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Hays Kansas

Those were wild times, the first years after the birth of what, in 1867, was known as Hays City.

It was a mecca for business at the time, thanks to the fact Fort Hays was located on the outskirts of town.

It's a mecca now as well, serving as the powerhouse of the economy of northwest Kansas, according to sales tax figures assembled by now-retired Kansas State University agricultural economist David Darling.

Within a year of its settlement, the population of Hays City grew to 1,000 people.

Today, it's at 20,510, according to the 2010 census.

Hays City was a rough, Western town. In its first meeting, the county commission granted 37 licenses to sell liquor to establishments mostly concentrated along the railroad tracks between what are now Fort and Main streets.

But Hays grew from a Wild West town to a civilized colony, and in 1876, an influx of Volga-German immigrants to the county brought many changes, from their Catholic faith to the Turkey-red wheat they brought with them.

The city was incorporated in 1885, but the fort for which it was named was abandoned in 1889. By 1901, the federal and state governments had approved using the military land for a school and an agricultural research station. That was the beginning of what is now Fort Hays State University, the Kansas State University Agricultural Research Center and Frontier Park on the south edge of Hays.

By 1914, the town had 2,500 people, and the city manager form of government was adopted in 1919.

The first public library, with a grant from Andrew Carnegie, opened in 1911.

Residents first moved to preserve Fort Hays in 1931 by establishing Frontier State Park.

Just as the city and its surroundings were recovering from the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl era, oil was discovered in 1935, bringing a boom of activity.

World War II had a big effect on the area with the building of Walker Army Air Base at the eastern edge of the county. It brought an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 people to town.

After the war, the city steadily grew. By 1960, it had 11,800 people; by 1970, 15,400. The 2000 Census placed its population at just more than 20,000. That has since declined slightly as the estimates have been prepared.

Source: "At Home in Ellis County, Kansas" 1991