Custer Lives!

The Hays House


In July 2009 I visited the historic Hays House in Council Grove, Kansas. I visited on a Sunday and tried to time my visit at a lull in the lunch time. When I arrived in Council Grove to begin my tour of the town there were very few people. By 11:00am the place was thriving with people. Parking was never an issue at any site, including the Hays House however. I went inside for lunch about 11:20am and was instantly seated. I had my choice of upstairs and downstairs. Since the downstairs was more crowded I chose it to people watch. My waitress was very friendly and took my order quickly. My meal included a visit to the salad bar. The mustard potato salad was yummy and the salad items were iced down and a good selection of dressings were available. Usually salad bar or buffet salad bars have watered down dressing that runs off your salad before you can eat it. Not here. The Thousand Island dressing was nice and thick, just like I poured it out of a bottle from my refrigerator at home. I had a HUGE steak with fresh vegetable sides along with a homemade roll. The roll was thick, heavy, and great with real butter on it. The vegetables were steamed just right. A little crispy still but very warm and not the least bit soggy. The steak was, well.....FANTASTIC! It was cooked just how I asked and was a great cut of meat. I didn't bother with any steak sauce, it was perfect as it was. I hardly ever touch alcohol but I ordered two beers with my meal. The total cost was around $21 which I was very happy with, quite reasonable I think for the quantity, quality, and excellent service. I was seated next to the buffet area. If you don't want to cough up $20 for a steak and beer try the buffet. If I hadn't wanted one of those great Kansas steaks I would have opted for the buffet. The meatloaf caught my eye. It was homemade and looked great. It was surrounded my home cooked vegetables, salads, and more. I don't remember the price, but I think it was only around $11 or so. There were other meat entrees on the buffet, but the farmboy in me craved the meatloaf. After finishing off that great lunch I visited the souvenir stand on the way out and snagged a Hays House souvenir glass.

As I was eating I had a fantastic conversation with two couples, approximately my age (mid 50's), about Kansas and it's history. They offered some great advice on destinations and traveling in their state. They were fantastic people, about as friendly and nice as I've ever met. That 45 minute little chat was certainly one of my highlights of my ten day history tour. It seemed to me that the whole state of Kansas was like that. I don't think I've ever traveled in a friendlier state.

The original Hays House was a log cabin built on the same site in 1847. One of it's primary functions was to trade with the Kaw, or Kansa, Indians. In 1857 the present framed building was built and served as a trading post, courthouse, post office, town hall, and social hall. The Santa Fe Trail in the 1860's really caused business to swell. During that period the Hays House was used primarily as a hotel and restaurant for weary travelers. General George Armstrong Custer and some of his Officers frequently ate here while stationed at Fort Hays or while passing through along the Santa Fe Trail. The Hays House is the oldest continuously operated restaurant west of the Mississippi. Founder Seth Hays was one of Daniel Boone's grandsons.

 The Hays House sidewalk sign.

The Hays House.

An information sign posted on the exterior by the National Parks Service contains a photo of the Hays House in 1868.

One of the sidewalk displays.


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