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Town Development


Town settlement by both pro-slavery and free state factions.

Grade Level:

Middle and High school


This lesson covers the difficulties of town settlement in Kansas Territory between the proslave and free-state factions. Town settlement was at times a race to see who could bring the most emigrants to Kansas Territory, and in so doing influence the vote on the slavery question on a state and national level.

Standards addressed:

Kansas History, Government and Social Studies Standards:

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

  • Benchmark 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.

RH.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.

KCCRS Speaking and Listening Standards

SL.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade 7-8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

SL.4 Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with pertinent descriptions, facts, details, and examples: use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.



  • Understand the elements of town development and how it was affected by the conflict over the extension of slavery into the territory


  • Using primary sources (letters, advertisements, government documents)

Essential Questions:

  • Why would town development be important in a new territory?
  • How were towns created in the 1850s?
  • Why was the slave issue connected to town development?


  • Groups of students work together to create and “sell” their towns.


  • Map key locations and geographical features of northeast Kansas during the territorial period.
  • Learn the vocabulary terms preemption, speculation, share, and quitclaim from reading primary source documents.
  • Apply knowledge about town settlement through role-playing as a town surveyor, promoter, city clerk, and town commissioner.
  • Groups of students create fictitious towns and sell town shares to other students. The towns selling the most shares win.
  • Through a random drawing, two towns are determined to be slave towns. The populations of these towns will determine if Kansas is free or slave.
  • Discuss the ramifications.

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 Kansas History, Government, and Social Studies Standards and Kansas College and Career Ready Literacy Standards.

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