Kansas History

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The following important events in the history of Kansas affected political boundaries, record keeping, and family movements:

1803:The United States acquired Kansas from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

1804-1820: United States government expeditions explored the Kansas region, reporting it to be an arid wasteland. The resulting myth of the Great American Desert discouraged early white settlement.

1821: The Santa Fe Trail across Kansas was opened. It served as a wagon road from Missouri to the Southwest until 1880, when the railroad was completed.

1827-1853: The United States Army built forts and roads in Kansas for frontier defense and to protect trade along the Santa Fe Trail.

1830-1854: Kansas was part of Indian Territory, where 20 tribes from the east were relocated. The Indian Territory was closed to white settlement.

1854:The Kansas-Nebraska Act created two territories extending from the Missouri border westward to the tops of the Rocky Mountains and opened the area to white settlement. Migration to Kansas was stimulated by rivalry between North and South over the slavery issue and over the choice of a railroad route to the Pacific.

1861: Kansas, with its present boundaries, was admitted to the Union as a free state.

1861-1865: In the Civil War, over 20,000 of the 30,000 Kansas men of military age served in the Union armed forces. Kansas suffered the highest mortality rate of any state in the Union.

1867: Many of the remaining Indian tribes agreed to leave Kansas and move to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma. Indian skirmishes continued in Kansas until 1878.

1870-1890: The post-Civil War boom brought thousands of settlers to build new railroads and to claim land under the Homestead Act.

An especially helpful source for studying the history of Kansas is John D. Bright, ed., Kansas: The First Century, 4 vols. (New York, New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1956; FHL book 978.1 H2k). This includes family and personal histories.