Refugees on levee, April 17, 1897, photo by Carroll's Art Gallery

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Nicodemus, Kansas, Township Maps

County landownership maps and atlases provide excellent sources for studying the changes in black settlement patterns. The first map shows the black township of Nicodemus, located in Graham County, Kansas. The second map brings the township to scale. On these maps important structures may be easily located, such as the First Baptist Church, on Washington Street, block 4, lots 13 and 14.

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  • Standard Atlas of Graham County, Kansas: Including a Plat Book of the Villages, Cities and Townships, p. 29 Chicago: George A. Ogle Company, 1906 Map Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (110a)

  • Standard Atlas of Graham County, Kansas: Including a Plat Book of the Villages, Cities and Townships, p. 63 Chicago: George A. Ogle Company, 1906 Map Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (110b)

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Early Nicodemus Entrepreneur

Z.T. Fletcher, an early resident of Nicodemus, Kansas, was the first postmaster, as well as the secretary of the Colony. He also became the first entrepreneur in Nicodemus, having established the St. Francis Hotel in 1880.

Z.T. Fletcher, an early resident of Nicodemus, Kansas Photographer and date unknown Copyprint Historic American Building Survey Field Records Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (111)

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First Nicodemus Postmistress

Jenny Smith Fletcher, the wife of Z. T. Fletcher, was the first postmistress and school teacher in Nicodemus. She was also one of the original charter members of the A.M.E. Church. Mrs. Fletcher was the daughter of W. H. Smith, president of the Colony and founder of Nicodemus.

Jenny Smith Fletcher, wife of Z.T. Fletcher, early resident of Nicodemus, Kansas Photographer and date unknown Copyprint Historic American Building Survey Field Records Prints and Photograph Division, Library of Congress (112)

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Early Nicodemus residents

A good deal of intermarriage took place among the first black colonists of Nicodemus township, including the Fletcher, Williams, and Switzer families. Many of their descendants are still living in the township today. Henry Williams, father of the first black child to be born in Nicodemus, is pictured here with Reece Switzer, another early resident.

Henry Williams and Reece Switzer were early residents of Nicodemus, Kansas Copyprint Historic American Building Survey Field Records Prints and Photograph Division, Library of Congress (113)

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Plan of Nicodemus, 1877-1890

The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) produced a townsite plan of Nicodemus as it existed between 1877 and 1890, with architectural drawings and photographs of forty-two of the buildings. The locations of these buildings are shown on the plan, along with their earliest known year of construction.

Townsite plan for Nicodemus, Kansas, 1877-1890 Photostat Historic American Building Survey Field Records Prints and Photograph Division, Library of Congress (114)

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Historic Fletcher-Switzer House in Nicodemus

The Fletcher-Switzer House was an important focus of activity in Nicodemus. The complex of houses and outbuildings are some of the few remaining examples of early residential architecture left in the townsite. The first owner of the site was Z. T. Fletcher, secretary of the colony which arrived in Nicodemus in July 1877. He and his wife lived in a dugout on the northwest corner of the township, (ref. no. 35 on townsite plan). There he opened a post office and she ran the school. In 1880, Fletcher built the St. Frances Hotel (ref. no. 32) and a livery stable (ref. no. 31). After rail service failed to materialize, Fletcher sold his town lots to the original promoter, W. R. Hill, but continued to run the businesses. The hotel reverted to Graham County for a time but was brought back into the family in the 1920's by Fred Switzer, a great-nephew raised by the Fletchers. When Switzer married Ora Wellington in 1921, they made the hotel their home. Fred Switzer and Ora Wellington's 1983 oral transcripts are in the HABS Collection in the Prints and Photographs Division.

The Fletcher-Switzer House, 1983 Photomural from gelatin-silver print Historic American Building Survey Field Records Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (115)

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First Baptist Church, Nicodemus

The First Baptist Church of Nicodemus was organized approximately nine months after the first black settlers arrived on the Kansas prairie land. In 1879, under the Reverend Hickman, a sod structure was partially built over a dugout, just north of the existing stucco and limestone structure. By 1880, a small, one- room, stone sanctuary had been erected at the same site. This structure evolved from limestone to stucco, and in 1975, a new brick sanctuary was built.

The First Baptist Church, Nicodemus, Kansas, 1943 William J. Belleau, Photographer Photomural from gelatin-silver print Historic American Building Survey Field Records Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (116)

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Aerial View of Nicodemus

Aerial photography has been long used for measurements in map- making and surveying. A good early example is this aerial view of the Nicodemus townsite, taken in 1953.

"Aerial view of Nicodemus from the Northeast," 1953 Photomural from gelatin-silver print Historic American Building Survey Field Records Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (117)

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