Santa Fe Railroad Company

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Santa Fe Railroad Company (or Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company), was founded by Cyrus Holliday and incorporated in 1859. The Santa Fe deserves considerable credit for a large number of Mennonites settling on its land north and south of Newton, Kansas, in 1873 and later. The railroad had reached Newton by 1871 and had received a land grant of three million acres from the federal government. Interested in settling this land, the railroad employed successful agents and produced literature to attract settlers. One of the earliest leaflets carried the title "If You Want a Farm or Home You Should Buy of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway for the Following Reasons." Many of these promotional pamphlets were translated into foreign languages and distributed not only among people arriving in America, but also among prospective immigrants in Europe. One was entitled Die Mennoniten Niederlassung auf den Ländereien der Atchison, Topeka und Santa Fe Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft in Harvey & Marion Co., Kansas, which was published by the "Committee zur Ordnung der Ansiedlerangelegenheiten der Mennoniten . . ." and written by David Goerz. The committee consisted of Christian Krehbiel, Jakob Leisy, David Lehmann, Bernhard Warkentin, and Abraham Naufer, of Summerfield, Illinois. The pamphlet Die Deutschen Ansiedlungen in Süd West Kansas auf den Ländereien der Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Eisenbahngesellschaft, published in Topeka in 1878, was possibly also written by David Goerz and appealed particularly to the German and Mennonite settlers. It contains numerous illustrations of Mennonite farms.

The earliest Mennonite settlers in the Santa Fe territory were the Amish near Hutchinson. Eli M. Yoder purchased 300 acres of land which resulted in this settlement. The agents Case and Billings of Marion Center sold 5,000 acres to M. W. Keim and his friends of Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1869-70. With the coming of the Mennonites from Russia, Mennonites from Summerfield, Illinois, also became interested in settling in Kansas. Christian Krehbiel became a promoter of this venture. A. E. Touzalin, George Heriot, and C. B. Schmidt were the early Santa Fe agents through whom the contacts were made. Peter and Jacob Funk established themselves in Marion County in 1873. Bernhard Warkentin was an early promoter of the settlement of the Santa Fe land and established himself with the Summerfield Mennonites at Halstead, Kansas. When Touzalin resigned as land commissioner for the Santa Fe, he was replaced by A. S. Johnson under whom C. B. Schmidt of Lawrence, Kansas, worked among the German-speaking settlers. When the Alexanderwohl group arrived in 1874, Schmidt met them in New York.

C. B. Schmidt received a commission from the Santa Fe to visit Russia to encourage immigrants to come to Kansas, in order to settle on the Santa Fe land. He left New York on 1 February 1875, with many letters of introduction from Mennonites in Kansas to their relatives and neighbors. He also stopped in West Prussia. Schmidt had been in contact with some of the twelve delegates who came to investigate the land of the Great Plains. Of the 1,275 Mennonite families who came to America in 1874, six hundred families came to Kansas. The Santa Fe had considerable competition from other railroads, particularly the Kansas Pacific and the Burlington. The large groups of immigrants were met in New York and other places and the agents tried to persuade them to settle on the lands of their respective companies. In spite of C. B. Schmidt's trip to Russia in 1875, the preceding year, 1874, remained the peak year for the Mennonite migration to settle on Santa Fe land in Kansas, when nearly 3,000 Mennonites came to Kansas. The Santa Fe deserves a considerable amount of credit for this large-scale successful settlement. (See also Kansas and Newton.)


Bradley, G. D. The Story of the Santa Fe. Boston, 1920.

Dyck, C. J. "Kansas Promotional Activities with Particular Emphasis on Mennonites." M.A. thesis: University of Wichita, 1955.

Marshall, James. Santa Fe, the Railroad That Built an Empire. NY, 1945.

Schmidt, C. B. "Reminiscences of Foreign Immigration Work for Kansas." Kansas State Historical Society, Transactions 9: 485-97 (1906).

Shipley, Helen B. "The Migration of the Mennonites from Russia, 1873-1883, and Their Settlement in Kansas." M.A. thesis: University of Minnesota, 1954.

Smith, C. Henry. The Coming of the Russian Mennonites. Berne, 1927.

Waters, L. L. Steel Trails to Santa Fe. Lawrence, 1950.

Author(s) Cornelius Krahn
Date Published 1959

Cite This Article

MLA style

Krahn, Cornelius. "Santa Fe Railroad Company." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 2 Oct 2023.

APA style

Krahn, Cornelius. (1959). Santa Fe Railroad Company. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 2 October 2023, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 417-418. All rights reserved.

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