The Territory out of Which Kansas Was Created is a blog dedicated to the history and culture of the American West.
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The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War in 1848, resulted in Mexico ceding much of its northern territory to the United States. This included the land that would eventually become the state of Kansas.
The Land Before Kansas
The land that would one day be the state of Kansas was originally part of the Louisiana Purchase. The Purchase was made in 1803 by the United States from France and doubled the size of the young country. The territory became part of the United States on December 20, 1803.
The land that would become Kansas was originally part of the Louisiana Purchase. The Purchase was made in 1803 by the United States from France and doubled the size of the young country. The territory became part of the United States on December 20, 1803.
In 1804, Lewis and Clark began their famous expedition to explore the new territory. Beginning at St. Louis, they traveled up the Missouri River. They reached what is now Kansas City in May 1804, and continued their journey westward.
The People Who Lived in Kansas Before Kansas
The first people to live in what is now Kansas were Native Americans. The tribes that lived in Kansas before Europeans arrived were the Wichita, the Kansa, the Osage, the Pawnee, and the Missouri.
The Wichita lived in central and southern Kansas. They hunted bison and other animals, and grew crops such as corn, beans, and squash. The Wichita were very good at making pottery.
The Kansa lived in northeastern Kansas. The Kansa were part of a group of four tribes known as the Hopewell. The Hopewell built mounds out of earth which they used for religious ceremonies. The Kansa farmed crops such as corn and squash, and hunted animals such as deer and bison.
The Osage lived in western Kansas along with present-day Missouri and Arkansas. They were nomadic hunter-gatherers who hunted bison and other game, and gathered wild plants for food.
The Pawnee lived in northeastern Kansas along with present-day Nebraska and Colorado. The Pawnee grew crops such as corn and beans, and hunted animals such as deer, buffalo, and rabbits.
The Missouri lived in northeastern Kansas along with present-day Missouri. They were a nomadic people who hunted game such as bison and deer, and gathered wild plants for food.
The Creation of Kansas
Prior to the creation of Kansas, the area was inhabited by Native Americans. The first Europeans to settle in the area were the French, who established a colony in 1764. The territory then changed hands several times between the French and the British before becoming a part of the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act
The Kansas-Nebraska Act was an 1854 bill passed by the United States Congress that created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. The act was a repeal of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which had prohibited slavery north of latitude 36°30′ in the lands acquired during the Louisiana Purchase. The Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed white settlers in those territories to determine through “popular sovereignty” whether their states would allow slavery. In addition, the act shifted political power in the Senate from Northern to Southern interests and opened additional western lands to settlement. The bill was drafted by Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas, sponsored by President Franklin Pierce, and passed by Congress after days of debate.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act outraged many Northerners because it reversed the Missouri Compromise and allowed for slavery in some newly created territories. shed new light on the power struggles between slaveholders and abolitionists in antebellum America. Abolitionists in the North responded to the act by forming several new anti-slavery organizations, including the Republican Party. In Kansas, meanwhile, violent conflict broke out between proslavery and antislavery factions known as “Border Ruffians” over whether or not Kansas would enter the Union as a slave state. Ultimately, neither side prevailed and in 1861 Kansas was admitted to the Union as a free state.
The Border War
The Border War, also known as the Bleeding Kansas, refers to the violence and turmoil surrounding the question of whether Kansas would be admitted to the Union as a slave state or a free state. The territory out of which Kansas was created was part of the Louisiana Purchase, and therefore it was legally open to settlement by both slaveholders and abolitionists.
In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed by Congress, which repealed the Missouri Compromise and allowed for popular sovereignty in these territories. This Act led to an influx of settlers from both the North and the South into Kansas, and soon there were two competing governments claiming authority over the territory. Moreover, violence broke out between pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces, as each side sought to gain control of the territory.
The situation came to a head in 1856 when pro-slavery forces sacked Lawrence, a key Free Soil stronghold. In response, abolitionist John Brown led a raid on a pro-slavery settlement at Pottawatomie Creek, during which five men were killed. Brown’s raid heightened tensions even further, and soon all-out civil war seemed like a real possibility.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and Kansas was admitted to the Union as a free state in 1861. However, the Border War had taken its toll in terms of lives lost and property destroyed. It also served as a prelude to the much larger conflict that was to come: The American Civil War.
In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. This opened up the possibility of slavery in those territories, which led to Bleeding Kansas. After the American Civil War, Kansas was admitted to the Union as a free state.
The Civil War in Kansas
The Civil War in Kansas was fought from 1861 to 1865. The territory of Kansas was invaded by Confederate forces from Missouri and Arkansas. In response, the Union government sent troops to defend Kansas. The fighting in Kansas was part of the larger conflict of the American Civil War (1861-1865).
The first major engagement in Kansas was the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, which was fought on August 10, 1861. This battle resulted in a Confederate victory. The next major engagement was the Battle of Prairie Grove, which was fought on December 7, 1862. This battle resulted in a Union victory.
The last major engagement in Kansas was the Battle of Mine Creek, which was fought on October 25, 1864. This battle resulted in a Union victory. After this final engagement, Confederate forces were no longer able to operate in the state of Kansas.
In the spring of 1879, a group of African Americans led by Benjamin “Pap” Singleton decided to leave Kansas and resettle in Nicodemus, in northwestern Graham County. This community, which they founded that year, was the first–and last– attempt by a significant number of blacks to create an autonomous all-black community in the American West. The black settlers who came to be known as Exodusters numbered several hundred that first year, but their numbers quickly dwindled as the promise of free land failed to materialize and many of them moved on to other places. By the early 1880s, most of the original settlers had left Nicodemus, and fewer than fifty blacks remained in the community.
The idea for the exodus from Kansas began with Benjamin “Pap” Singleton, a former slave who had settled in Kansas in 1877. Singleton became convinced that African Americans would never be able to achieve economic parity with whites in the East or South and began promoting the idea of resettling blacks in the West, where they would be able to buy cheap land and start anew. In February 1879, he organized a mass meeting of African Americans in Topeka at which he outlined his plan for the exodus.
Despite opposition from some African American leaders–including future U.S. senator Frederick Douglass–who feared that an organized movement would provoke a violent backlash from whites, Singleton’s call for blacks to leave Kansas found a receptive audience among many impoverished African Americans who saw it as their only hope for escaping the grinding poverty and racism they faced in the East and South. In late March 1879, several hundred blacks from eastern Kansas boarded trains bound for Nicodemus, where they hoped to build a new life free from discrimination and oppression.
The Exodusters’ experience in Nicodemus was not what they had hoped for. The land was poor and there was little water available for farming; moreover, there were few jobs to be found outside agriculture. As a result, many of the settlers quickly became disillusioned and left Nicodemus within a few years; by 1882, only fifty-six blacks were still living there. Despite its failure as an autonomous black community, however, Nicodemus holds an important place in history as the largest attempt by African Americans to relocate en masse to another part of the country during Reconstruction (1865-1877) or thereafter.
The Dust Bowl
In the 1930s, sections of Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, and Texas were severely impacted by wide-scale drought and fruitless farming practices, creating a condition known as the Dust Bowl. The Dust Bowl was caused by a perfect storm of three main factors: drought, wind erosion, and deep plowing of the Great Plains grassland.
Drought hit the region hard in 1930, 1931, and 1934. The lack of rainfall created huge dust storms that picked up loose topsoil from farms and deposited it elsewhere. These storms were made worse by the extensive deep plowing of the land in an effort to plant more crops. This plowing increased the amount of Dust Bowl storms because it removed natural grasses that normally held the soil in place.
The Dust Bowl had a devastating impact on both people and nature. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes in search of work or better living conditions. The dust storms ruined crops, poisoned animals, and made breathing difficult for everyone in the affected areas. In some cases, the dust killed people outright. The Dust Bowl was one of the worst environmental disasters in American history.