Fort Hays State Historic Site
1472 US Hwy 183 Alternate, Hays, KS 67601 - United States
Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant John Denny served at Fort Hays from January 1882 to December 1884. He and other African American “Buffalo Soldiers” are part of the rich Fort Hays history that includes names like Generals George A. Custer, Nelson Miles, and Philip Sheridan; Major Marcus Reno; William “Buffalo Bill” Cody; and James B. “Wild Bill” Hickok. Established in 1865 in the land of the Cheyenne and Arapaho, the fort protected railroad workers and travelers on the Smoky Hill Trail. See the soldiers’ clothing, weapons, and personal items, including George Custer’s dumbbell forged by the fort’s blacksmith. Learn more about the soldiers and the people they were protecting when you visit Fort Hays.
Fort Hays was relocated to its current site in 1867 and remained active until 1889. Once a large complex of 45 major buildings, only four remain. These buildings, along with the visitor center, tell the story of life in a 19th century frontier fort.
The visitor center displays items from the Plains Indians and the fort’s military personnel. The seven-minute video Clash of Cultures is available, and a touch screen panel provides a tour of the site as it was during the life of the fort. Visitors can see:
- Clothing made by Plains Indians
- Plains Indian toys
- Arrows with a beaded quiver
-George Armstrong Custer’s dumbbell, possibly forged by the fort’s blacksmith
-Sabers, including that of General Alexander Hays for whom the fort was named
-Remington army revolver
The two officers’ quarters are frame construction and were home to officers and their families. Both buildings have two rooms on the first floor and two on the second, with the dining room and one-story kitchen in the back. The furnishings are pieces from the time period. Visitors can see
-Sparsely decorated rooms with camp furniture depicting early life at fort
-Rooms with elaborate amenities from 1880s Victorian era
-Glass front bookcase and wash stand made at Fort Hays
-Humidor used in officers’ quarters
-Table and three chairs from enlisted men’s barracks
-Baby’s highchair that converts to a stroller
The stone guardhouse, built in 1872, is 100 feet long and 24 feet wide. Exhibits tell the story of the everyday lives of enlisted soldiers. A barracks bunk, a jail cell, and uniforms are on display. Interactive touch screen panels play period music as visitors hear stories and reports about enlisted men who lived at the fort.
The stone blockhouse, built in 1867, is hexagonal in shape with a 17 foot radius; two wings extend north and south, each 17 feet square. Exhibits explore the stories of some of the officers who were stationed at Fort Hays and explain what happened to the fort after the military left in 1889.
On the grounds informational signs show the location of original buildings, and 13 metal silhouettes help tell the stories of the people who lived in them.
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