Belton Pop. 14,623 Alt. 511


A small town of distinctive charm. Belton was founded in 1850, and in early years grew as a rustic trading center for nearby farms and ranches. The first merchant sold goods from his wagon before any stores were built; first "saloon" was a barrel of whiskey and a tin cup under a shade tree. A stagecoach line served the village, and cowboys herding Longhorns up the Chisholm Trail enjoyed rest stops in Belton. Town is graced by architecture from the early 1860s to turn-of-the-century. Preservation of historic structures is a current priority in Belton's graceful old downtown area. Some buildings and homes opened during annual tour late April, early May.

Bell County Museum

Exhibits focus on first 100 years of Bell County history, from 1850 to 1950. Miriam A. Ferguson Collection chronicles the life and times of Texas' first female governor and Bell County resident; most comprehensive collection of "Ma" Ferguson's belongings in the state. Other permanent exhibits include turn-of-the-century kitchen and authentic post office with working telegraph. Rotating displays feature various aspects of rural and city life. Gift shop with books, postcards, posters, and historical tour tapes. Housed in restored beaux- arts-style Carnegie building constructed as library in 1904; National Register property. Open Tues. - Sat. 1 - 5 p.m. 201 N. Main St.; free admission. 817/939-6110.

Lake Belton

Scenic 12,300-acre impoundment of Leon River and several creeks, noted for numerous arms and coves along 110-mile shoreline. Corps of Engineers lake with 13 public parks offering camping and picnic areas, boat-launching ramps, and marina facilities. Brushy areas are prime habitat for largemouth and smallmouth bass (record smallmouth bass, 4.76 lbs.); also fishing for crappie, catfish, and panfish. Other record fish include channel catfish, 3.63 lbs., largemouth bass, 7.7 lbs., and smallmouth buffalo, 36.5 lbs. For details, visit the Corps of Engineers headquarters area at the dam, junction of F.M. 2271 and F.M. 439. Just northwest of Belton via Texas 317 north, F.M. 2271 west; also accessible from Killeen and Temple.



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