The Hays House lays claim to being the oldest, continuously-operating restaurant west of the Mississippi River.
Seth Hays, great-grandson of Daniel Boone, was Council Grove’s first permanent settler. He came here in 1847 to trade with the Kaw (Kansa) Indians, who purchased guns, blankets, flour, and tinware from him. About 1857, he replaced his log store with this frame building, which served citizens and travelers as a trading post, courthouse, post office, printing office, and meeting and social hall.
Business was lively in Council Grove: in a four day period in 1860, the Kaw Indians spent $15,000 here and across the street at the Conn Store. The Santa Fe trade became increasingly lucrative. In 1863, Hay’s former partner, G. M. Simcock, estimated that $40 million in freight was hauled in ox- and mule-drawn wagons through the town.
In addition to supplies, the Hays House offered meals and rooms to weary traders on their eight-week trip between New Mexico and Missouri. The Kansas Press described the accommodations in 1859 this way: “Those who have occasion to stop at Council Grove, on the Santa Fe Road, will do well to ‘put up’ with Charles A. Gilkey [Hay’s hotel clerk]…mine host of the Hayes House. [They]…cannot but help feeling quite at home.”