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KEY CITY OF CENTRAL WEST TEXAS
Following a parTern which was Tamiliar in The develop-
menT oT The WesT, The CiTy oT Abilene, Texas, was Tounded
as a direcT resulT oT The building oT a railroad. In January oT
l88I The Texas and PaciTic Railway compleTed Track To The
TownsiTe oT Abilene, and in March oT ThaT year an aucTion
sale oT Town loTs was held. From ThaT Time The CiTy oT Abilene
has conTinued To grow and develop, unTil Today, as The "Key
CiTy oT CenTral WesT Texas," iT is a ciTy wiTh a rneTropoIiTan
populaTion oT approximaTely II9,000 people and is widely
known as The commercial, educaTionaI, medical and IivesTock
cenTer oT The enTire region.
The TirsT developmenT oT The Abilene counTry was in The
year I852 when ForT PhanTom Hill was esTablished a Tew
miles norThwesT OT The TuTure IocaTion oT The ciTy. This army
posT was one oT a series of garrisons erecTed To proTecT The
whiTe seTTlemenTs Trom Indians, and was an overnighT sTop
on The overland mail rouTe which Tollowed The BuTTerTieId
Trail. The ForT was in use Tor only Three years before iT was
abandoned by The Army, and Today iTs ruins may be viewed
Trom The roadway, a shorT disTance norTh oT ForT PhanTom
Hill Lake. AnoTher imporTanT rouTe Through This counTry was
The CenTerline Trail Trom Texarkana To EI Paso. This Trail was
made by surveyors oT The Texas and PaciTic Railway and was
an imporTanT link prior To The building oT The railroad.
In I858 a counTy was carved ouT OT Bexar and Travis
CounTies and named Taylor in honor oT Edward Taylor who
was an early seTTIer in WesT Texas. By I877 There were several
Tamilies in This area, and approximaTeIy a dozen Tamilies were
seTTled in The souThern parT oT The counTy in a cuT or gap in
The Callahan Divide. This IiTTIe seTTlemenT which was named
BuTTalo Gap, esrablished a posT oTTice and secured regular
mail service in I877. In ThaT same year a general sTore was
opened and The counTy's TirsT wedding was solemnized.
The wesTward progress oT The Texas and Pacific Railway
gave a sTrong impeTus To seTTlemenT oT The TerTiIe WesT Texas
TerriTory. By I878 The popuIaTion oT The counTy had increased
To approximaTely 400 people, and on July 3rd oT ThaT year
The counTy was oTTicially organized, and BuTTalo Gap was
designaTed The counTy seaT.
The railroad considered Two possible rouTes Through
CenTraI WesT Texas. one by way OT BuTTalo Gap and an
aITernaTe by way oT ForT PhanTom Hill. The IaTTer rouTe was
abandoned, and iT seemed quiTe probable ThaT The road
would be buiIT Through BuTTaIo Gap. Land values in and
around The counTy seaT were driven rapidly upward by specu-
IaTors. A dispuTe over land ownership resulTed in liTigaTion.
and one oT The leading ranchers OT The TerriTory, Col. C. W.
MerchanT, and some associaTes aTTempTed To buy ouT The
IiTiganTs, buT wiThouT success.
Following This unsuccessTul venTure, an hisToric meeTing
was arranged in The summer oT T880 aT The Hash KniTe
Ranch, headquarTers oT which were locaTed on The presenT
siTe oT Abilene ChrisTian College. PresenT aT This meeTing
were The ranch owner, John Simpson: The Texas and PaciTic
Railway Town and Track locaTor, H. C. WiThers: a surveyor.
S. L. Chalk: a rancher, J. T. Barry: Col. C. W. IvlerchanT: and
The colonel's Twin broTher J. D. lvIerchanT. The purpose oT
This meeTing was To circumvenT The diTTicuITy and delay
caused by IiTigaTion over The land aT BuTTaIo Gap, and To
speed The process oT bringing The railroad To WesT Texas.
To achieve This goal, iT was necessary Tor The group To seIecT
a TownsiTe in The viciniTy and To induce The railroad To rouTe
iTs Tracks Through or near This siTe. ShorTly ThereaTTer, The
receiver oT The Texas and PaciTic Railway joined wiTh Col.
MerchanT and his associaTes, and This group purchased land
in The area ThaT was desTined To become Abilene. In I880
Col. MerchanT and John Simpson named The Town Abilene
aTTer The Tamous Kansas caTTIe shipping poinT oT The same
name. IT was Their Tirm beIieT ThaT Abilene, Texas, would
become an even more imporTanT ciTy Than Abilene, Kansas.
Their hopes were realized, and in The years ThaT Tollowed. The
Kansas ciTy declined in imporTance while iTs Texas namesake
grew and prospered.
As menTioned earlier, The railroad reached Abilene in
I88I. The Tollowing year The ciTy was incorporaTed and
conTinued iTs phenomenal growTh. On OcTober 30, I883, The
counTy seaT was moved To Abilene Trom BuTTalo Gap as a
resulr oT a biTTerly ToughT eIecTion.
Since iTs Tounding, The growTh oT Abilene has been
based on Two imporTanT TacTors: The cenTraI IocaTion oT The
ciTy in The hearT oT a rich agriculTuraI and livesTock producing
region, and The superioriTy oT iTs TransporTaTion TaciliTies.
Income Trorn The agriculTure and IivesTock indusTry has always
been TundamenTaI in Abilene's economy alThough The oil
indusTry and manuTacTuring are proving oT increasing im-
porTance. In I907, Abilene was connecTed wiTh WichiTa Falls
To The norTh by The ForT WorTh and Denver Railroad and
Two years laTer The Abilene and SouThern Railroad com-
menced service To The souTh. Since l9I0, The ciTy has had
access To service by The SanTa Fe Railroad which has a sTaTion
aT View, a Tew miles souThwesT oT The Abilene ciTy IimiTs. Only
Ten years aTTer Abilene was TirsT served by a railroad, in I89 I,
an eIecTric power planT began operaTion in The ciTy. The
oTher uTiIiTies, Telephone and gas, began service in I898 and
AbiIene's exTensive highway sysTem has made possible
The developmenT oT The ciTy inTo a primary reTaiI Trade cenTer
Tor 22 counTies. Abilene is locaTed on U. S. Highway 80-
The Broadway oT America-which is an imporTanT link be-
Tween The EasT and WesT coasTs. In addiTion, The ciTy is
served by U. S. Highways 83, 84 and 277 and by STaTe
Highways 36 and 35l.
The excelIenT TransporTaTion TaciliTies and The cenTraI
IocaTion oT Abilene have also combined To make The ciTy an
imporTanT wholesale cenTer Tor WesT Texas. GrowTh and
developmenT oT The vasT SouThwesT during The pasT decade
have caused a rapid expansion oT The wholesale and disTri-
buTing Trade in Abilene. As The naTuraI sTorage and shipping
poinT Tor This region, more and more companies are esTab-
Iishing branch oTTices and warehouses in The ciTy.”