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An Alternate History For Kansas Day

Wikimedia Commons

One nice thing about teaching Kansas history is that it is easy to draw a state map: just create a rectangle with one corner nibbled off.

This map could have been very different, however.

Our story begins in 1854, with the creation of the massive Territory of Kansas that extended from Missouri to the Continental Divide. With Utah on its western border, territorial Kansas included both Pike’s Peak and Bent’s Fort.

In 1855, the territory’s pro-slavery “Bogus Legislature” contemplated annexing Kansas City, a community that actually predated the creation of territory by a few years. Hypothetically, Kansas could have been divided between its rival metropolitan areas of Kansas City, of which there would be only one, and Denver, named for a Kansas territorial governor.

That was not to be.

Frustrated with territorial officials in distant Lecompton, mining communities in western Kansas Territory organized first the self-proclaimed Territory of Jefferson and eventually, the Territory of Colorado.

Meanwhile, during the Wyandotte Constitutional Convention of 1859, a delegation of individuals from south of the Platte River came down to propose joining the future state of Kansas. Had that taken place, our northern boundary would be the Platte, with Lincoln part of the Sunflower State.

That did not happen, nor a proposed western border near today’s Dodge City, some distance east of what would have been Garden City, Colorado!

Ultimately, the historic events resulted in our current, tidy state boundaries. As we recall statehood day, however, it is entertaining to think about what might have been.

Jay M. Price is chair of the department of history at Wichita State University, where he also directs the public history program.