Many heroes have passed through here. Of all the individuals who have contributed to the establishment and growth of Killeen, nothing is to compare to the honor owed to the many men and women of the US military who have put their lives on the line to protect us and our freedoms. We salute them and their families.
Killeen was named after Frank P. Killeen, the assistant general manager of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway which bought 360 acres of land near Palo Alto in 1881 and platted the town of 70 blocks. About 40 people lived in the new town in 1882 when the first train came. It was a grand occasion complete with the lariat antics of “Wild Bill” (William) Scoggins who supposedly lassoed the smokestack of the engine after jumping off the cowcatcher during his crowd-pleasing entrance!
Early residents of Killeen came from surrounding areas or were drawn there by the railroad’s national promotional campaign. Expansion was fueled by the shipping of grain, wool, and cotton grown by local farmers. Telephone service showed up in the late 1890’s and electric lights and a power plant in 1904-05. Having added bridges, including one over Cowhouse Creek, and a public water system, the population had grown to 1300 by 1914.
During the depression era, government programs paved streets, widened local bridges, and installed new water and sewage systems. Federal funds also built U.S. Highway 190.
Perhaps the greatest change came to Killeen with the creation of Camp Hood to train military for World War II. In 1950, it was recommissioned as Fort Hood and is the largest military installation in the world. The town boomed as construction workers and military families arrived. A tent city answered the housing shortage that ensued. A major portion of Killeen’s farms and ranches were replaced by the base, leading to the decline of agricultural and related businesses. Killeen’s economy would now be supported primarily by service to the base and its residents.
From 1950 to 1970, Killeen’s population grew from 7,045 to over 35,500. These years saw the addition of Central Texas College, a city library, and a municipal airport. In the late 80’s, “Tanks for the Memories” became Killeen’s official slogan as the city sought to promote tourism to the area. Seeking to make Killeen one of the best places for military families to live, construction projects improved highways, built homes, and added Belton Lake and Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir. Killeen’s population is now just under 128,000.
Sportsfans: In December of 1991, at the Astrodome, the Killeen Kangaroos of Killeen High School took the Texas Division 5-A football championship over Sugar Land Dulles with a score of 14—10!
Elvis fans: Elvis Presley was stationed at Fort Hood in 1958 and rented the home at 605 Oak Hill Drive for himself and his family.
Train buffs: The old Killeen Depot is still there, renovated and only a few hundred feet from its original location near the intersection of Gray St. and Avenue D. You can go down there and watch the BNSF go by!
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