From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)
African American Population in Kansas and Linn County, KS.pdf
Kentucky Contingency in Linn County, Kansas, 1880.pdf

From Kentucky to Linn County, Kansas [Henderson Graham, Sr.]

(start date: 1860  -  end date: 1940) Written By Reinette F. Jones, July 5, 2018. 

Attached to this entry:
1.  African American Population in Kansas and Linn County, 1860-1940 (.pdf).
2. Kentucky Contingency in Linn County, Kansas, 1880 (.pdf).

This entry reviews African American Kentucky contingency in Linn County, KS from 1860-1940.

Prior to Kansas becoming a free state in 1861, African Americans from Kentucky had arrived variously as enslaved people, fugitives, and free persons. They were part of the Kentucky contingency made up of both Kentucky natives and the children of Kentucky natives. By 1880, the African American Kentucky contingency in Linn County was 26% of the 815 African Americans in the county.

Fifty years later, in 1930, there were only 30 members of the Kentucky contingency in Linn County, with only three Kentucky natives, the oldest being Henderson Graham, Sr., orginally from Simpson County, KY. He was the first and only African American lawyer in Mound City, KS during his tenure as a lawyer. From 1930-1937, he was the last African American there who had been born in Kentucky and was the only practicing African American lawyer in Kansas during that time. Graham lived in Mound City from about 1900 until his death in 1937.

For African Americans, Mound City was one of the gateways into the Kansas Territory. African Americans from Kentucky were among the migrants who stopped here in  search of a better life in the west. Mound City, established in 1855, is on the eastern edge of Kansas and is the county seat of Linn County.

In 1860 a military post was established there to control fighting between the pro-slavery advocates and abolitionists along the Kansas-Missouri border. During the U.S. Civil War, the Mound City military post was used by the Union Army to guard against Confederate guerrilla attacks. The post closed in 1865. [Sources: "Picturesque Mound City, Kansas," a legendsofkansas website; Official Military History of Kansas Regiments, by W. S. Burke; and First Kansas Colored Volunteers: Contributions of Black Union Soldiers in the Trans-Mississippi West, by Major M. E. Carter. For more see Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri: the long civil war on the border, by J. H. Earle and D. M. Burke; and Race and Politics: bleeding Kansas and the coming of the Civil War, by J. A. Rawley]. 

Henderson Graham, Sr.'s family was still in Simpson County, KY in 1860 with six family members: parents Sterling and Louisa and their children Matilda, Francis, Henderson, and John [source: 1860 U.S. Census in Ancestry]. The family is listed in the census as free and living in subdistrict 150 in Simpson County.

Sterling Graham was a farmer. The family was among the 96 free African Americans and 2,307 enslaved in Simpson County. Free African Americans were leaving Kentucky in 1860, but not all heading north; some were going to the western territories. In the Kansas Territory, there were 625 free African Americans and two enslaved individuals, according to the 1860 U.S. Census. There were probably more than two enslaved persons, but those two were the only ones  included in the census record. At least 99 (16%) of the free African Americans there were Kentucky natives. Only one of the free African Americans was enumerated as a resident of Linn County: a male 30-40 years old. [Sources: 1860 Census: Population of the United States. Kentucky. Table No. 1. Population by Age and Sex. Free Colored, p. 175. Slaves p. 177; and 1860 Census, Population of the United States. State of Kansas. Table 1 - Population by Age and Sex. White p. 158. Free Colored p. 160. Slaves p. 161.]

The term "free" was used in reference to African Americans named in the 1860 U.S. Census because enslavement still existed there in 1860; the enslaved were counted in the 1860 Slave Schedule. The year after the 1860 census was completed, Kansas became a free state (not a slave state) on January 29, 1861. Prior to that date, there were enslaved people in what was then known as the Kansas Territory. There were also fugitives who had been enslaved in the neighboring state of Missouri, which was one reasons given for the tension and violence that took place along the Kansas-Missouri border [source: "Slavery in Kansas Territory," a Kansas Historical Society website]. The status listing of African Americans in the Kansas Territory was a mix of free African Americans and those whose statuses had evolving from slaves and fugitives to free persons, all of which probably resulted in uncertainties as to how or if they would be enumerated in the federal census records in 1860.

Two and a half months after Kansas became a free state, the Civil War began in April 1861. At least 108 African American Kentucky natives were already living in Kansas when they enlisted for service in the Union Army between 1861 and 1865. The names of those living in Mound City when they enlisted are:

Anderson Fields, b. 1835
Moses Collins, b. 1838
Joseph Willingham, b. 1835
Henry Shepard, b. 1826
Richmond Redmouth, b. 1829

Other servicemen who were Kentucky natives from Linn County:

Daniel Baker, b. 1827; and Henry Clay, b. 1833
both from Scott, KS

Henry Clay, b. 1827
Charles James, b. 1824
James Logan, b. 1834
Benjamin Perry, b. 1833
Robert Russell, b. 1830
all from Blooming Grove, KS

Benjamin Lackey, b. 1829 and Benjamin Turner, b. 1819, both from Paris, KS

Isaac Warren, b. 1821 from Waterville, KS 

[Source: U.S. Civil War Draft Registrations Records, Records of the Provost Marshal General's Bureau (Civil War), vol. 810, Consolidated List Class 1. Southern District Kansas. Available in]

At the end of the Civil War in 1865, 11,955 African Americans were living in Kansas,  approximately 1,844 (15%) Kentucky natives [source: 1865 Kansas State Census Collection in Ancestry]. In Linn County, there were 702 African Americans, about 64 of whom were Kentucky natives.

Those who lived in Mound City were
Angeline Davis,  b. 1840
Thomas R. Hurt, b. 1853
Tamor Over, b. 1825
Henry Sheppard, b. 1826 [a veteran], his wife, Nancy, b. 1828, and their three oldest children, Daniel, b. 1851; Bell, b. 1853; and Aurena, b. 1855
Phillis Towsen
Ann Whitfield, b. 1835 
Joseph Willingham b. 1835 [a veteran]. 

There would never be more than the 64 Kentucky natives in Linn County, a very small portion of the African American population in the state of Kansas. The small number of African Americans from Kentucky was not a deterrent for the few who continued living in Linn County for decades.

Meanwhile, the African American population continued growing at a fast rate in Kansas. There were 17,108 African Americans in 1870; approximately 2,226 (8%) were Kentucky natives. In Linn County, the total population was 12,174 including 655 African Americans of whom about 53 were Kentucky natives. Of those 53 Kentucky natives, the small group in Mound City included

Malinda Ball, b. 1825
Mack Davis, b. 1841
Amelina Davis, b. 1841
Mintie Davis, b. 1844
King Ford, b. 1803
Kattie LaCount, b. 1826
Isaac Napier, b. 1839
Tamore Over, b. 1825
Anderson Turk, b. 1830
and Joseph Willinghamm b. 1835 [a veteran]. 

[Sources: Second Biennial Report of the State Board of Agriculture to the Legislature of the State of Kansas for the Years 1879-80, p. 523; 1870 U.S. Census in Ancestry; and 1870 Census: Volume 1. The Statistics of the Population of the United States. Georgia, Territory of Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas. Population by Counties - 1790-1870. Table II.-State of Kansas-continued. p. 29. Free Colored. p. 30.]

Sterling Graham and his family left Kentucky and arrived in Kansas around 1873 between major migration events for African Americans, including a large wave of migrants who came to Kansas between 1860 and 1870, when the African American population grew from 625 to 19,495. At the end of the decade came the founding of the African American town of Nicodemus in 1877, where more than half the population was from Kentucky, followed by the "Exodus of 1879" when thousands of African Americans left the racial prejudice in the south and moved to Kansas. [Sources: 1860 and 1870 U.S. Census; The Origins and Early Promotions of Nicodemus, by K. M. Hamilton; "Exodusters," by Todd Arrington, Historian Homestead National Monument of America, a National Park Service website; John G. Van Deusen, "The Exodus of 1879," The Journal of Negro History, vol. 21, no. 2 (April 1936), pp. 111-129; and Billy D. Higgis, "Negro thought and the Exodus of 1879," Phylon, vol. 32, no. 1 (1st Qtr., 1971), pp. 39-52.]

The Graham family from Simpson County, KY, settled in Timber Hill, Bourbon County, KS. Henderson and his brother John lived with their parents, Sterling and Louisa Graham. Sterling had been a farmer in Kentucky and continued farming in Kansas. In 1875, his real estate was valued at $175 and his personal property at $75. Jerome, another of Sterling's sons, was a laborer, married with three children. Jerome's oldest child Mary was born in Kentucky in 1871. The last two children were born in Kansas, one in 1874 and one in 1875. All other members of the Graham family were born in Kentucky.
[Source: 1875 Kansas State Census in Ancestry] 

In 1880, Henderson Graham was still living with his parents in Timber Hill [source: 1880 U.S. Census in Ancestry]. Henderson was farming with his father, Sterling Graham. The family had been joined by Francis Graham Kelly, Sterling's daughter, who was divorced, and her two children, Graham and Louisa Kelly. The children were born in Kansas, one in 1874 and the other in 1875. Sterling's youngest son John had married and had a new baby. John's family also lived in Timber Hill. The Graham family members were part of the Kentucky contingency in Kansas made up of Kentucky natives and their children.

About 30 miles north of Timber Hill, the Kentucky contingency in Linn County was at an all-time high when it was enumerated in the 1880 U.S. Census. This particular census was the first to collect data on parents' birth locations and to cross-reference nativity location, residence location, and race.  The 1880 census was the largest and most inquisitive census that had been completed in the United States. More information about the 1880 census can be found in The American Census: a social history, by M. J. Anderson.

The 1880 data collected about African Americans born in Kentucky revealed that there were 6,985 Kentucky natives in Kansas in 1880, 16% of the 43,107 African Americans living there. In Linn County there were 815 African Americans, at least 63 of them Kentucky natives. In addition 151 children of Kentucky natives were enumerated, making a Kentucky contingency of 214 persons. The children of the Kentucky natives had been born in Kansas, Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. The Kentucky contingency represented 26% of the 815 African Americans in Linn County. [Sources: 1880 Census: Volume 1. Statistics of the Population of the United States. Table II. Population of Each State and Territory By Counties. Kansas. p. 60; Population by Race, Sex, and Nativity. Table V.-Population, by Race and by Counties: 1880, 1870, 1860. Kansas. p. 391; Population by Race, Sex, and Nativity. Table XIL. Distributed According to State or Territory of Birth. p. 489.]

Taking a closer look at the 1880 Kentucky contingency in Linn County, there were three distinct divisions. The largest group was made up of 83 persons born in Kansas to Kentucky parents between 1864 and 1880. The next largest group, 55 persons, had been born in Missouri to Kentucky parents between 1822 and 1870. The third largest group was made up of 61 Kentucky natives born between 1803 and 1864. More than half of the  Kentucky contingency, 125 (58%), had been born before the U.S. Civil War ended, including all the Kentucky natives  who as a group had more of the oldest members of the Kentucky contingency, the ages ranging from the oldest, 77-year old Sipio Watkins, born in Kentucky in 1803; to the youngest two babies, Minnie Mills and Mary Davis, both born in Kansas in 1880. The majority of the group lived in three areas of the county: 47 in Mound City, 43 in La Cygne, and 33 in the rural areas of Linn County. [Source: Kentucky Contingency in Linn County, Kansas, 1880 (.pdf), attached to this entry.]

By the year 1900, Henderson Graham, Sr. and his family had left Timber Hill and moved to Mound City, according to the 1900 U.S. Census in Ancestry. Henderson had been married to Isabel for 18 years, and they had eight children. Isabel was from Arkansas; her father had been born in Kentucky. All of Henderson and Isabel's children were born in Kansas. Henderson Graham, Sr. had become a lawyer, the first and only African American lawyer in Linn County in 1900 when  there were 14 white lawyers. It is not known when or where Henderson Graham, Sr. received his law training or what measure of his success he had, though Henderson and Isabel owned their home, free of mortgage. They had moved sometime between 1885, when they were listed in the Kansas State Census as living in Timber Hill with two children and Henderson was still farming, and 1900, when they were listed in the U.S. Census as living in Mound City. [Not all of the children were accounted for in the 1885 Kansas State Census.] 

There were 2,383 lawyers in Kansas in 1900, and of that number 22 were African American males. There was also one African American female lawyer. She was not listed in the 1900 Census Special Reports, though according to the 1900 U.S. Census of Kansas in Ancestry, Hina Broadus was a pension lawyer,  married and the mother of  one child; the family lived in Leavenworth. The parents of Hina Broadus were born in Kentucky. Hina Broadus, Charles Fry in Lawrence, and about four other African American lawyers were part of the Kentucky contingency in Kansas. Besides Henderson Graham, there was one other African American Kentucky native who was a lawyer:  William Hawkins, who lived in Atchison, KS. He had been born in 1868 in Fayette County, KY, and  was single, living with his mother America F. Hawkins, who had been born in Kentucky around 1827. The other African American lawyers in Kansas lived in Kansas City, Leavenworth, Topeka, Wichita, Parker, Holton, Hill City, Lawrence, and Parsons. [Source: 1900 Census in Ancestry ; 1900 Census Special Reports: Occupations at the Twelfth Census. States and Territories (Tables 31-41). Statistics of Occupations. Table 32. p. 95. ; and States and Territories (Table 41, continued). Statistics of Occupations. Kansas. Table 41. p. 280.]

In 1910, there were about 25 African American lawyers in Kansas [source: 1910 U.S. Census in Ancestry]. Those born in Kentucky included Henderson Graham in Mound City, brothers George and Archie French in Wyandotte, and Samuel Carey in Topeka. Children of Kentucky natives included Isaac Bradly in Kansas City, Albert M. Thomas in Topeka, John W. Clark in Lawrence, James H. Guy in Topeka, and George W. Smith in Kansas City. The number of African American lawyers in Kansas would continue at a minimal level even while the African American population in Kansas continued to grow by thousands over the next couple of decades; However not all areas of Kansas experienced that level of  population growth.

The African American population in Linn County was 628 in 1900, dropping to 323 by 1910. African Americans were 4% of the Linn County population in 1900. Over the next decade, the Linn County population decreased from 16,689 in 1900 to 14,735 in 1910. So while African Americans were 4% of the county population, they represented 17% of the Linn County population loss between 1900 and 1910. Of the 323 African Americans who remained in Linn County in 1910, the Kentucky contingency of 135 persons represented 42% of the African American population, including Henderson Graham, Sr. and his family members. [Sources: 1900 Census: Volume 1. Population, Part 1.  Sex, General Nativity and Color. Table 12. p. 486; Kansas. Table 18. p. 503; Kansas. Table 19. p. 539; States and Territories and Counties. Table 1. p. 2. and Kansas. Table 4. p. 20; State or Territory of Birth. Table 29. p. 703; 1910 Census: Volume 1. Population, General Report and Analysis. Chapter 6. State of Birth of the Native Population. Native Negro Population Classified According to Division and State in Which Born. Table 37. p 743; and 1910 Census: Volume 2. Population, Reports by States with Statistics for Counties, Cities, and Other Civil Divisions: Alabama-Montana. Population-Kansas. p. 644; Color, Nativity, and Parentage. Table 1. p. 669; Populations for the State and for Counties. Table 1. p. 684.] 

In 1920, population had continued to decrease in Linn County, from 14,735 in 1910 to 13,815 in 1920. However, for African Americans in the county the population loss was minimal, from 323 in 1910 to 307 in 1920. The Kentucky contingency in Linn County was down to 58, still including the family of Henderson Graham, Sr, in Mound City, the family living on Walnut Street. Henderson was a widower and continuing to practice pension law; he was one of about 25 African American lawyers in Kansas, six of them the children of Kentucky parents [source: 1920 U.S. Census in Ancestry]. Henderson Graham, Sr. in Mound City and John Clark in Lawrence were the two African American lawyers in Kansas born in Kentucky. Henderson Graham, Sr. owned his own law office, which seems to have been his main source of income. He was head of his household at 136 Walnut Street, where he lived with his son Walter, a day laborer; his 14-year-old son William, and his six-year-old granddaughter Louisa. His son John Graham, a day laborer, lived next door on Walnut Street. His son Henderson Graham, Jr., a butcher, lived two houses down from his brother John on Walnut Street. Henderson Jr. and his wife Ruby had five children. [Sources: 1920 Census in Ancestry; 1920 Census: Volume 2. Population, General Report and Analytical Tables. Chapter 5. State of Birth of the Native Population. Table 19. Native Negro Population of Each Division and Each State by Division and State of Birth. p. 639; 1920 Census: Volume 3. Population. Summary Tables and Detailed Tables. Kansas through Massachusetts. Color or Race, Nativity, Parentage, and Sex. Table 1. p. 338; Kansas. Composition and Characteristics of the Population, for Counties. Table 9. p. 349.] 
In 1930, Graham family members were still in Linn County. They were among the 62 African Americans in Mound City and the 235 African Americans in Linn County. Within the county were 30 persons in the Kentucky contingency: three  Kentucky natives and 27 persons with parents who were Kentucky natives [source: 1930 U.S. Census in Ancestry]. The 27 persons were born in Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas. Among the children of Kentucky natives in the entire state of Kansas, there were eight lawyers. There were about 26 African American lawyers in Kansas in 1930, and that included Henderson Graham, Sr. and John W. Clark, the two Kentucky natives. They are both enumerated in the 1930 census (April 1930); later that year John W. Clark died. Henderson Graham, Sr. would continue his law practice. He and his family had stayed in Mound City while the African American population in Linn County steadily decreased. For at least 30 years Henderson Graham, Sr. served as the only African American lawyer in the county. He died in 1937 and is buried in Woodland Cemetery in Mound City [source: Find A Grave]. [Sources: 1930 Census: Volume 2. Population, General Report, Statistics by Subject. Chapter 2. Color or Race, Nativity and Parentage. Table 11, p. 35; Chapter 4. State of Birth of the Native Population. Table 23. Native Negro Population of Each Division and State, By Division and State of Birth. p. 166; 1930 Census: Volume 3. Population, Reports by States. Kansas and Kentucky. Population-Kansas. Table 13. Composition of the Population, By Counties. p. 844.]

By 1940, all of the Kentucky natives in Mound City had passed away or moved away. Of the Kentucky contingency, there remained in Mound City the children of the Kentucky natives, including Henderson Graham's children. [Nativity of parents data were not collected for the 1940 U.S. Census.] The remaining Kentucky natives in Linn County were in the community of La Cygne:

Ted Carter, b. 1915
Lila Carter, b. 1920
Lula Withworth, b. 1850
Eli McClanahan, b. 1875 and his wife Marietta McClanahan, b. 1875.

These five were among the 180 African Americans in Linn County and the 2,240 African American Kentucky natives in Kansas.

There was about 20 African American lawyers in Kansas in 1940, none Kentucky natives. [Sources: 1940 U.S. Census in Ancestry; 1940 Census of Population: Volume 2. Characteristics of the Population. Table 4. Race, By Nativity and Sex, for the State: 1850 to 1940. p. 14; Table 21. Composition of the Population, by Counties. p. 41.; and Mapping the Great Migration (African American), James N. Gregory, University of Washington, America's Great Migrations. (Online)]. 

For more information, see In Motion: the African American migration experience, by H. Dodson and S. A. Douf; Encyclopedia of the Great Black Migration, by S. A. Reich; Narratives of African Americans in Kansas, 1870-1992, by J. U. Gordon; and Prairie, Property, and Promise: Black migrants and farmers in Kansas, 1860-1885by K. D. McCall (thesis) 2013.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Simpson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“From Kentucky to Linn County, Kansas [Henderson Graham, Sr.],” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 12, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-07-17 18:00:16