Study Guide

Kansas-Nebraska Act Timeline

By U.S. Congress

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Seven Cities of Cibola, This Is Not

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, a big-deal Spanish explorer, sets out looking for the Seven Cities of Cibola, legendary cities made of gold.

He didn't find them, but he did find Kansas and Nebraska. (Consolation prize?) He claimed the land for his home country, not bothering to check in with the Native Americans already living there to make sure they were okay with this.


Proselytizing Gone Wrong

Father Juan de Padilla, a Spanish Catholic priest, returns to Kansas after accompanying Coronado on his trip the year before. Father Juan attempted to Christianize the members of the Native American tribes he found there, thus earning a place in history as America's first Christian martyr.


Pardon Our French…Or Don't

France claims a ginormous portion of North America as its own, naming the entire area Louisiana in honor of King Louis XIV. Just a hair larger than the current state of Louisiana, New France reached from the Appalachians to the Rockies, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, and all the way up into present-day Quebec and Montreal.


Looking a Little Flat

French explorer Etienne Veniard de Bourgmont, the first recorded European in Nebraska, names the Platte River the Nebraskier River (Oto for "flat water"), and thus the future name of the Cornhusker State was born.


European Trade Comes to Kansas

Etienne Veniard de Bourgmont sets up shop in Kansas and begins trading with local Native American tribes.

February 10, 1763

Spain Gets Some Kansas and Nebraska Action

Spain gets all of France's claims west of the Mississippi after Great Britain beats France in the Seven Years' War.

July 4, 1776

So Many Freedoms

The U.S. officially becomes the U.S. and no longer belongs to the British.

February 12, 1793

Fugitive Slave Act #1 Passed

If our indoor cat somehow escapes from the house and is found by someone else, we can just go and get Mr. Whiskers and bring him back home. Back in the day, slaves were treated the same way: if one ran away, its owner could just go and get him or her and bring them back home. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 made this practice legal.


France Gets the Midwest Back

Spain returns to France the territory it had acquired in 1763, save about 7,500 square miles it kept for itself.

April 30, 1803

Louisiana Purchasing Power

In the deal of the century, the United States shakes hands with France and takes about 827,000 square miles of land off its hands for the cool price of $15 million.

This deal, known as the Louisiana Purchase, included land in what we now know as Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, New Mexico, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, and—wait for it—Louisiana. Areas in the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta were also involved.

July 4, 1804

Swivel Gun Fun

Lewis and Clark celebrate Independence Day in Kansas this year, marking the occasion by shooting off swivel guns and naming (very cleverly, we might add) Independence Creek.

July-August 1804

Lewis and Clark Get Catfished

The Lewis and Clark expedition maps the eastern border of Nebraska and experiences the delight of chowing down on fresh, delicious catfish in their camp outside of Omaha.


Fort Atkinson Becomes a Thing

When it was built, Fort Atkinson in Nebraska was the first U.S. military post west of the Missouri River, created to help the growing fur trade. Unfortunately, it was abandoned in 1827 when the Army decided to make new forts elsewhere. Now it's a State Historical Park with a bustling social calendar.

May 8, 1827

Fort Leavenworth is Born

Fort Leavenworth, the oldest active army installation west of the Mississippi, is established to protect travelers and frontiersmen (and frontierswomen) as they made their way across the country. Fun fact: its original name was Cantonment Leavenworth.

May 28, 1830

Indian Removal Act

President Jackson signs into law an act that forces bajillions of Native American tribes to leave their land and go park it somewhere west of the Mississippi. It went over like a lead balloon, and the forced relocation went on for years.

November 4, 1838

End of Potawatomi Trail of Death

In a particularly happy and loving move, the U.S. federal government forces more than 850 Native Americans from the Potawatomi nation to ditch their homeland in Indiana and relocate to the future site of Kansas Territory. During this oh-so-not-leisurely stroll, which was accompanied by an armed volunteer militia, more than forty people died; most of the casualties were kids.

December 17, 1844

Let's Make a Nebraska, Take 1

Senator Stephen Douglas introduces his first attempt at a bill to organize the Nebraska Territory, but nothing ever happened with it, and the subject was set aside. For the curious, there was zero mention of slavery in this version of the bill.

April 24, 1848

Let's Make a Nebraska, Take 2

Senator Stephen Douglas introduces his second attempt at a bill to organize the Nebraska Territory. Like its predecessor, no action was taken, and it was back to the drawing board for the Little Giant.

October 1848

We'll Make Our Own Nebraska Then

The Northwestern Confederacy of Indian Tribes meets near Fort Leavenworth and votes to take this whole Nebraska organization thing into its own hands, feeling like they'd benefit from getting involved early in Nebraska's governance and law-making. Politicians in Washington continue to not act.

December 20, 1848

Let's Make a Nebraska, Take 3

Senator Stephen Douglas' third attempt to get Nebraska organized is referred to the Committee on Territories…where it promptly dies. This had to be discouraging for the Senator, but we give him mad props for perseverance.

September 18, 1850

Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 Passed

By 1850, the Union was more or less equally divided between slave states and free states. This little piece of legislation said that if a slave escaped to a free state, that free state was obligated to return the slave to his or her owner, even though slavery wasn't a thing in their own place of residence.

October 12, 1852

Nebraska Rocks the Vote

Folks in the soon-to-be Nebraska Territory vote to send a delegate to the U.S. Congress and petition for formal organization; D.C. peeps aren't thrilled about this, and some of them start thinking that maybe they need to address this whole Nebraska issue after all.

December 13, 1852

Let's Make a Nebraska, Take 4

Giving Senator Douglas a rest, Congressman Willard Hall of Missouri introduced his own bill to organize Nebraska. His proposed geographical boundaries were a little different than Douglas', and he called the area "Platte" instead of "Nebraska," but even with its new bedazzling, nothing happened.

February 2, 1853

Let's Make a Nebraska, Take 5

Congressman Richardson from Illinois takes Hall's December bill, changes "Platte" back to "Nebraska," and somehow finally, finally manages to get a bill on the organization of Nebraska through the House of Representatives.

February 17, 1853

Senator Douglas Says, "Do It"

Probably sighing in equal parts relief and weariness, Senator Stephen Douglas takes Richardson's Nebraska bill and puts it to the Senate without changing a single word. It was voted on, passed, and set aside for future review. Foiled again, it seemed.

July 26, 1853

Nebraska's First Governor

Wyandot leader William Walker is elected Nebraska's first provisional Governor, even though Nebraska wasn't officially a Territory and Walker would never be recognized by the U.S. Government as a "real" Governor. He served until President Pierce appointed the Territory's first official Governor in October of 1854.

October 11, 1853

More Elections in Fake Nebraska

The Provisional Government of Nebraska Territory holds a Congressional election, even though their delegate will have no power in Congress…since Nebraska still doesn't officially exist.

May 30, 1854

Kansas-Nebraska Act Approved

Some cheer and some weep as the Kansas-Nebraska Act is signed into law and Territories Kansas and Nebraska are now officially organized and incorporated. The language in the act about popular sovereignty would continue to chap hides for many moons to come.

June 29, 1854

Reeder Appointed Governor of Kansas

President Pierce appoints Pennsylvania-raised Jeffersonian Democrat as the first Governor of the Territory of Kansas. His tenure barely lasted a year, setting a trend amongst Kansas governors that lasted until 1873, when Governor James Harvey made history by being the first to serve his entire four-year term.

August 2, 1854

Burt Commissioned as Governor of Nebraska

POTUS Pierce selects South Carolina politico Francis Burt as Nebraska Territory's first official Governor, sending him off on a journey that would eventually kill him.

October 7, 1854

Reeder on the Scene

Kansas Territory's first Governor, POTUS-appointed Andrew H. Reeder, arrives at Fort Leavenworth ready to rock his new job.

October 16, 1854

Francis Burt's Killer Job

Francis Burt is sworn in as Nebraska Governor from his sickbed in Bellevue. He dies two days later of stomach problems, warning others to stay away from the sushi. (Kidding about the sushi, though if 1850s Nebraska did have sushi, we'd probably recommend avoiding it as well.)

January 1855

Francis Burt Gets a Namesake

Nebraska Territory names Burt County in honor of the Governor it had for two entire days.

April 9, 1855

"People's Proclamation" Goes Viral

A handbill calling for the removal of Governor Reeder from office is circulated around the Territory of Kansas and beyond, accusing poor Andrew of being inept, incompetent, and generally unfit for his position.

July 1, 1855

That's Bogus, Man

Kansas Territory's "Bogus Legislature" meets in Pawnee for four glorious days of debates, overthrowings, outdoor living, and the establishment of county lines.

August 16, 1855

Reeder Replaced

Kansas Territory Governor Andrew H. Reeder's replacement, a pro-slavery guy named Wilson Shannon, takes office.

January 29, 1861

Kansas Becomes a State

On what we're sure was a chilly day in the Sunflower State, Kansas became the U.S.'s lucky #34, naming the growing city of Topeka as its capitol.

April 12, 1861

Civil War Begins

A little cannon battle at Fort Sumter, South Carolina heralds the beginning of the Civil War, a deadly exchange of ideas between the Union States of the North and the Confederate States of the South.

June 3, 1861

Stephen Douglas Dies

Senator Stephen Douglas, author and #1 pusher of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, passes away from typhoid fever at his pad in Chicago.

January 1, 1863

Slavery, Get Thee Gone

Abraham Lincoln's uber-famous Emancipation Proclamation is proclaimed, and the end of institutionalized slavery in America is finally just around the corner.

April 9, 1865

Civil War Ends

General Robert E. Lee of the Confederacy surrenders to General Ulysses S. Grant of the Union, marking the last big military surrender of the Civil War and the beginning of the end for the Confederate States of America.

March 1, 1867

Nebraska Becomes a State

Beware the ides of March? Nope, says Nebraska, choosing March 1st to officially join the United States as its 37th member.

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