Archive for Thursday, January 16, 2003

De Soto on the go

Residents took advantage of technological advances

January 16, 2003

The exploration of De Soto's transportation past continues this week . Last week's De Soto Explorer featured the first part of the series. Much of the information contained in this article was taken from the booklet "De Soto, Kansas is 100 years Old: 1857-1957" by Dot Ashlock-Longstreth.

The Santa Fe Burlington Northern Railroad predecessors didn't arrive in De Soto from the east until 1872. Of special interest to me was a rail line that followed the Cedar Creek valley from Olathe to the little community of Cedar Junction, north of 83rd Street and Corliss Road. Cedar Junction -- the town was later called Corliss -- got its name because it was where the two lines intersected. It was said the grade on the Cedar Creek rail line was great enough that if rail cars were released in Olathe, they would coast all the way to Cedar Junction.

When I was a boy, the roadbed was barely visible, and rail spikes could be found when the fields were plowed. The railroad must have fallen to disrepair before it was closed, because it was known locally as "Old Calamity."

If you lived in De Soto in 1857 and wanted to go to Leavenworth by the most direct route, you would have to cross the Kansas River at the very start of your journey. If it was a cold winter, one could cross on the ice, as many farmers did to haul their grain to Hadley's mill in De Soto and avoid paying the ferry boat fee. The ferry boat carried not only the ordinary travelers, but the military also used the road to move supplies and men between Forts Leavenworth and Scott. Ferry Street currently extends north from 83rd Street to the river.

The first attempt to bridge the Kansas River at De Soto was doomed to failure, but evidence of the grand effort remains.

If you look upstream from the present bridge you will notice three rock islands, all that remain of the bridge project started in 1867. When the Union Pacific rails on the north side of the river reached opposite De Soto, a station, Lenape, was established. De Soto people believed that if a bridge across the river to Lenape was built, De Soto would be the railroad and river town, and that the military road would continue to be the thoroughfare for trade and immigrant travel.

But alas, the people were poor and just recovering from the Civil War. Funds ran out after building the piers, and the work ended.

A bridge completed in 1903 crossed the river west of town, at the southernmost point where Edgerton Road ends, and at the northernmost point near Linwood. A flood the same year destroyed the bridge. One of the steel encased piers is all that remains of the short-lived structure.

In 1904, a bridge just downstream from the present De Soto bridge was quickly built. That bridge survived the 1951 flood but collapsed from a sand truck in 1956. De Soto was again without an exit to Leavenworth County until the present bridge was dedicated in 1964.

During the part of the eight years the bridge was impassible to vehicles, Earl Tripkos, who lived at the north side of the river, constructed a cable car across the missing span to carry him to and from work each day.

The present four-lane Kansas Highway 10 was completed south of De Soto in the early 1970s. The South Lawrence Trafficway remains incomplete, awaiting environmental and social issues to be resolved.

There has been much discussion of a new north-south road through Johnson County that would somewhat parallel Kill Creek Road, and I have become recently aware that at some future date K-10 will have additional lanes added.

We should all make use of the newest asphalt-paved roadway in De Soto, the mile-long Kill Creek hiking trail. After all, in De Soto 150 years ago, if you missed the stage or boat, you would have had to walk anyway.

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