|Friday, Sep 20, 2013|
Established in 1877, Nicodemus, Kansas, is the only remaining western town established by African Americans during the Reconstruction Period following the Civil War. Abram T. Hall, recalling his trip from Ellis to Nicodemus in 1878 during the second wave of settlement said, "by noon we had crossed the Saline river, where we stopped to rest the team horses, and refresh ourselves. It had been agreed that our night camp should be pitched at Happy Hollow, about half way of the remaining distance."
On August 20th the National Park Service co-hosted a community learning experience “The Journey from Ellis to Nicodemus.” The group of NPS staff, Nicodemus Historical Society representatives and community members followed the intrepid route from the train depot in Ellis, Kansas to Nicodemus, Kansas that the founders of Nicodemus walked. The bus trip included stops at the Ellis train depot, and the landmarks at ‘happy hallow’ and ‘the mound’ mentioned in historical documents.
Angela Bates and Thomas Wellington, of the Nicodemus Historical Society, provided great insight into the journey and its challenges as well as the assistance provided by the Osage tribe to early Nicodemus settlers. The tour also stopped at the Walz farm and learned about the original trail crossing their property as noted in family history, as well as wagon ruts, paleontological sites and a World War II bombing range. It was a great day to get out and learn about the rich history of Nicodemus and this area of Kansas. A special thanks to Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve for providing the bus and driver for this expedition.
The town of Nicodemus is symbolic of the pioneer spirit of African Americans. They dared to leave the only region they had been familiar with to seek personal freedom and the opportunity to develop their talents and capabilities. Nicodemus NHS represents the western expansion and settlement of the Great Plains, and includes five buildings: The First Baptist Church, St. Francis Hotel, Nicodemus School District Number One, African Episcopal Church, and Township Hall.