Go Wake Nicodemus!

Nicodemus Travel Blog

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Inside the Visitor center/ town hall
Due to the Memorial day holiday we had to stop in Oakley, Ks. Colorado, along with several other states, have laws forbidding us to drive during national holidays. Good news I am free for a couple of days to explore, bad news there is not too much nearby to explore.. haha figures right! :P but no worries I will always find something to do or see.

The last time we drove through Kansas I stopped for an hour at the Liberal, Kansas tourism office just to see if there was anything exciting to see or do in Western Kansas that I have yet to find. The lady working the office/gift shop was very informative of interesting sites to visit in Kansas. Sometime during our long conversation about both the state and the Wizard of Oz she mentioned the small town Nicodemus.
artistic replica of the early residences and dug outs of the original settlers
I had never heard of the town before and was immediately intrigued when she told me about its origins.

Nicodemus is an all Black settlement established in 1877 by former Slaves looking for the "promise land" in Kansas. Today it is the ONLY and oldest Black settlement still in existence West of the Mississippi River. It is truly an interesting little speck of a town to visit. Today the population is no more than 30 permanent residents of mostly retired citizens who all can trace their heritage to the first few groups of the former slaves and black pioneers that settled the surrounding area during the late 1800's. Despite the small number of residents hundreds of relatives will flock back "home" every July for the Annual "Emancipation Day" Parade.

A handful of historical buildings still exist, but only one is currently accessible to the public.
Town Hall
That building is the Townhall built in 1939 as a WPA project and is currently used as the visitor station. Inside is a display of the town's history with pictures and news videos depicting the well loved and highly celebrated parade. The volunteer staff are knowledgeable of the local history and were very helpful answering all my questions regarding the small town.

Given a map of the historical buildings I set out to find them. It didn't take long and if you look at my pictures you will see why! Most of the original buildings were literally moved by the residents to a more prosperous town a few miles down the road when the RR decided not to lay tracks closer to Nicodemus, A story that is sadly all to common in the slow decay of many once flourishing Western communities.

During my quiet walk through town I was stopped in the center of an intersection by Victor Williams.
This is a Hotel!!! and was also a post office.
Victor was a friendly local resident who was obviously proud of his small town and its unique history. During our brief conversation he expressed that he was the great great great nephew of the first child born in the western town, H.Williams and that his father attended the historical School at the edge of town.

The entire town is considered a national heritage site and since 1996 it was declared a National Park. I learned so much today and am so thankful that the town still exists for future generations!

While I was in the visitor center I noticed that the town was named after a civil war era folk song "Wake Nicodemus". Below is the lyrics and you can find musicians singing the old song on youtube. I found a version sung by Tim Curry, one of my favorite actors, singing the tune with an irish flair.. interesting :P:P



A ballad by Henry Clay Work, originally published in 1864
Researched by Betty Thomas.
Hotel from the side. The stucco part is the original building


Nicodemus, the slave, was of African birth
And was bought for a bagful of gold.
He was reckoned as part of the salt of the earth
But he died years ago very old.
'Twas his last sad request, so we laid him away
In the trunk of an old hollow tree
"Wake me up!" was his charge, "at the first break of day
Wake me up for the great Jubilee!"

Chorus:
The "Good Time Coming" is almost here
It was long, long, long on the way!
Now, run and tell Elija to hurry up pomp
And meet us at the gum-tree down in the swamp
To wake Nicodemus today.

He was known as a prophet, atleast was as wise
For he told of the battles to come
And he trembled with dread when he rolled up his eyes
And we heeded the shake of his thumb.
Though he clothed us with fear, yet the garments he wore
Were in patches at elbow and knee
And he still wears the suit that he used to of yore
As he sleeps in the old hollow tree.
the AME church.


Chorus:
The "Good Time Coming" is almost here
It was long, long, long on the way!
Now, run and tell Elija to hurry up pomp
And meet us at the gum-tree down in the swamp
To wake Nicodemus today.

Nicodemus was never the sport of the lash
Though the bullet has oft crossed his path
There were none of his masters so brave or so rash
As to face such a man in his wrath.
Yet his great heart with kindness was filled to the brim
He obeyed who was born to command
But he longed for the morning which then was so dim
The morning which now is at hand.

Chorus:
The "Good Time Coming" is almost here
It was long, long, long on the way!
Now, run and tell Elija to hurry up pomp
And meet us at the gum-tree down in the swamp
To wake Nicodemus today.


Twas a long weary night we were almost in fear
That the future was more than he knew
Twas a long weary night but the morning is near
And the words of our prophet are true.
There are signs in the sky that the darkness is gone
There are tokens in endless array
When the storm which had seemingly banished the dawn
Only hastens the advent of day.

Chorus:
The "Good Time Coming" is almost here
It was long, long, long on the way!
Now, run and tell Elija to hurry up pomp
And meet us at the gum-tree down in the swamp
To wake Nicodemus today.

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Inside the Visitor center/ town ha…
Inside the Visitor center/ town h…
artistic replica of the early resi…
artistic replica of the early res…
Town Hall
Town Hall
This is a Hotel!!! and was also a …
This is a Hotel!!! and was also a…
Hotel from the side. The stucco pa…
Hotel from the side. The stucco p…
the AME church.
the AME church.
Town.
Town.
Water tower
Water tower
Town
Town
Old house..
Old house..
The old school built at the spot w…
The old school built at the spot …
Another church.
Another church.
Nicodemus
photo by: sayohat