Topeka Kansas: History of the State Capital

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The sexual assault lawyers in Topeka, Kansas have sponsored this article. We hope that you learn something new about the history of your town, or for when you visit the capital of Kansas.

History of Topeka

Topeka is the capital of the state of Kansas and sits in the northeast part of the state along the Kansas River. The city was laid out in 1854 and named in 1855, however its name dates back to 1826. Topeka was originally a Kansa-Osage word referring to the Kansas River, but meaning a 'place where we dug potatoes'.

The city was integral during the time of the Oregon Trail, offering a ferry service across the Kansas River. After being established, there were regular steamboats to get across the river and they offered meat, lumber and flour. Topeka was able to trade potatoes, corn and wheat.

In 1854, Topeka was lid out as a 'Free-State town' by anti-slavery men, even though there was much conflict between the abolitionists and pro-slavery settlers. In 1856, a militia was organized to fortify the free-state city and eventually Kansas became part of the Union in 1861. The Civil war slowed the growth of the state capital but the close of the war brought about a revival period. Many former slaves settled in the city during the 1870s, but the city growth burst in the late 1880s when the population doubled but entered a financial depression.  The early 1900s saw the Smith Automobile Company grow within Topeka, but it extinguished in t 1912.

Topeka and Brown vs. Board

Topeka was home to the first African-American kindergarten and home to Oliver Brown. Brown would eventually file the lawsuit against the Board of Education to eliminate the 'separate but equal' mindset and require racial integration in public schools.

At the time, elementary schools were still segregated but the local high school had been integrated since 1871. Brown v. Board of Education was an integral part of desegregation and establishing racial segregation as unconstitutional. It was in 1951 that the elementary school in Topeka refused to enroll Oliver Brown's daughter in the school closest to home. Thurgood Marshall represented the Browns in the Supreme Court and eventually found that 'educational facilities are inherently equal'.

Recent History of Topeka

Since Brown v. Board of Education, the city has struggled with racial discrimination. There have been different groups of citizens to help overcome racism, including the Task force to Overcome Racism in Topeka which was a group established in the 1980s.

The city has continued to grow over the years and improve infrastructure and the community for residents.

More recently, there has been an influx of growth in apartment and condo developments alongside street improvements.


As of the 2010 census, there were 127, 473 residents in Topeka living in 5.,9413 households. The city has a racial makeup of:

  • 76.2% White
  • 11.3% African American
  • 1.4% Native American
  • 1.3% Asian

The city has a smaller percentage of households with children under 18 compared to other metropolitan cities, being 29.5% in Topeka. The age range in 2010 was evenly split across groups with the median age being 36 years old and 26.1% of the population between 25-44 years old. The gender makeup would also be pretty even with 52.2% female residents vs 47.8% male.

As with any major city in the United States and being a state capital, there was a crime boom in the 1990s but crime rates have improved since the peak.

Being the state capital, the city is home to many major corporations including:

  • Frito-Lay
  • Goodyear Tire
  • BNSF Railroad
  • Evergy Energy

Things to Do In Topeka

The state capital has much to offer regardless of what you are interested in. Most notibly, there is the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, which documents the landmark decision of the Supreme Court ending racial segregation in public schools.

In addition the city offers:

  • Evel Kinevel Museum
  • Kansas Children's Discovery Center
  • Local Murals
  • Combat Air Museum
  • Kansas Museum of History
  • Topeka Zoo
  • Washburn University
  • Cedar Crest
  • Upstage Gallery

Learn more about the local history of Olathe.

Our Local Office

Our local Topeka sexual assault lawyers offer free consultations for those in need. Do not hesitate to call our local office if you have been assaulted and are wondering what your legal options are. Call today for a free confidential consultation.

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