from our perilous position can be imagined. Later an ambulance and several wagons arrived and a government doctor to care for the wounded and get them back to the fort.

      General Alfred Sully who was at that time in command of the troops in the department and who was an old and successful Indian fighter, issued an order complimenting the party on their heroic and desperate defense that they made and also for Boyle's and my action in charging through the Indians to the men's assistance. Satanta, head chief of the Kiowas, admitted losses of twenty-two killed and a number wounded. It was reported the wagon was struck five hundred times with arrows and bullets. The mules were riddled with bullets. Thus ended the fight on the Dry Route, September 2, 1868.

      Albert Frensch, corporal, G. Company, 19th U.S. Infantry, mounted, writing from Los Angeles, California, says he served at Fort Dodge from December 1877, to January 1881, Captain J. H. Bradford commanding. They went out after the Northern Cheyennes under Lt. Col. William H. Lewis, 19th Infantry, who was killed at the fight of Punished Women's Fork, September

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25, 1878, by Chief Dull Knife's band. He recalls much of the history of the old fort and of Dodge City Wright and Langton were the post traders, Ham Bell had a dance hall, and Mueller was the shoemaker in town, who made a pair of boots for $1.00. Lee & Reynolds were post traders at Camp Supply, ninety miles south of Dodge City. At the post after Col. Lewis was killed, they had Mayor Hambright, and then Mayor Ofley, later Colonel Haller, 23rd Infantry. Company M went from the post to Colorado to participate in the Ute campaign, 1879-'80, but came back in September of 1880 and went to Fort Leavenworth. I was left, being quartermaster sergeant; to turn over the property to the incoming command, 23rd Infantry. The command, company F, at the post at the time I joined and for about two years after, was Captain P. H. Remington; Captain J. H. Bradford, Co. B, 23rd Infantry; Captain "Jack" Hinton, later D, 19th Infantry; and Captain J. H. Smith. The old stone barracks and quarters were built under the supervision of a quartermaster named Hesselberger. His name was carved over the entrance of one set of barracks and afterward was covered for some years by an old buffalo skin as the quartermaster had been dismissed from the army for graft in the construction.

      Old Mike (P. H.) Sughrue was our corral boss; Louis Pauly, hospital steward; Captain W. S. Tremaine, surgeon; Eugene Smith, commissary sergeant; Brevet Captain, J. E. Leefe, post quartermaster and commissary.

      Chief Dull Knife and his band were brought back to Dodge City to be tried for murder but a philanthropic Indian society in Philadelphia sent out a lawyer and money and a change of venue was secured for the band to Wichita where they were acquitted and returned to the reservation.

      By December 1872, the Atchison Topeka, & Santa Fe Railway crossed the Colorado line, a matter of hours ahead of the time limit to ensure the grant of Kansas land. In 1873, the road had reached Granada, which became the competing point with Las Animas, which was the terminal of the Kansas Pacific railway. When this point was reached it practically ended the Santa Fe Trail travel.

      Then, as mile after mile, the rails were laid to Santa Fe, freighters who had operated along the trail either turned to other

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work or plied their freight wagons between Dodge City and the trail that led into the Texas Panhandle. In 1880, when the first train rolled into the western city of Santa Fe, it spelled the end of sixty years of wagon train travel along the old Santa Fe Trail.

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Dodge City History