The Mystery of the Disappearing Town!

The town of Nicodemus, Kansas (in red on the map), was founded in the 1870s by freed African-American settlers looking for a better life. Within just 10 years, the settlers had built a nice town with stores, churches, newspapers, a bank, and even an ice cream parlor! But by the year 1888, the town was in serious trouble. By September of 1888, all the stores had closed and the town of about 600 people was nearly deserted. Why might this be?

Below are three clues to help you guess what happened to the town of Nicodemus. Click each one:

Three railroad companies, the Missouri Pacific, the Union Pacific, and Santa Fe, are building railroad tracks towards Nicodemus from the east. A railroad would mean continued trade and prosperity for the town. In April 1888 a Nicodemus newspaper printed this story: “The Nicodemus Township stands ready and willing to vote $16,000 to the first railroad that will come through our town.”

As the railroad tracks come near to Nicodemus, the railroad companies consider two routes: one through Nicodemus and one through Bogue, a town on the other side of the river.

Wherever the railroad companies build tracks, people move to be close to the convenience of the railroad. Other areas away from the tracks are abandoned.

So what do you think happened to the town of Nicodemus? Click below to see if you're right!

The railroads chose the Bogue route. People quickly moved away from Nicodemus, taking their businesses with them. Today the remains of the town are a National Historical Park.