Kansas at the Turn of the Century

600 and 700 blocks of South Kansas Avenue, Topeka, Kansas

A panoramic view of the west side of the 600 and 700 blocks of South Kansas Ave in Topeka.

A Land of Promise and Change

Kansas in the mid-nineteenth century was a land of promise. Those with enough capital to buy their slice of heaven and willing to uproot their lives were rewarded. Immigration to the state was prompted by over four hundred presses around the country lauding the financial opportunities to be found in Kansas. Also, a sixty page immigration packet was compiled by the Board of Agriculture in four languages and were dispersed throughout the country (Miller 471).

Topeka became the state capitol in January 1861, and became a popular place to settle for immigrants, freed slaves, and natives searching for economic opportunity. Many new citizens were “required to travel to the city to conduct state business and connect to the government” making it the hub of business in Kansas (Bearman 109). The promise of financial stability in a new land was attractive to many diverse communities.

Immigration brought a variety of religious attitudes, requiring a degree of religious tolerance between citizens, and created an environment inviting to new prophets and religious movements. After a slew of natural disasters, immigration populations exceeding available work, years of artificial inflation and over production, and political strife throughout 1870s to 1890s, Kansans were disinchanted with their once held dreams. People were looking for purpose in life, and manifestations of divine favor. Here, religion helped Kansans find what they were looking for.

Bearman, Alan F., and Jennifer L. Mills. “Charles M. Sheldon and Charles F. Parham: Adapting Christianity to the Challenges of the American West.” Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains 32 (Summer 2009): 106–23.

Miller, Raymond Curtis. “The Background of Populism in Kansas.” The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 11, no. 4 (1925): 469–89.

Kansas at the Turn of the Century