Kansas History Timeline

Important Dates, Events, and Milestones in Kansas History

Offers a chronological timeline of important dates, events, and milestones in Kansas history.

Around 12000BCE the first humans inhabit the area now known as Kansas. On and about 1000BCE the native peoples of Kansas depend upon bison hunting and the cultivation of corn, squash, and beans. As the population grows, they construct villages and trade with tribes from other regions, particularly the Pueblo in the Southwest. By the time Europeans arrive, the tribes living in the area include the Pawnee, Kansa, Wichita, and Apache.

Kansas, situated on the American Great Plains, became the 34th state on January 29, 1861. Its path to statehood was long and bloody: After the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 opened the two territories to settlement and allowed the new settlers to determine whether the states would be admitted to the union as "free" or "slave," North and South competed to send the most settlers into the region.

16th Century Kansas History Timeline

1541 - The Spanish explorer, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, marched north from Mexico in search of the Seven Golden Cities of Cibola.

1542 - Father Juan de Padilla, a priest who had accompanied Coronado, returned to Kansas. He hoped to bring Christianity to the Indians. He was killed, however, by those he tried to help. Father Padilla is said to have been the first Christian martyr in America.

17th Century Kansas History Timeline

1600's - Kansa and Osage Indians arrive in Kansas.

1650 - Taos Indians irrigate lands along Beaver creek in Scott County.

18th Century Kansas History Timeline

1724 - French trader/explorer Etienne Veniard de Bourgmont, led an expedition into what are now Atchison and Doniphan counties to establish trade relations with the Indians of the Platte River region.

1739 - Pierre and Paul Mallet lead a party of French traders through Kansas.

1744 - French build Fort Cavagnial near present site of Fort Leavenworth; closed 1764

1762 - France lost the territory of Kansas to Spain.

1790's - Fur-trading Chouteau family begins trading with Kansa Indians

19th Century Kansas History Timeline

1803 - The United States concluded a "deal" when it signed an agreement to purchase the entire Lousiana Territory from France on Apr 30, 1803. This transaction ended the trading era for Kansas and brought forth the exploration of a new American settlement.

1804-1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition.

1804 -

  • June/July - Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, while exploring the Louisiana Purchase by order of President Thomas Jefferson, made camp at several points in the Leavenworth area on the Kansas side of the Missouri River.
  • July 4 - At the present location of Atchison, the Lewis and Clark group celebrated what was probably the first Independence Day in Kansas by firing a swivel gun. Later they named Independence Creek and closed the day with another cannon blast.

1806 -

  • September 26/29 - When the "Stars and Stripes" (American flag) were first raised in Kansas by a Pawnee Indian Chief.
  • Lt. Zebulon Pike of the US Army crossed the KS area on an exploring expedition during which he met with the Indians and signed treaties with them as the representative of the new "White Father." He continued westward on this journey to discover the mountain that is now called Pike's Peak.

1811 - George C. Sibley, government trader, works among Osage Indians

1819 -

  • Stephen H. Long's party explores portions of Kansas.
  • The Western Engineer was the first steamer to enter the Kansas river.

1821 - William Becknell, a Missouri trader, was the first to follow the route that later became known as the Santa Fe Trail.

1822 - William Becknell used wagons instead of pack mules or horses to take trade goods over the Santa Fe Trail. Because Becknell found a good mode of transportation and a passable wagon route, he is credited as the Father of the Santa Fe Trail.

1825 -

  • June - The necessary treaties were negotiated between the federal government and the Kansa and Osage tribes for a cession of Kansa-Osage land onto which eastern Indians could be moved.
  • Right-of-way for trail to Santa Fe granted by treaty with Osage Indians at Council Grove

1827 - May 8 - Fort Leavenworth, first known as Cantonment Leavenworth, was established by Col. Henry Leavenworth on the Missouri River's right bank of Salt Creek as an army post to protect the western frontier and travelers on the Santa Fe Trail.

1829 -

  • Sublette's pack-train, en route West by way of Independence, Missouri for the first time traveled out the Santa Fe Trail some distance before turning northwest toward the Kansas river. This became the established Oregon-California trail route.
  • The largest and historically most important of all the Kansas missions was the Shawnee Methodist, opened as a school by the Reverend Thomas Johnson and his wife in 1829, on the site of present-day Turner (part of Greater Kansas City).

1830 -

  • May - The Indian Removal Bill of 1830 uprooted the Kickapoo, Shawnee, Delaware, Pottawatomie, Wyandot, Ottawa, Chippewa, Iowa, Miami and Sac and Fox tribes. An "Act to provide for an exchange of lands with the Indians residing within any of the states or territories, and for their removal west of the river Mississippi" was passed by Congress and signed by President Andrew Jackson.
  • William L. Sublette took the first wagons along the route (Oregon Trail) to the Rocky Mountains.

1831 - Isaac McCoy was instrumental in founding the Shawnee Baptist Mission opened by Johnston Lykins in July. It was located a few miles south and west of the Kansas River mouth in that is now Johnson County.

1833 - Jotham Meeker came to the Shawnee Baptist Mission, bringing with him the first printing press to be set up on Kansas soil.

1834 - Bent's Fort (Fort William), a fur trade post on the upper Arkansas, was established. A Bent, St. Vrain and Company party (with wagons) eastbound from Santa Fe, NM in the late summer traveled by way of Taos and Raton Pass to Fort William; then they came down the Arkansas to the Santa Fe Trail; thus, opening the Bent's Fort branch of the Santa Fe Trail.

1835 - The Kansa, or Kaw were a small tribe; only 1,606 of them would be counted when a census was made in 1835.

1839 - The Shawnee Methodist Mission was relocated in 1839 on a 2,240-acre grant some two miles southwest of Westport, Missouri (also now smothered by Kansas City), in what became Kansas's Johnson County. Here was established a large diversified farming enterprise, including a twelve-acre apple orchard, the first on Kansas soil.

1841 - First emigrant wagon train for the Pacific. The Bidwell-Bartleson party's journey west was from Independence, Missouri, via "Sublette's Trace" (or, the now developing Oregon-California trail).

1842 -

  • Fort Scott, named in honor of General Winfield Scott, was established May 30, 1842 at Marmaton crossing of the Fort Leavenworth-Fort Gibson military road.
  • John C. Fremont, the "Path Finder," travels through northeastern Kansas

1843 - First settlement at present site of Kansas City, Kansas

1844 - The first free school was established by the Wyandot Indians.

1846 -

  • Crossing points above St. Joseph, Missouri, such as Iowa Point (Doniphan County - first settled in 1854) and Elizabethtown, used by Pacific-bound emigrants this year, and subsequently.
  • Spring - The Kansa (Kaw) Indians signed a treaty with the government, ceding their reservation land along the Kansas River near Topeka of 2 million acres in exchange for a new but smaller reservation located along the upper valley of the Neosho River, in what is now Morris County.

1847 - A reservation 20 miles square was established in April of 1847 in what is now Morris County near Council Grove. The Kaw Indians were relocated from their reservation near Topeka and moved on to the land embraced within the limits of the reservation. They remained on the Kaw reservation until 1873.

1849-1850 - The Kaw Mission at Council Grove was built by the Methodist Episcopal Church South with government funding to serve as a school to educate the Kaw Indians after they were relocated from their reservation near Topeka in 1847. Thomas S. Huffaker contracted to teach the school. He acted in the capacity of the teacher until 1854 when the school was closed. The Kaw Mission later became a first school for the settlers' children.

1850 - Fort Atkinson was established by Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Vose Sumner, 1st U. S. Dragoons on 8 Aug 1850. It was located about two miles west of the present Dodge City, on the left side of the Arkansas River near the site of old Fort Mann. Intended to control the Indians and protect the Santa Fe Trail. This small army post was made entirely of sod buildings.

1852 - Flour milling got its start in Kansas by Mattitins Splitlog in Kansas City.

1853 -

  • Fort Riley was established in Kansas Territory by Captain Charles S. Lovell, 6th US Infantry, on a site recommended by Colonel Thomas T. Flauntleroy, 1st U. S. Dragoons on May 17, 1853 .
  • In the summer of 1853, George W. Manypenny, US commissioner of Indian affairs, under a directive from Congress, came into the valleys of the Kaw and Neosho to negotiate treaties with Indians to resede to the US Government all but a fraction of the land that, a quarter-century before, had been assigned them "forever." Manypenny was reluctant to do so.

1854 -

  • Fort Atkinson was abandoned due to the poor condition of the sod buildings.
  • Col. Cyrus K. Holliday came to "Topeka, Kansas Territory." Holliday was a founder of Topeka and promoter of the Santa Fe Railroad.
  • May 30 - Kansas-Nebraska Act passes US Congress--territories of Kansas and of Nebraska established.
  • The Kansas-Nebraska Act was responsible for causing the label "Bleeding Kansas." The incorporation of popular sovereignty made the territory's residents (not the Federal government) responsible for the question of slavery in their own backyard. The proximity of Kansas to slave-owning Missouri and the lack of any natural border between the two regions prompted an influx of Pro-slavery individuals into the new territory when it opened up for settlement.
  • Andrew H. Reeder was appointed the first territorial governor of Kansas by President Franklin Pierce.
  • November 29 - Andrew H. Reeder was the first territorial governor of Kansas who called an election to choose a delegate to congress.
  • The New England Emigrant Aid Society in Boston, MA was a company interested in peopling the frontier with anti slavery (abolitionist) settlers. 1854 - This company helped to found Lawrence, Kansas (town named after Amos A. Lawrence, promoter of the Emigrant Aid Society), which then became the center of Free-State activities.
  • Topeka was founded by five antislavery activists
  • Swiss immigrants first arrived and settled in Pottawatomie (Onaga) and Nemaha (Bern, Neuchatel) and Allen (Geneva) Counties.

1855 -

  • The Valley Falls Mill was built by Isaac Cody (father of Bill Cody).
  • A free-state constitution was framed in Topeka. It did not receive serious consideration in Congress.
  • July - The first territorial Capitol of Kansas was built of native stone at Pawnee on the Fort Riley reservation.

1856 -

  • Cholera raged at Fort Riley.
  • August - John Brown and 40 defenders were attacked by an army of 400/600 pro slavery Missourians. In this raid on Osawatomie, the settlement (all but four homes) was burned by the invaders and John Brown's son Frederick was killed. Four wagon loads of dead and wounded were brought into Booneville, Missouri when the invading army returned.

1857 -

  • A pro slavery constitution, if Kansas is admitted as a slave state, was drafted at Lecompton. The constitution was adopted in an election in which free state men refused to vote and later was rejected at a second election in which the pro slavery men took no part.
  • A third constitutional convention convened at Leavenworth, and the constitution drafted there was adopted by the people in 1858, but this too failed final acceptance.
  • A group of German Immigrants settled in Allen County and founded Humboldt and Iola, and settled in Wabaunsee County and founded Alma. Germans were located in all counties and had large settlements in Kansas City, Leavenworth (Leavenworth County), Seneca (Nemaha County) and Topeka (Shawnee County).
  • The Hays House, said to be the oldest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi River, was founded by Seth M. Hays at Council Grove.
  • The Last Chance Store, built in 1857 at Council Grove, was the last chance for those headed to Santa Fe to stock up on supplies.

1858 -

  • May 19 - The Marais Des Cygnes River at Pleasanton in Linn County is the site of a famous confrontation between pro slavery ("Border Ruffians") and abolition (free-state) forces. The five victims of the massacre were immortalized as martyrs in the cause for freedom. This massacre was the last significant display of mob rule in Kansas.

1859 -

  • May - The Republican party was formally organized at Osawatomie.
  • Jul - The fourth and last constitutional convention assembled at Wyandotte, now part of Kansas City. This time free state advocates were solidly in control, and the document they drafted barred slavery and fixed the present boundaries of the state. It was accepted by a vote of the people in October, and in December a provisional state government was elected.
  • October 22 - "Camp on Pawnee Fork" and Camp Alert, as Fort Larned was first known, was established as a military post to protect travelers and commerce and mail on the Santa Fe Trail from Indians. It also provided a more centralized point for the distribution of annuities, as provided by treaty, to the Indians.
  • During his visit to Kansas, President Abraham Lincoln spoke at the famous Planters Hotel.
  • November 30 - President Abraham Lincoln said, "No other territory has ever had such a history" in his first speech in Elwood.
  • December - President Lincoln visits Kansas.

1859-1860 - During the winter W. H. Russell, of the firm of Russell, Majors and Waddell, completed plans for the two thousand mile Pony Express between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California.

1860 -

  • Beginnings of the oil industry in Kansas date from 1860 although large scale development was delayed because of a lock of commercial market.
  • Irish, some from big cities in the US, were located in large numbers near Chapman (Dickinson County), near Seneca (Nemaha County), and in Pottawatomie County, and at Boston (Chautauqua County).
  • Pony Express operation begins; St. Joseph, Missouri--through northeast Kansas--to Sacramento, California It operated less than a year and a half (1860-1862).
  • Mennonite Brethren split from what is now the General Conference Mennonite Church (Bethel College variety) back in Russia. There were strong feelings over the split carried over into America. As a result, many small towns in Kansas have both varieties of churches, and two different colleges were founded, Bethel and Tabor.
  • February 23 - The legislature passed a bill over the governor's veto abolishing slavery in Kansas.

1861 -

  • January 29 - Kansas was admitted into the Union as the 34th state. Topeka became the state Capitol.
  • April - Civil War: In answer to President Lincoln's first call for troops in April, Kansas supplied 650 men. Before the war ended in 1865, Kansas contributed 20,097 men to the Union Army, a remarkable record since the population included less than 30,000 men of military age. Kansas also suffered the highest mortality rate of any of the Union states. Of the black troops in the Union army, 2,080 were credited to Kansas, though the 1860 census listed fewer than 300 blacks of military age in the state; most of them came from Arkansas and Missouri.
  • Kansas women were given the right to vote in school elections, far earlier than in most states.

1862 -

  • February 7 - The state Capitol stands on 20 acres of ground donated to the state by Cyrus K. Holliday. The Legislature accepted the block of land by a joint resolution approved.
  • May 20 - The Homestead Act greatly aided in the opening of the country after the Civil War.

1863 -

  • August 21 - Surprise attack at Lawrence by Confederate guerillas led by William C. Quantrill. Only 150 of the 2,000 residents were killed in the raid. The city (not the whole town) was sacked and burned, and about $1.5 million worth of property was destroyed.
  • Kansas State University was the second state agricultural college in the United States to be founded.

1864 -

  • August - The original post (Fort Harker #1) was established by troops of the 7th Iowa Cavalry under the command of 2nd Lieutenant Allen Ellsworth by order of Major General Samuel R. Curtis to protect the more remote frontier settlements. Originally called Fort Ellsworth, for Lt. Ellsworth. Originally located on the left bank of the Smoky Hill River at the point where the Santa Fe stage route crossed the River, about 3-4 miles southeast of the present town of Ellsworth.
  • September 6 - Fort Zarah was established on the banks of Walnut Creek near the crossroads of the Santa Fe Trail, the army supply route from Fort Riley, and the main Indian trail. In 1867 Fort Zarah was relocated in stone buildings two miles downstream near the Arkansas River. Fort Zarah was abandoned December 4, 1869 as the Indian problem moved southwestward.
  • October 25 - During retreat of General Sterling Price's Rebel Army from Westport (Kansas City, Missouri), Union troops under General Samuel Curtis win decisive victory at Battle of Mine Creek, Linn County.
  • Indians begin attacks on frontier settlements.
  • Jim R. Mead became the first white settler at Wichita when he opened a trading post on the site of Wichita, Kansas.

1865 -

  • Wichita was plotted during this year.
  • Civil War ended.
  • After the Civil War, Jesse Chisholm pioneered the Chisholm Trail when Jim R. Mead sent him into the southwest (south from Kansas to the Red River) with a wagon load of goods to trade with the Indians for buffalo hides.
  • April 10 - Fort Dodge was established by Captain Henry Pierce, 11th Kansas Cavalry, by order of Major General Grenville M. Dodge, commanding the department. Although there is some doubt, the post was probably named for Colonel Henry Dodge, 1st U. S. Dragoons. Fort Dodge was established to protect the Santa Fe Trail from Indians.
  • September - Fort Aubrey was established early in September 1865 by Captain Adolph Whitman, 48th Wisconsin Infantry, in the present Hamilton County at the head of Spring Creek. The site was originally recommended by Francis Xavier Aubry (1824-1854), trader and explorer, who was killed in Santa Fe 18 Aug 1854, and for whom the post was named.
  • October 11 - Fort Fletcher was established as a frontier military post to protect military roads, defend construction gangs on the Union Pacific Railroad, and guard the US mail. The post was first designated Fort Fletcher, in honor of Governor Thomas C. Fletcher of Missouri.

1866 -

  • Construction of the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka began.
  • The first Kansas orphanage, St. Vincent's Home, was opened by the Sisters of Charity.
  • November - Fort Fletcher renamed Fort Hays.

1867 -

  • Buffalo Bill Cody co-founder of Rome, Kansas.
  • July 4 - Fort Hays relocated.

1867-1872 - More than three million head of Texas longhorn cattle were driven up the Chisholm Trail to the Union Pacific (later the Kansas Pacific) Railroad shipping center at Abilene.

1867-1868 - A great famine in Sweden combined with the discontent bred by repressive government made the American advertisement of land and freedom particularly attractive to Swedes. The third largest foreign-born group in nineteenth-century Kansas came from Sweden. The primary colony from Sweden was at Lindsborg in McPherson County. The settlement at (New) Scandia in Republic County was promoted by the Scandinavian Agricultural Society of Chicago. Swedish influence was also in Osage County and the Blue River parts of Riley and Pottawatomie counties.

1867 -

  • Joseph G. McCoy arrived at Abilene, the end of the extended Chisholm Trail, and built stockyards that he advertised throughout Texas.
  • Indian attacks reached their height in Kansas, when nearly 130 settlers were killed.
  • June 5 - The first recorded Indian attack at Henshaw Station, when the Indians killed four men and stampeded the horses. At the time the station was guarded by only ten soldiers and two stock traders, so pursuit of the Indians was out of the question.
  • One Indian raid occurred at a small settlement called Brookville. When a large body of Indians attacked the town, the settlers rushed to the roundhouse where a barricade was hastily thrown up. The Indians surrounded the building, piled Railroad ties against it, and tried to set the structure on fire. Railroad crew members jumped on an engine already under steam, crashed it through the doors of the roundhouse, around the turntable, and with whistle and bell sounding, headed for Salina to get help. When the engine reached Salina, a dead Indian was found lying on a wheel.
  • The Indian Peace Treaty Monument of Medicine Lodge commemorates the signing of the peace treaty between the US and the Indian tribes.

1868 -

  • Jesse Chisholm died at Left Hand Spring near modern Geary, Oklahoma, in 1868, about the time the traders' routes across Indian Territory became the Chisholm Trail, used as a cattle highway by Texas ranchers moving their longhorns to railheads in Kansas.
  • Col. George A. Forsyth and his command were on Arikaree Creek, a fork of the Republican River, five miles due west of Kansas's northwest corner. They were surrounded by nearly a thousand Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Sioux on 17 Sep 1868 . They retreated to an "island" (sandbar) in the Arikaree and dug-in. They suffered heavy losses, including the company's surgeon and its second-in-command, Lt. Fred H. Beecher (he was nephew of Henry Ward Beecher, of Harriet Beecher Stowe). The US Army officially named this the Battle of Beecher Island in honor of Lieutenant Beecher.
  • Nineteenth Kansas Cavalry mustered in for Indian Wars.

1869 -

  • Sioux and Cheyenne raid northwestern Kansas.
  • Ernest Valeton de Boissiere established a communal French colony in Franklin County introducing silk to Kansas.
  • Wild Bill Hickok, special marshall of Hays City, Kansas.

1870 -

Brookville Hotel in Brookville, Kansas was built. It is famous for it's family style chicken dinners.

1870's -

  • Pittsburg - Crawford County, the coal metropolis of Kansas was founded as a mining camp during the 1870's. Name that came from the coal region of Pennsylvania to the coal region of Kansas.
  • The Bender family lived on the road south from Independence in Montgomery County, halfway between the "Little House on the Prairie" and Independence, and near a land mark known as Bender Mounds. People disappeared on that road and they were never heard of again. Occasionally the Benders invited travelers to stay for dinner. These itinerants were then murdered and robbed of their valuables.
  • Bethel College at Newton was founded by Swiss and German Mennonites from Russia; what is now the General Conference Mennonite Church.

1870-1871 - After the Civil War, many families came from Clermont County, Ohio and settled on the high prairie in what is now known as Ohio Township in the northwest part of Morris County. On their way, they laid over at Topeka where they met others from Clermont County, Ohio.

1871 -

  • Many Italian and other immigrants came to the coal mining region of southeast Kansas.
    Crawford County: Arma, Bruce; Mulberry, Pittsburg, Litchfield.
    Cherokee County: Stilson/Scammon, Wier City, West Mineral.
  • About then coal mines were opened near Mulberry - Crawford County. This was also about the date of transition from the name Mulberry Grove to Mulberry.
  • April 15 - James Butler Hickok replaced Tom Smith as Marshal of Abilene.
  • July - The Santa Fe Railroad extended its line to Newton, Kansas, which then succeeded Abilene as the terminus of the Chisholm Trail. The cattle boom at Newton only lasted a year for the railroad was soon extended to Wichita.
  • August - During this period there was considerable violence in the saloons and dance halls at Newton, with nine men being shot down in one shootout.

1872 -

  • "Home on the Range" song words written in Smith County by Dr. Brewster M. Higley, M.D.
  • Ellsworth succeeded Abilene as the northern terminus (shipping point) of the Texas cattle trail.
  • A branch of the Santa Fe Railroad arrived at Wichita, and the town "busted-wide-open." A sign was erected at the outskirts of town proclaiming: "Everything goes in Wichita."
  • When the Santa Fe Railroad was completed to the Colorado border, the days of the Santa Fe Trail as a main transportation route were over.

1873 - The Kaw Indians were removed from their reservation in Morris County to Oklahoma Territory, thus opening this land for white settlement.

1873-1874 - German Mennonite immigration to Kansas and South Dakota from Russia. Southeast McPherson and adjoining Marion (Hillsboro), Harvey (Halstead-where they built a flour mill by the Little Arkansas River, North Newton), and Reno (Buhler-one of the oldest Mennonite Brethren churches in Kansas) counties became the home of German-Russian Mennonites.

1874 -

  • March - The Kansas legislature amended the state militia law. This allowed anyone who objected to military service on religious grounds to obtain release. All they had to do was sign a declaration of objection in the county clerk's office.
  • July 31/Sep - Grasshopper plague (Rocky Mountain Locust) visited Kansas. The grasshopper invasion devastated crops (corn) in Kansas and many people lost nearly everything. Aid (clothes, provisions and money) was sent from the East to help the people get through the hard winter.
  • Four Kansas Railroads shipped 122,914 head of Texas cattle in eight months.

1874-1875 - Mennonites from Russia introduced Turkey Red wheat to Kansas.

Mid 1870's - Small western towns such as Catherine, Munjor, Pfeifer, Schoenchen and Liebenthal were founded in the middle 1870's by Volga Germans, German catholics who emigrated from Russia.

1875 -

  • The Kansas State Historical Society was organized.
  • Most buffalo in Kansas have been destroyed

1876 - State legislature abolishes color distinction from Kansas law.

1878 -

  • Robert Layton took advantage of the available fuel at Pittsburg, Crawford County and established a zinc smelter. Pittsburg became the center of the leading zinc-smelting area in the United States.
  • Prag, a Czech Community in Rawlins County is mentioned in a report submitted by Captain William G. Wedemeyer of the 16th Infantry, regarding losses suffered by settlers during the 1878 Cheyenne raid in Northwestern Kansas.
  • September 27 - Chiefs Dull Knife and Little Wolf of the Northern Cheyenne led their people in a rebellion and flight from confinement and starvation on the reservation in Oklahoma (Indian Territory) to their home lands in Yellowstone. The trek climaxed on September 27, 1878, when 284 braves, women and children made their final stand on the bluffs of Ladder Creek, now Beaver Creek, just south of Scott County State Park. This encounter with the US Cavalry was the last Indian battle in Kansas. The site - Squaws Den Battleground - drew its name from the pit in which the women and children were placed after helping to dig rifle pits for the warriors.
  • The last Indian raid in Decatur County, Kansas in 1878.

1878-1879 - A colony of several hundred (Susquehanna) River Brethren from Pennsylvania arrived in the old-time corrupt cowtown of Abilene, Dickinson County, Kansas to organize homes and fields on virgin land purchased from the Kansas Pacific Railroad.

1879 - The prominent issue of the Kansas legislature was prohibition.

1880 - An amendment to the Kansas Constitution approved by Kansas voters prohibited the manufacture, sale, or gift of all forms of intoxicating liquor. Kansas became the first state in the United States to pass this controversial amendment.

1880's -

  • Carry A. Nation lived at Medicine Lodge before she began her crusade against liquor that took her to all parts of the United States and England.
  • All 105 Kansas counties organized

1881 - Bethany College of Lindsborg was founded by Swedish immigrants.

1881 -1882 - Most of the trail herds headed for Dodge City, another shipping point on the Santa Fe Railroad line.

1882 - Dodge City was the "Cowboy Capital" of the West.

1884 -

  • April 30 - Several cowboys, including Henry Brown (later Caldwell City Marshall), attempted to rob a Medicine Lodge bank.
  • Lane University was established in Lecompton and was attended by Ida Stover, President Eisenhower's mother.

1884-1885 - The era of the great cattle drives ended when the Kansas Legislature, alarmed by the increase of the cattle disease called "Texas Fever" brought into the state by the Texas tick, passed legislation forbidding the importation of Texas cattle between March 1 and December 1, the season for the long drives.

1885 - Last Texas cattle drive to Dodge City.

1886 - Kansas Wesleyan University was built in Salina, Kansas.

1887 -

  • Susanna Medora Salter of Argonia was the first woman mayor in the United States to be elected in southeastern Kansas.
  • while drilling a well, Sam Blanchard struck salt at 300 feet. Hutchinson has been built on top of one of the world's greatest salt deposits.

1888 - Almost a dozen salt plants were in operation at Hutchinson.

1889 - Mentholatum was invented by Albert Alexander Hyde of Wichita.

1892 - The notorious Dalton Gang rode into Coffeyville, Montgomery County, Kansas on October 5, 1892 and attempted to rob two banks, the Condon Bank and the First National Bank. They took about $25,000 in 12 minutes. A shootout followed which claimed the lives of eight men: the outlaws, Grat and Bob Dalton, Dick Broadwell and Bill Powers; and four Coffeyville residents, Charles T. Connelly, Coffeyville city marshal (killed by Grat Dalton in "Death Alley"), Lucius M. Baldwin, George B. Cubine and Charles Brown. Three other townsmen were wounded.

1894 - Many companies organized to develop oil and gas fields in Kansas.

1895 - Wichita State University in Wichita was founded as Fairmount College.

1896 - West Mineral in Cherokee County was founded in 1896 as a mining town.

1898 - Kansas enlists four regiments for service in the Spanish-American War.

20th Century Kansas History Timeline

1900 - The last ethnic group to enter Kansas in large numbers was Spanish-speaking Mexicans, brought to the state as laborers for various Railroad companies. Numbering only 71 in 1900, their totals reached 13,570 in 1920 and 19,042 in 1930. Their primary population concentrations were in Railroad centers.

Early 1900's - Lilla Day Monroe was the president of the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association.

1903 -

  • First helium discovery in US at Dexter, Kansas
  • The Kansas State Capitol building in Topeka was completed. It was constructed over a period of 37 years from 1866 to 1903, cost a total of $3.2 million.

1906 - The Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth was completed.

1907-1908 - The yellow brick road leads to Dorothy's House in Liberal, Kansas. It was buit in 1907-1908 and given to the Seward County Historical Society.

1911 -

  • July 9, the Smoky Hill River was so low that farmers fished with pitchforks.
  • Heavy snow over the state tied up Railroad transportation on December 30.

1912 - Kansas woman suffrage amendment ratified

1913 - KS oil production was 24,083 barrels. Of 2,174 holes drilled, only 483 were dry.

1914 -

  • President Wilson sent army units, including troops from Kansas, to aid in the protection of US property and treaty rights concerning Mexico.
  • Arthur Capper becomes first native Kansan elected to the office of Governor.

1915 -

  • Since 1915 when oil was discovered, El Dorado has boomed from a small town into a progressive city.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point with the rank of second lieutenant.

1916 - Kansas National Guard sent to the Mexican border.

1917 -

  • The Anti-Saloon League was the name of the group established that proved integral in preventing the sale of intoxicating liquors.
  • Influenza epidemic.
  • World War I brought an unprecedented boom in agriculture because of the demand for food from the warring nations of Europe. Thousands of previously uncultivated acres were planted in wheat.
  • State Highway Commission created.
  • Kansas had produced 25,402,521,000 cubic feet of natural gas in the past year, and 112 gas wells had been drilled.

1918 -

  • End of World War I - 80,261 in war service from Kansas.
  • Shortly after 1918 the population of Wichita nearly doubled when a great reservoir of oil was discovered nearby.

1920's - The business men of Wichita went to work attracting the aircraft industry.

1920 - The O'Henry candy bar was invented by Tom Henry of Arkansas City. The candy bar was originally called "Tom Henry" but was changed later when Mr. Henry sold the rights to his candy bar to a candy factory.

1921 - Amelia Earhart made her first solo flight.

1923 - Amelia Earhart, a native of Atchison, became the first woman to be granted a pilot's license by the National Aeronautic Association.

1924 - The handkerchief-dress craze hit Kansas. At Atchison over 250 dozen red and blue bandanas were sold to women who made dresses of them.

1925 -

  • Forestry, Fish and Game Commission organized.
  • Walter P. Chrysler, son of Henry Chrysler, was born in Wamego and grew up in Ellis, Kansas. At Ellis Walter P. Chrysler received his public school education and learned his trade as a machinist. He was an industrialist who established the Chrysler Motors corporation in 1925.
  • Walter Anderson, Wichita, one of the founders of the White Castle eating houses and known as the "Hamburger King," operated 22 White Castles. He bought the first one in Wichita with a loan of $60.

1927 -

  • The Cigarette Tax was the first sales tax to be imposed by the 1927 Kansas legislature.
  • The state flag of Kansas was first displayed at Fort Riley by Gov. Ben Paulen in the presence of troops from Fort Riley and the Kansas National Guard. The official state flag of Kansas was adopted by Legislature in 1927 and revised in 1961 with Great Seal and Crest symbolizing Kansas history.

1928 -

  • Charles Curtis, U. S. Senator from Kansas, is elected Vice President of the United States under Herbert Hoover.
  • One-seventh of the world's wheat crop, 12,400,000 acres, was grown in KS.

1929 - Mrs. T.T. Solander was the first woman to become a Kansas State Senator.

1930 - Clyde Tombaugh was a Burdette astronomer. He discovered the planet Pluto.

1930s - The previously uncultivated land (thousands of acres), planted to supply warring nations of Europe during World War I, was allowed to lay fallow during the recession of the 1920s, and became part of the "dust bowl" of the 1930s.

1931 - Record KS wheat crop of 240 million bushels.

1932 -

  • Alfred M. Landon elected Governor.
  • Kathryn O'Laughlin, first congresswoman elected to respresent Kansas.

1934 -

  • Drought and dust storms throughout Great Plains gives rise to "Dust Bowl" epithet
  • Landon is the only Republican governor reelected in the nation.

1936 -

  • New oil fields developed in western KS.
  • Alfred M. Landon ran for president of the US losing to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

1938 - The first Rural Electric Association (REA) line in Kansas was put up in Brown county.

1939 - World War II creates demand for food and prices for Kansas farm products begin to rise.

1943 - A German prisoner of war (POW) camp was built in Concordia during World War II in July 1943.

1942-1943 - A German prisoner of War (POW) camp was built in Peabody during World War II. These German POW's built Peabody Park.

1950 - Over 30,000 producing oil wells in KS.

1951 - Disastrous flood hits all of Kansas; most severe in Kansas, Neosho, and Marais des Cygnes River valleys

1950s - Virgil Cofer of Ransom, Ness County, Kansas invented the first riding lawn mower, called the Virginia Wonder Mower.

1952-1953 - Dwight D. Eisenhower becomes first Kansan to be elected as President of the United States.

1954 -

  • Brown vs. the Board of Education in Topeka was a historical and controversial case taken to the United States Supreme Court.
  • Autopilot was invented by David D. Blanton of Wichita.

1955 - Tornado at Udall caused 83 deaths on May 25, 1955

1956 - The 236 mile Kansas Turnpike is completed from Kansas City to Wichita.

1957 -

  • Flood of 1957.
  • November - Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery opened at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas through the efforts of his son-in-law, Charles Pelham Greenough.

1958 -

  • Second largest wheat crop in history brings cash receipts of over one billion dollars to KS farmers and ranchers.
  • June 10 - A tornado that hit El Dorado, Kansas, Butler County caused 15 deaths along with 50 injuries.

1959 - Murder of four members of Clutter family near Holcomb shocks state

1960 - The Coleman Company was the largest user of sheet steel between the Mississippi and the Rockies.

1961 -

  • January 29 - KS Statehood Centennial Celebration begins a second century of even greater accomplishments.
  • Wichita, Kansas is known as the "Air Capital of America."
  • The ICEE machine, the first frozen carbonated drink machine, was invented by Omar Kneclik of Coffeyville.
  • The world's largest and longest wheat elevator is located at Hutchinson.

1963 - Big Brutus was built at a plant near Hallowell, Cherokee County, Kansas in 1963. West Mineral, Cherokee County, Kansas home of Big Brutus. Costs and the fact that the EPA declared that the strip mine coal had too much sulphur and therefore stopped its use. Big Brutus was retired in 1974 and became a museum.

1966 - Topeka, Kansas was hit by a F5 tornado on June, 18, 1966, killing 17 and 550 people were injured

1969 - President Dwight D. Eisenhower died.

1970 - Anti-war protests disturb several college campuses; student union fire at Kansas University linked to these activities

1971 - Leon, Little Walnut Township, Butler County, Kansas Following on the heels of really mild weather for this time of year, one of the worst snow storms in the history of this area hit suddenly Sunday morning at about nine o'clock on February 21, 1971.

1975 - A 38-foot cross was erected to mark the site where Spanish explorer Francisco Basques de Coronado crossed the Arkansas River in search of fabled cities of gold in 1541.

1976 - Bob Dole was a Kansas leader who ran for Vice President of the United States.

1978 - Nancy Landon Kassebaum was the first Kansas woman to be elected to the US Senate for a full term.

1982 -

  • Tom Docking carried on his father's political legacy by becoming elected as Lt. Governor.
  • Sam Hardage was a Wichita businessperson who was unsuccessful in his attempt to become elected Governor.

1985 - Wolf Creek nuclear power plant finally begins commercial operation

1986 -

  • KS produced 421,540,000 bushels of wheat.
  • Kansas voters approve liquor-by-the-drink, parimutuel, and state lottery

1988 -

  • Kansas Jayhawks won the Final Four.
  • Two native Kansans seek presidency--Bob Dole (Russell) and Gary Hart (Ottawa)

1989 -

  • The Berlin wall came down.
  • "Brown II" decision; new school desegregation case, with Topeka public schools again as defendant

1990 -

  • A large F5 tornado went through Hesston, Harvey County and other Kansas towns. It was on the ground for more than two hours. It was at times over a half-mile wide. It caused millions of dollars of damage and two deaths outside of Hesston on March 13, 1990.
  • A tornado cut a 500-yard path of destruction through western Sumner County the evening of Tuesday, March 13, 1990.
  • Operation Desert Shield in Saudi Arabia.

1991 -

  • January 17 - The air strike on Iraq in Operation Desert Storm.
  • February 28 - Cease-fire announced in Gulf War.
  • April 26 - Wichita/Andover. This F5 tornado was on the ground for about 70 miles, from Clearwater in south-central Kansas to Cassoday in northern Butler County. It was on the ground for about 50 minutes. The killer tornado destroyed 1,120 houses, damaging 571 more, injured 302 and left twenty dead.
  • June 15 - Hoch Auditorium burned at Kansas University.
  • The end of the USS.R. (Soviet Union)
  • Kansans elect their first woman Governor, Joan Finney


  • May 7 - Tornado in Russell County causes one death.
  • Jun/Jul - The Flood of 1993. Flood gates were opened at Milford Res. (Republican River) and Tuttle Creek Res. (Big Blue River). Flooding on Smoky Hill River. July 11, 1993 marked the beginning of the Flood in Kansas City.

1994 - Stand-off ended in Waco, TX between Branch Davidion and F.B.I in April.

1995 - Bombing of Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19.

1996 -

  • Fort Hays State University, Division II national basketball champs, record of 34-0.
  • Bob Dole, Kansas Senator, retired from the US Senate.
  • Bob Dole, from Russell, Kansas, ran for President of the United States.
  • October 22 - Unexpected snowstorm hit Kansas City area. 8 inches of snow fell in Overland Park, the largest snowfall ever in the month of October. Most of the trees still had their leaves; the branches could not handle the weight of the heavy wet snow. Downed trees limbs and power lines were everywhere. Over 170,000 homes in the Kansas City area were without power. Power restoration to residents took close to a week. The clean-up of tree limbs took much longer (December in Overland Park and March in Kansas City, MO). [contributor: Linda Lipp]

1999 - F4 tornado hits Haysville then Wichita in Sedgwick County causing five deaths and many injuries on May 3, 1999.

21st Century Kansas History Timeline

2000 - The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration discovers one of the country's largest LSD labs inside a converted military missile silo in Wamego, Kansas.

2002 - Maiden flight of Airborne Laser, designed to destroy missles during early stage launch, took off from McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita

2003 - Tornadoes killed seven people

2005 - BTK (bind, torture, kill - serial killer, Dennis Rader, arrested

2007 - Greensburg, Kansas is almost completely destroyed by a 1.7m wide EF-5 tornado.

2009 -

  • Abortion doctor, George Tiller, killed in church in Wichita
  • Huge winter storm caused road closures, flight cancellations

2011 - US soldier, Bradley Manning, involved in Wikileaks scandal, moved to Fort Leavenworth military prison


US History Overview
US History Guide
America's history is not static. It's fluid. It changes, grows, becomes richer, and more complex when any individual interacts with it.