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On this date in 1877, the Registry celebrates the town of Nicodemus, Kansas. This was a brief haven for many Blacks from the old Confederacy and Antebellum South before southern Blacks migrated to the industries of the north.
Established during Reconstruction, Nicodemus, Kansas, was one of the first primarily Black rural settlements after slavery ended. The town was named for a legendary slave who foretold the coming of the American Civil War. On April 16 of that year, a circular predicted Nicodemus would become the "Largest Colored Colony in America." In June, W. R. Hill filed a 160-acre townsite plat with the government land office in Kirwin, Kansas, to found a town on the proposed site. Over the next three years, the first general store, including a pharmacy, the first attorney and land agent offices, and later a post office and a church were built. Pictured below are residents of Nicodemus Kansas.
The official census of February 1880 counted 595 Blacks or 20 percent of the entire population of the county. In June of that year, an average of seven acres per homestead was put into cultivation. On August 1, 1881, Emancipation Day in Nicodemus was first observed, an annual celebration that continues today. In 1910, the Black population of the county reached its peak of 700. The fate of Nicodemus hinged on the railroad that though proposed never happened. In April, The Missouri Pacific line stalled at Stockton, Kansas.
The Union Pacific ran south of the Solomon River, bypassing Nicodemus by six miles. In 1950, the town was reduced to 16 inhabitants. Three years later, the post office closed. Nicodemus completed a cycle of existence in almost 80 years.
In 1976, Nicodemus was designated a National Historic Landmark. On November 12, 1996, Congress established the Nicodemus National Historic Site in Graham County, Kansas.
Reference Library of Black America, Volumes 1 through 5
Edited by Mpho Mabunda
Copyright 1998, Gale Research, Detroit, MI