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KILLEEN, TEXAS

Bell County, North Central Texas

Highway 190 and 195
40 miles N of Austin
12 miles E of Copperas Cove
17 miles W of Temple
55 miles SW of Waco
Population: 133,181 (2010) 86,911 (2000)

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History in a Pecan Shell

An earlier community named Palo Alto had been established two and a half miles NE of what would become Killeen in the early 1870s. The Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway was expanding in 1881 and platted a seventy-block town, naming it after the assistant general manager of the railroad - Frank P. Killeen. When the first train arrived - there was a crowd of some 40 residents there to greet it. Populations from smaller communities were drawn off and added to Killeen's population which was further bolstered by people attracted by a national campaign run by the railroad. By 1884 the town had 350 residents with a substantial number of essential businesses. It became a shipping point for cotton, and was wired for telephone service by 1896. The town was wired for lights in 1904-05 and bridges were constructed over Cowhouse Creek doubling the city's trade area. A public water system was set in place by 1914.
Camp Hood, Texas old post card
Camp Hood
Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
Highway 190 was built through the town during the Great Depression and then Killeen changed forever in 1942 when Camp Hood was built. Overnight it became a military boomtown with thousands of workers as well as the military personnel stationed there. Housing was so scarce that a tent city was set up to accommodate construction workers. Camp Hood covered almost half of the city's trade area and whole communities disappeared into the base. The government had bought over 300 farms and ranches and the displaced cotton gins and other businesses seriously hurt the traditional economy. New industries developed to service the fort which remain in place to the present.

After WWII, Killeen nearly became a ghost - but it was revitalized when the base became permanent (and was renamed Fort Hood) in 1950.
First Armored Division Tank in Fort Hood
First Armored Division Tank in Fort Hood
Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
The city's infrastructure was strained to the breaking point so in 1955 a master plan was drawn up for a massive building program. Just when things seemed to be catching up, cutbacks in the military caused another recession. In 1959, the First Armored Division was stationed back at Fort Hood and the population increased - again - surpassing by 2,000 the level of the mid 50s. The 1980 Census showed Killeen to be the largest city in Bell County.
Killeen, Texas downtown at night
Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/%7Etxpstcrd/
Downtown Killeen, Texas
Downtown Killeen
1950 postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/

Killeen's Population Figures:

1900: 780 1914: 1,300 1931: 1,260 1940: 1,263 1950: 7,000 1955: 21,000 1960: 23,000 1970: 35,000 1980: 49,000 1990: 63,500

Related Stories:

  • Bell County Postwar Secrets - Part 1 by Mike Cox
  • Bell County Postwar Secrets - Part 2: Attack on Camp Hood by Mike Cox

  • Killeen, Texas
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