Killeen is on U.S. Highway 190 in western Bell County about forty miles north of Austin. In 1881 the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway, planning to extend its tracks through the area, bought 360 acres some 2½ miles southwest of a community known as Palo Alto, which had existed since about 1872. Soon afterward the railroad platted a seventy-block town on its land and named it after Frank P. Killeen, the assistant general manager of the railroad. When the first train passed through the new town in May 1882, about forty people lived there. Before the end of that year the town included the railroad depot, several stores, a saloon, and a school. Many of the earliest residents of Killeen moved to the site from smaller communities in the surrounding area, while others were attracted by a national promotional campaign sponsored by the railroad. By 1884 the town had grown to include about 350 people, served by five general stores, two gristmills, two cotton gins, two saloons, a lumberyard, a blacksmith shop, and a hotel. As it became an important shipping point for the cotton, wool, and grain produced on local farms, Killeen continued to expand. By 1896 it included six general stores, three cotton gins, three blacksmiths, two hardware stores, and a jeweler; around this time telephone service was introduced. Some 780 people lived in Killeen by 1900, virtually all of them White Protestants, since the community openly discouraged Blacks and Catholics from living there. The First National Bank of Killeen was incorporated in 1901, and the town's first electric-light system and power plant was installed in 1904 and 1905. About that same time local boosters helped to convince the Texas legislature to build bridges over Cowhouse Creek and other streams, effectively doubling Killeen's trade area. A public water system began operating in 1914, and by that year the town had two banks, and its population had grown to about 1,300.

Adapted from the official Handbook of Texas, a state encyclopedia developed by the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). It is an authoritative source of trusted historical records.

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Place type

Killeen is classified as a Town

Associated Names

  • (Palo Alto)


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Killeen by the Numbers

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Population Counts

Pop. Year Source
153,095 2020 United States Census Bureau
151,547 2019 Texas Demographic Center
127,921 2010 United States Census Bureau
86,911 2000 United States Census Bureau
63,535 1990 United States Census Bureau
46,296 1980 United States Census Bureau
35,507 1970 United States Census Bureau
23,377 1960 United States Census Bureau
7,045 1950 United States Census Bureau
1,263 1940 United States Census Bureau
1,260 1930 United States Census Bureau
1,298 1920 United States Census Bureau
1,265 1910 United States Census Bureau
780 1900 United States Census Bureau
285 1890 United States Census Bureau