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Kansas State History

History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People


1541—Spaniard Francisco Vasquez explored Kansas in search of gold

1673—The French arrive and explore Kansas

1803—The United States purchases the Louisiana Purchase

1806—Zebulon Pike explores Kansas and reports bad farming land

1821—The Santa Fe Trail is established from Missouri to New Mexico

1827—Fort Leavenworth, the first outpost in Kansas, is established

1830—Congress passes the Indian Removal Bill

1854—Kansas becomes a territory

1861—Kansas becomes the 34th state

1954—The US Supreme Court declares segregation in public schools illegal in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka

When Spain explored the area that is now Kansas in 1541, they found Native American Wichita and Pawnee living there.  In 1673, the first French explorers arrived from Canada.

In 1803, the United States purchased Kansas in the Louisiana Purchase, from France.  In 1806, Zebulon Pike, an American explorer, told the government that the land was not good for farming.  Congress passed the Indian Removal Bill in 1830, forcing Native Americans from the East onto reservations in Kansas.

In 1821, William Becknell was the first to travel the Santa Fe Trail. He successfully traded goods with the Spanish of the Southwest.  As gold was discovered in California, others soon followed and military forts were built along the way to protect them from the Indians.  As people went along the Oregon Trail, they traveled through Kansas.  Some of these people believed the land to be good and in 1854 the Kansas-Nebraska Act created Kansas as a territory and allowed white people to settle there.

During this time slavery was dividing the nation.  The US government decided to let the people of Kansas vote for or against slavery.  People who didn’t want slavery quickly moved to Kansas hoping they could outnumber those moving from Missouri, who did want it.  There were many fights between these people, but eventually those against slavery won.  Because of the great violence during this time, Kansas became known as “Bleeding Kansas.”

On January 29, 1861, Kansas became the 24th state in the union.  The state constitution prohibited slavery, but did not stop the bloodshed.  The Civil War began two months later.  One of the largest civilian massacres in history occurred on August 21, 1863 when men favoring slavery raided Lawrence.  Many Kansans fought for the United States and eventually won the war.

Kansans started raising cattle in the 1880s.  Railroads were now built across the state.  Oil discovered near Neodesha created an economic boom for Kansas.  By 1915, Kansas became a leading mining state.

Drought stretched throughout the Midwest during the 1930s.  The Dust Bowl ruined topsoil from Texas to North Dakota, hurting farmers.  When the Great Depression hit many lost their lands.

World War II started in 1941.  Aircrafts for the war were made in Wichita.  General Dwight D. Eisenhower from Abilene, led soldiers into Europe, and helped the U.S. to win the war.  He later would serve as the President of the United States from 1953 to 1961.

Drought hit Kansas again in the 1950s, but improved technology helped to save most of the crops.  Irrigation with ground water was also developed at this time, allowing corn and grain to be grown with little rainfall.  Agriculture remained important economically, but the population began shifting urban.

In 1986, Kansas approved an increase in tax revenue to help the growing demand of water and weaknesses in the economy.  A state lottery was also created.