Situated on the Smoky Hill route to the Colorado goldfields, the location was first utilized as Downer’s Station, a Butterfield stage stop established in 1865. The post was named for James P. Downer, a Civil War veteran and a member of the party that originally surveyed the Smoky Hill Trail.
In 1866, Indians massacred many of the area residents, and the following year, in May 1867, the location was fortified and became a military post called Fort Downer. That same year, the post was used by George A. Custer as a base for Indian Operations. It was also burned in an Indian attack that year. It was abandoned in May 1868.
The fort was located south of WaKeeney, Kansas in Trego County on Downer’s Creek about 50 miles west of Fort Hays.
©Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated August 2020.