Abilene is a city in and the county seat of Dickinson County, Kansas, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 6,844. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum is located in Abilene.
For millennia, the land now known as Kansas was inhabited by Native Americans. In 1803, most of modern Kansas was secured by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. In 1854, the Kansas Territory was organized, then in 1861 Kansas became the 34th U.S. state.
In 1857, Dickinson County was founded. Abilene began as a stage coach stop in the same year, established by Timothy Hersey and named Mud Creek. It wasn't until 1860 that it was named Abilene, from a passage in the Bible (Luke 3:1), meaning "city of the plains".
In 1867, the Kansas Pacific Railway (Union Pacific) pushed westward through Abilene. In the same year, Joseph G. McCoy purchased 250 acres of land north and east of Abilene, on which he built a hotel, the Drover’s Cottage, stockyards equipped for 2,000 heads of cattle, and a stable for their horses. The Kansas Pacific put in a switch at Abilene that enabled the cattle cars to be loaded and sent on to their destinations. The first twenty carloads left September 5, 1867, en route to Chicago, Illinois, where McCoy was familiar with the market. The town grew quickly and became the very first "cow town" of the west.
McCoy encouraged Texas cattlemen to drive their herds to his stockyards. The stockyards shipped 35,000 head that year and became the largest stockyards west of Kansas City, Kansas. In 1871, more than 5,000 cowboys herded around 700,000 cows through town. The figure of 700,000 is somewhat in dispute as other sources say as few as 600,000. Also in dispute is how many of these animals were driven to Abilene and how many to other Kansas towns. The Chisholm Trail ended in Abilene, bringing in many travelers and making Abilene one of the wildest towns in the west. From 1867 to 1871, the north end of the trail ended in Abilene, then as railroads were built further south the end of the trail incrementally moved southward towards Caldwell and as homesteaders came to Kansas the trail incrementally moved westward towards Ellsworth and further west. Approximately 440,200 head of cattle were shipped out of Abilene from 1867 to 1871.
Town marshal Tom "Bear River" Smith was initially successful policing Abilene, often using only his bare hands. He survived two assassination attempts during his tenure. However, he was murdered and decapitated on November 2, 1870. Smith wounded one of his two attackers during the shootout preceding his death, and both suspects received life in prison for the offense. He was replaced by Wild Bill Hickok in April 1871. Hickok's time as marshal was short-lived. While standing off a crowd during a street brawl, gambler Phil Coe took two shots at Hickok, who returned fire, killing Coe, but then accidentally shot his friend and deputy, Mike Williams, who was coming to his aid. He lost his job two months later in December.
In 1880 Conrad Lebold built the Lebold Mansion. Lebold was one of the early town developers and bankers from 1869 through 1889. The Hersey dugout can still be seen in the cellar, and the house is open for tours. A marker outside credits the name of the town being given by opening a Bible and using the first place name pointed to.
In 1890, Dr. A.B. Seelye founded the A.B. Seelye Medical Company. Seelye developed over 100 products for the company including "Wasa-Tusa", an Indian name meaning to heal.
Abilene became home to Dwight D. Eisenhower when his family moved to Abilene from Denison, Texas in 1892. Eisenhower attended elementary school through high school in Abilene, graduating in 1909. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum is the burial site of President Eisenhower, his wife, Mamie, and their first-born son Doud Dwight.