Kansas Emigration and Immigration
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Kansas was considered part of the Great American Desert and did not attract white settlers until the 1850s. The early settlers generally arrived from the states of Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. A significant number came from the New England states in 1854 and 1855, aided by the New England Emigrant Aid Company. Other families immigrated from the British Isles and Germany.
After the Civil War, many Union veterans settled in Kansas when the Homestead Act (1862) and other public laws opened the land for settlement. Many were from the Ohio River Valley (especially Kentucky and Tennessee) and from the Middle Atlantic and New England states. By 1870 many of the Indian tribes had been removed to what is now Oklahoma, although Potawatomi, Sauk, Fox, and Kickapoo Indians still live on small reservations in the state.
About 7,000 blacks from Tennessee settled in Cherokee County beginning in 1873, and several thousand blacks came from the lower Mississippi Valley states to Kansas City in the "Great Exodus" of 1879 and 1880.
The post-Civil War boom also attracted new settlers from overseas. Between 1870 and 1890, many Scandinavians and thousands of Germans from Russia joined the immigration to Kansas, as did smaller groups of Czechs and French. Settlement of Kansas progressed from east to west until by about 1890 all areas of the state had been settled.
Religious groups also established some of the early settlements in Kansas. These included Quakers, River Brethren, Dunkards and German Baptists, and Mennonites from southern Russia.
A new wave of immigration from other countries began about 1895 and continued until 1915. During this period, small groups arrived from Mexico, Italy, Greece, and Yugoslavia.
Most overseas immigrants came through east coast ports, especially New York. They then proceeded by railway inland to Kansas. Some earlier immigrants landed at the port of New Orleans and then took steamboats upriver to Kansas. The Family History Library and the National Archives have passenger lists or indexes of American ports for 1820 to 1940.
More detailed information on immigration sources is in United States Emigration and Immigration. Further information on settlement patterns can be found in:
- Robertson, Clara H. Kansas Territorial Settlers of 1860 Who Were Born in Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1976. (Family History Library book 978.1 H2ro.)
- Carman, J. Neale. Foreign-Language Units of Kansas. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1962. (Family History Library book 978.1 F2c vol. 1.) Volume 1 is Historical Atlas and Statistics.
Records of major ethnic groups, including Czechs, Swedes, and Mennonites from Russia, are listed in the FamilySearch Catalog under KANSAS - MINORITIES. Other sources are listed under KANSAS - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION. Records of American Indians are listed under KANSAS - NATIVE RACES and in the Subject Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under the names of the tribe.
National Orphan Train Complex
300 Washington Street
P.O. Box 322
Concordia, Kansas 66901
Many children came to Kansas on the "orphan trains." The Orphan Train Complex, centered in Kansas, is dedicated to preserving the stories and artifacts of those who were part of the Orphan Train Movement from 1854-1929