Belton and Bell County have been the site of human habitation since at least 6000 BC. Evidence of early inhabitants, including campsites, kitchen middens and burial mounds from the late prehistoric era have been discovered in the Stillhouse Hollow Lake and Belton Lake areas. The earliest inhabitants were the Tonkawa, who traditionally followed buffalo by foot. Belton was also home to the Lipan Apache, Wacos, Nadaco, Kiowas and Comanche. By the 1840s most tribes had been pushed out by settlements, but skirmishes with the Commanches existed until the early 1870s.
Belton was first settled 1850 and named Nolanville, taking the name of nearby Nolan Springs which were named for Texan explorer Philip Nolan. In 1851, it changed its name to Belton after being named the county seat of newly created Bell County named after Texas' governor, Peter Hansborough Bell. In 1860, the population was 300, the largest in the county. During the run up to the civil war, Belton had a large pro-Union minority. A Whig Party paper and anti-secession paper called "The Independent" was published there and the city voted overwhelmingly for Sam Houston for governor, who was strongly against Texas secession. Nonetheless, in 1861 Bell County voted for secession and many residents fought in the Confederate Army. After the civil war, Belton experienced unrest. Several pro-union sympathizers were lynched in 1866 and Federal troops were called in to protect the Federal Judge serving in the city. After reconstruction, the city, close to a major feeder of the Chisholm Trail, served as growing business center for the region.
In 1868, Martha McWhirter, a prominent figure in Belton's non-sectarian Union Sunday School, created the only Texas women's commune of the 1800s. The commune started several business ventures including a successful hotel. In 1899, the group sold their holdings and relocated to Maryland. The town experienced rapid growth in the 1880s with the building of the courthouse, Baylor Female College buildings, and a "railroad war" in which, by 1881, Belton was bypassed by the railroad which built Temple as the local junction and depot town. In 1904, the town reported a population of 3,700. The town began to thrive and reached a population of 6,500 in 1928. However the town was decimated by the Great Depression and was down to a population of 3,779 only three years later in 1931.
The town began to recover in the run up to World War II as Fort Hood was opened nearby in 1942. Encompassing over 200,000 acres and almost 90,000 troops, this brought a large population and a lot of economic activity to the area. By 1950, the city's population was back up to 6,246 and by 1990 had reached 12,476. 
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Updated Sep 19, 2019 7:51:pm. Information deemed reliable but not guaranteed.