Edward McCabe had big dreams. He was a land developer and speculator, a lawyer, an immigration promoter, a newspaper owner, and a politician.
He also was the only African-American to ever hold statewide office in Kansas.
After finishing law school in Chicago, McCabe came to Kansas in 1878, settling in Nicodemus, a town in north central Kansas established by Exodusters, the freed slaves who made their way from the ravaged South after the Civil War.
His first political office was county clerk in Graham County. In 1882, he won election as State Auditor and served two terms. He was not nominated for a third term. McCabe then moved to Washington, D.C., to lobby with President Benjamin Harrison for Congress to secure voting and civil rights for African-Americans.
This quest took him to Guthrie, Oklahoma, where he worked with other black leaders hoping to create a state that would be populated by a majority of African-Americans and governed by them. With the encouragement of U.S. Senator Preston Plumb of Kansas, McCabe sought first to establish Langston as a destination for black immigrants to the state. Word of his plans preceded him, and white settlers in Oklahoma and some of the Native population opposed these efforts.
Despite the failure to achieve a black majority in that state, the African-American population continued to grow in Oklahoma. After Oklahoma was admitted to the Union in 1907, its legislature pass a law requiring that passenger trains be segregated. McCabe used his own funds in a losing battle to overturn the law.
With his political dreams unrealized and his allies gone, McCabe returned to Chicago. In 1920, he died, penniless and in obscurity. His body was returned to Topeka for burial. He is buried with his wife, Sarah (1866-1938), in Section 19, which is west of the big circle. The original headstone was replaced with funds raised by students at Eisenhower Junior High School.