Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Quarterly 16:2 (Spring 1996). Copyright © 1996 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


One steamy July day in 1887, a young American of African descent named H. R. Cayton arrived in the little northwestern Kansas town of Nicodemus in Graham County. He had traveled from Wyandotte to try his luck in the real estate and loan business, for he had heard that Nicodemus, a town founded by former slaves a decade earlier, was the place to be for an ambitious young black man like himself. Cayton's arrival was enthusiastically noted by one of the town's two newspapers, the Western Cyclone: "Mr. C. is a promising young man and has got 'git up and git' to him and will undoubtedly make his mark," editor George Sanford predicted confidently. While the newspapers welcomed practically everyone who moved to, or visited, Nicodemus, the leaders of the town were particularly delighted with those new arrivals such as Cayton who brought some money to invest, for they were in the midst of boosting Nicodemus and needed every bit of capital they could get.