Nestled at the west edge of the Kansas flint hills, Abilene is a charming Kansas community, stocked with history and tradition—in fact, Abilene has some remarkable stories to tell that make our community one of Kansas’ favorite places to visit.
Abilene was a town of the Old West with a Hollywood-like history of cowboys, cattle drives, and gunfights. Abilene was the head end of the famed Chisholm Trail and served as a receiving point for livestock being driven from Texas to be shipped to market on the Kansas Pacific Railroad. One of our more notorious citizens, Wild Bill Hickock, once served as town marshal and battled the lawlessness that was so common to “cow towns”—in fact, Abilene is referred to in the literature of the old west as “a wild and wicked town.” Today, the Old Abilene Town exhibit on the south side of the A&SV tracks serves as a monument to those days. The reconstructed wooden buildings provide a frontier main street setting, complete with gunfights conducted by local re-enactors.
Our community also has a fascinating entrepreneurial history. Over the years, some innovative business proprietors lived here, including A.B. Seelye and C.L. Brown. Seelye manufactured patent medicines and products for the home which were delivered to rural households across the region by his staff of traveling salesmen. His 25-room Georgian style mansion, built in 1905, stands today on Buckeye Street and is a popular tourist attraction. Mr. Brown founded the prosperous United Telephone Company, which later became the U.S. Sprint Corporation. Abilene is also known as the “Greyhound Capital of the World,” serving as the home of the National Greyhound Association and the central hub of greyhound breeding and training in the United States. The Greyhound Hall of Fame is located on the north side of the A&SV tracks on south Buckeye Street and houses exhibits that tell the story of the evolution of the sport of greyhound racing and honors championship dogs and their breeders.
Perhaps Abilene is best known for its political history as the hometown of the 34th President of the United States. Dwight Eisenhower was raised in Abilene and attended Abilene High School before launching a remarkable military career that culminated in his role as Commander of the Allied Forces in World War II. In 1952, General Eisenhower returned to his hometown to announce his candidacy for President of the United States, and for eight years, Abilene was known around the world as the President’s hometown. The Eisenhower boyhood home, museum and Presidential library are located just north of the A&SV tracks, and the “Place of Meditation,” a chapel-like structure on the southwest end of the Eisenhower campus, is Mr. Eisenhower’s final resting place.
Abilene’s colorful Old West, entrepreneurial and political histories are chronicled in the Dickinson County Heritage Center located northeast of our depot along the A&SV track. This museum chronicles the development of Dickinson County as a modern-day agribusiness center and contains artifacts that make the area so unique. A display of telephones, switchboards and related items that symbolize Abilene’s once-burgeoning telephone industry are on display, as well as other exhibits relating to the community’s historic bustling business environment. A 1901 carousel that was manufactured in Abilene by the C.W. Parker Amusement Company sits on the Heritage Center grounds (it still operates, and tickets can be purchased at the museum). Buildings that once stood at various locations in Dickinson County were moved to the Heritage Center grounds and restored to their original condition, providing panoramic view of our area’s development.