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Kansas history tied to railroad development

Staff writer

In territorial Kansas, a fifth of all land was granted to railroad companies. The grants shaped settlements and business development in the state.

Leo Oliva of Woodston talked about the railroad’s impact on Kansas development at a program last week at Marion City Library.

Railroad companies chose where to lay tracks and sold land close to tracks at higher prices and land farther out at lower prices.

Native Americans were cleared from the route of western expansion, which also helped trigger slaughter of bison.

Indians, resisting having to relocate, launched attacks on railroads, but the development continued.

Some towns such as Florence and Marion were fortunate to have railroad service. That helped them thrive.

In 1879, land belonging to the Marion and McPherson railroad was leased to Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad. ATSF built rails from Florence to McPherson. That track was closed in 1968.

Others towns, such as the black settlement of Nicodemus in Graham County, were deliberately passed over by the railroad. There, the railroad routed to Bogue, itself established by the Union Pacific in 1888.

Bogue became a center of local commerce. Nicodemus, a small but growing community at that time, began to wither. Its 2020 census population was 14.

Last modified Oct. 27, 2022

 

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