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15 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Abilene

Photo by Rudy Fernandez
Photo by Rudy Fernandez

Being that I’ve only lived in Abilene since 1975, I consider myself an Abilenian. I know Abilene is a great place to live and I thought I knew a lot about the Key City. However I keep learning more about Abilene every year. That being said, here are several interesting facts you probably didn’t know about Abilene.

  1. Cattle rancher, Clairborne W. Merchant named Abilene, Texas after Abilene, the Kansas cattle town. Source: TSHA
  2. Abilene was not the county seat, Buffalo Gap was. In 1883, after a heated election, Abilene won the seat because the Texas and Pacific Railway track ran through the middle of Abilene.
  3. J. Stoddard Johnston and H. C. Whithers, both with the Texas and Pacific Railway laid out all the streets at the time. Those running east and west were to be number named and the ones running north and south were named after trees.
  4. The first church to ever open in Abilene was a Presbyterian Church. It opened two weeks before Abilene became a town officially.
  5. U.S. Army base Camp Barkeley operated during World War II and saw 1.9 million soldiers pass through it gates. At it’s peak, 50,000 soldiers were stationed at Camp Barkeley.
  6. In February 1944 the base became a prisoner of war camp. The camp held 840 German prisoners. Twelve of which escaped two months after it opened. They  were all captured within days, tired, hungry and beaten by the rough West Texas terrain.
  7. Dyess Air Force Base was originally ‘Tye Army Air Field’ and was part of Camp Barkeley until 1947 when it closed. It reopened as ‘Dyess Air Force Base’ in 1953.
  8. Actors and Actresses that are from Abilene include; Ann Wedgeworth, Ty O’Neal, Fess Parker, Randall “Tex” Cobb, Ryan Guzman, Cris Judd, David W. Harper, Carole Cook and Jessica Simpson. Source: Wikipedia
  9. Famous Musicians from Abilene Include;  Vinnie Paul, Mason Williams, Lee Roy Parnell, Micah P. Hinson, Chris Christian and Aaron Watson.
  10. Professional athletes that are from Abilene include: NFL – Case Keenum , Terry Orr, Johnny Knox, Bill Jones and Justin Snow; PGA – Billy Maxwell, Charles Coody, Bob Estes; IFBB – Kristy Hawkins; MLB – John Lackey; Olympics – Bobby Morrow, Billy Olson; NBA – Bill Sharman.
  11. It is illegal to sit idle or loiter anyplace within the corporate limits of the city for the purpose of flirting or mashing.
  12. The droughts from the early 1900’s until the ’40’s, were the catalysts for Abilene to excavate Lake Abilene in 1919, Lake Kirby in 1927 and Lake Fort Phantom Hill in 1937 to insure that the Key City had a municipal water supply. Source: TSHA
  13. Taco Bueno started in Abilene in 1967 by Bill Waugh, an Abilene Christian College (ACU) art graduate. The first store was located in Abilene, on South First Street. Source: Wikipedia
  14. The name Abilene comes from the bible, Luke, 3:1. The verse sets the stage for the coming of John the Baptist and mentions “Abilene” in the setting. The word means, “plains or meadow.” Source: ARN and Bible Hub.com
  15. The Abilene Reporter News & Abilene Printing are the oldest ‘continuous’ running businesses in Abilene, Texas. In fact Abilene Printing started in March  while the Abilene Reporter started in June of 1881, in a tent, on the very spot where it sits today. Source: TSHA

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