Ten miles ahead is Abilene, first of the major
cattle trail towns of Kansas, and famed in the story of
the Cowtown West. Following the Civil War, millions of
Longhorn cattle were stranded on Texas ranges. Beef-eating
Northerners were hungry and the problem was
to bring the supply to the markets.
After the westward-building Union Pacific railroad reached Abilene in March, 1867, along came Joseph G. McCoy from Illinois. He chose the town as a cattle-shipping center, built stockyards, and sent circulars all over Texas advising cattlemen to drive their herds up the Chisholm trading trail to the site of present Wichita, then on up McCoy's extension to Abilene. During 1867-1871 more than a million cattle were trailed to Abilene where, for a time in 1871, James B. "Wild Bill' Hickok was the marshal. Hundreds of cowboys, saloonkeepers, gamblers and dancehall girls added to the din until the inhabitants who had come to stay forced the whole kit and boodle to take its market place elsewhere.
Abilene was the boyhood home of President Dwight David Eisenhower from 1891 to 1911. The Eisenhower Home, Museum, Library and Chapel help make it one of Kansas' most interesting cities.
Historical marker on I-70