United States / Abilene, TX

all or unphotographed
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Willis, Thomas Middlebrook. (June 27, 1859 - November 27, 1937) Born in Bainbridge, Georgia, Thomas Middlebrook Willis was an important early leader in Abilene. Willis moved to Waco, Texas with his parents, Dr. Thomas L. and Mrs. Letitia Willis, in 1866. T.M. Willis first came to this area in 1878 to investigate range possibilities. In 1883, after graduating from the law school of Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee, he moved here and established a practice. In 1886, Willis married Abilene resident Sallie Parker (1865-1954); the couple had eight children. Also in 1886, he was elected City Attorney. Willis later also served as City Judge. In 1937, the Abilene Reporter-News honored him, among others, as one of the city's founders. (2008) Marker is property of the State of Texas #14579

?, Abilene, TX, United States

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J. D. Windham. (Feb. 13, 1816 - Jan. 11, 1901) Born in Alabama, moved to Texas 1839. Married Frances Monteith and had nine children. Was first doctor in Brown County, 1865; and in Callahan County, 1874; owned general store; planted county's first orchard here in Tecumseh. Recorded 1966. #4030

?, Abilene, TX, United States

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Fletcher Ranch. In 1878 James Robert Fletcher, his wife, and son Lorenzo Thomas (1868-1939) came here from Granbury. Their caravan included a small herd of cattle and work animals. A carpenter came to construct a two-story ranch house. Fletcher filed for a patent on this land because of the nearby spring-fed creek, large trees for wood, coved for animal protection and ample grass. The first spring Fletcher planted sorghum for his cattle, making this one of the first cultivated areas in the county. He shipped Merino sheep from California and made an unsuccessful attempt at raising the first sheep on a large scale in the area. Lorenzo ("Lo") walked to school at Buffalo Gap and later to Buffalo Gap Presbyterian College, marking a trail with buffalo skulls which could be seen by moonlight. After his father died in 1886, Lorenzo took over the ranch operations. In 1889 he married Lula May Cummings whom he met at Buffalo Gap College. They had three children. Their daughters have developed the Lytle Cove land into a wildlife refuge for birds, deer, and wild turkey. This ranch is recognized as the oldest property in Taylor County still occupied by the original family. (1979) #1916

FM 1750 to Old Colema Highway (CR 120), Abilene, TX, United States

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Laughter Undertaking Company. Dan T. Laughter (1871-1952) first worked as an undertaker while employed in a northeast Texas furniture store. In 1900, he came to Abilene, and five years later he founded this undertaking company with his partner, C. M. Tandy. In 1908, at the flip of a coin, the firm came under the full ownership of Laughter. Until the mid-1970s, the company operated an ambulance in connection with its funeral home. Since the early years of the 20th century, Laughter Undertaking Company has been a significant Abilene business institution. Supplemental Plate: Operated since 1945 by Russel and Willena North and their family; now known as North's Funeral Home. (1985) #3047

242 Orange Street, Abilene, TX, United States

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Lindbergh in West Texas. Four months after his record-setting trans-Atlantic solo flight, Charles Augustus Lindbergh (1902-1974) landed here for one hour and thirty-six minutes during a nationwide publicity tour. Touching down at Kingsolving Field (now the site of Abilene Zoo) after an almost nine-hour flight from Santa Fe, "Lucky Lindy" was given a hero's welcome by thousands of West Texans. His famous Ryan Monoplane, "Spirit of St. Louis," was taxied into a fenced area and surrounded by National Guard Troops for protection. An escort plane landed later. Heading a parade into Abilene were seventy-one mayors and countless officials. Lindbergh was escorted by Mrs. Mildred Moody (1897-1983), wife of Governor Dan Moody and an Abilene native; Mayor Thomas Edward Hayden (1891-1949); and Chamber of Commerce president Charles William Bacon (1871-1947). The young pilot reportedly balked at a "throne" rigged for him in an open Nash automobile, and rode with Mrs. Moody through the town to Federal lawn. Lindbergh delivered a brief speech over loud speakers praising the ideal terrain and weather in Texas for developing civil and military aviation. He was escorted back to this plane and flew two hours and forty-two minutes to his next stop in Fort Worth. Texas Sesquicentennial 1836-1986. #3085

SH 36 & US 83, Abilene, TX, United States

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Taylor County. Created 1858. Named for Edward, James and George Taylor, 18, 20, and 22, Tennesseans who came to Texas in 1833 and died at the Alamo, March 6, 1836. Organized 1878, with county seat at Buffalo Gap, through which went the Fort Concho to Fort Belknap stagecoach and longhorns on western trail up to Kansas. County seat was moved to Abilene in 1883. Of the 254 Texas counties, 42 bear Indian, French or Spanish names. 10 honor such colonizers as Stephen F. Austin, "Father of Texas". 12 were named for Washington, Clay and other American patriots. 96 were named for men like the Taylors who fought in the Texas War for Independence (15 dying at the Alamo), signed the Declaration of Independence, or served as statesmen in the Republic of Texas. 23 have the names of frontiersmen and pioneers. 11 honor American statesmen who worked for the annexation of Texas; 10, leaders in Texas since statehood, including jurists, ministers, educators, historians, statesmen; and 36, men prominent in the Confederacy during the Civil War. El Paso and 8 others have geographical names, San Jacinto and Val Verde were named for battles; Live Oak and Orange, for trees; and Mason for a fort. (1964) #5208

US 83/84, S. of Abilene, Abilene, TX, United States

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Mexican-American / Americanization School. From its earliest days, education for Mexican Americans in Texas has varied from none at all to apparent equality. The Republic of Texas in 1839 and 1840 established laws governing a system of schools. As these institutions took shape, Mexican American students often were segregated, encountering racial, social and economic discrimination, ideological differences and political tensions. Private and parochial schools, in addition to the public schools attended by Anglos, served Mexican Americans in Abilene until the turn of the 20th century. By 1910 a public school was established specifically for Mexican American children in grades one through six. An "Americanization" school opened in 1920; it was relocated to 541 North 8th Street in 1936 and remained in operation until 1948. Facilities for Mexican American children in Texas cities like Abilene often were inferior to those maintained for Anglos; equipment and materials were substandard. Some Mexican American students in Abilene attended the Anglo schools closest to their homes. Sam Houston School opened in 1949 and served Mexican American students until 1979. Mexican American students from this neighborhood attended integrated elementary schools. Attitudes and philosophy began to change in the late 20th century as Abilenians of Mexican American descent achieved higher levels of education and became active participants in community life, and other Abilenians became aware of the vital importance of Texas' diverse heritage. Sam Houston School became a district-wide student achievement center in 1979. (1999) #12221

317 N. 6th St., Abilene, TX, United States

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Taylor, Edward, James, & George. Inscriptions on the monument are: across top - "I shall never surrender or retreat." Travis, Edward, James, George sons of Anson Taylor, died at the Alamo March 6, 1836. Taylor County was named for these gallant men. Erected by John Hudnall Chapter of the U.S. Daughters of 1812, with the cooperation of the Taylor County Commissioners Court. (1955) #5211

Oak Street, Abilene, TX, United States

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Taylor County. #5207

Old Bankhead Rd., IH - 20, Abilene, TX, United States

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Abilene State School. The Texas Legislature provided for the establishment of this institution in 1899 as a center for the treatment of epilepsy. Opened in 1904 under the direction of Dr. John Preton, it was largely self-sufficient, with surrounding land used for raising crops and livestock. Significant research on epilepsy was conducted here by Dr. T. B. Bass, superintendent from 1909 to 1943. A residential facility since 1957, the Abilene State School has developed a leading program of quality care for the mentally retarded based on innovative ideas and widespread community support. #73

664 Maple St, Abilene, TX, United States

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Valley Creek Station. (site located 2 mi. northwest) Near this site, an important link in the frontier transportation system was an area landmark. The Butterfield Overland Mail maintained a stage stop at the falls and crossing of Valley Creek beginning in 1858. The twice-weekly mail and passenger line stretched from San Francisco to St. Louis, crossing the southwest corner of Taylor County and passing six miles west of present Abilene. The path through Texas, known as the oxbow route, added about 600 miles to the 2,800 mile trip. The line moved out of Texas in March 1861, leaving this area sparsely settled. Ranchers later settled near Spring, Cottonwood and Valley creeks, and established the nearby community of Shep in the 1880s. (1968, 2007) #5629

US 277, Abilene, TX, United States

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First Anglican Church Service in the Callahan Area. Alexander Charles Garrett (1832-1924), a native of Ireland, came to Canada as an Anglican Missionary. Later he moved to San Francisco, and then to Omaha, Nebraska. In 1874 he was sent to Dallas as bishop of the Northern Missionary District of Texas. Here he served an area of 100,000 square miles, traveling mostly on horseback or in horse-drawn vehicles. Captain John Trent, born 1839 in South Carolina, moved to Texas from Tennessee in 1875 with wife, children, and other relatives. The family built a log house here at Tecumseh Peak and raised sheep and cattle. Going to market in Dallas, Captain Trent met Bishop Garrett, who offered to visit him at his ranch. In a first effort the Bishop lost his way, but the next year found the homestead. Neighbors thronged in, and on February 23, 1878, an Anglican service was held "for the first time in these wild mountains." Later Bishop Garrett was presiding bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States. On the centennial of his birth (1932), churchmen, led by the Rev. Willis Gerhart of Abilene, joined with Masonic bodies of Dallas and this area in erecting the cross at this site to mark his visit of 1878. (1976) #2069

?, Abilene, TX, United States

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Site of Old Headquarters of the Hashknife Ranch. (on hill east of Cedar Creek) In December 1880, H.C. Whithers of the Texas & Pacific Railroad met local men here to decide on a site for a cattle shipping center. Bypassing the county seat of Buffalo Gap, the railroad platted a new town named Abilene for the famous cattle town in Kansas. Cattlemen meeting with Whithers were Dallas banker and Hashknife Ranch co-owner John N. Simpson, and Confederate Colonels Claiborne W. (Clabe) and J.D. Merchant, twin brothers and ranchers who moved to Callahan County six years earlier. Brisk bidding ensued at a sale of city lots in March 1881. Abilene grew quickly and became a significant regional city of west Texas. (1968, 2007) #2403

500 E Ambler Ave, Abilene, TX, United States

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Parramore Post #57, American Legion. Founded in March 1919, the American Legion was established as a World War I veterans' organization. Abilene Post No. 57 was organized on July fourth and chartered in September of that year, one of one hundred such chapters formed in the legion's first six months. Soon after its inception the post was renamed for James Harrison Parramore (1840-1917), one of Abilene's founders and a Civil War veteran who had been a supporter of the local National Guard. The post's first structure was built of natural stone in 1920. The Ladies' Auxiliary was formed in 1922 and chartered in 1925. Legion facilities, expanded in 1937, housed the Ladies' Auxiliary and included what was for many years the only public swimming pool in Abilene. In 1942, World War II veterans were admitted; veterans of the wars in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf later became members, as did veterans of other major military conflicts. The legion building was virtually destroyed by fire in 1980, eliminating the post's records. The purpose of the American Legion is "to protect the interests of United States war veterans and their families." The legion has assisted veterans with employment, financial aid, medical care, and government benefits. The members celebrate Memorial Day and Veterans Day with parades and programs. The Parramore post also takes an active role in civic service, working with Abilene's youth and underprivileged citizens. Parramore Post No. 57 continues to uphold the traditions of its founders and remains an integral part of the Abilene community. (1998) #12224

302 East South 11th St., Abilene, TX, United States

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Lt. Col. William E. Dyess. Albany, Texas native William Edwin Dyess (b. 1916) graduated from John Tarleton Agricultural College and became an aviation cadet at Randolph Field, San Antonio. Dyess went to the Phillipine Islands as commander of the 21st Pursuit Squadron of P-40 aircraft. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, and invaded the Phillipines, Dyess led successful attackes against Japanese shipping in Subic Bay, with few operational planes, and served as an infantry commander during the Fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942. He was taken prisoner and faced the grueling Bataan Death March that resulted in the loss of thousands of American and Filipino lives. Despite the malnutrition, disease and torture the captives faced in Japanese prison camps, Dyess survived. On April 4, 1943, almost a year after his capture, he and 11 other men escaped, making their way through hostile territory. They connected with a guerrilla group who put them in touch with a U.S. submarine that took them to Australia. Dyess debriefed with the War Department and Gen. Douglas MacArthur. After Dyess returned home, publication of his stories in the Chicago Tribune provided invaluable information on conditions in Japanese prisoner of war camps that altered world opinion. Promoted to Lt. Colonel and recuperated from his wartime ordeal, Dyess returned to flying. He died on December 22, 1943, when the new P-38 he piloted caught fire over Burbank, Ca., and crashed. His wife, Marajen, published his personal war accounts the next year as The Dyess Story, and he was the insipiration for the acclaimed play Men of Bataan (1943). Highly decorated for combat heroism and leadership, Dyess was buried in Albany (35 mi. NE). In his honor, Abilene Air Force Base was renamed Dyess Air Force Base in 1956. (2004) #13110

7th St, FM 3438, Abilene, TX, United States

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Drummond Cemetery. In 1879, after her husband's death in Jamaica, Helen Fanny Harris Drummond returned with her children to England. She immigrated with them to the United States in 1885, settling in Brazos County, Texas. In October 1891, she purchased 100 acres in Taylor County, including this site, from the Hammond family. By 1895, she had donated two acres for the Drummond Cemetery; the deed for the property was officially recorded in 1901. The earliest grave is believed to be that of an infant buried in 1892. Later that year, the infant son of Joseph C. and Nannie Stewart Hammond died and was interred here. His is the earliest marked grave. Helen Drummond's grave dates to 1896. Several of her descendants, as well as those of the Hammonds, are also interred at the cemetery. Of note is the gravesite of pioneer settler Martha Jones Hardin Heffernan (d. 1918), who was living in the area by 1880. Today, the burial ground, enlarged in 1996, is maintained by a cemetery association of community residents and family members. It remains an important link between early area settlers and the generations that have followed. Historic Texas Cemetery - 2004 #13209

CR 290, CR 316, Abilene, TX, United States

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Abilene Woman's Club Building. Founded in 1928, the Abilene Woman's Club had several club homes before hiring noted architect David S. Castle to design a clubhouse at this site, then on the edge of town. Contractor Oscar Rose completed the structure in 1955, and the building's construction and subsequent use influenced further development of south Abilene. With numerous meeting spaces and a great hall, the clubhouse serves many cultural and civic organizations and programs. The building's architecture is an example of post-World War II Colonial Revival design. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 2005 #13446

3425 S 14th, Abilene, TX, United States

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James Winford Hunt. Born in present Oklahoma, James Winford Hunt grew up on the Texas High Plains. A newspaper publisher for several years, he became a Methodist minister in 1903. While a pastor in Abilene, he convinced the Northwest Texas Conference of the Methodist Church to build a college in the town. The school, McMurry College, opened in 1923 with Dr. Hunt as president. Known widely for his writings and sermons, he became a successful Christian educator. Texas Sesquincentennial 1836-1986. #2740

10th & Cottonwood St., Abilene, TX, United States

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Ackers-McMillan House. #14637

?, Abilene, TX, United States

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Old Weather Bureau Building. This structure was completed for the Abilene Office of the United States Weather Bureau in 1909. The interior contained living quarters and an observatory for the administrator. The first official in charge here was W. H. Green, who served until 1944. Area weather services were later moved to the airport and the building was used for storage and for business school classes. The exterior features detailing of several architectural styles. Recorded Texas Historic Lankmark, 1980. #3833

1482 N. 1st St., Abilene, TX, United States

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Hashknife Ranch, Site of Old Headquarters. #15504

?, Abilene, TX, United States

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H. O. Wooten Grocery Warehouse. #15601

?, Abilene, TX, United States

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First Exploratory Oil Well in Taylor County. #15925

intersection of FM 1750 (Oldham Lane) and FM 707, Abilene, TX, United States

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Site of Abilene's First School. This site was set aside for use as a school by Stoddard Johnston, a newspaperman who platted the town of Abilene in the early 1880s. While the first schoolhouse was under construction in the spring of 1881, classes were held in a tent pitched between Hickory and Cedar streets. As was typical in early frontier towns, the schoolhouse also served as a community center and was used for church worship services. By 1884, the student population had outgrown the schoolhouse, and a new structure was built elsewhere. This site is a reminder of Abilene's early education history. Texas Sesquicentennial 1836-1986 #4720

302 N Cedar St., Abilene, TX, United States

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12th Armored Division at Camp Barkeley. Established as a U.S. Army training camp in 1940, Camp Barkeley (whose main entrance was about seven miles south of this site) became one of the nation's largest World War II military training bases. The 12th Armored Division, activated at Camp Campbell, Kentucky, in September 1942, was assigned to Camp Barkeley in November 1943. By April 1944 the manpower of the division was at peak strength with combat commands, three battalions each of tanks, armored infantry, and armored field artillery, and numerous support units. Intensive day and night training at the camp culminated in tests that qualified the division for combat. Camp Barkeley's population was more than twice that of the city of Abilene. Soldiers' families became a part of the community and many returned here to live. The last combat division stationed at Camp Barkeley, the 12th Armored shipped out to Europe in September 1944. The division, nicknamed "Hellcats" and dubbed "The Mystery Division" in General George S. Patton, Jr.'s historic drive to the Rhine River, served with distinction, receiving more than 800 battle decorations. A dominating presence in Abilene during the war, Camp Berkeley was deactivated on April 1, 1945. (1992) #22

FM 3438, near intersection w/ Hartford St., Abilene, TX, United States

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In Vicinity of Coronado's Camp. In 1541, the Spanish explorer Coronado is thought to have passed this way en route from New Mexico to the fabled Indian villages of "Quivira", though his path across vast Texas plains is now difficult to determine. Upon finding that his Indian guide, "The Turk", had taken him too far south, Coronado halted at a small canyon or barranca. Here he conferred with his captains and decided to follow the compass directly north. When they reached "Quivira" (possibly in Kansas), no gold was found - only the poor, grass huts of a Wichita village. (1968) #2626

US 277 & FM 89 junction, Abilene, TX, United States

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Hardin-Simmons University. Organized as Abilene Baptist College by cattlemen, preachers, and Sweetwater Baptist Association in 1891. Named for New York pastor, James B. Simmons, after he donated funds for completing the first building, which housed the president, classes, and women students during school's early years. Men lived in nearby barn-like structure, "Valhalla." Noted early presidents were the missionary-editor, O. C. Pope, Oscar Henry Cooper, renowned educator; and Jefferson Davis Sandefer, in whose term (1909-1940) the school made extensive growth. Approximately 44,000 students have been enrolled, and 10,000 degrees conferred. Ex-students enter business and the professions, including medicine, law, teaching, engineering; ministers and lay workers serve in hundreds of pulpits and on all continents. Students come from many states and foreign countries. Athletic teams are "Cowboys"; the "Cowboy" band, famous nationally, has played in 45 states and on 3 continents. Renamed Simmons University, 1925; and Hardin-Simmons in 1934, after generous benefactions by John G. and Mary Hardin. Since 1940, guided by the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Most of extant buildings have been constructed since 1945. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, 1967. #2373

Ambler & Simmons St., Abilene, TX, United States

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Lytle Gap-Potosi Methodist Church. Organized about 1879 as Lytle Gap Methodist Episcopal Church, South, this fellowship first met in private homes and a schoolhouse. The church name was changed after the community became known as Potosi in the 1890s. This sanctuary, the second for the church, was constructed in 1906 during the pastorate of the Reverend E. L. Sisk. Built on a foundation of stones from a local creek, it features Victorian gingerbread detailing. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, 1980. #3157

FM 1750, Abilene, TX, United States

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Hattie and Henry Sayles, Sr., House. Henry Sayles (1852-1916), born and reared near Brenham, Texas, studied law under his father, noted legal scholar John Sayles (1825-1897). Henry practiced law in Galveston where he met and married Hattie McAlpine. The couple moved to Abilene in 1886. Sayles practiced law here in partnership with his father and oversaw real estate belonging to Galveston clients. John and Henry Sayles wrote and published several books on Texas law. Harrie and Henry Sayles, Sr., built this house about 1889, at a time when few homes existed on present-day Sayles Avenue. Portions of the house, including a rear addition built sometime between 1895 and 1903, were remodeled after fire damage in 1941. Extensive renovations of the house began in 1974. The house is an excellent local example of a late Victorian-era dwelling. It features finely-executed queen Anne details, including porches with turned wood posts and balusters, jigsawn brackets and frieze, shingled and decorative wood gable ends, and a decorative brick chimney. As the president of Abilene Land and Improvement Company, Henry Sayles, Sr., was responsible for the development of Abilene's Sayles Avenue neighborhood. The house remained in Sayles' family until 1974. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1995 #2406

642 Sayles Blvd., Abilene, TX, United States

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Company I, 7th Texas Infantry. Mustered into service during World War I, July 16, 1917, at Abilene with officers, Captain R. M. Wagstaff; 1st Lt. A. J. McDavid; 2nd Lt. E. B. Sayles; and 1st Sgt. Elmer C. Stearns. Company had 139 enlisted men from the area who trained here at the West Texas Fair Grounds (now Rose Park) until September 1, then transferred to Camp Bowie at Fort Worth. It became part of HQ. CO., 142nd Infantry, 36th Division. The unit saw action in France October 8-28, 1918, with the 4th French army, and was mustered out of service in June, 1919. (1968) #1014

S. 7th and Larkin St., Abilene, TX, United States

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Site of Curfew by John J. Clinton. Here each New Year's Eve at midnight for thirty-seven years John J. Clinton, Abilene Chief of Police, emptied his revolver. He began in 1885, decreeing that saloons close at midnight, and that trigger-happy cowboys and townsmen observe the curfew. After saloon era passed, his practice became a commemoration. Ireland-born Clinton was a Confederate soldier; later scout for U.S. Army, was wounded at "The Fight for the Water Hole." He was policeman at Dodge City, Kansas, then served Abilene until his death. Men respected him for his courage and integrity. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, 1967 #4766

S. 1st and Chestnut St., Abilene, TX, United States

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Miss Clara Bussell. Joined staff, West Texas Chamber of Commerce February 26, 1920; was office manager 40 years. Worked unselfishly through day of death. Her love for West Texas and dedication to W. T. C. ideals did much to develop regional progress. Devoted life to making West Texas a better place to live. Outstanding Women of Texas Series, 1967. #3400

706 N. Cedar St., Abilene, TX, United States

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Magee House. One of earliest fine houses in Abilene. Built 1903 in colonial revival style by Dr. Jefferson Davis Magee (1861-1935) and wife, Anna (Wilbanks). A native of Pike County, Mississippi, educated in East Texas and at the Louisville (KY) Medical College, Dr. Magee moved to Abilene (1902), had drugstore and extensive practice. His home was noted for its hospitality. Built on an entire city block, structure was of oak lumber with lofty ionic columns of cypress. Restored 1962-70 and preserved by Mr. and Mrs. John L. Thompson. Recorded Texas Historical Landmark, 1971 #3292

1910 N. 3rd St., Abilene, TX, United States

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McMurry College. Between the years 1840 and 1920, the Methodist church founded nearly eighty colleges in Texas. Four colleges in the Northwest Texas Conference had closed for various reasons by 1920, when the Reverend James Winford Hunt was appointed commissioner of a new college to be built in Abilene. James Winford Hunt (1875-1934) published newspapers in Lubbock and Plainview before becoming a Methodist circuit rider minister in 1903. He was called to St. Paul's Church in Abilene in 1914, where he served for two years before becoming president of Stamford College. Returning to St. Paul's when Stamford closed in 1918, he resigned in 1920 to promote the establishment of a new college. Garnering overwhelming community support, a fund drive was launched in March 1921, to coincide with a visit from the conference presiding Bishop, William Fletcher McMurry. In April the church Board of Education elected trustees, appointed Hunt president, and named McMurry College in honor of the bishop. A charter was filed with the state on November 26, 1921, and construction began in 1922. The faculty was chosen the following spring, and the school officially opened on September 19, 1923. Texas Sesquicentennial 1836-1986 #3305

S. 14th & Sayles Blvd., Abilene, TX, United States

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Mount Zion Baptist Church. The Reverend James Curry, a missionary from Sherman, Texas, organized this congregation in 1885. It is the oldest African American church in the city. The Reverend James Lewis served as first pastor of the congregation, which met in a small house near the railroad tracks until about 1907, when a sanctuary was erected at the corner of 4th and Cherry streets in the south part of town. The church moved to the north side of town in 1940. A part of Abilene history for well over a century, Mount Zion Baptist Church continues to serve the community with a variety of programs. (1995) #3500

520 Stafford St., Abilene, TX, United States

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Texas & Pacific Railway: First Railroad Across West Texas. Chartered March 3, 1871, by Act of U.S. Congress, to build a railroad to the Pacific Coast, the Texas & Pacific Railway Company, under leadership of Colonel Thomas A. Scott, president, began construction across West Texas in 1880. General Grenville M. Dodge, civil engineer and builder of the Union Pacific, was in charge. The first train reached the Abilene area in early January 1881 and a station opened for business here on February 28, 1881. The office was in a boxcar at the present Pine Street overpass. As a policy during its era of construction, the Texas & Pacific promoted the settlement of West Texas. Encouraged by local ranchers, agents of the railway held on March 15, 1881, the first auction of lots in Abilene townsite. On that day 178 lots were sold for $27,550.00. The wisdom of the purchasers has since been well confirmed for Abilene is now the business, argricultural, transportation, medical, educational and cultural center for Central West Texas. (1968) #5242

N. 1st and Pine St., Abilene, TX, United States

45th infantry division plaque
45th Infantry Division at Camp Barkeley. The 45th Infantry Division, comprised of National Guard units from Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma, was one of the first four divisions ordered into federal service by Congress' joint resolution in 1940. Initially stationed at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, the 45th was relocated to Camp Barkeley in early 1941. The "Thunderbirds" found Abilene's citizens welcoming, but Camp Barkeley was as yet little more than a tent city on undrained prairie. The new arrivals nicknamed their quarters "Camp Smokey Okie" and began rigorous training at once. In April 1942 the 45th was ordered to Fort Devens, Massachusetts. After another year of training in three more states they departed for North Africa and Sicily. World War II took the 45th far from Taylor County. They saw fierce combat in Sicily, Italy, France, and Germany, culminating in the liberation of the concentration camp at Dachau in April 1945. After 511 days in combat and 3,650 men lost, the 45th Infantry was one of the most distinguished military units of the war. Eight Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded to its members, who won the admiration of Allies and Axis powers alike. The division was released from active duty in November 1945. Hundreds of 45th Infantry soldiers came back to Abilene to marry and make their homes, their love for the city recorded in their letters and their lives. The 45th was again called to active duty during the Korean conflict, suffering 834 casualties. One "Thunderbird" was posthumously awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor for his Korean service. (1998) #12214

?, Abilene, TX, United States

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Site of Thornton's Store. Known throughout West Texas as "A city within itself," Thornton's Store was one of Abilene's leading businesses for nearly seven decades. E. L. Thornton (1896-1964) moved to Abilene from Arkansas in 1919, after service in World War I. He opened a fruit stand in 1919, followed by a grocery store in 1920. Joined by his two brothers, Thornton soon expanded his business. In 1925 he added dry goods, followed by a drug store and feed store in 1929. Radio and refrigeration departments were added in 1931. By 1937 Thornton's filled an entire block of Oak Street, adding a cafe, a beauty shop, and shoe department. In 1941 a franchise for selling new Studebaker cars was added. The one-story properties were renovated in 1947 into a four-story structure of more than 100,000 square feet. Thornton's was famous for its Christmas displays. In 1959 the largest fire in Abilene's history gutted the Thornton property. Reconstruction began at once. After the deaths of E. L. Thornton in 1964 and his son Charles Eugene Thornton in 1965, surviving family members sold their interests to a chain store based in St. Louis. Thornton's continued in business under new ownership until 1985. (1996) #4900

S. 4th and Oak St., Abilene, TX, United States

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Site of Western Cattle Trail. The main route -1876 to 1887- for several hundred thousand longhorns driven north to stock ranches and Indian reservations and to supply beef market. Was also called Dodge City Trail, for its main terminus; or Fort Griffin Trail, for the site where feeder trails joined. This major branch began in South Texas, passed the western outskirts of Abilene, and from here moved northeast to Fort Griffin. An alternate route ran to the Red River, then to Kansas. Use of the trail ceased after fenced ranges blocked route, and Texas & Pacific Railway arrived. (1968) #4913

S. 1st & Leggett Dr., Abilene, TX, United States

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Camp Barkeley. #14698

?, Abilene, TX, United States

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Cedar Gap Community. Originally named Coates for early settler Kem Coates, Cedar Gap community formed in the late 19th century. Coates, on whose land the post office was later located, arrived in the 1870s, and by the early 1880s, a number of families from Robertson County settled here. Residents soon organized Cedar Gap Baptist Church, which remained in existence until the 1970s. The Rev. G.c. Scott served as the first pastor. Cedar Gap grew as transportation improved. First served by the Cedar Gap Pike (later County Road 127), a stagecoach route running from Abilene South to Content, the community developed further as the Abilene & Southern Railway reached the area. Built in 1909, the railway ran from Abilene to San Angelo, passing through Cedar Gap, where the company constructed a frame waiting station. Contractors employed area residents to help build the railroad. Life in Cedar Gap revolved around a number of other institutions, including a school, which opened in the 1880s and first met in the Baptist church building before moving into its own structure in 1898. In the early 20th century, as the community grew, the school moved two more times, in 1908 and 1916, to accommodate the large number of students, eventually consolidating with the Tuscola district in 1948. Other community establishments included a blacksmith shop, general store, cotton gin and woodmen of the world lodge (no. 2184). Today, Cedar Gap Cemetery, located near the former church site and containing graves of early area settlers, serves as a reminder of this once-vibrant community. #15584

?, Abilene, TX, United States

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Claiborne Walker Merchant. (August 31, 1836 - March 9, 1926) Claiborne W. Merchant and his twin, John, were born in Nacogdoches. "Clabe" married Frances Bell in 1856. He served in the Confederate Army and later became a cattle rancher. Merchant established his first ranch in 1874 in Callahan County and began acquiring land in neighboring Taylor County prior to the arrival of the railroad in 1881. When Abilene was established, Merchant, a city founder, named the new town after Abilene, Kansas. For many years he contributed his time and money to the development of Abilene. He is lauded as a respected benefactor and beloved citizen. (1999) #12220

?, Abilene, TX, United States

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Early Abilene Home (Rosetyme). #14302

?, Abilene, TX, United States

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Abilene High School, Original Site of. #14360

?, Abilene, TX, United States

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Hotel Wooten. This landmark building opened its doors on June 6, 1930, with a celebration attended by more than two thousand guests. Entrepreneur H.O. Wooten envisioned a hotel with accommodations matching those available in New York City, accomplishing the goal with the seventeen-story, 200-room Hotel Wooten. Designed by Abilene architect David S. Castle, it was the tallest building between Fort Worth and El Paso at the time of its completion. The building is of structural steel and clay tile construction, with a buff brick exterior and detailing in cast stone, marble and granite. The building remains one of the most notable examples of Art Deco style architecture in Abilene. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark-2008 #14423

1102 N. Third St., Abilene, TX, United States

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J. G. Higginbotham House. #14462

?, Abilene, TX, United States

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Abilene Christian University. This school, formed to provide a Christian education for all grade levels, was founded in 1906 by A. B. Barret, an early educator and preacher for Texas Churches of Christ. It was first called Childers Classical Institute in honor of Colonel J. W. Childers, who deeded his homesite at North 1st and Victoria streets for use as a campus. Early expansion of the institution began in 1912 with the 12-year presidency of Jesse P. Sewell. In 1920 it became Abilene Christian College and nine years later was moved to new facilities here. The present name was adopted in 1976. #70

1600 Campus Court, Abilene, TX, United States

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Abilene Reporter-News. The oldest existing business institution in Abilene is the Reporter Publishing Company, started by C. E. Gilbert. The first newspaper was printed on June 17, 1881, three months after the town was founded. Soon after Gilbert began publication, a fire destroyed several buildings in town, including his office. He rode the train to Baird (21 miles east) and, using borrowed presses, published an "extra" edition about the blaze. Two other Abilene papers were started in the 1880s. Part-time preacher W. L. Gibbs began the "Magnetic Quill" in 1882. Three years later Gilbert's printer, James L. Lowry, began the "Taylor County News." One of Lowry's early editions covered a duel between Gilbert and Gibbs, both of whom survived. Later "Reporter" owners were Dr. Alf H. H. Toler, John Hoeny, Jr., George S. Anderson, and Marshall Bernard Hanks, a former delivery boy for the paper who was publisher from 1906 to 1948. In 1911 the "Reporter" bought the "News," resulting in the present name. Hanks and Houston Harte of San Angelo formed the Harte-Hanks organization, now a national communications firm, which includes the "Reporter-News," whose motto is: "Without or with offense to friends or foes we sketch your world exactly as it goes." -Byron. #72

Cypress & N. 1st St., Abilene, TX, United States

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Camp Barkeley. Site of main entrance to Camp Barkeley, one of the nation's largest military camps of World War II. At peak, 60,000 men were in training here. Named for Private David B. Barkeley of the 89th Division, who died on a secret scouting expedition behind German lines during the Meuse-Argonne Battle of World War I. Among famous units trained here were the 45th and 90th Infantry Divisions and the 11th and 12th Armored. A medical replacement training center, the largest in the country, was also established here, with 15 battalions. In May, 1942, the Medical Administrative Corps Officer Candidate School was activated and graduated about 12,500 candidates. Camp Barkeley eventually grew to be a complete city unit twice the size of Abilene of the 1940s. It had a 2,300-bed hospital, 2 cold storage plants, a bakery, 4 theaters, 2 service clubs for enlisted men, 15 chapels, and 35 post exchange buildings. The military personnel were housed in hutments, except for some 4,000 in barracks. Part of the post was also a German prisoner-of-war camp. Once some of the prisoners escaped, to the alarm of Abilene citizens, and others attempted to tunnel under the fences. Camp Barkeley was declared surplus in 1945. #648

US 277, S of Abilene, Abilene, TX, United States

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Macedonia Baptist Church. The early community support system for citizens of color in Abilene included Mt. Zion Baptist Church, organized in 1885, and the first area school for black children, which opened in 1890 with 22 pupils. Because of African Americans' continuing desire for self-governed religious education, the Macedonia Baptist Church was organized in 1898 by the Rev. J. H. Herron of San Angelo. The charter members were Richard Hayes (the church's first deacon), his wife Winnie Hayes and Jim and Alice Slaughter. They purchased property at this site and built a small frame building by 1903. These were sometimes violent years, and the pastors who followed calls to service in Abilene did so in spite of real fear for their own well-being. The first commencement exercises for African American students in Abilene were held about 1923 in the sanctuary of Macedonia Baptist Church. The single graduate that year was a member of the church. In 1936, a longtime member, H. D. Cumby, was called as minister. Under his consistent leadership the church was expanded and remodeled frequently, with the construction of an entirely new and modern building in 1951. Dyess Air Force Base, opened in 1956, greatly contributed to the growth of the church and its membership. The Rev. H. D. Cumby retired in 1965 shortly before his death. Macedonia Baptist Church leaders, long known for their involvement in the Abilene community, were credited with deflecting much tension and violence during the racially turbulent years of the 1960s and 1970s. The church continues to be a vital part of Abilene's religious and community life. (1999) #12219

608 N. 7th St., Abilene, TX, United States