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The first European settlers began to arrive in Abilene in the 1870's. The city was founded largely as a result of a decision by the Texas and Pacific Railway to put a station where the Abilene is now located. The train provided a way for area farmers to bring their goods and cattle to market and for supplies to be brought in. By 1883 Abilene was the largest town in its area and was named the seat of the new Taylor County, formed from sections of the Austin and San Antonio land districts which were formerly uninhabited.
The decision by the Texas and Pacific Railroad to locate tracts where Abilene now stands was made in part because the area was a crossing point of the Western Cattle Trail, also known as the Dodge City Trail, which was the main route by which longhorn cattle were driven north. After the railroad was established, the cattle began to be transported by rail car.
Since its founding, Abilene has continued to grow to become an important center of commerce in Western Texas. Today it is the home of three universities as well as an Air Force base. The city is also a center of the Texas oil industry and serves as a cultural and business base for the western portion of the state.