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Vivian Elizabeth Smyrl, rev. by Carolyn Casey

BELLMEAD, TEXAS. Bellmead is on State Highway 31 two miles northeast of Waco in east central McLennan County. Originally part of the Tomás de la Vega grant, after changing hands several times, the land passed to Col. John W. Lapsley, an attorney in Selma, Alabama. In the absence of the landowner, squatters moved into the area but were finally removed after 1870 in a combination of legal actions, evictions of the squatters by then Sheriff Lawrence S. Ross, and the coming of a railroad line northward from Bremond. Present-day Bellmead is located on land originally part of two farms owned by the Hogan and Ashleman families. Adolph Ashleman and Mont Hogan had their lands surveyed and began selling lots. The population grew in the mid-1920s, when the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad chose the site for its locomotive shops. Several hundred people were employed at the shops, and families began moving to the area. The first school was called Bellmead in honor of Belle Meade Farms, a prominent horse farm in Tennessee. Area schools were consolidated to form the La Vega Independent School District in 1927. A post office was established at Bellmead in 1937 with A. L. Gilliam as postmaster. Residents of the community voted to incorporate in 1939, but the incorporation was soon dissolved for lack of water, sewerage, and fire services. . Some infrastructure was built in the 1930s as men, laid off by the Katy Bellmead Railroad Shop in the declining economy of the Great Depression, worked for the WPA to build sewer lines, streets, and water lines. In the mid-1940s the Bellmead post office was discontinued and replaced by branch service from Waco.

The Bellmead economy revived in 1942, when Waco Army Air Field (later called James Connally Air Force Base) opened just northeast of town. The population was reported at twenty-five in the early 1940s, but it increased rapidly after World War II, rising to 800 by 1949. The community was reincorporated in 1954 with a mayor-alderman government. By 1960 Bellmead had 5,127 residents and eighty-five businesses. The Katy Bellmead Railroad Shop shut down in the 1960s. When the air force base was closed in 1965 Texas A&M University established the James Connally Technical Institute at the facility (see TEXAS STATE TECHNICAL INSTITUTE). Although Bellmead developed some retail businesses and service industries of its own, its proximity to Waco enabled residents to commute to work or shop in the larger city. The population of Bellmead was 7,698 in 1970, 7,569 in 1980, and 8,336 in 1990. In 2000 the population wsa 9,214. In the 2010 federal census the population had grown to 9,901.


Bellmead-Timbercrest Times, October 8, 1986. Roger N. Conger, “Brazos Empire: The Tomás de la Vega Eleven-League Grant on the Brazos,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 61 (January 1958). William Robert Poage, McLennan County Before 1980 (Waco: Texian, 1981). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Vertical File, Texas Collection, Baylor University.

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Vivian Elizabeth Smyrl, rev. by Carolyn Casey, "BELLMEAD, TX," accessed June 06, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hfb01.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on November 6, 2014. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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