This noted U.S. Army post was established in 1865 as a headquarters for troops given the task of protecting military roads, guarding the mails and defending construction crews on the Union Pacific Railway. Fort Hays also served as a major supply depot for other army posts in western Kansas.
The coming together of the fort, the railroad, and the Smoky Hill Trail resulted in the creation of nearby Hays City, where free-spending soldiers, freighters, and railroad workers frequented dance halls, saloons, and gambling houses. During its brief career as the most lawless town on the frontier, more than 50 "boot hill" burials took place. Some of them were caused by James C. Hickock [sic], better known as "Wild Bill," who served for a time as local law officer.
At various times Fort Hays served as home to the 7th U.S. Cavalry commanded by George A. Custer, and the Buffalo Soldiers of the 9ths and 10th U.S Cavalry regiments. While serving as an army scout, the famous Buffalo Bill Cody also spent time at the fort. Although Fort Hays was abandoned in 1889, four original structures still stand, including the blockhouse, guardhouse, and two officers' quarters.