On Monday, February 25th, at 6:30 p.m., Neta Jane Doris, Winfield, will present the program “Exodusters in Kansas” to Sumner County Historical and Genealogical Society members and guests at the Best of Orient meeting room, 114 E. Lincoln, Wellington.
The meal begins at 5:30 p.m. and the meeting at 6:30 p.m.. There is no charge for the program and everyone is welcome. For possible bad weather cancellation, contact Best of the Orient at 620-399-8575.
When two of Neta Jane Doris’s former high school classmates asked her to do their family history, Doris was only too happy to help them out.
Doris has been involved in several family history projects, found ancestors and descendants for several, reconnected family members, begun family reunions, and published a family history on her mother’s side of the family.
She was glad to help her friends out.
“I’ve been researching for about 40 years,” Doris said, “I just love the research. Actually, when I’m researching, they almost feel like my family.”
Doris, who did the bulk of this research prior to the age of computers, learned that her two friends were not only the descendants of “Exodusters”, or African-American slaves freed by emancipation, they were also related to each other.
“The more I researched, the more interested I became,” Doris said, adding that it took several months to find much of the information and expand their family trees.
“There were about three years when there was a mass exodus,” Doris said, adding that most Exodusters came to Kansas between 1879 and 1881 and many were from Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas where circulars were passed out by both black and white people to entice the new settlers to Kansas.
Doris said that the mass exodus “happened so fast and so suddenly that it caused a Congressional investigation.”
“Over 40,000 poor black people emigrated during that time,” Doris said, “they were kind of led to believe that they would get money and land, and that didn’t happen.”
Doris said that she will “speak about the general history of the Exodusters and talk a little” about the people who settled in Kansas: one family who was involved in the Underground Railroad, one family whose owner (and father) freed them and gave them money to move, and Lutie Lytle, who became the first woman black lawyer in Tennessee in 1897 and was the first black woman to be admitted to the Kansas bar.
“Sometimes families were torn apart and you never get them back together again,” Doris said.
For those genealogists and family historians searching for their own Exoduster history, Doris said that she will bring along a copy of the circular used to advertise settling in Kansas as well as books and articles, census and land records, and share information on some of the resources that she used, and also how and where she found the information.
According to Doris, many of the citizens in Larned today are descended from the Exodusters.
“They were some of the earliest settlers in that part of Kansas,” Doris said, “they showed a lot of strength and determination.”