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The People of Kansas - Where Did They Come From?

Why Did They Come?


People who settled in Kansas Territory

Grade Level:

Middle and High school


Settle in KansasThis lesson brings together the ideas of Manifest Destiny (the students should be familiar with this concept before starting this lesson), emigration, and the issues that made Kansas Territory the center of national attention in the 1850s.

Standards addressed:

Kansas History, Government and Social Studies Standards:

3. Societies are shaped by beliefs, ideas, and diversity.

  • 3.2 The student will draw conclusions about significant beliefs, contributions, and ideas, analyzing the origins and context under which these competing ideals were reached and the multiple perspectives from which they come.

KCCRS Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies

RH.1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.



  • Understand the multiple emigration forces involved in the settlement of Kansas Territory, including economic, political, social, and geographic


  • Using primary sources (census records)
  • Analyzing a painting

Essential Questions:

  • What is emigration?
  • Why do people emigrate?
  • What were the push-pull forces of Kansas settlement?


  • Collect and interpret 1855 census data regarding the reasons people migrated to Kansas Territory.


  • Investigate the topic of Manifest Destiny through the painting American Progress.
  • Define the term “emigration.”
  • Discuss the reasons why people emigrate and specifically why people emigrated to Kansas.
  • Divide into groups and analyze census district reports about early Kansas settlers.
  • What can be learned about Kansas emigrants from census data? What are the limitations of using census data.

Download the Complete Lesson Plan  Primary sources required for this lesson plan--Territorial Kansas 1855 Census for districts 1, 4, 16, and 17 may be accessed through Kansas Memory 1855 census or through Territorial Kansas Online. The lesson also calls for American Progress a painting by John Gast. Copies of this painting can be found easily through a Google search.  These primary sources will also be used with another lesson, "The People of Kansas:  Who are they and why are they here?" This lesson needs several primary sources which may be introduced at the end of "The People of Kansas - Where did they come from?"  The sources needed may be obtained from the Kansas Memory website.

This lesson plan was originally prepared by the Education and Outreach Division, Kansas State Historical Society for Territorial Kansas Online. The standards cited in the pdf form of the lesson plan were those from the 1999 Kansas State Standards. On this preview of the lesson we have made every attempt to match them to the 2013 Kansas History, Government, and Social Studies Standards and Kansas College and Career Ready Literacy Standards.