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The People of Kansas - Who Are They?

Why Are They Here?


Investigating first hand accounts of why people came to Kansas.

Grade Level:

Middle and High school

Mennonite coupleOverview:

This 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:

  • KH7B3I6  expansion of railroad and settlement



  • Understand the settlement experience through first-hand accounts of pioneers to Kansas Territory


  • Using primary sources (letters, photographs)

Ada McColl and brother Burt gathering buffalo chips near Lakin, KSEssential Questions:

  • How would your life be different if you lived in Kansas Territory in the 1850s?


  • Write an 1850s-style letter or skit using primary source documents.


  • Investigate and share themes and messages in the painting American Progress.
  • Review (from Lesson 1) the reasons why people emigrate and what the students learned from the 1855 census.
  • Students analyze letters and photographs from the territorial period using the “Assessing Primary Source Documents” worksheet.
  • Students write a historical fiction letter or skit based on the territorial documents.
  • Students share letter or skit with class.

Download the Complete Lesson Plan Primary sources required for this lesson plan were also used in the previous lesson, "The People of Kansas :--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.

Return to ready-to-use lesson plans

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 current 2004-05 State Standards.