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Settlement in Kansas

Volga Germans in Kansas

Settlement between 1830 and 1890 included thousands of American Indian tribes who were moved to the area from the East and Great Lakes area. After Kansas Territory was opened to settlement in 1854 people of European ancestry chose to move to the region, increasing in numbers with statehood in 1861.

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 resulted in the settlement of more than 10,000 American Indians to what is now Kansas. The Kickapoo, originally from Wisconsin, were removed to Kansas in 1832 from Missouri. In 1836 the Iowas from north of the Great Lakes were assigned a reservation in Kansas. In 1838 the Potawatomis began their move from northern Indiana. Treaties with the Sak and Fox of the Mississippi Valley from 1842 to 1861 ceded Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska lands to the United States, leaving small reserves in Doniphan and Osage counties. The Miamis were moved by barge from Indiana in 1846.

In 1854 the newly created territory of Kansas was opened for white settlement. It was not until after the Civil War, however, that Kansas experienced a significant increase in population. Free and cheap land provided by the Homestead Act and the railroads attracted many settlers. More than 70 percent of the immigrants arriving in these first two decades were engaged in agricultural pursuits. Agriculture remained the principal occupation for Kansans until the 1920s.

After the Civil War and before 1890 the population of Kansas increased by the greatest amount in its history. More than one million people streamed into Kansas seeking a new life on the frontier. If you had ancestors in Kansas more than 130 years ago, there's a good chance they came to claim the free land offered to settlers by the Homestead Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 1862. During the settlement period, some immigrants preferred to settle in communities with people who shared the same culture and language.

Nicodemus Following the Civil War, African Americans began to move from the South to seek better lives. Promoters encouraged black families to move to Graham County in western Kansas. By the summer of 1877, prior to the African American "exoduster" movement, 300 blacks established a new town called Nicodemus. Several African American settlements were established in other parts of the state.

Children without parents to care for them were given special help to come to Kansas. Some of these children were recent immigrants from Europe; others were abandoned or homeless American children. The Children's Aid Society of New York operated orphan trains between 1854 and 1929. Of the 150,000 children who left New York, nearly 5,000 of them were adopted by families in Kansas.

By the end of the 1800s, German-speaking people formed the largest group of new immigrants to Kansas. Many came from Germany but many others were living near the Volga River in Russia. They called themselves Volga-German or German-Russian.

Swedish pioneers who moved to central Kansas in the mid-1800s called their new home "framtidslandet," the land of the future. Many left Sweden when famine threatened starvation. The Swedish immigrants, in turn, encouraged their friends and family to join them.

Mexican workers came to Kansas during the construction of the railroads. They also found work in sugar beet production and later in manufacturing. Mexican immigrants settled in the southwest part of the state and in other areas where they found employment opportunities.

The Hmong originally lived in the mountains of southern China. They were were pushed into inhospitable lands with the growth of the Han Chinese civilization that eventually resulted in an exodus of Hmong into nations to the south. The Hmong of Laos fled the country after the Vietnam War and some settled in southwest and other parts of Kansas in the 1970s.

Entry: Settlement in 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: November 2001

Date Modified: April 2015

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