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Kansas

Kansas is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. Its capital is Topeka and its largest city is Wichita. Kansas is named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which inhabited the area. The tribe’s name (natively kką:ze) is often said to mean “people of the (south) wind” although this was probably not the term’s original meaning. For thousands of years, what is now Kansas was home to numerous and diverse Native American tribes. Tribes in the eastern part of the state generally lived in villages along the river valleys. Tribes in the western part of the state were semi-nomadic and hunted large herds of bison.
Kansas was first settled by European Americans in 1812, in what is now Bonner Springs, Kansas, but the pace of settlement accelerated in the 1850s, in the midst of political wars over the slavery issue. When it was officially opened to settlement by the U.S. government in 1854 with the Kansas–Nebraska Act, abolitionist Free-Staters from New England and pro-slavery settlers from neighboring Missouri rushed to the territory to determine whether Kansas would become a free state or a slave state. Thus, the area was a hotbed of violence and chaos in its early days as these forces collided, and was known as Bleeding Kansas. The abolitionists eventually prevailed, and on January 29, 1861, Kansas entered the Union as a free state. After the Civil War, the population of Kansas grew rapidly when waves of immigrants turned the prairie into farmland.
By 2015, Kansas was one of the most productive agricultural states, producing high yields of wheat, corn, sorghum, and soybeans. Kansas, which has an area of 82,278 square miles (213,100 km2) is the 15th-largest state by area and is the 34th most-populous of the 50 states with a population of 2,911,641. Residents of Kansas are called Kansans. Mount Sunflower is Kansas’s highest point at 4,041 feet (1,232 m).
For a millennia, the land that is currently Kansas was inhabited by Native Americans. The first European to set foot in present-day Kansas was the Spanish conquistadorFrancisco Vázquez de Coronado, who explored the area in 1541. In 1803, most of modern Kansas was acquired by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Southwest Kansas, however, was still a part of Spain, Mexico, and the Republic of Texas until the conclusion of the Mexican–American War in 1848, when these lands were ceded to the United States. From 1812 to 1821, Kansas was part of the Missouri Territory. The Santa Fe Trail traversed Kansas from 1821 to 1880, transporting manufactured goods from Missouri and silver and furs from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Wagon ruts from the trail are still visible in the prairie today.
In 1827, Fort Leavenworth became the first permanent settlement of white Americans in the future state. The Kansas–Nebraska Act became law on May 30, 1854, establishing Nebraska Territory and Kansas Territory, and opening the area to broader settlement by whites. Kansas Territory stretched all the way to the Continental Divide and included the sites of present-day Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo.
Missouri and Arkansas sent settlers into Kansas all along its eastern border. These settlers attempted to sway votes in favor of slavery. The secondary settlement of Americans in Kansas Territory were abolitionists from Massachusetts and other Free-Staters, who attempted to stop the spread of slavery from neighboring Missouri. Directly presaging the American Civil War, these forces collided, entering into skirmishes that earned the territory the name of Bleeding Kansas.
Kansas was admitted to the Union as a free state on January 29, 1861, making it the 34th state to join the United States. By that time the violence in Kansas had largely subsided, but during the Civil War, on August 21, 1863, William Quantrill led several hundred men on a raid into Lawrence, destroying much of the city and killing nearly 200 people. He was roundly condemned by both the conventional Confederate military and the partisan rangers commissioned by the Missouri legislature. His application to that body for a commission was flatly rejected due to his pre-war criminal record.
After the Civil War, many veterans constructed homesteads in Kansas. Many African Americans also looked to Kansas as the land of “John Brown” and, led by freedmen like Benjamin “Pap” Singleton, began establishing black colonies in the state. Leaving southern states in the late 1870s because of increasing discrimination, they became known as Exodusters.
At the same time, the Chisholm Trail was opened and the Wild West-era commenced in Kansas. Wild Bill Hickok was a deputy marshal at Fort Riley and a marshal at Hays and Abilene. Dodge City was another wild cowboy town, and both Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp worked as lawmen in the town. In one year alone, eight million head of cattle from Texas boarded trains in Dodge City bound for the East, earning Dodge the nickname “Queen of the Cowtowns.”
In response to demands of Methodists and other evangelical Protestants, in 1881 Kansas became the first U.S. state to adopt a constitutional amendment prohibiting all alcoholic beverages, which was only repealed in 1948.
Kansas is bordered by Nebraska on the north; Missouri on the east; Oklahoma on the south; and Colorado on the west. The state is divided into 105 counties with 628 cities, and is located equidistant from the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The geographic center of the 48 contiguous states is in Smith County near Lebanon. Until 1989, the Meades Ranch Triangulation Station in Osborne County was the geodetic center of North America: the central reference point for all maps of North America. The geographic center of Kansas is in Barton County.

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