By CRISTINA JANNEY
The descendants of the settlers of Nicodemus celebrated Friday the dedication of a 35-mile trail that marked the route their ancestors walked from the Ellis train depot to their new settlement.
Nicodemus is the only remaining African-American farming community west of the Mississippi. About 380 black settlers, most recently freed slaves, arrived from Kentucky at Ellis by rail in fall 1877.
Ellis was the last stop by rail before the black settlers embarked on foot to their new settlement. The route lacked roads, and the settlers were forced to ford the Saline River.
A sign marking the beginning of the trail and honoring the Nicodemus settlers was dedicated Friday in Ellis.
The first sign on the trail was dedicated at the Walz homestead last year. The homestead is 10 miles north of Ellis on the Saline River. Other markers have been added since then.
A group of Nicodemus descendants made a brief visit at the Ellis Railroad museum and boarded buses to tour markers at other key sites along the trail.
The tour ended in Nicodemus, where the 143rd emancipation is being celebrated through Sunday.
Gov. Laura Kelly will be speaking at 1 p.m. at the AME Methodist Church Museum dedication as part of the event.
The complete schedule for Saturday and Sunday is listed below.
8 a.m. – 5K run/walk - registration
8-10 a.m. – pancake feed
11 a.m. – parade
noon – guest speaker Donna McClish
1 p.m. – AME Methodist Church Museum dedication
Live with Kansas Governor Kelly speaking in person
3 p.m. – performance by A.R.I.S.E. - old-time spirituals
4 p.m. – fashion and talent show
noon-3 p.m – kids corner
5 p.m. – watermelon feed
8 p.m. to midnight – live music featuring the Grove Sisters
10 a.m. – church service
1 p.m. – community luncheon
Buffalo burgers presented by the Potawatomi Nation, and a symbolic reenactment of how they helped the Nicodemus settlers through those first few winters.