The first settler to make permanent residence in the Abilene area arrived in 1856. From the humble beginnings of a prairie dugout, Abilene grew to be the first “cowtown” of the West. Joseph G. McCoyset up his stockyards in Abilene, and millions of cattle were driven up from Texas via the Chisholm Trail and shipped out on Union Pacific railcars.
Abilene exploded into one of the wildest towns in the West. Several sheriffs tried to tame it, including Wild Bill Hickok, but gentrification came in the form of bankers and businessmen. During World War II , hometown hero Dwight D. Eisenhower led the Allies to victory and eventually became the 34th president of the United States. Today, Abilene plays host to thousands of visitors from around the world and celebrates its rich western heritage with the Chisholm Trail Day festival.
Bearce grew up on the plains of Kansas, near Abilene, and has always loved Kansas history. She graduated from Kansas State University and is the author of nine published books. She presently lives in St. Charles, Missouri, with her husband, Darrell. The Dickinson County Historical Society and Heritage Center is headquartered in Abilene. It features the Pioneer Community (with the Volkman Log Cabin), C.W. Parker Carousel, Museum of Independent Telephony, and Historical Museum.
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