Hays, Kansas -
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bonds were issued to build a court house, and before long, a stone building was
erected, the basement of which is used for a county jail. That same year $12,000
in bonds were issued for the erection of a schoolhouse, which was built about
two blocks west of the court house. The Hays City Times newspaper was also
established in 1873 by Allen & Jones but its existence was very short.
February, 1874, the Hays City Sentinel was established by W. H. Johnson, but
changed hands several times over the next several years. In 1875, the United
States Land Office for the district of Western Kansas was opened in a frame
building on North Fort Street. That same year, H.P. Wilson built a two-story
stone hotel on Chestnut Street that was known as the Pennsylvania House.
By the mid 1870's the railroad had extended its
tracks farther west and with it went the teamsters, railroad workers, soldiers
and famous characters of the day. Hays City
gradually quieted down and began serving as a point of arrival for immigrants,
most notably a group of ethnic Germans from the Volga region of Russia.
County Courthouse today, courtesy U.S. Economic
First arriving in
Hays in February,
1876, these immigrants would establish a number of small villages around the
Hays area, including
Victoria and several others. That same year,
newspaper was established by J. H. Downing, which quickly became the “official”
newspaper of the city.
Henry Krueger erected a large two-story stone building on South Fort Street
which was used as a public hall. That same year, the first church was built – a
frame chapel for the Catholics.
suffered a fire on January 13, 1879 which destroyed the
Gibbs House hotel, two grocery stores and harness shop were also swept out of
existence. That same year; however, more substantial buildings were erected
including a two-story stone building on South Main Street that was occupied by
Hall & Son Hardware Store, a one-story stone building by H.P. Wilson which held
the town’s first bank, a small grain elevator near the railroad, a new
Presbyterian Church, as well as a number of handsome residences. The next year,
the Lutherans erected their first church and a good sized grain elevator was
built by Henry Krueger.
a larger grain elevator was built by Simon Motz and large addition was made to
the schoolhouse. In December of that year, Hays City was again visited by a
fire, which carried away six buildings on South Fort Street. By this time, the
boom days of the area were over, and the population had fallen to about 950.
However, the town was still called home to six general merchandise stores, three
hardware stores, three drug stores, three hotels, a dry goods store, harness and saddlery shop, a millinery establishment, two book and stationery stores, two
jewelry stores, two bakeries and restaurants, two carriage and wagon-shops, two
lumber-yards, two newspapers, and a bank. The rest of the population was
primarily involved in agricultural pursuits. The German-American Advocate
newspaper was established in
Hays in October, 1882, which was published in both
English and German.
early part of 1889, it became known that
would be abandoned and the Kansas legislature adopted a resolution asking
Congress to donate the site to the state for a soldiers' home. The fort closed
permanently on June 1, 1889, but no action was taken by Congress on the petition
for a soldier’s home.
Hays was once again struck by fire, this time a very devastating one, that
destroyed some 60 downtown businesses. That same year, the official name of the
town was changed to simply
Hays. Also occurring in 1895, the Kansas Legislature
again asked that the
reservation be donated to the state as a location for a branch of the state
agricultural college, a branch of the state normal school, and a public park.
in the late 1800's.
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Again no action was taken, and in 1899 the Interior Department declared the
land opened for settlement. However, in March, 1900, the Kansas delegation in
Congress managed to secure the land and buildings for educational purposes. In
1901 the legislature passed legislation establishing the
Experiment Station (part of Kansas State University) and set apart about 4,000
acres for the Western Branch State Normal School.
turn of the century,
Hays boasted a population of almost 1,300 people. At this
time, the city was run by a unique group serving as its City Council, known as
the "Boys Council." They were the youngest council in the United States to be
governing a city the size of
Hays, with the youngest being just 22 years old and
the oldest was 30. Despite their age, this efficient group was responsible for
reducing the city debt, lowering the tax levy, building and equipping the first
engine house, and building a water tank in the event of fire.
Western State Normal School began with a summer session on June, 1902, and the
first regular term opened in September, with an enrollment of 23 students. The
school was conducted in the old fort buildings until 1904, when the central
portion of what was the main building was ready for occupancy. By 1910, the
total enrollment had increased to almost 1,000 students.
first decade of the 20th Century,
Hays grew quickly, reaching a
population of almost 2,400 residents by 1910. Called one of the most progressive
cities of western Kansas, it had an electric lighting plant, waterworks, a fire
department, a telephone exchange, and in the spring of 1911, completed a sewer
system. In addition to the Western State Normal School, the city also boasted an
excellent system of public schools and St. Joseph's College, a Catholic
institution. Among the industries and financial institutions of the time were
two banks, three weekly newspapers (the News, the Free Press and
the Review-Headlight), flour mills, grain elevators, machine shops,
marble works, a creamery, good hotels, and a number of well stocked mercantile
Hays continued to grow, but was marked by disasters including
devastating floods in 1907 and 1951 and an explosion of three gasoline tanks
owned by Standard Oil in 1919, which killed eight people and injured about 150.
Hays, like the rest of Kansas was hit with violent dust storms.
always recovered from hardship and continued to progress. In 1914, the Western State Normal School separated
from the school in Emporia and
became Fort Hays Kansas State Normal School. It became the Kansas State Teachers
College of Hays in 1923 and its name was changed to
Fort Hays State College in
1931. It was elevated to university status in 1977.
its dirt streets were bricked and by 1920, the population had reached more than
the Palmer Stormkind oil field was founded, bringing more people to the area and
in 1943, the nearby Walker Army Air Field was built adding 1500-2000 people to
Hays had grown to
a population of 9,378 and in 1955, Old
opened as a museum. It would later be acquired by the Kansas Historical Society
and became and Kansas State Historic Site in 1967, which features four original
buildings: the blockhouse (completed as the post headquarters in 1868),
guardhouse, and two officers' quarters.
a center for education, business and culture for western Kansas,
Hays is called
home to about 20,000 people continues to display its rich history at not only
but also at the Ellis County Historical Museum, Sternberg Museum of Natural
History and the Boot Hill Cemetery. A historic walking tour of downtown provides
25 bronze plaques explain the significance of sites, where the famous and
infamous walked the streets of Old
Hays City. A brochure is available at the
Convention and Visitors Bureau located at 1301 Pine Street, Suite B. Located on
the Fort Hays State University campus is the Plymouth Stone Schoolhouse built in
1874. Frontier Park, located directly across from Historic
is Frontier Park, which in addition to 89 acres of land that features several
walking trails, waterfalls and scenic views, also maintains a buffalo herd.
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