The Railroads and Frontier Towns
The expansion of railroads through Kansas had a profound impact on the state's history. They provided a quicker and safer route to the west, and brought immigrants from the eastern United States and European countries. They also shipped farm products and meat to the East and created the great cattle markets and cow towns in Kansas. Among the railways built through Kansas were the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, Kansas Pacific Railroad, The Katy Railroad and the Rock Island Railroad.
Although private companies built the railways, the U.S. government played a big role in their expansion. The railway companies were given large tracts of land by the government for right-of-ways through Kansas. The railroads were then able to increase their profits by selling portions of this land to settlers. Towns also contributed money and gifts to the railroads to entice them to build through their cities. Many people became resentful and suspicious of the power and influence the railroads had over development in Kansas.
Many colorful characters, gunfighters and outlaws became famous during this era. They included William "Buffalo Bill" Cody, Jesse and Frank James, and the Dalton family gang. Lawmen who also became well known during this time included James "Wild Bill" Hickok in Abilene, and Wyatt Earp, John "Doc" Holliday and Bat Masterson in Dodge City.
In the early 1880's, concerns about disease in the Texas cattle caused many counties to pass laws prohibiting cattle from Texas being brought into Kansas. Eventually, farmers closed most of the open land with fences, and it became more difficult to drive herds of cattle through Kansas. Once the railroads reached Texas, the days of the long cattle drives and the Wild West came to an end.
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