As a self-confessed “history nerd,” I am always eager to learn more about the places I live.
Growing up in Southern California, most of what I knew about the American West, and Texas in particular, came from television and movies. After living here for nearly three years, I learned this state’s past is far more complex than any film could ever portray. Much of that knowledge is thanks to the Bell County Museum.
Located in historic downtown Belton, the museum is filled to the brim with the area’s history. Its various collections contain more than 12,000 objects from the Bell County-Central Texas region. Items include artifacts made by early peoples to clothing from the 18th through the 20th centuries.
Of the museum’s many exhibits, one of my favorites is “Passport Through Time” — an interactive exhibit that contains artifacts, photographs and letters that highlight the people, places and events that shaped Bell County.
Everything is wonderfully displayed and labeled. Walking through the exhibit gave me a very tangible sense of how Bell County has changed and evolved over the years.
From the early ranching tools — their surfaces pitted and as rugged as those who originally settled the area — to the yellowed black-and-white photos of the railroads that were the lifeblood of cities like Temple, Belton and Killeen, the exhibit not only points to the overarching narrative of Bell County, but is a vivid window into the everyday life of its past residents. Being able to look inside an 1850s log cabin, which was dismantled from its original location and installed in the museum in 2006, was a fascinating glimpse into Bell County’s past.
In addition to the static collections, the museum also rotates exhibits throughout the year. In June, it will debut “The Greatest Generation,” an exhibit focusing on those born in the depression era, who fought in the Second World War, and came home to experience the 1950s.
In an area where the population is always coming and going, and as Central Texas continues to grow and expand, the Bell County Museum stands as a reminder of the area’s strong and humble roots. It’s the perfect stop for anyone with an interest in the rich past of the American West,
If you go
- What: Bell County Museum
- Where: 201 N. Main St., Belton
- Hours: Noon to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday
- Prices: Admission is free.
- Information: 254-933-5243