Kansas Joins the United States: 1800 - 1841
Zebulon Pike and Stephen Long explored Kansas in the first two decades of the 1800s. They found land different from the humid and forested eastern part of the country from which they came. They thought the land was unfit for the type of farming with which they were familiar and labeled it the "Great American Desert." This discouraged permanent white settlement at the time. However, American businessmen saw Kansas as the perfect location to run overland freight routes between the United States and Mexico, and this led to the beginning of the Santa Fe Trail in 1821.
In the early 1800s, the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Pawnee Indians occupied northern Kansas. These tribes were among those known as the Plains Indians. An example of the Pawnee culture during this time can be seen at the Pawnee Indian Village Historic site. A treaty with the Osage Indians was signed at Council Grove in 1825. The treaty allowed travel between Independence, Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico through Indian lands along the Santa Fe Trail.
Long caravans of wagon trains brought goods back and forth along the trail. Travel by white traders and settlers increased dramatically across Kansas. One of the first stops in Kansas was the Mahaffie Farmstead in present day Olathe. The first United States military fort in Kansas was established at Leavenworth in 1827 to provide protection for travelers along the Santa Fe Trail.
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