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General Kansas State History

Kansas has had a dramatic history, even before it became the 34th state. Historians have reported that Native Americans were living in Kansas as early as 12,000 B.C. They were followed for centuries by many different tribes making the history of Kansas entwined with the first Americans.

Between 1541 and 1739 explorers from Spain and France came to the area in search of gold, knowledge and trade with the Indians. In 1803, Kansas became a part of the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Fifty-one years later it was organized as a territory which included the eastern half of Colorado.

Conflict over slavery led to bloody battles between free-staters (anti-slavery) and pro-slavery forces. This led to the attack on Lawrence by pro-slavery forces and the widespread public outcry associated with "Bleeding Kansas." Kansas became part of the United States as a free state in 1861.

After the Civil War expansion of the rail system to Kansas and the increasing stream of immigrants lured to the state by offers of cheap land, Native Americans were forced into smaller and smaller reservations. Ultimately their removal to Indian Territory forced the final confrontation in the late 1870's that ended the independent life of the Native Americans.

The establishment of military posts to protect the railroads and trails used by immigrants led to the establishment of small towns which followed the posts. By 1870, the Kansas cow towns, following the westward expansion of the railroads, became well established. Such towns as Dodge City, Abilene, Caldwell, Newton and Wichita took their turns as the Queens of the Trail. To this day, the cattle industry remains an important part of the state's economy.

The introduction of Turkey Red Winter Wheat by Mennonites from Russia in 1874 was a milestone in Kansas agriculture. The wheat was ideally suited to the Kansas climate and has made Kansas one of the leading wheat-producing states in the nation.

The 20th century brought mining, oil production, the discovery of natural gas and helium, the meatpacking industry, automobile manufacturing and the aircraft industry. In this century Kansas has changed from being primarily a cattle and wheat state to a thriving industrial and agricultural state. As the center of the 48 contiguous states, Kansas has proven to be an attractive location for many companies serving national and international markets.

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