Kansas is named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which had inhabited this area for millennia.
The Kansa tribe’s name (natively kką:ze) is often said to mean “people of the wind” or “people of the south wind.”
The first European to set foot in present-day Kansas was Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, who explored the area in 1541.
In 1803, most of modern Kansas was secured by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
Southwest Kansas, however, was still a part of Spain, Mexico and the Republic of Texas until the conclusion of the Mexican-American War in 1848.
From 1812 to 1821, Kansas was part of the Missouri Territory.
The Santa Fe Trail traversed Kansas from 1821 to 1880, transporting manufactured goods from Missouri and silver and furs from Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Wagon ruts from the trail are still visible on the Kansas prairie today.
In 1827, Fort Leavenworth became the first permanent settlement of white Americans in what would become Kansas.
The Kansas–Nebraska Act became law on May 30, 1854, establishing the U.S. territories of Nebraska and Kansas, and opening the area to broader settlement by whites.
Kansas Territory stretched all the way to the Continental Divide and included the sites of present-day Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo.
When Kansas Territory officially opened to settlement in 1854, Missouri and Arkansas sent settlers into Kansas all along its eastern border.
These settlers attempted to sway votes in favor of slavery.
Then abolitionists from Massachusetts and other Free-Staters, attempted to stop the spread of slavery from neighboring Missouri.
Directly presaging the American Civil War, these forces collided, entering into skirmishes that earned the territory the name of Bleeding Kansas.
The abolitionists eventually prevailed when Kansas was admitted to the United States as a slave-free state on January 29, 1861, making it the 34th state to enter the Union.
By that time the violence in Kansas had largely subsided, but during the Civil War, on August 21, 1863, William Quantrill led several hundred men on a raid into Lawrence, destroying much of the city and killing nearly 200 people.
He was roundly condemned by both the conventional Confederate military and the partisan rangers commissioned by the Missouri legislature.
During the American Civil War, two-thirds of Kansas men of military age enlisted in the Union Army, and, with nearly 8,500 dead or wounded, Kansas suffered the highest rate of casualties (in proportion to its population) of any state in the Union.
Before and after the Civil War, sporadic fighting occurred between the settlers and the Native American Indians.
After the Civil War, the population of Kansas grew rapidly with many war veterans constructing homesteads in the territory and turning the prairie into farmland.
In 1867, a peace treaty was signed in which the Native American Indians agreed to sell their land; in return, the United States agreed to build homes for them in what is now Oklahoma and to provide money, food, and clothing.
However, the U.S. Congress did not honor the treaty and the state fought sporadic battles until the last Indian raid in 1878.
Many African Americans also looked to Kansas as the land of “John Brown” and, led by freedmen like Benjamin “Pap” Singleton, began establishing black colonies in the state. Leaving southern states in the late 1870s because of increasing discrimination, they became known as Exodusters.
At the same time, the Chisholm Trail was opened and the Wild West-era commenced in Kansas. Wild Bill Hickok was a deputy marshal at Fort Riley and a marshal at Hays and Abilene. Dodge City was another wild cowboy town, and both Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp worked as lawmen in the town. In one year alone, 8 million head of cattle from Texas boarded trains in Dodge City bound for the East, earning Dodge the nickname “Queen of the Cowtowns.”
In response to demands of Methodists and other evangelical Protestants, in 1881 Kansas became the first U.S. state to adopt a constitutional amendment prohibiting all alcoholic beverages.
Today, Kansas is one of the most productive agricultural states, producing high yields of wheat, sorghum, and sunflowers.
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