Why Is Topeka the Capital of Kansas?

(Last Updated On: July 30, 2020)
Why Is Topeka the Capital of Kansas?

Located approximately equal distance from the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, Kansas is a state filled with rolling plains, fertile soil, and a defining history. Know for its agricultural economy, it’s estimated some 90% of state land is used for farming.

Kansas is a flat and spacious state with a population of roughly 2.9 million. With an area of about 82,000 square miles, it ranks as one of the lowest states in population-density.

The largest city in the state of Kansas is Wichita, with almost 390,000 people. Oakland Park is the second most populous. And the capital of Kansas, Topeka, ranks third.

The Capital of Kansas

Before the Louisiana Purchase, when the United States gained control of what is now Kansas, the area around modern Topeka was home to Native Americans. The name Topeka comes from the Kaw-Osage word for “Place Where We Dug Potatoes.” Topeka is located along a part of the Kansas River that coincided with trade routes for people traveling from the east along the Oregon Trail. For this reason, it was an ideal location to cross the river. 

Two of the earliest European settlers in the area were French-Canadian’s Louis and Joseph Papin. They established a ferry boat service that would allow wagons to be transported across the Kansas River. In 1842, it was named the Papin’s Ferry Route. As word spread, more voyagers seeking the Pacific made way for Topeka, increasing the demand for more ferries. This brought an influx of new business opportunities, creating an economic hub. 

As history progressed the area soon became host to violence and disagreement. The Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854 enabled Kansas to be settled. However, settlers could choose whether it would become a free state or a slave state. This freedom of choice created a divide in the territory with many settlers being both pro and anti-slavery. This time of conflict and violent outbreaks has been called “Bleeding Kansas.” 

Why Is Topeka the Capital of Kansas?

In 1861, before the civil war broke out, Kansas entered the union as a free state. Due to its strategic location along the Kansas River and potential for economic growth, Topeka was named the capital city. 

Moving through history, Topeka continued to grow in population size as well as economically. Shortly after it became an official free state, the population jumped from a meager 759 to a sizable 5,790 people. 

If you want to learn more about Kansas cities check out this quiz. 

Following a period of economic growth and overcoming bouts of boom and bust, Topeka became a city of industry. The central location of Kansas within the United States made it a desirable spot for large companies to establish headquarters. Topeka soon became home to food processing plants and manufacturing hubs producing an array of goods from poultry to medicine. 

Topeka is the capital of Kansas, a state that fought for its freedom. Situated in the center of the United States it was always seen as an area with abundant resources. It is one of the top producing states of agricultural goods including beef cattle and wheat. Located on the Kansas River, Topeka was the perfect crossing point for travelers moving to the west. The economic potential and position of the city made it the perfect choice for the capital. 

Interested in learning about more capital cities? Take a look at these articles.