Copperas Cove is a city located in central Texas at the southern corner ofCoryell County, with city limits extending into neighboring Bell and Lampasascounties. Founded in 1879 as a small ranching and farming community, today the city is the largest in Coryell County, with 33,374 residents according to 2012 Census Bureau estimates. The town's economy is closely linked to nearby Fort Hood, making it part of the Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood Metropolitan Statistical Area. Residents often refer to the city simply as "Cove."
Downtown Copperas Cove
|Nickname(s): City of Five Hills|
|Motto: The City Built For Family Living|
The first evidence of human habitation in the Five Hills area dates back to at least 4,000 BC. Artifacts, such as skeletal remains, arrowheads, and other stone tools, have been found along local creek beds and valley floors. These first residents were nomadic hunters, traveling in small groups following migrating buffalo herds. When the Spanish came to Texas, a small Plains tribe known as the Tonkawa inhabited the area. The powerful and aggressive Comanche controlled a vast stretch of land to the north and west, making Coryell County a hostile battleground as settlers moved into the area.
In 1825, Mexico provided Stephen F. Austin with a land grant encompassing a large area including present-day Copperas Cove. Starting in the 1830s, the first white settlers came into the Five Hills region; however, the area lacked stability until after the Civil War. Substantial settlement did not arrive until the development of the cattle industry during the 1870s, when a feeder route of the Chisholm Trailwas cut through the region. Settlement centered around a local general store about two miles southwest of present-day downtown. In 1878, residents applied for a post office under the name "Cove", so chosen for the site's sheltered location. However "Cove" was already taken by a nearby community (now called Evant). Inspired by the taste of nearby spring water, residents amended the name to "Coperas Cove" (the second "p" erroneously omitted and officially corrected in 1901). The post office was established in March 1879, with Marsden Ogletree as the town's first postmaster. The original building remains today and is the site of the Ogletree Gap Heritage Festival.
Copperas Cove's fortunes were greatly improved when, in 1882, the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway expanded into the region. Local resident Jesse M. Clements lobbied to obtain train service and provided the railroad company with the necessary right-of-way about two miles northeast of town. Residents soon moved to a new set of streets laid out by the company's engineer, E.F. Batte. The train depot at Copperas Cove served as the shipping point for farmers and ranchers in the area between Cowhouse Creek and the Lampasas River. Businesses opened to provide services for these area residents, including a steam gristmill-cotton gin, three hotels, a barber shop, and an opera house. Many of the town's early buildings remain to this day, focusing around the block of Avenue D between Main Street and 1st Street. By 1900, the population had reached 475, and residents voted to form their own school district. A private bank opened in 1906, and residents elected Jouett Allin their first mayor in 1913. The town continued to prosper over the coming years, depending largely on local agriculture, of which cotton played a dominant role. Copperas Cove reached a peak population of 600 in 1929, but entered a state of decline with the onset of the Great Depression. During the 1930s, the local bank failed, several businesses closed, and many people left to look for work in other areas. By 1940, only 356 people remained.
In 1942, Copperas Cove received new life when the US government located Camp Hood next to the struggling community. By the time the cantonment was upgraded toFort Hood in 1950, the town had over a thousand residents. The population continued to increase rapidly, reaching almost 5,000 in 1960 and more than doubling each of the next two decades, eventually coming to the present count of 32,032 at the 2010 census. During this period, the city limits greatly expanded, encompassing acres of newly built tract housing with upgraded roads and services. The establishment of the fort drastically altered the character of the city. Soldiers from across the country bring their families and settle in Copperas Cove, often remaining after concluding their military service. In addition to diversifying the ethnic and religious composition of the city, Fort Hood altered the local economy. Since much of the area farmland was acquired by the federal government, businesses within Copperas Cove now largely provide services for Fort Hood soldiers and their families.