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Volga Germans
Fort Hays
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Homesteading in Ellis County


Emigrants from nine villages in Russia left Saratov on October 24, 1875, arrived in Baltimore on November 23 and traveled to Topeka where they wintered though March 1876. They founded Herzog on April 8, 1876. The new town was located one-half mile north of the English colony of Victoria. On August 3, 1876, the largest single group to leave the Volga region arrived in Victoria and settled in Herzog. More groups of emigrants came over the next couple of years to settle in Herzog with the last major group arriving on September 15, 1878. Because of the large numbers of people living there, Herzog became the largest and most important colony in Ellis County. Herzog later absorbed its English predecessor, but kept the English name when it was officially changed in 1913 to Victoria.

The settlers met for religious services at the home of Alois Dreiling, and they soon built a frame church adjoining the house. Walter C. Maxwell, who was a Catholic Englishman living south of Victoria, started plans to build a stone church. That church building was completed in August 1877, but with the town growing, it became too small. A new church building that held up to 600 parishioners was dedicated on October 19, 1884.

As the town grew, the parish outgrew its church building. Plans were made beginning in 1905 to build a new church; those plans were revised in 1908, with the cornerstone being laid on October 4, 1909. Two hundred twenty five families of the St. Fidelis Parish helped to build this church which was complete in 1911. It received the nickname of "Cathedral of the Plains" from William Jennings Bryan when he visited St. Fidelis in 1912.

The church is 220 feet long, 64 feet wide in the nave and 96 feet wide in the transept. Each of its twin towers is 141 feet high.

Ellis County - St. Fidelis Catholic Church

St. Fidelis Church

Ellis County - St. Fidelis Catholic Church 2

St. Fidelis Church

Ellis County - St. Fidelis Catholic Church 3

Nave and Sanctuary of St. Fidelis Church

Ellis County - St. Fidelis Church 4

Altar from original church building

Ellis County - St. Fidelis Church 5

Sanctuary and Nave of St. Fidelis Church from the Choir Loft


    Color pictures taken by Patty Nicholas, archivist

    Dreiling, Norbert R. "Official Centennial History of the Volga-German Settlements in Ellis and Rush Counties of Kansas, 1878-1976." Hays, KS: Volga German Centennial Association, 1976.

    Dreiling, B. M. "Golden jubilee of the German-Russian settlements of Ellis and Rush Counties, Kansas, August 31, September 1 and 2, 1926." Hays, KS: Hays Daily News, 1926.


Hours and Contacts

Monday,April 21 Forsyth will close at 10 pm because of no electricity

Spring Hours:
Sun:             1:00 pm - 2:00 am
Mon-Thurs: 7:30 am - 2:00 am
Friday:         7:30 am - 7:00 pm
Sat:            10:00 am - 5:00 pm

For current month(s) and detailed information, please select desired month under announcements (below).

Phone: 785.628.4434
Fax: 785.628.4096
Contacts Directory
Mailing Address:
   Forsyth Library
   600 Park Street
   Hays, KS 67601
Physical Address:

   502 South Campus Drive
   Hays, KS 67601-4099