The history of Kansas is rich with the lore of the American Old West. Located on the eastern edge of the Great Plains, the U.S. state of Kansas was the home of nomadic Native American tribes who hunted the vast herds of bison. The region first appears in western history in the 16th century at the time of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, when Spanish conquistadores explored the unknown land now known as Kansas. It was later explored by French fur trappers who traded with the Native Americans. It became part of the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. In the 19th century, the first American explorers designated the area as the "Great American Desert."
When the area was opened to Euro-American settlement in the 1850s, Kansas became the first battlefield in the conflict in the American Civil War. After the war, Kansas was home to Wild West towns servicing the cattle trade. With the railroads came heavy immigration from the East, from Europe, and from Freedmen called "Exodusters". For much of its history, Kansas has had a rural economy based on wheat and other crops, supplemented by oil and railroads. Since 1945 the farm population has sharply declined and manufacturing has become more important, typified by the aircraft industry of Wichita.
After the disappearance of big-game hunters, some archaic groups survived by becoming generalists rather than specialists, foraging in seasonal movements across the plains. The groups though did not abandon hunting altogether, but utilized wild plant foods and small game. Their tools became more varied, with grinding and chopping implements becoming more common, a sign that seeds, fruits and greens constituted a greater proportion of their diet. Also, there occurred the emergence of pottery-making societies.
Despite the early advent of farming, late Archaic groups still exercised little control over their natural environment. Furthermore, wild food resources remained important components of their diet even after the invention of pottery and the development of irrigation. The introduction of agriculture never resulted in the complete abandonment of hunting and foraging, even in the largest of Archaic societies.
Because of the burgeoning trade up the Missouri River from St. Louis, especially following Lewis and Clark's expedition, the United States Government sought to form government posts throughout the area. On May 8, 1827, Cantonment Leavenworth, or Fort Leavenworth, (named in honor of Henry Leavenworth) was built just inside Indian territory to guard travelers on the United States' Western frontier. This was the first permanent settlement of white Americans in the future state of Kansas. A section of the Santa Fe Trail through Kansas was used by emigrants on the California Trail and Oregon Trail, which opened in the 1840s. The westward trails served as vital commercial and military highways until the railroad took over this role in the 1860s. To travellers en route to Utah, California, or Oregon, the future state of Kansas was an important way stop and outfitting location. Wagon Bed Spring (also Lower Spring or Lower Cimarron Spring) was an important watering spot on the Cimarron Cutoff of the Santa Fe Trail. Other important locations along the trail were the Point of Rocks and Pawnee Rock.
To fully utilize Indian territory, the U.S. government resettled Native American tribes already present in eastern Kansas, principally the Kansa and Osage, opening land to move eastern tribes into the area. By treaty dated June 3, 1825, 20 million acres (81000 km²) of land was ceded by the Kansa Nation to the United States, and the Kansa tribe was thereafter limited to a specific reservation in northeast Kansas. In the same month, the Osage Nation was limited to a reservation in southeast Kansas.
After this point, the Indian Removal Act of 1830 expedited the process. By treaty dated August 30, 1831, the Ottawa ceded land to the United States and moved to a small reservation on the Kansas River and its branches. The treaty was ratified April 6, 1832. On October 24, 1832, the U.S. government moved the Kickapoos to a reservation in Kansas. On October 29, 1832, the Piankeshaws and Weas agreed to occupy 250 sections of land, bounded on the north by the Shawanoes; east by the western boundary line of Missouri; and west by the Kaskaskias and Peorias. By treaty made with the United States on September 21, 1833, the Otoe tribe ceded their country south of the Little Nemaha River.
By September 17, 1836 the confederacy of the Sacs and Foxes, by treaty with the United States, moved north of Kickapoos. By treaty of February 11, 1837, the United States agreed to convey to the Pottawatomies an area on the Osage River, southwest of the Missouri River. The tract selected was in the southwest part of what is now Miami County.
In 1842, after a treaty between the United States and the Wyandots, the Wyandots moved to the junction of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers (on land that was shared with the Delaware until 1843). In an unusual provision, 35 Wyandots were given "floats" in the 1842 treaty – ownership of sections of land that could be located anywhere west of the Missouri River. In 1847, the Pottawatomies were moved again, to an area containing 576,000 acres (2,330 km²), being the eastern part of the lands ceded to the United States by the Kansa tribe in 1846. This tract comprised a part of the present counties of Pottawatomie, Wabaunsee, Jackson and Shawnee.
Although the Cheyennes and Arapahoes tribes were still negotiating with the United States for land in western Kansas (the current state of Colorado) – they signed a treaty on September 17, 1851 – momentum was already building to take the land from the Native Americans that they had been promised "permanently."
Realizing that their land and autonomy were in danger, in 1852 and 1853 the Wyandots attempted to establish a Territorial government in their section of Indian territory. In 1853, they convened a convention, composed of thirteen delegates, at which a constitution for their territory was formed. A Wyandot named William Walker was elected provisional governor pursuant to this constitution and a delegate was sent to Congress. However, because Kansas was not an official Territory, the delegate was not received by Congress. (In the long run, this movement by the Wyandots came to little, and much of the tribe later moved to land in the future state of Oklahoma.)
Congress began the process of creating Kansas Territory in 1852. That year, petitions were presented at the first session of the Thirty-second Congress for a territorial organization of the region lying west of Missouri and Iowa. No action was at that time taken. However, during the next session, on December 13, 1852, a Representative from Missouri submitted to the House a bill organizing the Territory of Platte: all the tract lying west of Iowa and Missouri, and extending west to the Rocky Mountains. The bill was referred to the United States House Committee on Territories, and passed by the full U.S. House of Representatives on February 10, 1853. However, Southern Senators stalled the progression of the bill in the Senate, while the implications of the bill on slavery and the Missouri Compromise were debated. Heated debate over the bill and other competing proposals would continue for a year, before eventually resulting in the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which became law on May 30, 1854, establishing the Nebraska Territory and Kansas Territory.
In the three months immediately preceding the passage of the bill, treaties were quietly made at Washington with the Delawares, Otoes, Kickapoos, Kaskaskias, Shawnees, Sacs, Foxes and other tribes, whereby the greater part of eastern Kansas, lying within one or two hundred miles of the Missouri border, was suddenly opened to white settlement. (The Kansa reservation had already been reduced by treaty in 1846.) On March 15, 1854, Otoe and Missouri Indians ceded to the United States all their lands west of the Mississippi, except a small strip on the Big Blue River. On May 6 and May 10, 1854, the Shawnees ceded 6,100,000 acres (25,000 km²), reserving only 200,000 acres (809 km²) for homes. Also on May 6, 1854, the Delawares ceded all their lands to the United States, except a reservation defined in the treaty. On May 17, the Iowas similarly ceded their lands, retaining only a small reservation. On May 18, 1854, the Kickapoos too ceded their lands, except 150,000 acres (607 km²) in the western part of the Territory. Lands were also ceded by the Kaskaskias, Peorias, Piankeshaw and Weas on March 30, 1854, and by the Sacs and Foxes on May 18.
The final step in reducing Native American land in Kansas Territory soon followed – taking all land from the tribes and giving small parcels instead to individual Indians or families (in "severalty"). For example, in 1854, the Chippewas (Swan Creek and Black River bands) inhabited 8,320 acres (34 km²) in Franklin County, but in 1859 the tract was transferred to individual Chippewa families.
Within a few days after the passage of the Act, hundreds of pro-slavery Missourians crossed into the adjacent territory, selected an area of land, and then united with other Missourians in a meeting or meetings, intending to establish a pro-slavery preemption upon the entire region. As early as June 10, 1854, the Missourians held a meeting at Salt Creek Valley, a trading post three miles (5 km) west of Fort Leavenworth, at which a "Squatter's Claim Association" was organized. They said they were in favor of making Kansas a slave state, if it should require half the citizens of Missouri, musket in hand, to emigrate there, and even to sacrifice their lives in accomplishing this end.
To counter this action, the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company (and other smaller organizations) quickly arranged to send anti-slavery settlers (known as "Free-Staters") into Kansas in 1854 and 1855. The principal towns founded by the New Englanders were Topeka, Manhattan, and Lawrence. Several Free-State men also came to Kansas Territory from Ohio, Iowa, Illinois and other Midwestern states.
From 1855 to 1858, Kansas Territory experienced a multitude of violence and some open battles. This period, known as "Bleeding Kansas" or "the Border Wars," directly presaged the American Civil War. The major incidents of Bleeding Kansas include the Wakarusa War, the Sacking of Lawrence, the Pottawatomie Massacre, the Battle of Black Jack, the Battle of Osawatomie, and the Marais des Cygnes massacre.
On December 1, 1855, a small army of Missourians, acting under the command of Douglas County, Kansas Sheriff Samuel J. Jones, laid siege to the Free-State stronghold of Lawrence in what would later become known as "The Wakarusa War." Under the influences and appliances of pro-slavery opponents, all Western Missouri was stirred to its very depths, and vomited forth an army for the subjugation of the Abolitionists of Lawrence. A treaty of peace negotiation was announced amid much disorder and cries for the reading of the treaty shortly afterwards. It quelled the disorder and its provisions were generally accepted.
On May 21, 1856, proslavery forces led by Sheriff Jones again attacked Lawrence, killing two men, burning the Free-State Hotel to the ground, destroying two printing presses, and robbing homes.
The Topeka Constitution, which was the first in order, was adopted by a convention of Free-Staters on November 11, 1855. It contained the Free-State principles of barring slavery in the future state of Kansas and excluding all free African-Americans from Kansas. The convention was unauthorized by the territorial or federal government, and although the constitution was approved by the people of the Territory at an election held on December 15, 1855, it was never accepted as a legal document.
The Lecompton Constitution was adopted by a Convention convened by the official pro-slavery government on November 7, 1857. The constitution would have allowed slavery in Kansas as drafted, but the slavery provision was put to a vote. After a series of votes on the provision and the constitution itself were boycotted alternatively by pro-slavery settlers and Free-State settlers, the Lecompton Constitution was eventually presented to the U.S. Congress for approval. In the end, because it was never clear if the constitution represented the will of the people, it was rejected.
While the Lecompton Constitution was being debated, a new Free-State legislature was elected and seated in Kansas Territory. The new legislature convened a new convention, which framed the Leavenworth Constitution. This constitution was the most radically progressive of the four proposed, outlawing slavery and providing a framework for women's rights. The constitution was adopted by the convention at Leavenworth on April 3, 1858, and by the people at an election held May 18, 1858 (all while the Lecompton Constitution was still under consideration). The U.S. Congress refused to ratify it.
Following the failure of the Lecompton and Leavenworth charters, a fourth constitution was drafted; the Wyandotte Constitution was adopted by the convention which framed it on July 29, 1859. It was adopted by the people at an election held October 4, 1859. It outlawed slavery but was far less progressive than the Leavenworth Constitution. Kansas was admitted into the Union as a free state under this constitution on January 29, 1861.
Kansas became the 34th state admitted to the Union on January 29, 1861. Three months thereafter, the Civil War would officially commence, although the fight between North and South had started in Kansas Territory years before.
The 1860s saw several important developments in the history of Kansas, including participation in the Civil War, the beginning of the cattle drives, the roots of Prohibition in Kansas (which would fully take hold in the 1880s), and the start of the Indian Wars on the western plains. James Lane was elected to the Senate from the state of Kansas in 1861, and reelected in 1865. Lane was despised throughout the entire Confederacy.
Great Seal of the State of Kansas was established by a joint resolution adopted by the Kansas Legislature May 25, 1861. The design for the Great Seal of Kansas was submitted by John James Ingalls, a state senator from Atchison. Ingalls also proposed the state motto, "Ad astra per aspera."Which also means to the stars through difficulty".
The time of the discovery of the precious metals in the mountains of Colorado, and the consequent crowding of the Cheyennes and Arapahoes toward the valleys of the Republican and Smoky Hill, may be considered the commencement of a series of aggressions and counter-aggressions between the native Americans and the miners and military of Colorado, which eventuated in April, 1864, in a war kept up for many months by the Indians upon frontier settlers in Kansas and Nebraska, upon travelers, ranch men end train men, culminating in November of the same year, in a wholesale slaughter of a band of Indians - mostly friendly Indians - who were encamped on Sand Creek near Fort Lyon in Colorado, on their own reservation, to which they had been ordered as a place of safety. This event is now known as the Sand Creek Massacre.
A restless energy was the controlling characteristic during these years - to take one's ease had ceased to be a thing to be desired; obstacles to be overcome were the desired objects, and to overcome them the grand aim of a typical Kansan's life. The war being ended, they turned to the most vigorous pursuit of the peaceful arts; they had conquered the right to the free soil they trod; henceforth their energies should be devoted to the development of its highest possibilities through every means which ingenuity could devise, patience endure, or energy execute.
In 1867, Joseph G. McCoy built stockyards in Abilene, Kansas and helped develop the Chisholm Trail, encouraging Texas cattlemen to undertake cattle drives to his stockyards from 1867 to 1887. The stockyards became the largest west of Kansas City. Once the cattle was drove north, they were shipped eastward from the railhead of the Kansas Pacific Railway.
In 1871, Wild Bill Hickok became marshal of Abilene, Kansas. His encounter there with John Wesley Hardin resulted in the latter fleeing the town after Wild Bill managed to disarm him. Hickok was also a deputy marshal at Fort Riley and a marshal at Hays in the wild west. In the 1880s at Greensburg, Kansas, the Big Well was built to provide water for the Santa Fe and Rock Island railroads. At deep and in diameter it is the world's largest hand-dug well. Coronado, Kansas, was established in 1885. It was involved in one of the bloodiest county seat fights in the history of the American West. The shoot-out on February 27, 1887, with boosters — some would say hired gunmen — from nearby Leoti left several people dead and wounded.
Between 1922 and 1927, there were several legal battles Kansas against the KKK, resulting in their expulsion from the state.
The flag of Kansas was designed in 1925. It was officially adopted by the Kansas State Legislature in 1927 and modified in 1961 (the word "Kansas" was added below the seal in gold block lettering). It was first flown at Fort Riley by Governor Ben S. Paulen in 1927 for the troops at Fort Riley and for the Kansas National Guard.
The Dust Bowl was a series of dust storms caused by a massive drought that began in 1930 and lasted until 1941. The effect of the drought combined with the effects of the Great Depression, forced many farmers off the land throughout the Great Plains. This ecological disaster caused a journey by a large group of residents to escape from the hostile environment of Kansas.
In May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education unanimously declared that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal" and, as such, violate the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees all citizens "equal protection of the laws." Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka explicitly outlawed de jure racial segregation of public education facilities (legal establishment of separate government-run schools for blacks and whites). The site consists of the Monroe Elementary School, one of the four segregated elementary schools for African American children in Topeka, Kansas (and the adjacent grounds).
During the 1950s and 1960s, intercontinental ballistic missiles (designed to carry a single nuclear warhead) were stationed throughout Kansas facilities. They were stored (to be launched from) hardened underground silos. The Kansas facilities were deactivated in the early 1980s.
On June 8th, 1966, Topeka, Kansas was struck by an F5 rated tornado, according to the Fujita scale. The "1966 Topeka tornado" started on the southwest side of town, moving northeast, hitting various landmarks (including Washburn University). Total dollar cost was put at $100 million.