Hays changes name of Noose Road

Margaret Allen
A stone monument built by Hays sculptor Pete Felten marks the general spot on West 12th Street of the historic Rome town site.

HAYS–A 5.5-mile stretch of a two-lane paved road from the city limits of Hays to past west 12th Street has been called Noose Road for 31 years.

Last week the Ellis County Commission made up of Butch Schlyer, 1st district; Dustin Roths, 2nd district; and Dean Haselhorst, 3rd district, unanimously voted to change the street’s name to Rome Avenue, pronounced like the city in Italy.

The name change became a hot topic among Ellis County residents on Facebook after two Hays attorneys, both Hays natives, Greg Schwartz and John T. Bird, separately lobbied for the name change. Discussions went viral on Facebook.

Bird mentioned that someone named Derek Raynesford had suggested on Facebook that the name be changed to Rome Road, to honor the first town in the area, which once flourished alongside Hays City, then gradually faded from existence.

“I received a ton of emails,” said Commission Chairman Butch Schlyer, “and overwhelmingly they were supportive of changing the name of this road. Social media is with us whether I like it or not. … And our culture is just becoming increasingly sensitive to a lot of issues. Given all of that, I’m in favor of changing this name. I don’t think it does anyone any good to have this name as it is. It just doesn’t.”

Named in 1989, the lore is that Noose Road relates to the 1869 lynching of three Black men from what used to be the wooden railroad trestle called Hangman’s Bridge over Big Creek. The three Black men, Buffalo soldiers of the 38th U.S. Infantry at Fort Hays, were hanged by an angry mob after their arrest in connection with a murder in town.

“The people who were killed on that bridge were not given due process,” Roths said. “These people weren’t afforded this and they should have been.”

The commissioners all agreed that Rome Road, or Rome Avenue, was a much better choice for a road name than Noose Road, even though Ring estimated there were about 29 homes, a business, a cemetery and a commercial building along the road in question.

Roths said he didn’t want anybody to feel unwelcome in Ellis County, Kansas because of the unsavory history behind a street name.

Residents on the road who will have to pay for address changes and incur costs because of the name change will be able to get help with those costs from the county.

Bill Ring, public works director, said he would start the process to have the county sign shop put together signs. He estimated the cost to the county would be about $200, since new signs will use existing poles and hardware.