Located in Central Kansas, Abilene is a small city with a rich history. It has been known at times as a sleepy farming village, a thriving frontier cattle town, the birthplace of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the Greyhound capital of the world. (the dog, not the bus line.)
Abilene was founded in the mid-nineteenth century by Timothy Hersey. The name was chosen by his wife, Mrs. Eliza Hersey, from the Bible verse Luke 3:1-
"Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,"
By 1857 the small farming town had a stagecoach stop, and ten years later the Union Pacific railroad passed through the town on its way west. An Illinois stockman, one Joseph McCoy, saw an opportunity. The end of the Civil War had left large herds of cattle in Texas with no market after the economic collapse in the South. McCoy built stockyards in Abilene and added an extension to the Chisholm Trail, which terminated nearby. He then sent men to tell the cattle owners in Texas of the opportunity which awaited them. In a few short months, Abilene’s population grew ten times, from three hundred to over three thousand. In a period of about five years, over a million cattle were driven into the city.
With such progress came a price of course, and Abilene became very much like a stereotypical Western town in the movies; saloons and whorehouses, casinos and dancing halls, hotels and stores. All the comforts a cowboy wanted after a long drive across the range.
And as in the movies, lawlessness reigned in the streets of Abilene. Many lawmen tried to bring order to the town, but the first successful one was Thomas J. Smith, who was shot and killed in 1870. In 1871, the more famous "Wild Bill" Hickok became replaced Smith, and engaged Phil Coe in a famous gun battle in the streets, along with cleaning up the town in other, less dramatic ways.
As the West became less wild, Abilene faded out of the national spotlight. It only reemerged in 1891 as the childhood home of Dwight D. Eisenhower, though of course the importance of this fact was only recognized years later.
Today, Abilene is a fairly quiet town of about 6,500 citizens. With a wide variety of attractions, the town receives a large portion of its income from tourism.
Sites Of Interest
Dwight D. Eisenhower Center
The Eisenhower Center is a Presidential Library and museum dedicated to President Eisenhower and the Allied forces he lead during World War II. It is open seven days a week, barring holidays.
Old Abilene Town And Museum
Old Town Abilene is a recreation of Abilene from the time of “Wild Bill” Hickok. It contains reinactors, historical recreations, a museum and shops. It is open from early spring to late fall, with actual dates varying according to weather.
Greyhound Hall Of Fame
The Greyhound Hall Of Fame is a museum devoted to (what else?) the fastest of man’s best friends. The exhibits trace the history of the dog from ancient times to today. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 7 days a week.
- Tourism/Entertainment/Attractions. Abilene Area Chamber Of Commerce. 26 December 2003. <http://www.abileneks.com/tourism.htm>
- Abilene History. City Of Abilene. 26 December 2003. <http://www.abilenecityhall.com/history.htm>
- Abilene, Kansas Resource Guide. Key To The City. 26 December 2003. <http://www.usacitiesonline.com/kscountyabilene.htm>
- Midway, Kansas. John Macs USA. 26 December 2003. <http://www.johnmacsusa.com/abilene.htm>
- Abilene. Blue Skyways. 26 December 2003. <http://skyways.lib.ks.us/history/abilene2.html>
- Historical Kansas. Blue Skyways. 26 December 2003. <http://skyways.lib.ks.us/history/abilhist.html>
- Historic Abilene. Blue Skyways. 26 December 2003. <http://skyways.lib.ks.us/history/abilene.html>