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Exploring Kansas by Rail

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The development of Kansas in the post-Civil War era could easily be attributed to one thing: the railroad. As the United States rushed West to pursue gold, Kansas was the wide space that stood between businessmen and their fortune. Before the Civil War engulfed the country, entreprenuers only dreamt of laying railroads across Kansas, connecting the gold-rush boom towns in Colorado and California to the Mississippi and the East Coast.

Government subsidies and land grants powered progress as the railroads swept across Kansas, led by the Union Pacific and Missouri Pacific Railroads. Construction on railroads began after the Civil War, and many were operational within a few years. Towns depended on railroads to provide jobs, commerce, and a window to the rest of the country.

The research collected here seeks to tell the stories of towns that were won or lost to the railroad. Many communities' fate was dependent on the path of the railroads. Communities were often sustained by the railroad, yet towns without a rail station could be easily swept underfoot, or be absorbed by a neighboring town that had a railroad. Read the diligent research collected by undergraduate students, featuring oral histories, historic maps, newspaper analysis, and field work. Scroll below to read through the archived materials, listed alphabetically.

Bigelow, Marshall County

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This study examines the unique factors that influenced the development, progress, and eventual destruction of the lost community of Bigelow. This…

Blood Creek, Pottawatomie County

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The authors use the oral tale of the village of Blood Creek as a starting point foe their research. Using field work, genealogical inquiry, and…

Brookville, Saline County

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Once a vibrant town, filled with hard working people who made their way west looking to start a new life, Brookville has now become a quiet, low…

Colony, Anderson County

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Originally called Divide, the town of Colony began as a tavern and later a depot on the Leavenworth, Lawrence, and Galveston railroad. In the early…

Early Chapman, Dickinson County

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This study of early Chapman and the Sanborn Lumber Yard in Dickinson County, Kansas, includes a map of the county, an interview, and photographs of…

Gypsum, Saline County

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This paper is a study of the closure of Gypsum Rural High school in Gypsum, Saline County, Kansas, and how its closure affected the community…

Hanover, Washington County

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The author gives a wonderful portrayal of the Hanover, Kansas area. She delves into many aspects surrounding the town and details its settlement using…

Hiattville, Bourbon County

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Hiattville was once a booming town, its population increasing from 50 to 500 in the 1880s. Many residents left after a 1905 fire, and the post office…

Hope, Dickinson County

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Author recreates the town of Hope using historic plat maps that he used to draw the actual extent of the town.

Hoyt, Jackson County

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Hoyt, Kansas, started out as a small town where farmers took cattle to transport them on the railroads back to eastern markets. Despite all of the…

Idana, Clay County

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Idana is a small community with a large heart for its church and people. In 1887, the Idana Presbyterian Church began and has remained strong ever…

Mahaska, Washington County

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The author uses newspaper articles and historic documents to retell the history of the once bustling town of Mahaska. He also connects larger national…

Navarre, Dickinson County

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Navarre was organized around the school, the church, and starting in 1887, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad. Fire destroyed much of the…

Niles, Ottawa County

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The tiny town of Niles, originally Arcala then Nilesville, located in the Lincoln Township of Ottawa County, Kansas was first settled by families…

Oak Mills, Atchison County

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This report contains historical journal references, history obtained through genealogical archives, investigative local folklore, maps spanning…

Palmer, Washington County

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This study is of the city of Palmer, located in Washington County, Kansas, and how the entrepreneurial spirit allowed it to flourish. This industry…

Pearl, Dickinson County

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Pearl managed to survive for almost 80 years, but all that remains of the once bustling community are the old railroad tracks and the still…

Ramona, Marion County

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Ramona, Kansas was founded in 1887 as a stopping point on the Rock Island Railroad outside of Herington, Kansas. Ownership of the land Ramona is…

Wilsey and Helmick, Morris County

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The author used an accumulation of fragmented information collected from local contacts and historic documents to create a comparison between the twin…