Nicodemus National Historic Site
, located in Nicodemus
Nicodemus is a small unincorporated community in Graham County in North Central Kansas, located 2000 ft above sea level in the middle of the Great Plains region of the United States. The community was founded in 1877 and is named for an African American who escaped enslavement...
Kansas is a US state located in the Midwestern United States. It is named after the Kansas River which flows through it, which in turn was named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which inhabited the area. The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the wind" or "people of the south...
, United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...
, preserves, protects and interprets the only remaining western town established by African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...
s during the Reconstruction Period following the American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...
. The town of Nicodemus is symbolic of the pioneer spirit of African Americans who dared to leave the only region they had been familiar with to seek personal freedom
Political freedom is a central philosophy in Western history and political thought, and one of the most important features of democratic societies...
and the opportunity to develop their talents and capabilities. The site was named for a legendary African-American slave who purchased his freedom.
The historic site contains 5 buildings:
- Township Hall (now home to a temporary visitor center
A visitor center or centre , visitor information center, tourist information center, is a physical location that provides tourist information to the visitors who tour the place or area locally...
- African Methodist Episcopal Church
- First Baptist Church
- St. Francis Hotel
- Nicodemus School District #1 Schoolhouse
The story of Nicodemus
Nicodemus was founded in 1877, led by Rev. W.H. Smigh, a black minister, and W.R. Hill, a white land developer, and five other black men who formed the Nicodemus Town Company and began visiting churches in Kentucky to encourage people to move to Kansas.
Kansas was a free state, part of the Underground Railroad and home to abolitionist John Brown. Handbills and flyers distributed by the company called Nicodemus a place for "African Americans to establish a black self-government."
By the mid 1880s Nicodemus was a small, bustling town. There were two newspapers, three general stores and at least three churches. The town had a number of small hotels, an ice cream parlor, bank, livery and a number of homes. The population was an estimated 700 at the town's heyday.
But to ensure growth the town needed the railroad to come through. The railroad passed farther south. Over time people moved closer to the railway and established a new town called Bogue
Bogue is a city in Graham County, Kansas, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 143.-History:Bogue was established in 1888 as a railroad town. It was named for Virgil Gay Bogue, an engineer working on the Union Pacific Railroad....
. Bogue has a population of 173 today.
Perhaps one of Nicodemus' most famous residents is Veryl Switzer
Veryl Switzer is a former halfback in the National Football League who played 24 games for the Green Bay Packers. In 1954, the Green Bay Packers used the 4th pick in the 1st round of the 1954 NFL Draft to sign Switzer out of Kansas State University where he played from 1951 to 1953...
. Switzer was an All-American football player
College football refers to American football played by teams of student athletes fielded by American universities, colleges, and military academies, or Canadian football played by teams of student athletes fielded by Canadian universities...
for Kansas State in 1951, 1952 and 1953. He went on to play two seasons for the National Football League
The National Football League is the highest level of professional American football in the United States, and is considered the top professional American football league in the world. It was formed by eleven teams in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association, with the league changing...
Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers are an American football team based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. They are members of the North Division of the National Football Conference in the National Football League . The Packers are the current NFL champions...
, before taking leave to serve in the U.S. Air Force. He resumed is professional career with the Packers after 2½ years in the military. He later went on to play for the Calgary Stampeders
The Calgary Stampeders are a Canadian Football League team based in Calgary, Alberta and named in reference to the Calgary Stampede. The Stampeders play their home games at McMahon Stadium...
and the Montreal Alouettes
The Montreal Alouettes are a Canadian Football League team based in Montreal, Quebec.The current franchise named the Alouettes moved to Montreal from Baltimore, Maryland, in 1996 where they had been known as the Baltimore Stallions...
of the Canadian Football League
The Canadian Football League or CFL is a professional sports league located in Canada. The CFL is the highest level of competition in Canadian football, a form of gridiron football closely related to American football....
Switzer is now farming 840 acres (3.4 km²), in Nicodemus, and is one of the top investors in the creation of a flour mill there. A co-op was formed in 1999; and, while "Promised Land Flour" and "Nicodemus Pancake Mix" are being marketed, the flour mill has not yet been built.
The town is still a tourist attraction, attracting about 8,600 tourists annually.
Sources: The Kansas Guidebook by Marci Penner, Copy. 2005 and The Associated Press
- Kansas State Historical Society, Historic Sites Survey. Historic Preservation in Kansas. Black History Sites, A Beginning Point. Topeka: Kansas State Historical Society, 1977.
- The Kansas Guidebook for Explorers by Marci Penner, copyright 2005
- Associated Press report "Former football star returns to help save dying town," August, 2006.