Nicodemus National Historic Site, located in Nicodemus, Kansas (outside of Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area), preserves, protects and interprets the one remaining western town established by African Americans during the Reconstruction Period following the Civil War.
Though this site is outside of the borders of Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area, its stories connect with ours and it is one of our National Park Service partners.
In April 1877, seven Kansans (all but the treasurer were black) established the Nicodemus Town Company. Nicodemus was developed through land speculation in the late 1870s and early 1880s. The town was planned, and lots advertised before anyone actually lived there. Black settlers were recruited with fliers predicting it would become the "Largest Colored Colony in America."
By 1881, the town had: 275 blacks, 83 whites, 31 horses, and 10 mules (averaging one team for every four or five farms). There was an average of 12 acres per homestead in cultivation. Livestock numbered 43 head of cattle, 75 hogs. Crops included 997 acres of corn, 98 acres of millet, 50 acres of sorghum, and 50 acres of rice corn. Nicodemus was about 35 structures -- residential and commercial -- including three hotels, two livery stables, a blacksmith shop, a lumber yard, two churches, and two dry goods stores.
By 1887, there were four general stores, a grocery, two druggists, three land companies, a lawyer, two hotels, two livery stables, a blacksmith shop, a harness and boot repair store and an ice cream parlor. It had a baseball team, a literary society and a benefit society, a band and a music teacher. The railroads bypassed Nicodemus.
Population at its peak was about 600. Today, there are about 40 residents in the oldest continuously occupied town west of the Mississippi planned and settled by African Americans.