Walking West with Robert Campbell

Mile 488: Tope­ka, Kansas (Mod­ern Day)

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Bird’s eye view of the city of Tope­ka, the cap­i­tal of Kansas
Ruger, A.

After leav­ing Kansas City, Robert Camp­bell and com­pa­ny fol­lowed the Kansas Riv­er. They had made their way deep into the unchart­ed West by this point and they were encoun­ter­ing only remote out­posts and Native Amer­i­can vil­lages. The state of Kansas and the city of Kansas were both non-exis­tent when Robert Campbell’s par­ty made their way through this por­tion of the Kansas Riv­er. Tope­ka, Kansas would begin to be devel­oped into a Euro­pean-Amer­i­can set­tle­ment in the 1850s. In 1854 the first cab­in was built in the area, and by 1857 the town was offi­cial­ly incor­po­rat­ed, more than 30 years after Robert passed through.

The Kaw peo­ple would have called the area all around mod­ern day Tope­ka and Man­hat­tan Kansas home. Tope­ka, in the lan­guage of the Kaw peo­ple trans­lates rough­ly to “a good place to grow pota­toes.” Kaw oral his­to­ry states that they orig­i­nat­ed from the ancient Hoga tribe, which was locat­ed near mod­ern day Illinois/Kentucky. The oral his­to­ry goes that the Qua­paw, the Pon­ca, the Oma­ha, the Osage and the Kaw all share a com­mon ances­try in the Hoga civ­i­liza­tion, and that they set out on a migra­tion fur­ther west in the late 17th cen­tu­ry. How­ev­er, as their shared oral his­to­ry goes, the Hoga split up dur­ing this jour­ney. The Qua­paw set­tled in Arkansas, the Pon­ca and Oma­ha set­tled in Nebras­ka, the Kaw in Kansas, and the Osage set­tled in Mis­souri. Many mod­ern archae­ol­o­gists do not accept this Dhegi­han His­to­ry, as it is called. How­ev­er, it is an oral his­to­ry that is shared by all five groups, who are geo­graph­i­cal­ly dis­tant, yet share a com­mon lan­guage root. 

Kaw Indi­an Camp