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Map of Bell County

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.

Until the 1940s Killeen remained a relatively small and isolated farm trade center: about 1,300 residents were reported there in 1925, and about 1,260 in 1931. Though the Great Depression caused much hardship for Killeen citizens and area farmers, local economic problems were offset to some extent by federal New Deal programs that helped to provide jobs and sustenance. By 1939 projects funded by the Works Progress Administration (later known as the Work Projects Administration) had also helped to improve the community by paving its streets, by installing a new water and sewage system, and by widening a number of local bridges. During the depression federal funds also constructed U.S. Highway 190 through the area. The number of businesses in Killeen increased from 55 in 1931 to 71 by 1940, when the census counted 1,263 people living in the city.

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John Leffler | © TSHA

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

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Adoption Status:
This place has been adopted and will not be available until July 2, 2025
Adopted by:
Zachary Tomaka
Dedication Message:
Officially adopting Killeen

Belongs to

Killeen is part of or belongs to the following places:

Currently Exists


Place type

Killeen is classified as a Town

Associated Names

  • (Palo Alto)


Latitude: 31.08498520
Longitude: -97.72980700

Has Post Office


Is Incorporated


Population Count, 2021 View more »


Place Type Population (Year/Source) Currently Exists
College or University Yes
College or University Yes
College or University Yes

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