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Graham County, Kansas

Graham County, Kansas, is important in the Exoduster Migration movement, the immigration of blacks from the South in 1870’s. Nicodemus, was once a prospering community started with the help of Exoduster leader Benjamin “Pap” Singleton in 1877.

Graham County, organized in 1880, was named after Captain John L. Graham who was killed during in 1863, while fighting in the Civil War’s Battle of Chickamauga. Before the county was settled, the Comanche Indians lived in the area.

The original county seat was Millbrook, but it was moved to Hill City in 1888, after a tornado swept through Millbrook the year before. 

There was a rather large migration of blacks from the South during the 1870’s, and one such community that was established from that migration was Nicodemus. Nicodemus’s founding was helped by Benjamin “Pap” Singleton. Singleton was a leader in the black migration movement of the time and helped in establishing many colonies for the immigrating peoples. Soon Nicodemus was prospering and an active social community. The town prospered into the 20th century but did eventually experience a decline in population.

Farming, ranching, and grain storage are important to the industry of Graham County. During the mid-20th Century, the oil industry was also important. The Union Pacific Railroad’s “Plainville Branch” ran through and had several stops in Graham County. The county’s population suffered greatly during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl years of the 1930’s.

Graham County possesses properties on the National Register of Historic Places such as the Nicodemus Historic District and the Penokee Stone Figure. Notable people with connections to Graham County include, schoolteacher, lawyer and eventual Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court John S. Dawson, and Jay S. Parker, who was also Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court.

Quick Facts

Date Established: February 26, 1887
Date Organized: April 1, 1880
County Seat: Hill City
Kansas Region: Northwest
Physiographic Region: High Plains and Smoky Hills
Courthouse: 1958


1867 - Graham county is established.
1877 - Nicodemus is founded.
1880 - Graham County is organized.
1930 - Population of county suffers extensively due to the Great Depression.

More on Graham County


Entry: Graham County, Kansas

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: February 2010

Date Modified: August 2023

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.