NORTH FORT HOOD — A crowd of about 150 people gathered here Saturday for the dedication of a historical marker remembering the 470 families forced to abandon more than 20 Coryell County communities in 1942 to make way for a tank destroyer range at Camp Hood, later Fort Hood.
“Families who had lived on the same land for generations watched as homes and churches were lost and beloved dead were reburied in other cemeteries,” states the marker erected on State Highway 36 across from the North Fort Hood gate.
More than 70 years after the relocation, family members of those displaced stood or raised their hands as the roll was called for the lost communities during the marker dedication Saturday morning.
Communities remembered were: Antelope, Beverly, Boaz, Brown’s Creek, Clear Creek, Cold Springs, Crossville, Eliga, Ewing, Friendship, Harmony, Henson Creek, Hubbard, Manning Mountain, New Hope, Owl Creek, Pidcoke, Pilot Knob, Pleasant Grove, Refuge, Ruth, Schley, Seattle, Silver City (also called Maple), Spring Hill, Stampede, Sugar Loaf, Tama and Turnover.
“This day has been a long time coming,” said Wilma Colvin Edwards, whose parents were born in Boaz and Tama. Several generations of her family settled down, raised children, started businesses and worked the land before it was taken by the Army.
“They were patriotic, but it was hard,” Edwards said of her displaced kinfolks. “My grandfather didn’t get paid for his land for two years.”
Her daughter, Sylvia Edwards, was the featured speaker at the event. A Gatesville native, Edwards wrote her master’s thesis at Baylor University on the acquisition of Coryell County land for the military post.
Edwards said her primary sources included stories told around the dinner table by family members with fond memories of places that were “literally blown off the map by artillery fire” after the relocation.
“Grim-faced men and stoic women surrendered their land under eminent domain,” she said. “The American Century was secured by people like them. Was their sacrifice worth it? Time will tell.”
Retired Lt. Gen. Paul Funk, who is part of a group working to create a new, “world-class museum” at Fort Hood, said a wing of the museum would tell the story of the lost communities.
“Thanks for your sacrifices, thanks for your loyalty to the United States of America,” Funk told the crowd Saturday. He urged family members to share their recollections, photographs and memorabilia with the museum to tell the story of the lost communities.
Funk, a former commander of Fort Hood, acknowledged the families were forced to leave their homes “on short notice and sometimes in rude fashion” to make way for Camp Hood.
Some of the communities were founded in the early 1850s, before the creation of Coryell County, the marker states.
The Coryell County Historical Commission hosted the dedication and paid tribute to the late Bobbie F. Thornton, an amateur county historian who prepared the narrative used to apply for the marker. Thornton died in December.