Kansas History

Historic Kansas by D Appleton & Co, 1891

Historic Kansas by D Appleton & Co, 1891.

Kansas is one of the richest states in historical lore in the American West. From Native Americans to the Bleeding Kansas days before the Civil War, to the wild west days of its many cattle towns, and beyond, the Sunflower State provides a wealth of history, lore, and legends within the American Heartland.

Cibola – Seven Cities of Gold

Cibola – Seven Cities of Gold.

The state’s heritage and traditions go back to the nomadic Native American tribes who hunted vast herds of buffalo to the time of Montezuma and the Spanish conquest of Mexico. In the Sixteenth Century, the Spanish conquerors extended their explorations through the land known as Kansas. The mythical kingdom of Quivira, and claimed it by right of conquest and discovery as a part of the domain of the Spanish Crown. Nearly two centuries passed before the French came by way of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and they again visited the mysterious land.

Coronado Expedition by Frederic Remington

Coronado Expedition by Frederic Remington.

After another 100 years, American explorers began to traverse the region. They designated it as the Great American Desert at a time when the prairies were filled with countless herds of buffalo and Native American tribes, including the KanzaPawneeOsageKiowa, and more. With the numerous settlers in the east, more tribes were pushed westward voluntarily or by government forces.

Before long, numerous settlers began to move through Kansas on the many overland trails to the west, including the Santa FeOregon, and California Trails. This resulted in numerous battles and skirmishes with the Indians as their homelands were invaded and violated.

Santa Fe Trail by D.D. Holdread, Santa Fe Trail Association.

Santa Fe Trail by D.D. Holdread, Santa Fe Trail Association.

Before the Civil War, eastern Kansas’s ground became a bloody battlefield when pioneers fought the Kansas-Missouri Border War in the struggle to make it a free or slave state. Kansas entered the Union as a “Free state” on January 29, 1861, and soldiers flocked to the battlefields in the conflict with the South.

Bleeding Kansas Fight

Bleeding Kansas Fight.

Colonel Sumner arriving at Constitution Hall in Topeka, 1856

Colonel Sumner arriving at Constitution Hall in Topeka, 1856.

©Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated April 2024.

Kansas Pioneers

Kansas Pioneers by George M. Stone, 1920.