History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs


Marysville, Kansas

Bookmark and Share


Big Blue River, Marysville, KansasMarysville, the county-seat of Marshall County, and one of the oldest towns in the State, is beautifully located on the east bank of the Blue River, ten miles south of the Nebraska State Line.

In 1849, Francis. J. Marshall, of Weston,
Missouri, established a ferry on the Big Blue River, about nine miles below the present town site of Marysville. This crossing was named "Independence Ford," from the trail that led from Independence, Missouri, which was at that time the leading depot of the fur trade. In 1850, the Government opened the military road from Fort Leavenworth, crossing the river at what was afterwards known as Palmetto or Marysville. Seeing that a great portion of the California emigrants were using this route, Marshall moved his ferry to the site that would later become Marysville. There, he  built a few log cabins, opened a general store and started a blacksmith shop. The chief commodity at his store was whisky which sold at 18˘ per gallon. A post office was established in November, 1854 with Marshall as the first postmaster. Today, this is the oldest civilian post office in continual operation in the state. Francis Marshall, while a member of the first Kansas Legislature, in 1855, had a county laid off with the Big Blue River running through the center, and also had the county seat established at his ferry and named the place Marysville, in honor of his wife, Mary. The county is named for him.


When Marshall established his ferry at Marysville, he did not give up his place at the old Independence Crossing, but continued to run a ferry at that point up to 1853, the travel being divided for some years between the two points. At the ferry at Marysville teams would gather by the hundreds waiting their turn to cross, and some becoming impatient would ford the stream, but at considerable risk. The capacity of his ferry was such that Marshall could only take three wagons at a trip, for which he charged $5 per wagon. Research shows that about 75,000 people traversed Marshall County and crossed the Big Blue River either at the lower crossing or at the crossing here, from 1846 to 1856.


The Marysville Town Company originated in Western Missouri, with John and James Doniphan and Francis Marshall being the prime movers. The company was incorporated by an act of the Territorial Legislature on August 27, 1855.


The next settler, James McCloskey, an Indian trader, in company with other traders, located a short distance south of Marysville in November, 1855. The other members of the company soon after settled on the Vermillion River.


In the meantime, a competing group of men were planning on settling at Marysville. In the spring of 1856, the Palmetto Town Company was organized in Atchison with 84 members, composed of Southern men with Southern sympathies. They were mostly young men who had come into Kansas Territory chiefly for political reasons and in the interests of the pro-slavery party. For various reasons, only about 35 members of the colony left Atchison, and arrived at Palmetto on July 8, 1856.

The colony filed upon and laid out a town site of 320 acres, adjacent to the Marysville townsite previously laid off and entered as a pre-emption claim by F.J. Marshall. The colony named the town in honor of the "Palmetto" State (South Carolina). The progress of Palmetto was slow with none of the members seeming to care whether a town was made or not. The only improvement was the erection of a log cabin during the summer of 1856, by Dr. J. P. Miller. 


Of the whole number of men composing the colony, only three or four remained in the State and only two in the county -- J. S. Magill and Robert Shibley.


For some time the town name of "Palmetto" was used by some of the early county officials when dating their official proceedings. In the early maps of Kansas, the name Palmetto appeared, but Marysville was left out, although Marysville was the name of the post office and the established seat of justice for Marshall County.

The following notice was published in the Squatter Sovereign (Atchison) March 25, 1856:


I hold in my hand an obligation upon the Marysville Town Company obligating the company to donate to the first person that will put up a steam saw-mill in said town seven shares in the town, which are worth in value each $200. The putting up of the mill in the town will make them worth $250 each, making the donation $1,750, which will very nearly pay for the mill. Marysville is in the best location in Kansas for a steam saw-mill, from the fact that it is located immediately on Big Blue River, where the timber can be rafted to the mill, and the lumber rafted below to supply the great Kansas River Valley. So you bring on your mill, set it to running, and I will give you the stock.


(Signed) "F. J. Marshall."





Marysville, Kansas historicThe above liberal inducement was accepted by Messrs. Shibley & Quarles, who erected a steam saw mill in the spring of 1857, and operated it until 1861, when it was destroyed.

Among the first business enterprises and professions that were established in Marysville at an early date may be mentioned: Dr. John P. Miller, who also built the first house on the Palmetto town site, located his practice in surgery. He remained in the practice of his profession until 1862, when he died. J. S. Magill was the first one to represent the legal profession, and was a member of the Palmetto colony.


In 1857-58, these two little antagonistic towns had a pretty rough class of citizens, and being outside civilization generally, the pop or the revolver and the clank of pure steel were familiar sounds, and in the absence of civil tribunals, anarchy reigned supreme. Marshall bringing diplomacy to bear, soon succeeded in making Marysville the leading trading point, and in a few years Palmetto would be forgotten.


The Palmetto Kansan, the first newspaper  printed in the county, was established December 18, 1857, at Marysville. The paper was a Democratic Pro-slavery organ. Mr. Clardy continued its publication for seven months, when the paper was suspended. In 1858, an effort was made to resuscitate it, under the name Marysville Democrat, by a Mr. Childers, but the effort was short lived. The Democrat Platform was first issued at Marysville in the early part of 1859, which would continue until the Civil War broke out in 1861. a number of newspapers would following over the years.


The first hotel was opened for the accommodation of the public was built in 1859 by A. G. Barrett. Later it would change names and be called the "Tremont House". That same year Ballard & Morrall, of the town company, opened a drug store.


Marysville was incorporated as a city by and Act of the Territorial Legislature, in February, 1861. The same year a school district was legally organized and a small frame school building was erected.

November 30, 1863, a preliminary meeting was held at the court house by citizens of Marysville and vicinity, for the purpose of organizing a bridge company, to build a bridge across the Big Blue River. The bridge was of the Howe Truss patent, and was completed in November, 1864. This bridge served its purpose until the spring of 1882, when it was replaced by an iron structure by Marysville Township.


One of the primary early industries was the Excelsior Roller Mills built by Perry Hutchinson in 1864. Established on the east side of the Big Blue River, the first floor was occupied as a saw-mill. The rest of the mill was dedicated to custom work and flour, with a capacity of one hundred barrels of per day. This mill was run by water-power furnished by the Big Blue River. It was later enlarged giving it the capacity of 250 barrels of flour every twenty-four hours.

By 1866, the town had outgrown the small frame school building and a new building was constructed of magnesia limestone at a cost of $8,000. The main building was 35x50 feet, with two additional wings, giving it four large rooms.


The manufacture of brick first commenced in 1869-70, by Thomas Cooper, who established a brick-yard, with a capacity of 300,000 per season, in the southern part of the city. In the spring of 1882, he opened a yard on the south bank of Spring Creek, and during the season manufactures 6,000 brick per day.


The Exchange Bank was established at Marysville in March, 1870, by Schmidt & Koeste. The Sherman House, was opened in 1870, in a frame building 16x24 feet, by G. D. Swearingen. Later it would be significantly enlarged. That same year, the first train came into Marshall County over the St. Joseph & Western Railroad and the next year was extended to Marysville.


In the earlier years of the settlement of Marysville, the population was in some measure of a transitory nature, and church organizations did not thrive to any great extent, although when services were held the attendance was good. Religious services were first held in Marysville in the summer of 1857 in a saloon. In the absence of records, tradition states that the first religious services in Marysville were held in the summer of 1857, in a saloon! Later services were held in Ballard & Morrall's drug store and in the Barrett House. A formal organization of the Methodist Church was made in 1866 with meetings held in different parts of the town until April, 1879 a 30x50 foot building was erected. Other church organizations followed including the Episcopal, Presbyterian, German Evangellical, and Catholic.


The Marshall County Bank, was incorporated under the laws of the State October 8, 1880, with a cash capital of $50,000.


The manufacture of cigars was carried on extensively in Marshall County, in which there were four factories, of which three were located at Marysville, the factory of Charles F. Pusch is the oldest and largest. In 1879, the factory of Charles E. Bendel was established. The firm of Bendel & Weidermeyer, opened the third factory in May, 1882. Other industries in Marysville included an iron foundry and a brewery.

In 1890, Marysville had progressed so far in the advancement of her educational interests, that it was found necessary to erect another building. The new structure was accordingly erected on the same block, in close proximity to the other. The building was a brick structure, 40x70 feet, trimmed with white limestone, and cost $10,000.


Marshall County courthouse, Marysville, KansasIn 1891 Marysville built a $40,000 court-house which it donated to the county.

In 1910, Marysville sat at the junction of the Union Pacific and the St. Joseph & Grand Island railroads. It is one of the most important towns of northeastern Kansas both historically and commercially. It had paved streets, city waterworks, electric lights, a sewer system, an efficient fire department, three weekly newspapers (the Courier, the Advocate-Democrat and the News), seven cigar factories, a broom factory, flour mill, brick and tile works, planing mill, grain elevators, banking facilities, all demoninations of churches and good graded and high schools. The population in 1910 was 2,260.

By 1917, the town boasted a telephone system, several hotels, restaurants, an artificial ice plant, and all manner of retail and service businesses.

Marysville's population peaked in 1960 at 4143. Today it is called home to an estimated 3323 people.  


The old Pony Express Station still stands in downtown Marysville. This 1859 stone barn was used to stable the ponies during the 18 months of the Pony Express, 1860-61. Marysville was the first ‘home station’ west of St. Joseph (a station where riders as well as horses changed). It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Marshall County's historic 1891 courthouse is also listed on the  National Register of Historic Places.

Ferry at Marysville, KansasHistoric Trails Park, features a a full-sized replica of a rope ferry like the one Frank Marshall used in the 1850’s to carry emigrants, soldiers and stagecoach travelers across the Blue River. Eight trails crossed the river here: the Oregon, Pike’s Peak and Mormon Trails, the St. Joe Road, the Overland stagecoach, military and Pony Express routes, and the trail followed by Otoe Indians being sent to a reservation in Oklahoma. Take U.S. 77 south out of Marysville. Turn left immediately after the south overpass onto the levee road and go 1.4 miles. Turn left into park before the west overpass.




Compiled by Kathy Weiser/Legends of Kansas, March, 2017



Blackmar, Frank W.; Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Vol I; Standard Publishing Company, Chicago, IL 1912.

Cutler, William G; History of Kansas; A. T. Andreas, Chicago, IL, 1883

Foster, Emma; History of Marshall County, Kansas: Its People, Industries, and Institutions, F. Bowen, 1917

Marshall County

Kansas Historical Society

Kansas Sampler



Also See:


Marshall County (main page)


From Legends' General Store

Vintage Western MagazinesVintage Western Magazines - Riding right along with Legends' many historic tales, our hundreds of vintage western magazines expand even more on the stories, characters, and events of the Old West. Featuring a number of vintage publications, you'll find True West, Frontier Times, Old West, Real West, and More! This is one of the largest collections of Western Magazines on the World-wide Web -- if not the largest. All publications written and published in the USA.


Vintage Western Magazines

  About Us      Contact Us       Article/Photo Use      Guestbook      Legends Of America      Links      Photo Blog      Site Map     Writing Credits  

Copyright © 2009-Present, www.Legends of Kansas.com is a web property of Legends Of America