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Nicodemus Historical Society collections - later donations

Call Number: RH MS 1425


Nicodemus, Kansas was founded in 1877 by African Americans who migrated from the southern United States, primarily Kentucky and Tennessee, shortly after the Civil War. The town became an historical landmark in 1976. This collection is comprised of donations from the Nicodemus Historical Society, as well as other individual Nicodemus citizens and their families, and documents the town's history and legacy.


  • Creation: 1864, 1880-2015


Conditions Governing Access

Audio visual materials are stored in the KU Annex off-site stroage area.

All researchers interested in reviewing this material must consult Spencer Research Library Public Services staff (785-864-4334 or, 9-5 M-F CST) before a planned visit; staff will respond within three days, though materials may not be available in that timeframe. Access to audio visual materials may require digitization first. Be advised that drop-in requests for this material cannot be accommodated.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies of photographic material can be made only with the permission of the donor. Permission must be granted in writing and filed with the curator. Contact staff at or (785) 864-4334 for assistance.

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

History of Nicodemus, Kansas

The town of Nicodemus in Graham County, western Kansas, was founded in 1877 by African Americans migrating primarily from Kentucky and Tennessee, before the time period of the Exodusters. The town reached its most prosperous years by 1886, with the maturation of area agricultural production. However, the community began a long decline when a rail line, built in 1888, bypassed Nicodemus, instead linking through the neighboring town of Bogue.

The population is thought to have peaked in 1910, when the federal census reported 595 inhabitants in Graham County. By 1950, only 16 residents were counted, and the Post Office station closed in 1953.

Nicodemus was designated a National Historic Landmark by the federal government in 1976, and became a National Historic Site operated by the National Park Service in 1996 in large part thanks to Angela Bates, a prominent citizen. The town is known for its long history, noteworthy citizens, and the Homecoming Emancipation celebration that takes place each July.


8.25 Linear Feet (9 boxes + 3 oversize boxes, 4 oversize folders, 1 VHS tape)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The Nicodemus Historical Society Collection dates from 1880 to 2015 and is divided into series named according to the donor of the material: Nicodemus Historical Society, and individual citizens of Nicodemus who have donated materials from their life, family, and the community of Nicodemus. Each series includes personal papers of individuals and families, as well as collected articles relating to Nicodemus or national events of interest to those individuals. The Nicodemus Historical Society series consists chiefly of the organization's records.

The collection's photographic material located at RH MS-P 1425 is organized into series that mirror the collection's mansucript materials, divided by individual donor or photographs from the Nicodemus Historical Society or related entities. The material has been organized alphabetically by last name of donor, followed by a series of "Various people," who only contributed one or a few folders, and lastly by photographs relating to Nicodemus or the Nicodemus Historical Society. Photographs at this location have consistently been organized alphabetically by last name of subject, followed by subjects identified by only first names, followed by unidentifed subjects, followed by non-human subjects.

The Nicodemus Historical Society photographic addition located at RH PH 508 is arranged in three series: Events, People, and Nonhuman Subjects. Within People are eight subseries: Children, Families, Groups, Men, Men and Women, and Women. Arrangement is chiefly alphabetical by name or, if name is unavailable, by subject; where arrangement is by names, the last name is used where possible. Where possible, identification has been given on photographs. Unidentified photographs have been described in-depth on their housing. Where only partial identification is available, a question mark has been included within the labeling (e.g. "? Smith"). Where multiple, identified prints of the same size are housed in one folder, subjects of individual prints are noted. Where a subject appears in photographs across multiple categories, an effort has been made to provide cross reference information; this information is included in the description as "See also" notes. Photograph size is given in inches. Unless noted with a "b/w" (to indicate black and white), images are in color. The term "image" has been used to indicate photographs with differing subjects (e.g. 2 images include a photo of subject A and one of subject B). The term "copies" has been used to indicate multiple prints of the same image. Where possible, photographers are indicated in the collection cescription.

Oversize textual materials are located at RH MS Q429, RH MS R419, and four large folders at RH MS R420. Four oversize photographs are housed at RH PH 508(f).

Wherever possible throughout the finding aid, processing staff have included identifying information provided by the Nicodemus Historical Society, including collection numbering information (i.e. "PC 102.6," "NHS #: PC-122-PH-158").


The Nicodemus Historical Society Collections date from 1880 to 2015. The papers are arranged in series including Nicodemus Historical Society materials, and materials from individuals of the Nicodemus community, categorized alphabetically by family name.

Photographs have been physically separated but also have been organized into series including Nicodemus, the Nicodemus Historical Society, and again by individual donor alphabetically by last name.

Some materials, particularly records from the Nicodemus Historical Society itself, came in multiple additions. These materials therefore appear at multiple call numbers. Researchers may need to review both this finding aid and the finding aid for the original donation located at RH MS 545 and RH MS-P 545 to locate all materials related to the organization or a particular person.

Oversize materials throughout the collection have been physically separated and are described at the end of the appropriate series.

Physical Location

RH MS 1425

Physical Location

RH MS-P 1425

Physical Location

RH MS-P 1425 (f)

Physical Location

RH PH 508

Physical Location

RH PH 508(f)

Physical Location

RH MS Q429

Physical Location

RH MS R419

Physical Location

RH MS R420

Physical Location


Physical Location

A/V items at Annex (Contact Spencer Public Services)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts, Angela Bates, 2003, 2008, 2010, 2016; Nicodemus Historical Society, 2008, 2015, 2016.

Separated Materials

The original Nicodemus Historical Society donations have been described separately and can be found at Nicodemus Historical Society - original donations, RH MS 545, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Processing Information

A finding aid focusing on the digitized materials and original donations of the Nicodemus Historical Society materials was separated by Spencer staff in spring 2022 in order to make these materials and the later additions to the collection at RH MS 1425 and related call numbers more accessible and easier to navigate for patrons.

Guide to the Nicodemus Historical Society Collection
Nicodemus Historical Society collections
Finding aid prepared by bkm, 2006, mbw, 2008; revised by cl 2010; revised by skt, 2010; mbw, 2012; revised by eh, 2017; adc, 2018; mwh, 2019, 2020, 2022, 2023.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Support for the processing of this Collection was provided by the Dana and Sue Anderson African American Collecting Program Endowment Fund.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Nicodemus Historical Society collection - later donations, RH MS 1425, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States