Thursday, January 16, 2014


photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Before it became the Kansas capital, Topeka was the seat of a free-state government — an alternative to the official pro-slavery territorial legislature elected in 1855. These two bodies represented opposing factions in Kansas’ battle over slavery. Antislavery Kansans refused to recognize the official legislature because the elections had been heavily tainted by fraud: thousands of residents from pro-slavery Missouri crossed the border to cast illegal ballots in Kansas. The antislavery faction elected its own delegates in 1855 to draw up a state constitution. Lest the situation devolve into all-out civil war, President Franklin Pierce ordered federal troops to march into Topeka in July 1856 and shut down the free-state government. But the city remained a hotbed of antislavery agitation. When Kansas finally gained admission to the Union in 1861 - as a free state - Topeka became the lawful capital.

Topeka was also the birthplace of U.S. Vice President Charles Curtis (b.1860). Curtis was the first American Indian and the first Kansan to hold the office.
photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Topeka was founded in 1854 at the site of Papan's Ferry where a branch of the Oregon Trail crossed the Kansas river as early as 1842. Anti-slavery leaders framed the Topeka Constitution, 1855, in the first attempt to organize a state government. The next year their legislature was dispersed by U.S. dragoons under orders from President Franklin Pierce. (So Pierce was omitted when Topeka named streets after the Presidents.) In the late 1850's negroes bound north on the "underground railway" were hidden here by John Brown. Topeka became capital in 1861 when Kansas was admitted to the Union and the slavery conflict flamed into Rebellion.

After the war, in 1868, the Santa Fe railroad, promoted by C.K. Holliday, a city founder, first started building from Topeka. This was the birthplace, in 1860, of Vice President Charles Curtis; part Kaw Indian, the only "native American" to reach so high an office.

Roadside turnout,
at 37th Street and South Topeka Avenue  (U. S. 75)
photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Handicapped Accessibility:
The parking in front of the marker is paved and it can be viewed from the car, so it is fairly accessible.

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