Kansas History - the history of Kansas
   
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Vacation 2 USA   >   Kansas   >   History
Vacation 2 USA   >   History   >   Kansas History

   
 

Kansas History


The first Native American peoples arrived in what is today the state Kansas, approximately 9,000 years ago. Initially these people were hunter-gatherers, but around 3,000 years some converted to a largely settled agricultural lifestyle and developed permanent dwellings in larger settlements.

In 1541, the Spanish conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado visited the region. During this expedition, the horse was introduced to the Plains Indian, and this greatly altered their lifestyle and range. The Kansa and Osage peoples arrived in Kansas during the 17th century. Other Native American peoples who inhabited present-day Kansas included the Pawnees and the Otoe tribe of the Sioux.

In 1724, the French visited the Kansas river and established a trading post near the mouth of the river. At this time, the territory was part of the area claimed as New France. Kansas became an unorganized territory of the United States following the 1803 Louisana Purchase from France.

In 1806, the Zebulon Pike explored the area, and labelled it as the "Great American Desert". As a result, in the 1820s, the federal government "permanently" set aside the region as Indian territory and closed it to white settlement. Between the 1820s and 1840s, the federal government moved many Native American tribes into the region. Despite the prohibition on white settlement, the Santa Fe trail passed through Kansas, US Army forts were established inside the territory (starting with Fort Leavenworth in 1827), and by the 1850s, many white Americans were illegally squatting in the area and calling for the entire territory to be opened for settlement.

In the 1850s, white settlers began to push for territorial government, and by 1853, Congress had decided that eastern Kansas should be open to settlement. The treaties with Native Americans were renegotiated, and the U.S. Government regained nearly all the land that it had ceded to them "forever" only a few years before. The Indians were then largely relocated to Oklahoma.

In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act became law, and established the Nebraska and Kansas Territories. A controversial provision of the Act was that settlers in the territories would decide for themselves whether to allow slavery within the borders ("popular sovereignty"), rather than following the earlier Missouri Compromise which banned slavery North of 36°30'. The Kansas-Nebraska Act led to violence and chaos in Kansas with fighting between pro-slavery and anti-slavery settlers, and four different competing constitutions for Kansas, earning the territory the nickname of "Bleeding Kansas". Eventually, Kansas was admitted as the 34th state of the Union on January 29th, 1861 as a free state.

During the American Civil War (1861 to 1865), most Kansans strongly favored the Union. More than 20,000 men were enlisted from the state, a remarkable number considering the state had only 30,000 men of military age. These forces suffered over 8,500 casualties during the war. During the war, many guerilla raids and atrocities took place in the state, the worst of which occured at Lawrence which destroyed much of the city include the massacre of about 200 men and boys. The biggest battle in the state was the Battle of Mine Creek which involved around 25,000 men.

The 1860s also saw the Indian Wars in Kansas and Nebraska, between Cheyennes and Araphoes on one side, and white settlers and the US Army on the other. The worst incident was the massacre of a band of friendly Indians at Sand Creek near Fort Lyon, who were on their own reservation and had been ordered there as a place of safety.

Following the Civil War, many former slaves, known as "Exodusters", moved to Kansas, which was known as the land of John Brown. These Exodusters founded the town of Nicodemus.

Kansas led the way in the prohibition movement: On February 19th 1881, Kansas was the first US state to ban all alcoholic beverages.

Kansas contributed troops to guard the US-Mexico border during the Mexican Revolution (1916), and over 80,000 troops to the US military after the US entry into World War I in 1917.

After World I, there were several legal battles between the state of Kansas and the Ku Klux Klan, which eventually resulted from their explusion from the state. The region also suffered during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, and many farmers left the state as a result.

In 1954, Kansas was at the center of controversy in the court case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka which concerned the Monroe Elementary School, one of four segregated elementary schools in Topeka. The US Supreme Court eventually ruled 9-0 that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal" reversing the precedent set by the Court's previous (1899) decision in Cumming v. Richmond County Board of Education.


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Hidden History of Kansas

By Adrian Zink

The History Press
Released: 2017-11-06
Paperback (192 pages)

Hidden History of Kansas
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Kansas' storied past is filled with fascinating firsts, humorous coincidences and intriguing characters. A man who had survived a murderous proslavery massacre in 1858 hanged his would-be executioner five years later. A wealthy Frenchman utilized his utopian ideals to create an award-winning silk-producing commune in Franklin County. A young boy's amputated arm led to the rise of Sprint Corporation. The first victim of the doomed Donner Party met her end in Kansas. In 1947, a housewife in Johnson County, indignant at the poor condition of the local school for black children, sparked school desegregation nationwide. Author and historian Adrian Zink digs deep into the Sunflower State's history to reveal these hidden and overlooked stories.

Kansas: The History of the Sunflower State, 1854-2000

By Craig Miner

Brand: University Press of Kansas
Paperback (528 pages)

Kansas: The History of the Sunflower State, 1854-2000
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Kansas is not only the Sunflower State, it's the very heart of America's heartland. It is a place of extremes in politics as well as climate, where ambitious and energetic people have attempted to put ideals into practice-a state that has come a long way since being identified primarily with John Brown and his exploits.

Craig Miner has written a complete and balanced history of Kansas, capturing the state's colorful past and dynamic present as he depicts the persistence of contrasting images of and attitudes toward the state throughout its 150 years. A work combining serious scholarship with great readability, it encompasses everything from the Kansas-Nebraska Act to the evolution-creationism controversy, emphasizing the historical moments that were pivotal in forming the culture of the state and the diverse group of people who have contributed to its history.

Kansas: The History of the Sunflower State is the first new state history to appear in over twenty-five years and the most thoroughly researched ever published. Written to enlighten general readers within and well beyond the state's borders, it offers coverage not found in previous histories: greater attention to its cities-notably Wichita-and to its south central and western regions, accounts of business history, contributions of women and minorities, and environmental concerns. It presents the dark as well as the bright side of Kansas progressivism and is the first Kansas history to deal with the post-World War II era in any significant detail.

Craig Miner has spent almost forty years researching, teaching, and writing Kansas history and has dug deeply into primary sources-especially gubernatorial papers-that shed new light on the state. That research has enabled him to assemble a wider cast of characters and more entertaining collection of quotations than found in earlier histories and to better show how individual initiative and entrepreneurial aspirations have profoundly influenced the creation of present-day Kansas.

Ranging from the days of cattle and railroads to the era of oil and agribusiness, this history situates the state in its own terms rather than as a sidebar to a larger American epic. Miner brings to its pages an identifiable Kansas character to preserve what is distinctive about the state's identity for future generations, echoing what one Kansan said over half a century ago: "Kansas is simply Kansas. May she never be tempted to become anything else."

It Happened in Kansas: Remarkable Events That Shaped History, First Edition (It Happened In Series)

By Sarah Smarsh

Brand: Globe Pequot
Released: 2010-08-17
Paperback (160 pages)

It Happened in Kansas: Remarkable Events That Shaped History, First Edition (It Happened In Series)
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It Happened in Kansas features over 25 chapters in Kansas history. Lively and entertaining, this book brings the varied and fascinating history of the Sunflower State to life.

Dreams of El Dorado: A History of the American West

By H. W. Brands

Basic Books
Released: 2019-10-22
Hardcover (544 pages)

Dreams of El Dorado: A History of the American West
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"Epic in its scale, fearless in its scope" (Hampton Sides), this balanced, authoritative, and masterfully told account of the American West from a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist sets a new standard as it sweeps from the California Gold Rush to the Texas Revolution and beyond.

In Dreams of El Dorado, H. W. Brands tells the thrilling, panoramic story of the settling of the American West. He takes us from John Jacob Astor's fur trading outpost in Oregon to the Texas Revolution, from the California gold rush to the Oklahoma land rush. He shows how the migrants' dreams drove them to feats of courage and perseverance that put their stay-at-home cousins to shame-and how those same dreams also drove them to outrageous acts of violence against indigenous peoples and one another. The West was where riches would reward the miner's persistence, the cattleman's courage, the railroad man's enterprise; but El Dorado was at least as elusive in the West as it ever was in the East.

Balanced, authoritative, and masterfully told, Dreams of El Dorado sets a new standard for histories of the American West.

Storied & Scandalous Kansas City: A History of Corruption, Mischief and a Whole Lot of Booze

By Karla Deel

Globe Pequot
Released: 2019-10-08
Paperback (168 pages)

Storied & Scandalous Kansas City: A History of Corruption, Mischief and a Whole Lot of Booze
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Welcome to Kansas City—the best town this side of Hell.

The Paris of the Plains. Home to the Wettest Block in the World. This collection celebrates a storied history of one notorious city. Meet the mobsters and victims, bootleggers, madams, political bosses and raucous entertainers who truly brought the party to the plains even during Prohibition. Witness the best parades, the wackiest costumes and the wildest scams. Kansas City’s sordid underbelly is full of surprises sure to delight and entice—the odd, macabre and delightful.



Kansas City and How It Grew, 1822-2011

By James R. Shortridge

University Press of Kansas
Hardcover (262 pages)

Kansas City and How It Grew, 1822-2011
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Think of Kansas City and you'll probably think of barbecue, jazz, or the Chiefs. But for James Shortridge, this heartland city is more than the sum of its cultural beacons.

In Kansas City and How It Grew, 1822-201, a prize-winning geographer traces the historical geography of a place that has developed over 200 years from a cowtown on the bend of the Missouri River into a metropolis straddling two states. He explores the changing character of the community and its component neighborhoods, showing how the city has come to look and function the way it does-and how it has come to be perceived the way it has.

Proximity to Great Plains ranches and farms encouraged early and sustained success for Kansas City meatpackers and millers, and Shortridge shows how local responses to economic realities have molded the city's urban structure. He explores the parallel processes of suburbanization and the restructuring of older areas, and tells what happens when transportation shifts from rivers to railroads, then to superhighways and international airports. He also reveals what historians have missed by tending to focus attention only on one side or the other of the state boundary.

The book is a virtual who's who of KC progress: without selective law enforcement under political boss Thomas Pendergast, Kansas City would not enjoy its legacy of jazz; without the gift of Thomas Swope's namesake park, upscale residential expansion likely would have gone east instead of south; and without J. C. Nichols, Johnson County suburbs would have developed in a less spectacular manner. Its insight into important molders of the city includes nearly forgotten names such as William Dalton, Charles Morse, and Willard Winner, plus important figures from more recent years including Kay Barnes, Charles Garney, and Bonnie Poteet.
,br>With more than 50 photos and dozens of maps specially created for this book, Kansas City and How It Grew is unique in treating the entire metropolitan area instead of just one portion. With coverage ranging from ethnic neighborhoods to development strategies, it's an indispensable touchstone for those who want to try to understand Kansas City as both a city and a place.

Prairie Ghosts: Tales of Kansas History and Hauntings

By Tim Shepard

Independently published
Paperback (218 pages)

Prairie Ghosts: Tales of Kansas History and Hauntings
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Kansas is a land often overlooked. People think of it as the land of Dorothy, tornadoes, and endless plains. In truth it is a place with a rich and diverse history. Old West legends walked the streets, gangsters robbed banks, settlers crossed the terrain, and parts of the Civil War were fought on this land. This rich history has also resulted in more than a few supernatural events. Come explore the hauntings, legends, and ghosts of Kansas. Find out where they came from, how they came to be, and where they can be found.

Mayday Over Wichita: The Worst Military Aviation Disaster in Kansas History

By D. W. Carter

The History Press
Released: 2013-08-20
Paperback (160 pages)

Mayday Over Wichita: The Worst Military Aviation Disaster in Kansas History
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On the cold Saturday morning of January 16, 1965, a U.S. Air Force KC-135 tanker carrying thirty-one thousand gallons of jet fuel crashed into a congested African American neighborhood in Wichita, Kansas. When the fire and destruction finally subsided, forty-seven people--mostly African American children--were dead or injured, homes were completely destroyed and numerous families were splintered. As shocking as it may sound, the event was seemingly omitted from the historical record for nearly fifty years. Now, historian D. W. Carter examines the myths and realities of the crash while providing new insights about the horrific four-minute flight that forever changed the history of Kansas.

Kansas Myths and Legends: The True Stories behind History's Mysteries (Legends of the West)

By Diana Lambdin Meyer

TwoDot
Released: 2017-10-01
Paperback (200 pages)

Kansas Myths and Legends: The True Stories behind History s Mysteries (Legends of the West)
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Kansas Myths and Legends explores unusual events, unsolved crimes, and legends in Kansas’s history. Each episode included in the book is a story unto itself, and the tone and style of the book is lively and easy to read for a general audience interested in Kansas history. The more than a dozen stories answer questions such as: Is it possible that a family of four living on the Kansas prairie got away with serial murder for more than three years and escaped to another part of the country to continue their killing spree? Are there still remnants of a late widow’s fortune buried throughout her property? Is the well-marked grave of Buffalo Bill Cody indeed his final resting place, or did some loyal friends surreptitiously remove him from Colorado and fulfill his last wish to be buried near his namesake town? From rumors of the Dalton gang’s buried treasures to the disappearance of an entire town, Kansas Myths and Legends makes history fun and pulls back the curtain on some of the state's most fascinating and compelling stories.

Red Geranium: A Kansas Family History In Letters 1880-1960

By James Allen Young

Outskirts Press
Paperback (420 pages)

Red Geranium: A Kansas Family History In Letters 1880-1960
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For over a century, a Memorial Day tradition in the Mitchell-Young family included the placement of a red geranium at the graves of ancestors and sharing of heroic, if somewhat sanitized, family stories. Generations of treasured Mitchell-Young family letters were bundled in attics and basements, untouched for decades, and recently brought together in a collection of over 5,000 items. While letter-writing was an essential feature of commerce and family life on the American frontier, the craft largely disappeared by the end of the twentieth century, rendered obsolete by more ephemeral communication. In Red Geranium, a sampling of the letters offers a compelling multi-generation story that illuminates family mysteries and tragedies and provides deeper insight into the subsequent trajectory of the lives of family members and that of their descendants.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, three pioneer families with deep American roots migrated west from Kentucky, Illinois, and Arkansas, and intersected in rural Sumner County, Kansas. By 1880, the region was blessed with a rich network of railroads, and there was heavy promotion of homesteading and speculation in the rich prairie farmland. The voluminous Mitchell-Young family letters lovingly describe the difficult journey to achievement of their dreams of educational opportunity, economic security, and respectability. Their letters, supplemented by family stories and memories, describe their immigration to Kansas in the first generation of statehood, college life at the University of Kansas after the turn of the century, the routines of middle class rural family life, and the triumphs and disappointments of Sumner county commercial and farm life. The correspondence touches upon a bank crisis, offers a first-hand account of the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, and describes the devastation the Great Flood of 1927 on the Arkansas River. The letters recount the immediate threat to health and longevity of epidemic infectious disease, the stain of heavy alcohol consumption during Prohibition, and the xenophobia, racism, and cruelty of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s.

With the collapse of the Kansas farm economy, followed by a family tragedy on Christmas Day of 1932--at the dawn of the Depression--the Mitchell-Young family of four teenage children was forced to face long odds with their creativity, work ethic, the leadership of a strong matriarch--and the timely assistance of neighbors, family, and government. The letters describe their slow recovery from bereavement, isolationism, and poverty and their later interaction with the most important historical events of the twentieth century, including the Great Depression, the New Deal, and World War II. With the diaspora resulting from the war years, the family broadened its horizons and interacted with national and international events and leaders. As the sibship matured, individual personalities, strengths, and weaknesses emerged from their intimate correspondence--characteristics that would shape their ultimate destiny.

Red Geranium examines in depth the correspondence and lives of four siblings who took unique paths to recovery and their own version of the American dream. The reader is confronted with the reality that the trials of their individual journeys took a toll on their health and destiny--a hidden price that was not previously a part of the traditional heroic family narrative.



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