Nicodemus, Kansas is the only remaining western community established by African Americans after the Civil War. Having an important role in American History, the town symbolizes the pioneering spirit of these ex-slaves who fled the war-torn South in search of “real” freedom and a chance to restart their lives.


The people of Nicodemus liked to celebrate during the 1880’s. Holidays included Emancipation Day (August 1) and the day the colony was founded (September 17). Emancipation Day celebrated the liberation of the West Indies’ African-Americans. The people also enjoyed their social life. By the mid-1880’s, the town had a literary society, a baseball team, an ice cream parlor, several lodges, and a benefit society. All of these things were an indication that the business center of the town was growing. In 1887, the town had four general stores, two druggists, a grocery store, a lawyer, three land companies, two hotels, a blacksmith shop, two livery stables, and a harness and boot repair store. Also, in 1887, a bank was established, which made Nicodemus a prosperous commercial center.

A lot of the town’s prospering business came from reports that two railroad companies were going to build through Nicodemus. The Union Pacific was building to the south and would have to cross the Solomon River to get to Nicodemus. A better chance of getting a railroad was offered by the Missouri Pacific. This railroad would come through Stockton and be built to Graham County, via Nicodemus. Unfortunately, both plans fell through. The Union Pacific built its line south of the river, crossing to the north bank to go to Hill City. The Missouri Pacific stopped the laying of its tracks at Stockton. The businessmen began to leave to go to better places, but the other people stayed in Nicodemus. In fact, the population of Graham County increased. In 1880, there were 484 African-Americans living in the county, and the number continued to grow until 1910, when the population reached its peak at 595. The number declined as the years went on, and in 1960, there were only 195 African-Americans livings in Graham County. In Nicodemus Township, there were 453 African-Americans in 1883, but the number continued to drop to 284 in 1891 and went back up by 1907 to 501. By 1910, the population was 409.