For those who don’t know anything about Nicodemus, Nicodemus represents the involvement of African Americans in America’s westward expansion. It is the oldest and only remaining Black settlement west of the Mississippi River.
The Kansas University Spencer Research Library has a large archive collection of files about Nicodemus. You can go online to see what is indexed, but to actually see the collection, one would have to go to the Spence Library.
Here is the official citation to the collection with link to the index:
Nicodemus Historical Society Collection, Kansas Collection, RH MS 545, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas. http://hdl.handle.net/10407/4641638255
Here is the collection summary:
Title: Nicodemus Historical Society collections
Quantity: 38 boxes + 5 oversize boxes, 6 oversize folders, 1 audio cassette
Here is the archive file’s description of Nicodemus:
History of Nicodemus, KansasI often thought about the statement by former US senator Bob Dole, who led the effort to make Nicodemus a National Historic Site in 1996. He stated in an interview about Nicodemus that there was a lot of racism aimed towards the residents of Nicodemus. I found this sad but there were at least two obvious transportation racist choices. One, the railroad was supposed to come across the Solomon into Nicodemus. The railroad workers set up a tent city that became Bogue. The railroad went through Bogue. The other obvious choice was putting in the original Highway 24. It ran three miles to the north of Nicodemus and then veered straight south to meet the highway from Bogue, three miles west of Nicodemus. I mean they couldn’t have veered the highway straight south three (or even two) miles to the east? Of course they could have.
The town of Nicodemus in Graham County, western Kansas, was founded in 1877 by African Americans migrating primarily from Kentucky and Tennessee, before the time period of the Exodusters. The town reached its most prosperous years by 1886, with the maturation of area agricultural production. However, the community began a long decline when a rail line, built in 1888, bypassed Nicodemus, instead linking through the neighboring town of Bogue.
The population is thought to have peaked in 1910, when the federal census reported 595 inhabitants in Graham County. By 1950, only 16 residents were counted, and the Post Office station closed in 1953.
Nicodemus was designated a National Historic Landmark by the federal government in 1976, and became a National Historic Site operated by the National Park Service in 1996 in large part thanks to Angela Bates, a prominent citizen. The town is known for its long history, noteworthy citizens, and the Homecoming Emancipation celebration that takes place each July
I’ll probably never get a chance to see this archived collection but I am glad it is available for future researchers to see and document the beginnings of Nicodemus.