Central Texas encompasses 25 counties, with Bell and Coryell counties being the closest to Fort Hood. Bell County was created from Milam County just five years after Texas entered the Union. County Commissioners chose a county seat on the banks of Nolan Creek and named it Nolandsville. Two years later, Jan. 12, 1852, the town’s name became Belton and it was incorporated.
Belton’s first settlers built houses, stores, saloons, and a hotel and prospered until the Civil War when they lined up behind the South. When things went bad for the South, Belton also experienced tough times. By the 1880s, Belton had recovered from the war and began to flourish once again. It was the largest town in Bell County and had a brisk economy. Belton would have become a boom town if it had a railroad, but it only reached its doorstep as the Santa Fe Railroad crossed the county line on the eastern edge near Rogers.
During the mid to late 1860s, the Chisholm Trail cut through central Bell County along a route between the present day cities of Belton and Salado.
Between 1877 and 1915, 10 railroads considered placing tracks through Bell County, but only two companies actually came to the area. At a time when railroads made and broke rural communities, the acquisition of a railroad was important. The Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad, known as the Katy, went through Belton, while the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad, known as the Santa Fe, established a new town just north of Belton, known as Temple.
The Texas State Legislature created Coryell County in 1854, naming it after James Coryell, a frontiersman and early land holder. In the mid-1800s, most of the county’s resources were devoted to stock raising and subsistence farming. Like most areas in the South, Coryell County suffered a severe economic decline after the Civil War and throughout Reconstruction. Two railroads were completed through Coryell County in 1882: the Texas and St. Louis Railway laid a narrow-gauge track from Waco to Gatesville, and the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe crossed the southern tip of the county near Copperas Cove, making its way from Belton to Lampasas. The arrival of the railroads prompted the establishment of Oglesby, Lime City, and Leon Junction, and provided new economic opportunities for Mound, Gatesville, and Copperas Cove. A third railroad company, the Stephenville North and South Texas, laid track from Hamilton to Gatesville in 1911, providing the northwestern part of the county with easier access to rail service.
The United States involvement in World War II brought an end to the depression; on a local level, new war industries paved the way for a dramatic increase in the population of Bell and Coryell counties. Among the military facilities built in and near the area in the 1940s were Camp Hood, the Bluebonnet Ordnance plant and a camp for prisoners of war.
Fort Hood is now the most populous U.S. military installation in the world. The main business area is in Bell County, with the training countryside area of the post in Coryell County.