The American West has hundreds of abandoned ghost towns, but east of the Rockies some refer to towns that may still have a few residents as “quiet towns”. These towns have diminished over the years as residents moved away to bigger cities, post offices and schools closed and buildings fell into disrepair. Today’s ghost or “quiet” town has an interesting history with its founding in the post-Civil War Reconstruction years.
After the Civil War and Reconstruction, ex-slaves were eager to leave the South and strike out on their own in a new place. In 1877 an Indiana land developer, W.R. Hill, and a black minister, Reverend W.H. Smith, formed the Nicodemus Town Company. Smith became the town’s president and Hill the treasurer. How the name of the town originated is not exactly known, although some believe it was named after a slave who came to America and later purchased his freedom.
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- “Drought-Locusts-Earthquakes-B-Blizzards (Oh My!)” – Perhaps no state is possessive of a more appropriate motto than Kansas: Ad Astra per Aspera (“To the stars through difficulties”, or more loosely translated “a rough road leads to the stars”1). By the time the state adopted its motto in 1876, fifteen years post-statehood, it had experienced not only a brutal, bloody beginning (“Bloody Kansas”) but had endured (and continued to struggle with) extreme pestilence, preceded by severe drought and even an earthquake in April 1867. In the early days being Kansan was not for the faint of heart.
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- “Kansas Ghost Towns” – It might be more appropriate to call this Kansas ghost town, established by Ernest Valeton de Boissière in 1869, a “ghost commune” (Silkville). Nicodemus. There was something genuinely African in the very name. White folks would have called their place by one of the romantic names which stud the map of the United States, Smithville, Centreville, Jonesborough; but these colored people wanted something high-sounding and biblical, and so hit on Nicodemus.
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- “Mining Kansas Genealogical Gold” – One of my favorite “adventures in research” is to discover obscure genealogical records or perhaps stumble across a set of records at Ancesty.com or Fold3 which turns out to be a gold mine of information. This article highlights some real gems available at Ancestry.
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- And more, including book reviews and tips for finding elusive genealogical records.
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