From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.


The Boat Took 3 Hours From K.C.-Leavenworth

by Lee Rich

Junction city Daily Union

Written for The Associated Press

(Leavenworth Times, Tuesday Evening, December 27, 1960.)


Almost 100 years ago, when Kansas was only four years old and state centennials were undreamed of in the Midwest, Julia Snyder came to Ft. Riley from Philadelphia by way of Indiana to make her home.

Then 16, her father, George Snyder, operated the sutler's store for the Army and her uncle, David Scott, was post quartermaster.

This, as the Kansas Centennial year nears, is the story of Julia Snyder, later Mrs. Bertrand Rockwell, and the little melodeon which accompanied her and her family to Kansas.

Mrs. Rockwell died in 1947, at 97, after many years of residence in Junction City and Kansas City.

The little melodeon now has a permanent home in the Junction City room of the Ft. Riley Museum, a gift from Mrs. Rockwell's five daughters: Mary Rockwell Hook and Emily Rockwell Cameron, Kansas City; Mrs. Florence Edwards, Santa Rosa, Calif.; Bertha Rockwell Venanzi, Rome, Italy; and Katharine Rockwell Crosby, Woodside, Calif.

Julia Snyder was born May 5, 1850, in Philadelphia. The year 1852 found the family living in Lafayette, Ind., where her father owned a grocery store, and in 1860 at Crawfordsville, Ind., in the same line of business.

Meanwhile, her uncle, David Scott, had obtained a position as quartermaster at Ft. Riley. Snyder sold his store to join Scott at Ft. Riley and take charge of the sutler's store.

Thus it was that Julia Snyder found herself en route to the raw frontier post to join her father and other members of the family who had preceded her to Kansas.

Many years later, she told of the trip.

Reaching Kansas City, she took a boat to Leavenworth, "a three hours' ride which brought us to the end of civilization." From Leavenworth she traveled in an ambulance, sent by her uncle, to Ogden. She explained the ambulance of those days "rode much more easity than the stagecoach" and was the usual conveyance for Army officers.

She recalled reaching Mount Oread at a time when the "first building of the University of Kansas was about completed" and crossing the Kaw river at Topeka by means of a transfer boat. "There," she said, "I saw the log fortifications of Kansas avenue which had been built for protection against Quantrill's raiders."

"At least," she continued, "we reached Ogden. Upon a hill there Uncle David had built a large stone house with wide veranda from which the view was lost in the distance. A few tiny buildings, and men working on the construction of the Union Pacific railroad, were the only signs of man on the landscape . . . .

"Because of the Indian trouble, the commands, going west to fight or returning to Ft. Riley or Ft. Leavenworth for recuperation, were and almost daily sight from our veranda."

Life was in no sense dreary at Ogden, Mrs. Rockwell said, and on days when officers of the fort did not have to train her uncle had open house.

The little melodeon which figures in this story was purchased in Philadelphia and accompanied the family west.

In Lafayette the family lived across the street from the Episcopal Church and the children of the Sunday School practiced music at the Snyder home with George Snyder as their teacher.

Because there were no music books, Snyder painted scales and notes on sheets of muslin and hung the sheets on the wall above the melodeon, using a long pointer to illustrate his teaching.

Later, at Crawfordsville, the melodeon was the first and only instrument in the new Episcopal Church. Snyder took it to church on Sundays in a wheelbarrow and trundled it back home on Mondays.

Again, in Kansas, the melodeon had a leading role in the family's social life. At the age of 90, Mrs. Rockwell wrote in her book, "Julia Rockwell's Story:"

"There never was a lack of amusements. Father's little melodeon provided music for us to sing the popular airs."

At that time the family had move to a frm near Chapman.

On Sept. 29, 1870, Julia Snyder and Capt. Bertrand Rockwell, a young Junction City businessman, were married in the first wedding held in the new Church of the Covenant in Junction City. The Rockwell store became synonymous with Junction City and the town's largest industry. It was said that by 1890 practically all the grain raised in Kansas was passing through the Rockwell elevator for shipment to the Gulf.

Rockwell's health failed in 1890 and the Rockwells traveled extensively both abroad and in the United States before deciding in 1906 to make their home in Kansas City, Rockwell died there in 1930.

The family never severed its ties with Junction City and the native stone Ladies Reading Club building here, a gift from Rockwell, stands as a memorial to their interest..

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