HAYS, Kan. (KSNW) — The KSN Summer Road Trip crew was excited to be back in Hays, this time at the Fort Hays State University Memorial Union Quad. Thank you to everyone who made us feel so welcome.
More than 20,000 people call Hays home, including KSN’s Emily Younger. Hays is the county seat of Ellis County and home to Fort Hays State University, which has grown in recent years, partially due to international partnerships.
The town got its start in the 1860s as the railroad moved west. It was founded in 1867 and named after Fort Hays which was named after General Alexander Hays, a Union general. The early days are described as wild and dangerous with soldiers, railroad workers and desperadoes visiting saloons, brothels and gambling houses.
Hays was considered one of the most violent towns on the frontier. A city guide says the original Boot Hill is in Hays. George Custer, a lieutenant colonel at the time, was encamped near Fort Hays in the late 1860s. His wife Elizabeth wrote in her diary that there were already 36 graves in the Boot Hill cemetery by the summer of 1869.
There was a period of vigilante justice in the late 1860s that included Wild Bill Hickok serving as acting sheriff. Hickok came to Hays in 1867 as a scout for Custer.
In the 1870s, many settlers arrived from Germany, earning Ellis County the title of German Capital of Kansas. The community celebrates its German heritage through several festivals and events, such as Oktoberfest.
- Ellis County is the largest oil producing county in Kansas.
- The original name of the town was Hays City. It became Hays in 1885.
- Calamity Jane lived in Hays for part of her life. While in Hays, she wore women’s clothing and went by the name of “Prairie Queen”
- A fire destroyed more than 50 buildings in downtown Hays in 1895.
- Baseball star Satchel Paige was married in Hays.
- Fort Hays has been featured in at least three movies, includes “Dances with Wolves,” “The Plainsman,” and “Stolen Women, Captured Hearts.”
Things to do around Hays:
- Sternberg Museum of Natural History
- Ellis County Historical Society
- Fort Hays Historic Site
- Historic Hays walking tour
- Historic Churches Tour
- Hays Parks
- Visit Hays
- Visitor’s Guide
- Ag Tourism
Community & Government: