ABILENE, Kan. (KSNW) — Our final KSN Summer Road Trip stop on Day 1 was Abilene. We were live from Little Ike Park for KSN News at 5 and 6.
This year, TravelAwaits.com named Abilene the Best Small Town in the U.S.
Abilene is known for many things, including its cowboy past, Wild Bill Hickok, and being the childhood home of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He once said, “The proudest thing I can claim is that I am from Abilene!”
The town got its start in 1858 when the Timothy Hersey family built a log cabin where the city is now. Mrs. Hersey named the place by letting her bible fall open. It opened to Luke 3:1, a verse that includes the name Abilene, which means City of the Plains.
The small town remained relatively quiet until 1867. Then, the railroad came, and so did the livestock shipping industry. Texas ranchers used the Chisholm Trail to herd their cattle to the railyard in Abilene.
The cowboys needed places to stay and ways to blow off steam after the long cattle drives. So saloons, stores, and gambling houses set up shop, turning Abilene into a wild, frontier town.
That’s where Wild Bill Hickok enters the picture. He was a two-pistol man, meaning he could shoot well with either hand or with both hands at once. The town appointed him marshal. He managed to get things under control while he served in that position in 1871. He left in the winter after accidentally killing a friend. Abilene quieted down on its own when the cowboys started using newer railroads in Newton, Wichita and Ellsworth in 1872.
Kansas has been called the “Wheat Basket of the World.” According to the Abilene website, it started with the town’s first mayor, T.C. Henry. He introduced wheat to Kansas by secretly planting 5,000 acres. When it was a success, he introduced the seed to others.
President Eisenhower was born in Texas, but most of his childhood was in Abilene. You can see his boyhood home on its original spot on the Eisenhower Campus.
Things to do in Abilene:
- Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home
- Seelye Mansion
- Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad
- Great Plains Theatre
- Old Abilene Town
- Greyhound Hall of Fame Museum
- Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum
- Dickinson County Heritage Center, featuring one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Customs – A carousel built by the C.W. Parker Amusement Company
- The One-Time World’s Largest Spur at Rittel’s Western Wear
- Request a Visitor’s Guide
Community & Government: