Elwood, Kansas Territory


The sketch here presented is from the St. Joseph Gazette of date December 22, 1901. It presents matter that has not appeared in any of the histories of the County, and, as the Gazette always took great and kindly interest in the affairs of our County, we may rest assured that the sketch is well worthy of our confidence.

The New York, Daily Times, December 18, 1861:

“Elwood is one of the most promising places in Kansas, and from the eligibility of its position and great local advantages, bids fair to become the chief commercial metropolis of the future state.”

Forty years have elapsed since the prophecy was made, and now the residents of St. Joseph’s Kansas suburb believe it is about to be fulfilled.

A city directory of Elwood and St. Joseph combined for the years 1860-61 contains the foregoing extract from the New York Daily Times. Continuing, the article says:

“Situated directly opposite St. Joseph, Elwood is placed by the Hannibal & St. Joseph railroad in direct communication with the most populous and wealthy cities of the East, and by the first of April will be within fifty hours’ travel of New York. It is the starting point of the railroad chartered to Palmetto, on the South Pass route to Salt Lake and California, and of the St. Joseph & Topeka railroad, which will command a great portion of the trade of New Mexico. It lies on the west bank of the Missouri, on the verge of extensive, elevated and thickly wooded bottoms, which require no grading; its streets are broad and rectangular and its levee can be approached with safety by the largest boats and is sufficiently spacious for an immense commerce.”

The New York Tribune of January 1859, commenting upon the prospects of Elwood, said:

“The rapid growth of Elwood, the principal town in Northern Kansas, is due to its position on the Missouri river directly opposite St. Joseph — the second city in Missouri. Since 1849, when the overland emigration to California commenced, this point has been an important one. The largest overland emigration to Kansas, has been, and continues to go through St. Joseph and Elwood. The government trains and the Salt Lake wail have long made this their starting point. It is the only town in Kansas that can be reached by railroad.”

This is Elwood as it was looked upon forty years ago. The town did not progress as was expected, but, on the other hand, declined for years. The city directory for 1860-61 is owned by Charles M. Betts, a local real estate dealer. It contains 165 names, and among them are found those of persons who later figured prominently in the history of Kansas. The town was at one time known as Roseport, but the name was changed to Elwood a short time previous to the date that the directory was issued. The town was an active rival of St. Joseph in early days. The old directory seeks to advertise the town as an outfitting point in the following terms:

“All persons who have determined to undertake the journey over the plains are quite anxious to learn the best route and the best place for procuring teams and an outfit. An experience of 10 years has fixed upon the route beginning at Elwood, Kansas, (directly opposite St. Joseph, Mo.) and proceeding thence by Ft. Kearney and the valley of the Platte as the shortest, safest and best route from the Missouri river to the great West. Elwood, Kan., is connected with St. Joseph by the best ferry on the Missouri; it has first-class hotels and large business houses, where everything in the line of provisions and outfitting articles can be obtained at low prices. Oxen, wagons, mules, tents, blankets, and everything needed for a trip over the plains can be bought better at Elwood than at any other point on the frontier.

“Elwood is situated at the eastern terminus of the old California road, which has been the route taken by the overland travelers since 1849 and is now established as the best road to the gold mines of the Rocky Mountains. The road from Elwood to the prairie has been recently entirely repaired and is now a first-class road in all kinds of weather. Elwood is situated in a rich valley where grass shoots early and those who wish to spend a few days in getting ready for a trip to the mines will find excellent camping ground there, and plenty of wood to burn and grass for cattle. Elwood is the terminus of the Elwood & Marysville railroad, which is already graded for many miles. It is expected to be in running order to Troy, twelve miles west, in a few months. It is the first railroad built in Kansas.”

In the lowlands of eastern Kansas, Elwood has peacefully slumbered since the optimistic views expressed in the foregoing. The war put a quietus, for a time on the railroad prospects and the equipment of the one lone railroad of the state was returned to St. Joseph, whence it was first taken on a ferry.

It was in Elwood that men who made the long trip to the Eldorado of the Rocky Mountains purchased their supplics. Some drove oxen across the plains, while others were satisfied with but a wheelbarrow containing food, water, a shovel, a pick and a few other implements necessary for mining. History records the successes and failures of the unsophisticated patriarchs of the Missouri Valley in the gold fields. History of late years has recorded little of Elwood for the town died — it is believed forever.

The historical town has put on new life during the last few weeks. When the announcement was made that the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific railroad intended to build a bridge across the river to Elwood, the people of the hamlet awoke from their slumber of nearly half a century. Many of them had hoped, during all of those years, that the tide which had swept on to the great west would some day recede, and that Elwood would, by some unknown chance yet become a figure in the world of commerce and manufacture. There was little tangible basis for the hope, it is true, but the fulfillment of the dream is said by railroad men to be near at hand.

The bill authorizing the construction of the Rock Island bridge has been introduced in the senate. It is believed that it will pass without trouble, and to Elwood this will mean much, if the reports that have been current recently can be relied upon. It is stated to be the intention of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific railroad to build switch yards on the Kansas side. A large grain elevator, with the capacity of a half million bushels has been built during the last few years at Elwood, and those who never lost confidence in the town, say that the day is near at hand, when, from the sleeping burg, there will arise a big town; that the natural advantages of the place will no longer be overlooked, since abundant railroad facilities are assured.


From the appendix of the old directory of the town are gathered the names of men who were well known to the early settlers of St. Joseph. Some of them have since become famous in other parts of the state and country. The city government of Elwood in 1861 was represented by the following officials.

Mayor, George W. Barr.
Clerk, Dr. J. W. Robinson.
Assessor, William H. High.
Attorney, T. A. Osborn.
Treasurer, R. S. Sayward.
Collector, Charles O. Smith.

City Council, William H. High. D. B. Jones, J. H. Hatcher, A. Disque, W. L. Lewis, L. C. Roth, William Luke, W. Croff, A. W. Tice.

Police Department. The police force consisted of the chief, or city marshal, and three policemen, the latter of whom were, immediately responsible to the mayor.

Marshal, Charles O. Smith; office corner Fifth and Douglas streets.

Policemen. Andrew Neal, Arthur Carroll and Richard Howell.

Let it be known that, at the present day, the city government of Elwood is vested in two or three men.

There was but one incorporated company in Elwood in 1861. It was the Elwood Building association, the office of which was located at the corner of Sixth and Douglas streets. The concern was incorporated in 1860 by D. W. Wilder, A. L. Lee, Charles H. Hatcher.

There was one regular church at Elwood. At St. Mark’s Episcopal church, located on Foreman street, between Soventh and Eighth streets, services were held at 3 o’clock each Sunday afternoon. Rev. J. E. Ryan was its rector in 1861. Religious services were held occasionally by persons attached to the Congregational church in a public hall.

Of the Elwood & Marysiveill railroad the directory says:

“This road is graded to Troy with iron enough on hand to lay it, and trains will be running regularly by August 1.

Reference is made to the Marysville & Denver City railroad as follows: “This railroad is a continuation of the Marysville & Roseport railroad and will be surveyed immediately.”

The business directory of the town in 1861 shows the following number of persons engaged in different business enterprises at Elwood. Insurance agents, 1; real estate agents, 1; attorneys at law, 3; bankers, 2; bank note detector, 1; billiard balls, 2; blacksmiths, 2; breweries, 1; brickmaker, 1; butcher, 1; carpenters, 6; coffee house, 1; dentist, 1; draper and tailor, 1; druggist, 1; drygoods stores, 4; gardener, 1; grist mill, 1; groceries, 3; hotels 2; justices of the peace, 1; livery stable 1; meat market, 1; millwtright 1; newspaper, 1; painters, 2; physicians, 3; plasterers, 1; restaurants, 1; saloons, 5; shoemakers, 3; steam saw mill, I; stockk dealer, 1; stove and tinware dealers, 1; wagon makers, 3; watch maker, 1; wood merchants, 2.

John Broder, ex-chief of the police of St. Joseph, drove the first spike on the first railroad west of the Missouri river at Elwood.

John T. Warburton, justice of the peace of Washington township, is one of the men who remain to recall the early fortunes of those who settled Elwood. Mr. Warburton came to St. Joseph in the fall of 1850 and moved to Elwood in 1858, when he went to work on the Elwood Free Press, where he was nothing more, nothing less than a printer’s ‘devil.’

Elwood at that time was almost as large as St. Joseph. A large hotel stood on the river bank on the Kansas side, and as the current of the river shifted, the ground began to crumble away from the foundation of the structure, which subsequently made necessary the tearing down of the building.

The hotel covered a block of ground. Mr. Warburton was well acquatinted with T. A. Osborn, “Tom” Osborn, as he was known in those days, who afterwards became governor of Kansas. Osborn was a printer by trade, and while acting as city attorney at Elwood, he used to go to the Free Press office and set type for a few hours “just to keep in practice,” as he expressed it.

Mr. Warburton was one of the men who pulled on the rope that brought the first locomtiove into the state of Kansas. The engine was taken across the river from St. Joseph on a ferry. Ropes were attached to it on the other side, and men and boys pulled the locomotive up the bank. In those days engines were named instead of numbered, as now, and this, the first iron horse to visit the land of sunflowers, was called the “Albany.” A mile of track had been laid toward Wathena at the time the engine arrived, and the day following the town was in holiday attire.

The engine was placed upon the track and ran back and forth over the rails, midst, the cheers of the throng of spectators, to most of whom the mass of iron and steel was a revelation. When the track had been completed to Wathena, a free excursion was run to that town. All day long the woods was crowded with an excited throng of people, who thought they saw in the arrival of the strange visitor, a power of civilization unsurpassed.

This was the beginning of the St. Joseph, Roseport & Topeka railroad and its equipment in the state of Kansas then amounted to the engine “Albany” and three flat cars. The road changed hands at different times and became a part of the St. Joseph & Denver City, now the St. Joseph & Grand Island.

Gray’s Doniphan County history: A record of the happenings of half a hundred years. 


Elwood owes its existence to an adventurer named Rose, alias George Ingraham. This man came to the Missouri in 1856 and bought the claim of H. Thompson. The original town site, consisting of one hundred and sixty acres, was laid out the same year by the Roseport Town Company. In the office of the Register of Deeds, it is described as the northeast quarter of Section 24, Township 3, and Range 23. The Roseport Town Company consisted of Rose and a party of St. Joseph capitalists, and purchased of its owner the Thompson claim, paying therefor about ten thousand dollars. In1857 the identity of Rose was discovered by a man with whom he had some business difficulty, and the speculator hastily sold his interest in the town and left for parts unknown. A reorganization of the town followed, and it was christened Elwood – this occured in June, 1857. The new company at once added a large tract, embracing four hundred and eighty acres, to the town site. This, with the land already in their hands, cost not far from $40,000. While still in the hands of Rose, the Roseport Town Company projected many improvements. In the spring of 1857, the Great Western Hotel was begun and numerous smaller structures were started. After the organization of the Elwood Town Company, the hotel was rapidly pushed to completion. When finished, it was one of the finest hotels in the West, having seventy-five rooms. It was under the management of S. Webster. In the palmy days of the town, when it was a dreaded rival of St. Joseph, this hotel was constantly full, and yielded a neat revenue to its owners. In 1861, the encroachments of the river made it necessary to remove the hotel. and it was torn down and sold piecemeal, its scattered timbers forming parts of houses all over the county. The town once had a live population of fifteen hundred, as is shown by a list still in the hands of A. Disque, but now it is a typical deserted village, and can lay claim to less than six hundred.

The first structure on the town site was the log cabin of Mr. Thompson, who was the original owner of the claim. Soon after his arrival Rose built a small dwelling, the second on the town site; the third building was a dram-shop. The first store in the town was run by A. E. Campbell. The first hardware store was opened (sic) W. & F. Ellsworth. The first attorney was A. L. Lee, who was soon followed by T. A. Osborn, from 1873 to 1879 Governor of the State. About the same time came E. Russell, who was an insurance agent; and D. W. Wilder, later Auditor of the State, who dealt in real estate. In 1858, Dr. S. D. Smith arrived from New York and commenced practice. A meat market was opened by Abel Montgomery in 1858. J. E. Dryden, who built the Great Western Hotel, began work as a carpenter in 1857; and Cook and Selover opened a livery stable the same year. Two steam saw mills were built prior to 1859, by W. H. High and W. L. Lewis, but were removed after a short-time.

A postoffice was opened at Elwood in 1857, and James P. Brace appointed postmaster. Following him came William Ellsworth, J. W. Robinson, who entered the army and was represented by A. Disque, James Noyes, A. Disque, Allen Porter, and A. Disque, who has held the office since 1879.

The Elwood Town Company disbanded at the beginning of the war, the last town election taking place in 1861, when J. W. Robinson was elected Mayor. It was not until 1876 that the city was re-organized and an election held, resulting in the selection of J. W. Montgomery as Mayor, and the appointment of J. R. Stone as City Clerk. The Mayors since that time have been as follows: A. Disque, 1877 ; W. Elliott, 1878-79; A. Carroll, 1880; A. Porter, 1881-82. During the same period the City Clerks have been: J. R. Stone, 1877 ; Charles Cherry, 1878-79; J. R. Stone, 1880-81-82.

At the present time there are no regular services save those of the colored people, at any church in the town, a fact due to the almost complete decadence of the place. In the days of its prosperity the town had ample provision for the spiritual welfare of its denizens. St. Mark’s Episcopal Church was built, under John Tracy, Rev. J. E. Ryan, officiating, Rev. Mr. Whitney held services for the Congregationalists and up to a late date the Methodist Episcopal Church was supplied by a pastor from Wathena. These observances have, however, vanished with the population that called for them.

William G. Cutler’s History of the State of Kansas

Elwood, formerly “Roseport,” one of the principal towns of Doniphan county, is located on the Missouri river opposite St. Joseph, Mo., with which it is connected by bridges. It is at the extreme eastern point of the county, in Washington township, on the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, and on the St. Joseph & Grand Island railroads, 14 miles east of Troy, the county seat. A trading post was established on the site of Elwood in 1852 by Henry Thompson, who in 1856 sold 160 acres to the “Roseport Town company” which had been organized by St. Joseph capitalists. The consideration paid Thompson was $10,000. The town grew rapidly in its early years and was a dangerous rival to St. Joseph. A hotel of 75 rooms was built and enjoyed liberal patronage. In 1858 there were ten stores, all lines of business were well represented. By 1859 the population was 2,000, and the town might have outstripped its neighbor had not the inroads of the Missouri river washing away acres of the best-improved property, discouraged capital and enterprise. The first store was opened by A. N. Campbell, in 1856, and the first sawmill by William High in the same year. The next year Daniel W. Wilder, author of Wilder’s Annals of Kansas, opened a real estate office, and James P. Brace was made postmaster of the newly established post office. In 1860 the town was incorporated as a “city of the first class.” The first company of the first regiment sent into the Civil war by Kansas was organized here. In 1876 the town was reorganized and an election held which resulted in the selection of J. W. Montgomery as mayor and the appointment of J. R. Stone as city clerk. The population in 1910 was 636. It has a money order postoffice, telegraph and express offices, telephone connections, graded public schools, and a good local trade. Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc.