Edward McCabe was a pioneer in the town of Nicodemus, Kansas. He worked as an attorney and land agent before becoming one of the first African Americans to hold a significant political position in the American Old West.
McCabe was born on October 10, 1850 in Troy, New York. He relocated from Troy to Fall River, Massachusetts, Newport, Rhode Island, and Bangor, Maine as a child. When his father died, he dropped out of school to support his family.
McCabe subsequently returned to New York City and worked on Wall Street. He soon discovered that there were no opportunities for advancement beyond clerk and porter in New York, so he relocated to Chicago in 1872, where he worked as a clerk for Potter Palmer. He was then appointed clerk in the US Treasury Department’s Cook County, Illinois office (Taylor).
His political career began when he arrived in Kansas, when he was selected as clerk of Graham County in 1880, making him one of the state’s first African American officials.
By 1881, Black leaders were planning for the prospective resettlement of 20,000 to 30,000 freedmen in Oklahoma. Around 1892, McCabe purchased 320 acres near Guthrie, Oklahoma, which became the town of Langston. The city was an all-black area ten miles northeast of Guthrie. The city was named after a black Virginia congressman who committed his support for the establishment of a black institution in Langston City (Taylor).
Finally in 1897, a Colored Agricultural and Normal School was created, this was later called Langston University. The city was formed with the intention of assisting in the abolition of racial discrimination. It was part of a plan to establish around twenty-five additional “black communities” in Oklahoma Indian Territory.
McCabe was elected as Kansas state auditor on the Republican ticket, making him the first black person to occupy a statewide office in a northern state. McCabe served in this capacity for two years. He did stay in politics for a while, serving as deputy auditor of Oklahoma Territory from 1897 until 1907. Edwin P. McCabe died in Chicago, Illinois on March 12, 1920, and was buried in Topeka, Kansas.