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Kansas - Legends of Ahs Icon

LEGENDS OF KANSAS

Nicodemus - A Black Pioneer Town

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Nicodemus, Kansas 1885

Nicodemus, Kansas in 1885

This image available for photographic prints  and downloads HERE!

 

"I am anxious to reach your state ... because of the sacredness of her soil washed by the blood of humanitarians for the cause of freedom."

-- S.L. Johnson, black Louisianan in a letter to Kansas Governor John St John, 1879

 

Nicodemus, Kansas is the only remaining western community established by African Americans after the Civil War. Having an important role in American History, the town symbolizes the pioneering spirit of these ex-slaves who fled the war-torn South in search of "real” freedom and a chance to restart their lives. This "ghost town ” has since gained recognition as a National Historic Site.

 

In the late 1870’s the black population of the South was extremely restless, as the Reconstruction following the Civil War failed to bring the long awaited freedom, equality and prosperity.  Instead, they were racially oppressed, poverty-stricken, debt-ridden and starving.  

 

At this time, along came a white man by the name of W.R. Hill, who described a "Promise Land” in Kansas to black families in the backwoods of Kentucky and Tennessee.  Hill told of a sparsely settled territory with abundant wild game, wild horses that could be tamed, and an opportunity to own land through the homesteading process in Nicodemus, Kansas.

 

Heading to KansasThe town site of Nicodemus was planned in 1877 by W.R. Hill, a land developer from Indiana, and Reverend W.H. Smith, a black man, forming the Nicodemus Town Company. Reverend Smith became the President of the Town Company and Hill, the treasurer. Named for a legendary figure that came to America on a slave ship and later purchased his freedom, the two founders aggressively promoted the town to the black refugees of the Deep South.  The Reverend Simon P. Roundtree was the first settler, arriving on June 18, 1877.  Zack T. Fletcher and his wife, Jenny Smith Fletcher (the daughter of Reverend W.H. Smith) arrived in July and Fletcher was named the secretary of the Town Company. Smith, Roundtree, and the Fletchers made claims to their property and built temporary homes in dugouts along the prairie.  

 

The Nicodemus Town Company produced numerous circulars to promote the town, inviting "Colored People of the United States” to come and settle in the "Great Solomon Valley.” The Reverend Roundtree became actively involved in the promotion, and worked with a man by the name of  Benjamin "Pap" Singleton , a black carpenter from Nashville, who traveled all over distributing the circulars. Singleton, who could not read or write, distributed so many circulars that he was sometimes called the "Moses of the Colored Exodus." The Blacks who decided to emigrate soon acquired the name "Exodusters

 

The black refugees associated Kansas with the Underground Railroad and the fiery abolitionist John Brown, and were particularly responsive to opportunities to settle there. Handbills and flyers distributed by the Nicodemus Town Company portrayed Nicodemus as a place for African-Americans to establish Black self-government. At the same time, railroads, needing to populate the West to create markets for their services, exaggerated the qualities of the soils and climate in this "Western Eden.”

 

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Exodusters in Nicodemus Kansas.

Exodusters in Nicodemus Kansas.

This image available for photographic prints and  downloads HERE!

 

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From Legends' General Store

Kansas Historic Book Collection - 35 Historic Books on CDKansas Historic Book Collection - 35 Historic Books on CD - The Historical Kansas Book Collection is a collection of 35 volumes relating to the history of Kansas and its people primarily in the 18th and 19th centuries. Several of the volumes have great period illustrations and portraits of relevant historical figures. Includes such titles as the History of Kansas (1899), History of Kansas Newspapers (1916), All five volumes of A Standard History of Kansas (1918), Pioneer Days in Kansas (1903), and dozens of others.

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