Located in south-central Delaware County, the town of Kansas is easily accessed by the Cherokee Turnpike (a direct route between Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Siloam Springs, Arkansas) as well as State Highway 412 and State Highway 10, which intersect within the town's city limits. There are several versions of the way in which Kansas received its name. One claims that the town was named after a popular housewares peddler from Kansas City, Kansas. A second asserts that so many of the town's inhabitants migrated from Kansas that they named their town after the state. Census records do not bear this out. Regardless, Kansas existed as a thriving boomtown, while still a part of the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory.
On December 2, 1902, the federal government chose Tom Caywood and A. K. Wright to plat the town. The government paid the Cherokee Nation twenty-five dollars for the forty-five-acre town site. At the end of the twentieth century the actual city limits encompassed more than five square miles. Early businesses included two general stores, hardware and drug stores, a grist mill, saw mill, pool hall, hotel, rooming house, print shop, the Cherokee Land Company, a doctor, and a dentist. Many of these concerns were in operation before 1906. Two short-lived newspapers served Kansas: the Cherokee Hummer, from 1906, and Delaware Tribune, from 1910. In 1911 there were an estimated two hundred residents. In 1930 the census showed 22.
Nearby points of interest include Natural Falls State Park, the location for filming scenes from the movie Where the Red Fern Grows, and the Illinois River recreation areas, which attract boaters and campers from around the nation. Whereas cattle and wheat were the early center of industrial interests, at the beginning of the twenty-first century the largest employers were educational institutions, including Northeast Technological Center, East Campus, a local vocational education facility. Ranching remained an important economic pursuit for the area. In 1980 the population stood at 491, climbing to 685 in 2000, with many residents being the descendants of the town's early-day settlers.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Heritage of the Hills: A Delaware County History (Jay, Okla.: Delaware County Historical Society, Inc., 1979). George H. Shirk, Oklahoma Place Names (2d ed.; Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1974).
Alice T. Weger
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