Kansas, The Sunflower State

Kansas, The Sunflower State

by Sandra Merville Hart

Kansas is known as The Sunflower State. The state flag displays a sunflower, which is also the state flower.

The early history of Kansas

Zebulon Pike led an expedition across Kansas in 1806. Pike believed the Great Plains, which included Kansas, weren’t good for settlers. He suggested that folks moving west should stay east of the Mississippi River. Native Americans were relocated to Kansas until the 1840s.

yellow-sunflower-403172_960_720Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and allowed settlers to decide whether they wanted to be territories that allowed slavery or banned it. Northerners and Southerners moved to the Kansas Territory. Arguments led to violence, earning the territory the name “Bleeding Kansas.”

The Oregon and Santa Fe Trails

Two famous overland westward roads, the Oregon Trail and the Santa Fe Trail, ran through part of Kansas.

In 1853, Fort Riley was built near the Kansas River along these trails to protect settlers. General George Custer organized the 7th Cavalry at this fort in 1866. Ten years later they all perished in a fight with the Sioux and Cheyenne at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

Kansas becomes a state

Kansas became the thirty-fourth state on January 29, 1861. The capital is Topeka.

Kansas in the Civil War

The Civil War began three months after Kansas became a state. Over 20,000 men – two-thirds of adult white males – joined the Union Army along with African Americans and Native Americans.

No major battles were fought in Kansas though there were many Confederate raids. Of all Union states, the highest rate of fatal casualties was by Kansans.

bodie-50704_960_720Part of the Wild West

After the Civil War ended, folks traveled to Kansas and built towns. Some earned fame as lawmen during those rough years.

James Butler Hickok – “Wild Bill” – became Abilene’s marshal. Dodge City became safer with Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson as lawmen. William F. Cody, “Buffalo Bill,” hunted buffalo to feed railroad workers while in Kansas.

Geodetic Center of North America

The Geodetic Center is a reference point used by surveyors. The Geodetic Center of North America is Meade’s Ranch in Osborne County, Kansas. When calculation property lines, surveyors in Canada, Mexico, and the United use Meade’s Ranch as a reference.

Other fun facts about Kansas

The windiest city in the United States is Dodge City.

It used to be illegal to serve cherry pie with ice cream on top in this state.

The geographical center of the 48 adjoining states is Smith County, Kansas.

Amelia Earhart, born in Atchison, was the first woman pilot to fly across the Atlantic Ocean alone.

Watch the bison graze at  Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve .



Gutman, Bill. The Look-It-Up Book of the 50 States, Random House, 2002.

“Kansas,” History.com, 2016/07/12  http://www.history.com/topics/us-states/kansas.

“Kansas,” State Symbols USA, 2016/07/12  http://www.statesymbolsusa.org/states/united-states/kansas.

“Kansas Facts and Trivia,” 50 States.com, 2016/07/12  http://www.50states.com/facts/kansas.htm.


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