Skip to Questions

AskOPL - If you have questions, we have answers!


Several years ago, I found an article about the Missouri River Transfer Company (a railroad ferry service before the bridge was completed in

Several years ago, I found an article about the Missouri River Transfer Company (a railroad ferry service before the bridge was completed in 1872/3). It was in your database on Early Omaha History. Its web address was . Is this article still available on your new website?
The railroad ferry took rail cars across the river from the terminus of the Eastern rail lines in Council bluffs to the beginning of the Union Pacific line in Omaha.
Last Updated: Dec 09, 2017  |  8 Views

Was this helpful? 0   0


We are just in the process of transferring all our digital historical collection from our old website to a new system, and I haven't got that one up yet! I'll try to get that back up soon. But in the meantime, here is the text:

Council Bluffs & Nebraska Ferry Company & Union Pacific Transfer Album

The Council Bluffs & Nebraska Ferry Company was organized in 1853 and had its origins in William D. Brown's Lone Tree Ferry company which started operation from Kanesville (Council Bluffs) to Omaha in approximately 1851. By providing transportation across the Missouri River the ferry company was instrumental in getting settlers into the Nebraska Territory. Prior to the completion of the railroad bridge in April 1872 the Union Pacific railroad transfer boats carried the trains across to the Nebraska side, and in the winter, an ice bridge was constructed for the train to use in crossing the Mighty Mo. In 1862 Captain W. W. Marsh bought a large interest in the company and the next spring took charge of the business. This album, presented to the library by the W. W. Marsh family, contains 13 unique images. It is speculated that the photographs were taken by photographer E. (Edric) L. Eaton, a photographer in Omaha from 1857 to 1892. Album narrative is provided by Don Snoddy, Retired Historian for the Union Pacific Railroad.

And here is the article we had about Capt. William Wallace Marsh:


William Wallace Marsh was born in Cuttingsville, Rutland County, Vermont on October 14, 1832 where his father was a merchant. He attended the common schools there and was a graduate of Black River Academy in Ludlow, Vermont. For many years he was a member of the academy’s board of trustees. After graduation he clerked in a store in Ludlow then spent two years helping his sister settle his father’s estate. At the age of 23 he headed west, first to Galena, Illinois, and then to Dubuque, Iowa where he passed the fall and winter of 1855-1856. In the spring of 1856 he went by stage to Sioux City and preempted a claim in Dakota County, Nebraska, where he lived until April, 1857 when he returned to Vermont to settle his affairs. In 1858 he returned to Nebraska and farmed.

Mr. Wallace spent a great deal of his life involved in the transportation business. During his time in Dakota County he contracted to carry the United States mails between Dakota City and Niobrara and Sioux City and Fort Randall by stage. In the fall of 1862 he purchased an interest in the Council Bluffs & Nebraska Ferry Company and moved to Omaha where he became manager. In January, 1863, Marsh married Flora M. Atwood, a native of Livermore Falls, Maine, at Ida Grove, Iowa. In 1867 he became overseer of the Missouri River Transfer Company, which was later merged into the Union Pacific Transfer Company, which continued business until the completion of the Union Pacific Bridge in 1872. The bridge ended the ferry business.

In 1873 Mr. Marsh purchased a controlling interest in the Omaha Horse Railway from A. J. Hanscom. In 1878 when it was sold by sheriff to satisfy mortgages against it, he purchased it for about $25,000. In 1883, after improvements, he sold 3/5 of his interest to S. H. H. Clark, Guy C. Barton, and Frank Murphy on a basis of a valuation of $500,000. In 1889 it consolidated with the Omaha Cable Tramway and Omaha Street Railway Company and eventually absorbed all the other street railway companies in Omaha and Council Bluffs. In 1878 Marsh was superintendent of the Wyoming Stage Company which ran between Sidney and Deadwood. He was also involved in Glencoe Mills, Goodman Packing Company and the Gedney Pickle Company. He was one of the principal organizers of the Union National Bank, which was taken over by the United States National Bank.

Mr. Marsh was civic minded. In 1872 he was elected to the Omaha City Council and served on the board of education beginning in 1876 for five years, his last year as president. He donated to the Omaha Public Library his unique “Council Bluffs and Nebraska Ferry Company & Union Pacific Transfer” album which contains the pictures of his ferry company’s fleet of steamers and other images from this venture.

W. W. Marsh died in April, 1901 at Nassau, New Providence, West Indies, where he had gone for his health, accompanied by his wife Flora, and youngest son, Allan. The Marsh’s had three other sons, Charles, Frank, and William. Mrs. Marsh died December 27, 1924. All are buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Omaha, Nebraska.

Text written by Joanne Ferguson Cavanaugh, April 2007

William Wallace Marsh, Biography file, Omaha Public Library.

Sorensen, Alfred. The Story of Omaha from the Pioneer Days to the Present Time. Omaha: National Printing Company, 1923, p. 266-268.

Morton, J. Sterling. Illustrated History of Nebraska, Vol. 1. Lincoln: J. North, 1905, p. 700-701.

City Walks and Talks, Omaha Daily Bee Newspaper, 24 May, 1884, p. 4. (Interview with W. W. Marsh about early Nebraska Ferry Company days.)

I hope this helps!  Let me know if there is anything else you would like to know about this album. We have the original at the Main Library, if you would ever like to look at it.

Best wishes,

Martha/Main Library

Answered by Martha GrenzebackBookmark and Share

Other Answers / Comments (0)

    Browse by Popular Topics

    View All Topics