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Nicodemus, Kansas - Page 2

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"When we got in sight of Nicodemus the men shouted, "There is Nicodemus!"   ...  My husband pointed out various smokes coming out of the ground and said, "That is Nicodemus." The families lived in dugouts.... The scenery was not at all inviting, and I began to cry."   

-- Williana Hickman, in the Spring of 1878

 

The desperate families of the South listened with rapt attention and in the late summer of 1877, 308 railroad tickets were purchased to take them to the closest railroad point in Ellis, Kansas Still fifty-five miles away, the families walked to Nicodemus, arriving in September 1877. Within one month the first black child was born in Graham County to Mr. and Mrs. Henry Williams

 Your ALT-Text here Building homes along the Soloman River in dugouts, the original settlers found more disappointment and privation as they faced adverse weather conditions. In the Promised Land of Kansas, they initially lacked sufficient tools, seed, and money, but managed to survive the first winter, some by selling buffalo bones, others by working for the Kansas Pacific Railroad at Ellis, 55 miles away. Yet, others survived only with the assistance of the Osage Indians, who provided food, firewood and staples.

Though most stayed, many were disillusioned by the lack of vegetation and the starkness of the land, quickly returning to the green fields of Kentucky and Tennessee. Of those who stayed, the spring of 1878 brought hope and opportunity as the new settlers began to farm the soil.

The spring of 1878 also heralded more "Exodusters ” from the South and a local government was established, headed by "President Smith.” One woman arriving in the spring, Williana Hickman said years later of arriving at Nicodemus, "... "When we got in sight of Nicodemus the men shouted, "There is Nicodemus!" Being very sick, I hailed this news with gladness. I looked with all the eyes I had. I said, "Where is Nicodemus? I don't see it." My husband pointed out various smokes coming out of the ground and said, "That is Nicodemus." The families lived in dugouts.... The scenery was not at all inviting, and I began to cry."

 

Despite the living conditions and their longing for the forested hills of Kentucky, Williana and her husband Reverend Daniel Hickman stayed, organizing the First Baptist Church in a dugout with a sod structure above it. By 1880, a small, one-room, stone sanctuary had been erected at the same site. This structure evolved from limestone to stucco, and in 1975, a new brick sanctuary was built. Today, the church still stands in Nicodemus.

 

Zachary FletcherZachary Fletcher, one of the town’s first settlers, became the first postmaster and the first entrepreneur in Nicodemus, establishing the St. Francis Hotel and a livery stable in 1880. His wife, Jenny Smith Fletcher, became the first postmistress and schoolteacher and one of the original charter members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The complex that Fletcher built, which housed the post office, school, hotel and stable, later became known as the Fletcher-Switzer House and was an important focus of activity in the community. The building still stands in Nicodemus today.

 

Jenny Smith FletcherBy 1880, Nicodemus had a population of almost 500, boasting a bank, two hotels, three churches, a newspaper, a drug store, and three general stores – surrounded by twelve square miles of cultivated land. As the town began, Governor John St. John made a speech welcoming the new arrivals. Then, possibly at the urging from S. J. Gilmore, land commissioner for the Kansas Pacific Railroad, who said of the blacks, "Indications are that we will be over run with them next year," Governor St. John began to discourage black immigrants and said that conditions in Kansas were not as promising as the blacks had been led to believe.

 

Edward P. McCabe, who joined the colony in 1878, served two terms as state auditor, 1883-1887, the first African American to hold a major state office.

 

By 1887 Nicodemus had gained more churches, stores, a literary society, an ice cream parlor, a lawyer, another newspaper, a baseball team, a benefit society and a band. Hopes were high in the community when the railroad talked of an extension from Stockton to Nicodemus and in March of 1887, the voters of Township approved the issuance of $16,000 in bonds to attract the Union Pacific Railroad to the community. Despite the bond issue, the town and the railroad could not agree on financial compensation and the railroad withdrew its offer. In 1888, the railroad established the extension six miles away south of the Solomon River. Leaving Nicodemus a stranded "island village,” businesses fled to the other side of the river to the Union Pacific Railroad camp that later became known as the town of Bogue. With the businesses leaving, Nicodemus began a long gradual decline.

 

 

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The First Baptist Church in 1943

 

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From Legends' Photo Shop

Legends Photo Prints and DownloadsPhoto Print Shop - Travel the trails of American History with our many photographs!  Just take a look at our galleries or purchase prints or downloads at very reasonable prices! Here, you'll see images of Route 66, Ghost Towns, scenic and historic views, roadside stops, and lots more. We also provide hundreds of vintage images that can be used for personal or commercial purposes.

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