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Dunlap, Kansas - A Freedman's Refuge

 

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Benjamin "Pap" SingletonFounded in 1869 by Joseph Dunlap, an Indian agent for the Kanza tribe, the town was situated on the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway. However, the town grew very little over the first five years. In March, 1874 a post office was opened and first called Hillsborough; however, the very next month the name was changed to Dunlap. A man named Leonard Still established the first store in August. It was just the third building erected in the town. The settlement then began to grow and in 1875, the town was incorporated.

 

In the spring of 1878, Benjamin "Pap" Singleton, a former slave who escaped to freedom in 1846, chose Dunlap as a place to relocate numerous freedmen known as "exodusters." In May, the freedmen came by the hundreds from the post-Reconstruction South to seek homesteads in what was called the Singleton Dunlap Farm Colony.  

 

Heading to KansasIn 1880, the Presbyterian Church founded the Freedmen's Academy of Kansas in Dunlap to provide an education to African-American settlers. Life for the academy; however was brief, as it closed its doors in the mid-1890s. By 1910, the population of the small town was about 333 and its location on the Neosho River, in the midst of rich agricultural land, had made the community an important shipping point for portions of Morris, Chase and Lyon Counties. In its heydays, the town boasted a blacksmith shop, hardware store, grocery store, ice cream parlor, flour mill, butter and cheese factory, restaurant, the Guarantee State Bank, a hotel and Baptist, Congregational and Methodist churches.

 

When the exodusters first came to the community, many of the white settlers resented them, sure that they were a threat to the community's economy. in the beginning, the African-Americans were forced to attend different schools, have their own churches and cemetery and some businesses wouldn't even let them come through the doors. However, segregation in Dunlap subsided long before it did in the rest of the country. By the 1930's, the whites and blacks were attending the same schools and churches, eating at the same tables and drinking from the same fountains.

 

During the Great Depression, the town began to decline and its bank failed. Afterwards, numerous people began to leave the community searching for jobs in the larger cities. The African-Americans who had long celebrated Emancipation Day, did so for the last time in 1931. By this time, the community was called home to less than 100 African-Americans and that number continued to decline over the next several decades.

 

The last black resident in Dunlap, London A. Harness, died on April 27, 1993 and he was the last person to be buried in Dunlap Black cemetery. Today, Dunlap's black history exists only in a few places -- in the cemetery and the dilapidated old Baptist Church. The rest of Dunlap has not fared much better. Called home to just about 80 area residents, the community is a near ghost town with numerous abandoned buildings, including a large gymnasium, paint-peeling houses, a concrete foundations testifying to more prosperous times. The Dunlap United Methodist Church is the only open business.

 

Dunlap is located about nine miles southeast of Council Grove.

 

 

Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of Kansas, updated January, 2014.

 

Baptist Church, Dunlap, Kansas

The all black Baptist Church in Dunlap is about to collapse, photo by

 Galen R Frysinger

 

Old gymnasium in Dunlap, Kansas

Though Dunlap's old high school gymnasium continues to stand,

the school that stood next too it has long since been torn down.

Photo by Galen R Frysinger.

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