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82 d r i v i n g a c r o s s k a n s a s hays 166 Fort Hays Historic Site Mark Twain said, “A railroad is like a lie—you have to keep building it to make it stand.” This observation was borne out in Kansas as the railroads kept being built across the Plains. As railroads moved west through this part of Kansas, so did the settlers. This encroachment into “Indian” territory sparked conflicts between settlers and Native Americans. To protect the settlers traveling the rails and trails, the I-70s of the 1800s, the federal government built military posts along the way. Forts provided some peace of mind for settlers and encouraged settlement. In 1867, Fort Hays was established and named to honor General Alexander Hays, a hero at Gettysburg who was killed at the Battle of the Wilderness. Fort Hays was the headquarters for military campaigns into all of western Kansas and parts of Colorado. The fort also served as a supply depot for all military activity in the area, as well as for military operations farther west and southwest. It was never attacked. In its heyday, Fort Hays was home to about 210 soldiers. Notable military figures, including George A. Custer and Philip H. Sheridan , passed through the fort. Custer led many expeditions against the Indians, taking supplies and military support from Fort Hays. As the railroad expanded farther west and more people settled in the area, the need for the fort dwindled. By the mid-1870s, commanders were recommending that the fort be abandoned. On November 8, 1889, the last garrison of troops left. The government donated the land to the state of Kansas to be used for a college, an agricultural experiment station, and a park. The college, now called Fort Hays State University, offers degrees in education, business and leadership, arts and sciences, and health and life sciences. It occupies 4,160 acres of land that once was part of the fort. The agricultural research station, with its experimental cropland and pastureland, belongs to Kansas State University and comprises 6,100 acres of former fort property. A city park called Frontier Park, across the road from the fort’s entrance, has a small buffalo herd, providing a close-up look at these powerful creatures. Four of the original buildings remain at the site of Fort Hays, including the stone blockhouse that served as post headquarters. 83 w e s t b o u n d The fort was featured in the movie Dances with Wolves. You can get to the fort from Exits 157 or 159. 163 Hays City In 1867, soon after the new fort was constructed to protect travelers along the trails, Hays City was staked out 1 mile to the east. When the railroad arrived in the fall of the same year, Hays City and Fort Hays in essence became one. Hays grew quickly and became another wild frontier town filled with saloons and dance halls. The excitement enticed Wild Bill Hickok to serve as special marshal for four months in 1869. Hickok left Hays after a brawl with some troopers from the fort. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Buffalo Bill Cody built Rome, Kansas, very quickly. Read about the boom and bust of this settlement at 154E (p. 174). 162 Sternberg Museum of Natural History Ahead on the left is the domed roof of Fort Hays State University’s Sternberg Museum of Natural History. If you or your children get excited about fossils and dinosaurs, then this is a great place to stretch your legs. Here, you can see the famous “fish-within-a-fish” fossil and walk among spectacular, life-size automated models of dinosaurs in their natural environment. Children can get hands-on experiences with specimens in the Discovery Room. The museum is namd to honor two generations of the Sternberg family that colFort Hays headquarters 84 d r i v i n g a c r o s s k a n s a s lected spectacular fossils. George F. Sternberg joined the university in 1927. He established the fossil collection and played a major role in the study of North American fossil vertebrates and the science of paleontology. The museum’s collections include 3.7 million specimens , among them the third-largest collection of flying reptiles in the world and some of the most complete dinosaur fossils found anywhere. If you want some fresh Kansas...