Abilene, the judicial seat and largest city of Dickinson county, is located on the north bank of the Smoky Hill river, 96 miles from Topeka, and has an altitude of 1,153 feet. It was first settled in 1858, was first the terminus of and later a station on the stage line. The first store was opened by a man named Jones, usually referred to as "Old Man Jones," in whose stock of goods whisky was a prominent article. In 1860 the town was surveyed and the following spring it was selected as the county seat by a popular vote. Early in 1867 the Kansas Pacific railroad was completed to Abilene, and the same year the place was selected by Joseph G. McCoy as the most available point for assembling cattle for shipment, the selection being made because of the abundance of grass and water in the neighborhood. Concerning the town at this time, Mr. McCoy says: "Abilene in 1867 was a very small, dead place, consisting of about one dozen log huts, low, small, rude affairs, four-fifths of which were covered with dirt for roofing; indeed, but one shingle roof could be seen in the whole city. The business of the burg was conducted in two small rooms, mere log huts, and of course the inevitable saloon, also in a log hut, was to be found."
After Mr. McCoy had decided upon Abilene as the best cattle shipping point, circulars were sent all over Texas and before the close of the year 1867 some 35,000 cattle had been driven there for shipment on the new railroad to the eastern markets. This had a tendency to stimulate the growth of the town but it also brought in many undesirable characters. Gamblers, confidence men, cow boys, etc., came in and practically took possession of the place, much to the chagrin and disgust of the reputable, law-abiding citizens. Shooting affrays were common, and the turbulent element, being in the majority, continued to run things with a high hand until the probate court of Dickinson county, on Sept. 6, 1869, granted a petition to incorporate Abilene, and named J. B. Shane, T. C. Henry, Thomas Sherran, T. F. Hersey and Joseph G. McCoy as trustees. McCoy was chosen the first mayor and the new city government took steps to check the prevailing lawlessness. A stone jail was commenced, but about the time the walls were up a band of cow boys tore them down. Finally, Thomas Smith, who had come to Abilene from Kit Carson, Col., was elected town marshal. It is said that his appearance was against him, but what he lacked in physical strength was more than made up in courage and diplomacy, and in a short time he succeeded in disarming all the desperate characters, thus bringing about a reign of law and order. The Kansas Monthly of Feb., 1879, ten years after Abilene was incorporated, says: "Abilene, from being a Texas cattle town without law, order or society, is now one of the most home-like, orderly and agreeable towns."
Since that time the growth and development of Abilene has been steadily, onward and upward, and in 1910 the city had a population of 4,118. Its location at the junction of the Union Pacific, Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railways makes it an important shipping point, and large quantities of grain, live stock, etc., are annually exported. The city has two banks, an international money order postoffice from which emanate seven rural delivery routes, unsurpassed express, telegraph and telephone facilities, a modern electric lighting plant, a fine system of waterworks, a fire department, a Carnegie library and a well appointed opera house. Mount St. Joseph Academy is located here, which supplements the excellent public school system and affords ample educational opportunities. The manufactures include flour mills, creameries, foundries, an organ factory, planing mills, cigar, carriage and ice factories, etc. The press is well represented by two daily and four weekly newspapers, the Implement Dealers' Bulletin (monthly), and the Kansas State Sunday School journal (also monthly).Pages 18-19 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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