Today marks the 150th anniversary of the death of General Alexander Hays at the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia during the Civil War. Alexander Hays, a Union General, died on May 5, 1864. Fort Hays was named after General Hays, and the city of Hays and the university took their names from Fort Hays.
Fort Fletcher, located 14 miles southeast of the present city of Hays, had been established in October 1865. After being abandoned on May 5, 1866, Fort Fletcher was reactivated on October 17. A month later, its name was changed to Fort Hays by General Winifield Scott Hancock to honor his classmate at West Point.
The military headquarters wanted to move Fort Hays to be closer to the railroad that had reached Ellis County by 1867. Before they made the decision to do so, a flood hit the post on June 7 and killed seven soldiers and two civilians in the process of destroying the fort grounds. On June 23, 1867, Fort Hays was occupied at its new location about one mile south of the railroad near the now extinct town site of Rome. Just north of Rome, there were three sections of land that had been purchased by the Big Creek Land Company from the railroad. That land was registered on July 23, 1867 at Ellsworth County; at the same time, the Big Creek Land Company made an agreement with the railroad to provide a station and a depot in the new town called Hays City.
Oliva, Leo C. “Fort Hays: Keeping Peace on the Plains”. Topeka, KS: Kansas State Historical Society, 1996.
Mahood, Wayne. “Alexander “Fighting Elleck” Hays: The Life of a Civil War General, From West Point to the Wilderness”. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005.
“At Home in Ellis County, Kansas 1867-1992.” Hays, KS: Ellis County Historical Society, 1991.