63 Years Ago Today, May 22

Students and Faculty at Fort Hays Kansas State College were preparing for the last days of classes before finals began during the week of May 20 in 1951. The evening of May 22 changed their lives forever when Big Creek, which flowed through the campus, flooded the campus and the southern part of the city of Hays. Many homes and businesses, including the Post Office and the campus, sustained damage from the flood waters. Three people died when their car was swept off the highway west of Hays – 18 year old Gerald Gipson of Napa, Idaho, 19 year old Joanne Donham and her sister, 17 year old Treva, both from WaKeeney. Robert Ripperteau, the 14 year old stepson of President Emeritus L. D. Wooster, was killed in the basement of his home after a wall collapsed when the water broke through. Dr. C. F. Wiest, 75 year old retired faculty member, was also killed in his home. Hays resident June Bissing Herman, 24 years old, was killed when a tree came through the wall of her basement apartment allowing water to come into the basement.

From the book written by Dr. Wooster titled “A History of Fort Hays Kansas State College 1902-1961”, he writes The campus was inundated, and damage to the buildings and campus made it impossible to continue with classes or to house the students. The college year ended without the usual final examinations and commencement. Faculty members prepared grades for students, degrees were granted in absentia, and the graduates were honored at summer school commencement. (pg. 144) Little did they know that one month later, on June 21, another flood would hit the area and do some more damage. The only good news was there was no loss of life from the second flood.

There is now a 1.8 mile levee between Big Creek and the campus which has served its purpose well up to the present day.

Forsyth Library’s front doors the day after the flood. Today this is McCartney Hall.

Looking at the Cody Commons from Picken Hall the day after the flood. Cody Commons was located where the south part of the Memorial Union now stands.



May 5, 1864



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.


Lives Change @your library

One of my favorite things I loved to do when I was growing up in Stockton, Kansas was to visit the public library. It is a beautiful brick building that is an original Carnegie Library. A new addition funded by money given by Stockton residents Frank and Marvel Walker was added on the south end of the original library in 1984. The addition now holds the books and other materials while the Carnegie building is used as a reading area and for exhibits and meetings. After working here at Forsyth Library for a number of years, I visited that library of my childhood. One of my first thoughts was “oh, it never seemed this small when I was a little girl!”

I remember going to this library to read my favorite magazines and check out the new books. My parents were both educators who taught my sisters and me the importance of reading in your everyday life. I still love to read, and today we have options that I never would have dreamed about as a little girl. Today I can check out a book from the library and download it onto my Nook or I can do it the old fashioned way by checking out the paper copy of a book. You can check out audio tapes and listen to a book as you drive in your car. Music CDs and movies on DVD that can be checked out – for free with a library card! All libraries have computers to access various databases that are subscribed to by each individual library, or you can access the Internet.

April 13-19 is National Library Week and the theme is “Lives Change @ your library”. There are a number of different ways that you can share how libraries have changed your life.

If you Tweet, use the hashtag #LivesChange and #NLW14
Snap a library selfie in a library and share it on your Twitter or Facebook account and use @forsythlibrary
Sign the Declaration for the Right to Libraries
Post on the FHSU Forsyth Library and Learning Commons Facebook page

How has a library changed your life? Share your stories with us!


Genealogy – Prologue

Prologue magazine is a quarterly publication of the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA).  Along with the many historical events covered in the publication, there is a monthly feature called Genealogy Notes in every issue.  Genealogy Notes was published for the first time in the summer of 1989 and has covered many topics over the years.

I have listed some sample article titles from recent Genealogy Notes below.

v.45: no. 3/4 2013 – Ancestors from the West Indies: A Historical and Genealogical Overview of Afro-Caribbean Immigration, 1900-1930s



v.45: no. 2 2013- “We’re still alive today” A captured Japanese Diary from the Pacific Theater

v.43: no. 3 2011 – Leaving the Army During Mr. Madison’s War: Certificates of Discharge for the War of 1812

v. 42: no. 2 2010 – 68,937 and Counting: Searching Inmate Case Files from the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas.

Some articles may be read online or the print issues are available in the Government Documents Department at Forsyth Library. There is also at least a partial online index to the online Genealogy Notes available.


Black History Month

The Library of Congress is hosting the site African American History Month. The site is sponsored by several entities and includes links to online exhibits & collections on topics such as, art, music, baseball, and civil rights.  Presentations given previously for the various site sponsors are available as video and audio presentations.  Links to teacher resources have also been included on this site.

Be sure to check the Forsyth Library Catalog for resources on black history.  Many of our newest resources are available to view on your computer or download to your mobile device.  If your search results indicate the title is available through ebl you will be required to enter your Tiger Tracks log in information.