Bellmead

The roots of Bellmead grew out of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad Company (M-K-T). In June of 1910, M-K-T purchased 90 percent of the Texas Central Railway, a line of tracks running 268 miles from Waco to Rotan. Because of Waco’s central location along the line, M-K-T built a massive locomotive complex called a roundhouse in a rural area near the city. The region received its name in 1911 when M-K-T President Charles Schaff, on an inspection tour of the new facility, noted to a Katy railroad attorney that the area around the roundhouse reminded him of the farm where he grew up in Belle Meade, Tennessee. The area around the roundhouse soon thereafter adopted the name Bellmead.

In 1913, surveyors laid out “Bellmead Court” in lots and blocks. The land did not catch the interest of many buyers since it was prone to frequent flooding. Eventually, the company divided the Ashleman Farm—which lay adjacent to the M-K-T property—into lots that sold for thirty-five dollars each to families working for the railroad and to those wishing to provide goods and services to those families. Over time, more people moved to the area and businesses followed.

The 1928-29 Polk City Directory was the first to list Bellmead streets and businesses, showing a merchant’s store, two-story rooming house, garage, a barber shop, gas station, a grocery store, and the Bellmead Baptist Church. The state highway department brought a vital transportation link to the area in 1932 through the construction of State Highway 84. In 1939, residents voted to incorporate as a city, but the movement failed because the area lacked independent sewage, water, and fire services.

During the Great Depression, men laid off from the M-K-T railroad found work with the Works Progress Administration. They built water and sewer lines to serve the area, freeing it from its reliance upon Waco for such services. Around that same time, a volunteer fire department was established and the fire station became a center of civic activity.

Before World War II, Bellmead’s economy depended heavily upon the M-K-T railroad shops. However, the war brought about the need for new and different services and industries, reviving Bellmead’s economy. General Tire & Rubber Company arrived to produce military truck tires, Waco Army Airfield (later called James Connally Air Force Base) was established, and the M-K-T Railway received a boost as one of the chief transporters of crude oil from Texas to the rest of the nation. Activity centered upon the war effort resulted in a rapid increase in the population. In the early 1940s the population was approximately 25, but by 1949 it had increased to 800.

In 1951, Bellmead citizen Chuck Lovelace learned from a Waco city councilman that the city planned to annex the Bellmead area in 1952. After discussing the issue with other citizens, Lovelace convinced the county commissioners to hold an incorporation election, allowing the citizens of the area to determine whether they wanted to be a separate city. The December 19, 1952, election was very close, but ultimately Bellmead voted to approve incorporation. A group of local residents drafted the initial charter and the first city council meeting was held on November 12, 1953.

Bellmead continued to grow rapidly toward the twenty-first century. Although Connally Air Force Base closed in 1965, Texas A&M purchased the site and established James Connally Technical Institute, now known as Texas State Technical Institute.  Today, the city is home to nearly ten thousand residents and remains an integral part of McLennan County.

Images

Growing City

Growing City

Today, nearly ten thousand residents live in Bellmead, and business, industry, and civic opportunities have continued to grow. Additionally, the region is home to various educational institutions such as Texas State Technical College, the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC), and La Vega Independent School District. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

New Opportunities

New Opportunities

For many years, the railroad sustained Bellmead’s economy and provided jobs for nearly all residents. The diversification of the economy after World War II led to the development of new industry in the area, ultimately leading to Bellmead’s incorporation. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

M-K-T Shops

M-K-T Shops

Since industry centered upon the railroad in Bellmead for so long, citizens relied upon M-K-T shops to supply all of their needs. If they were not able to find what they were looking for, residents traveled to Waco or other areas to search other shops. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Fire Department

Fire Department

On October 26, 1948, thirty-five citizens established Bellmead’s volunteer fire department. As the department grew, the city established paid career positions for firefighters as well. The truck in the center of this image is the volunteer truck, while the one on the right is for the fire department. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Gaining Independence

Gaining Independence

A line from Waco initially brought water to Bellmead, until the Works Progress Administration built water and sewer lines to serve the Bellmead area. Those waterlines were connected to four artesian wells in the early 1940s. This water tower was constructed circa 1980 to ensure adequate water supply for new businesses moving into the region. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Bellmead Candidates

Bellmead Candidates

Candidates for Bellmead’s first municipal election posed for a photograph after the incorporation of the city in late 1952. Just over one year later, in 1954, citizens voted to reincorporate under a mayor-alderman system of government. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Bill Miller View File Details Page

Industrial Powerhouse

Industrial Powerhouse

Editorials in the Waco Citizen during the 1980s advertised Bellmead as one of the most ideal but underutilized locations in Texas for industry. Located at the intersection of four railroads and three major highways, the relatively young city proved to be a great location for the development of new businesses in McLennan County. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Charles Olson and Amanda Sawyer, “Bellmead,” Waco History, accessed July 26, 2017, http://wacohistory.org/items/show/139.

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