How Zachary Fletcher made the historic black community, Nicodemus, a business hub in the 1880s

Stephen Nartey April 21, 2023
Zachary T. Fletcher/Photo credit: National Park Service

When he saw the need to improve the standard of living of the black community in Nicodemus, a historic black settlement in Kansas during the late 19th century, he opened a business to serve the needs of the people. He was involved in every facet of life in the community, and was a member of the Cornet band as well as the land community in Nicodemus. The objective of the community was to give individuals who were committed to improving the well-being of the community a piece of land to work towards those goals. This aligned with the vision of Zachary T. “Z. T.” Fletcher, who was a prominent member of the community.

In the role he played, one would describe Zachary as a man of many hats; he opened the town’s first general store in 1877 to sell cornmeal and syrup to the people. As a black man living at a time of racial discrimination and segregation, Zachary understood the importance of creating opportunities for his community to thrive. He recognized that access to education, communication, and lodging was vital for improving the standard of living for black people in Nicodemus. In pursuit of this vision, Zachary took on various roles to contribute to the development of the community, according to the National Park Service.

One of Zachary’s significant contributions was the establishment of a post office in Nicodemus. This was a crucial milestone as it provided the residents with a means to communicate with the outside world, receive mail, and stay connected with other communities. The post office served as a hub of information and facilitated economic transactions, contributing to the growth and progress of the town. He took the role of a postmaster at the post office to ensure that the developmental agenda of the community was on course.

Zachary also recognized the importance of education in empowering the black community. He played a pivotal role in establishing a school in Nicodemus, providing opportunities for black children to receive an education and improve their prospects for a better future. The school became a center for learning and enlightenment, nurturing the minds of young students and fostering a culture of education within the community. His wife became the school’s first teacher – she taught 45 pupils in a makeshift facility.

In addition to the post office and school, Zachary also opened a hotel in Nicodemus, which provided lodging for travelers, including black migrants who were seeking refuge in Nicodemus during the challenging times of racial discrimination. Zachary’s efforts in opening the post office, school, and hotel were not only about providing basic amenities, but also about creating a sense of pride and dignity within the black community.

His vision extended beyond just improving material conditions, he believed in empowering the community with knowledge, communication, and economic opportunities. His contributions helped create a strong foundation for Nicodemus to thrive and become a symbol of black resilience and entrepreneurship during a time of adversity.

Zachary’s impact on the town and the black community extended beyond his lifetime. His vision and dedication to uplifting his community continue to inspire and serve as a testimony to the power of resilience, perseverance, and leadership. Today, Nicodemus stands as a historic landmark, a reminder of Fletcher’s legacy and the resilience of the black community in the face of challenges. Fletcher’s legacy lives on as a beacon of hope and inspiration for generations to come.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: April 21, 2023

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