Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. David Bovee
Located on the bank of Big Creek in the Smoky Hills Region of the Great Plains is a small wooded park that contains a unique history. Today, the park is split into two sections, one being Frontier Park and the other being the Fort Hays State Historic Site that administers four original buildings from the active years of Fort Hays. Visitors from all states in the Union and many countries pass through Hays to visit the park. Whether to step back in time and experience life of the nineteenth century frontier or to absorb the quiet serenity of the state park’s natural area. Many visitors may not realize the political battle that took place in order to establish a state park located in Hays. From the time the military decided to place forts in the area in 1865, the land was known for its unique scenic quality due to the abundance of trees located along Big Creek, one of the few water sources in the region. For one hundred years the Fort Hays Military Reservation was at the heart of a political battle over the proper use of the land after the deactivation of the Post. During the active years of Fort Hays, military personnel worked to protect the trees along Big Creek. The post surgeon took part in a natural survey of the land, noting the unusual timber growth and variety of wildlife species. After the closing of Fort Hays in 1889, the land was turned over to the care of the Department of the Interior. Political debates arose in the wake of the fort’s closure in 1889. The seven thousand six hundred acres of the former military reservation rested in the hands of the federal government. Coinciding with the timing of the fort’s closure was the rising popularity of the conservation movement. While representatives from Kansas were in talks with the Interior Department about the right of the state to own the property, the development of a public park became one of the stipulations for the federal land transfer to the state of Kansas. The finalization of the land transfer agreement took place in 1901. From this point forward, a multitude of people from a variety of backgrounds worked to develop Frontier Historical Park as a modern state park in western Kansas. The goal of the park was to provide a place of relaxation, recreation, and historic interests to visitors traveling through the state of Kansas.
Copyright 2017 Jeremy Michael Gill
Gill, Jeremy Michael, "Cavalry To Campfires:
The Politics Of Preservation In Frontier Historical Park" (2017). Master's Theses. 4.