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Texas Forts Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Abilene


Photo by Steve Buttmann Photography

FRONTIER REDUX

Abilene owes its county seat to its founding fathers, local ranchers and businessmen who met with H. C. Whithers, the Texas and Pacific Railway townsite locator, for a friendly little sit-down in 1880. The gentlemen convinced Whithers to bypass the existing county seat – Buffalo Gap – and run the railroad through their own land where a new, soon-to-be platted townsite (called Abilene) could be established. Abilene’s thriving culture, however, owes its early leg-up to its founding mothers. Abilene’s first social and cultural organization for women began in 1883. Drama clubs, literary guilds, and community bands soon followed. The formation of the City Federation of Woman’s Clubs, founded in 1898, helped establish Abilene’s Carnegie Library in 1909. By 1950, the Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra was giving its first concert. Today, theater groups, ballet companies, an art museum, and an opera association contribute to a lively cultural atmosphere in Abilene. Modern Abilenians however, both male and female, managed to break the 1903 abolishment of saloons by finally voting Abilene a wet community in 1978. This Texas Forts Trail city hasn’t forgotten the rowdier bits of its past, however. In fact, its celebrates a few of them in “Frontier Texas!”, a multi-media tourist destination that the New York Times called “…kind of like a little Disney World, only with cowboys and Indians.”   


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Read more about Abilene in the Handbook of Texas Online.