I’d actually spent the night in Hays, Kansas on the way to Colorado. Can’t say that I was overly impressed with the hotel I stayed at but I did sleep well enough- even if I did sleep with the TV on so I didn’t have to hear the ramblings and goings on of those in the rooms nearby. After leaving Hays, I’d decided that this was one town that I’d probably not stop at again. Certainly not to spend the night- that’s for sure! However, a lover of all things unique and historic, I couldn’t quite pass up a quick trip to Historic Fort Hays on my return trip through Kansas on the way back to Alabama. I was disappointed to find that it was closed when I arrived and though I am somewhat adventurous, I did not enjoy meandering the grounds by myself. It would be really helpful if the hours could be posted on billboards so you don’t drive 15 minutes out of your way to an attraction that is not open on Sundays! OK…rant over.
Just what is Fort Hays anyway? Fort Hays, originally named Fort Fletcher was a frontier outpost managed by the US Army to protect the stage and freight wagons heading West to Denver, from Indian attacks. Fort Fletcher was abandoned for several reasons, and reopened as Fort Hays, essentially to aid the railway crews. After a flood destroyed the fort and killed several of the soldiers, the fort was moved to closer proximity to the railroad, making it more practical to guard. The fort resembled a frontier town and was designed as a supply post. Fort Hays was abandoned in 1889.
The Kansas Historical Society manages several buildings at the Old Fort site that visitors are now able to tour, including the 1867 blockhouse, 1872 guardhouse and two of the frame officer’s quarters. I found it interesting that 46 commanding officers served Fort Hays between 1867-1889. That’s a pretty high turn over! I’d loved to have spent more time here, learning about the black soldiers, or buffalo soldiers, that served here, had it been open.
I could almost imagine what it would have been like for a soldier stationed here in the summer heat. Surrounded by the threat of Indian attack in the midst of the wide open spaces, buffalo quietly grazing in the fields. If we ever head back to Kansas, I’ll add this on our list of places to visit- as the history surrounding Fort Hays certainly appeals to the history lovers in my household. It is located on the edge of town with a nice park across the road where you’ll find picnic tables and get a great view of the neighboring buffalo. If you’re in the area or passing through, and are looking for a place to stretch your legs, this is one attraction worth stopping for- even if it’s not officially open- and it’s only about a 15 minute drive from the Cathedral of the Plains. You can find more information as well as operating hours by calling 785-625-6812 or if you're in the area, you'll find Fort Hays at 1472 US Highway 183 Alt, Hays, Kansas. Don't forget to download your free notebooking/coloring page before your visit!Historic Fort Hays Coloring/Notebooking Page