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city, seat (1867) of Ellis county, central Kansas, U.S. It lies on Big Creek. The city was founded in 1867 after the establishment of Fort Hays (a frontier post built as Fort Fletcher in 1865). In 1876 Volga Germans settled the area on land ceded by the Kansas Pacific Railroad. The fort was abandoned in 1889; its blockhouse and guardhouse are preserved in the city's Frontier Historical Park. Oil fields in the vicinity began to be developed in 1936. The city is a trading centre and shipping point for an extensive wheat-growing and oil-producing area. It contains a large dryland agricultural experiment station and is the seat of Fort Hays State University (1902); the university's museum of natural history was founded in 1914. The Cathedral of the Plains (1909-11) is at nearby Victoria, and Cedar Bluff State Park is southwest of the city. Inc. 1885. Pop. (1990) 17,767; (2000) 20,013.