Buffalo Gap, Texas was founded in 1857 and is named for a gap in the Callahan Divide, which is the topographic boundary between the Brazos River basin and the Colorado River basin.Elm Creek passes through the gap, and served as a watering hole for the buffalo that moved through the area.
Back in 1874, the then governor, Richard Hubbard, made Buffalo Gap the temporary seat of Taylor County.Four years later, Buffalo Gap was formally named the county seat, and received its first post office and held its first general election with 88 voters.By 1880, Buffalo Gap had over 1,200 people, a drugstore, a carriage and blacksmith shop, a big hotel, a jail, three or four grocery stores, and –of course—a saloon.
Buffalo Gap opened its attempt at higher education, the Buffalo Gap College – a Presbyterian college,in 1885.The railroad industry had a major impact in Buffalo Gap, largely due to the Texas & Pacific Railway that was headquartered in nearby Abilene.In 1883, Buffalo Gap lost the battle for county seat with Abilene, and the population soon waned to about 600.A competing railroad, the Santa Fe, built a railroad through Buffalo Gap, but Abilene still retained the county seat.By 1892, the population dropped to 400.Unfortunately, the College declined, and lost its charter in 1902.
Today, Buffalo Gap has a population of about 460 within the city limits, but more just on the outskirts (e.g. like where we are located).There are a few restaurants, a package store, a small grocery store, and a few products/services oriented businesses.The town considers itself to be a low-key, country village, and the townspeople have a relaxed view toward life.Fortunately, the town considers its heritage to be very valuable, so it really watches the grove of ancient live oak trees to ensure they are preserved for the generations.The community is the home of the Buffalo Gap Historic Village, which is an entire block of old buildings, lovingly restored and maintained.The old Buffalo Gap Jail and Courthouse that dates back to 1879 is one of those buildings, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings.The native limestone building was made with sandstone blocks that were concave, and mortared together with cannonballs to keep prisoners from chiseling their way out.
After the railroad arrived in Abilene in 1881, the railway company promoted Abilene as the “Future Great City of West Texas.”In 1883, Abilene was incorporated and held its first general election.By 1890, the population grew to 3,200, and nearly tripled over the next two decades to 9, 200 by 1910. Agriculture was the bedrock economy for Abilene, but it suffered from droughts in 1909-10 and 1917-18 and the sharp decline in farm prices leading up to and following the Great Depression.Since water was clearly a community issue, Abilene excavated several lakes beginning with Lytle Lake in 1897.Three other major projects included Lake Abilene (1919), Kirby Lake (1927) and Lake Fort Phantom Hill (1937).
By 1940, the population of Abilene had reached 26,000, and the economy began to take off in support of World War II.One of the largest boons was the acquisition of Camp Barkeley, a U.S. Army post, in 1940, followed by an air base in Tye in 1943.Over 1 ˝ million soldiers passed through these posts, and infused millions of dollars into the economy.After the war, Abilene actively sought to retain its ties to the military, and in 1952, Congress approved the establishment of Dyess Air Force base, which remains a major part of today’s Abilene and serves as the home base for the B-1 bombers.
Also, the nation’s thirst for oil helped expand Abilene’s economy post World War II.By 1960, the population had swelled to nearly 107,000.Since it was first established 125 years ago, Abliene has changed its image from a rowdy frontier town to a sedate and somewhat tame town.This was largely due to the efforts of several Protestant churches, which dominate the more than 100 churches in the city.The citizens of Abilene abolished saloons in 1903, and remained “dry” until a hotly contested election in 1978 brought back liquor to Abilene.During the 75 “dry” years, Abilenians still could get their “hooch” by going to the north side to Impact or to the south side to Buffalo Gap.
Higher education has always been important to Abilenians, and three colleges are based in the city.Hardin-Simmons University (Baptist) was established in 1891, Abilene Christian University (Church of Christ) was established in 1906 and McMurry University (Methodist) was established in 1923.And despite its rowdy beginning, Abilene has also been a town that has been supportive of the arts.The Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra gave its first concert in 1950, and remains an important part of Abilene’s cultural scene.