Bethel Primitive Baptist Church, Killeen
Constructed prior to 1882, the year that the community of Killeen was established, Bethel Primitive Baptist Church is one of the oldest structures in the city. The church was originally located in Palo Alto (about 4 miles NE of Killeen) and the congregation shared this location with several other denominations. Killeen was established as a railroad stop and as it grew, it gradually absorbed many of Palo Alto’s residents. This frame church, along with several other Palo Alto buildings, was moved to Killeen after the arrival of the railroad in 1882.
Backstory and Context
The city of Killeen was established in 1882 with the arrival of the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railroad. The town is named for a prominent railroad engineer who apparently never saw the city that was named in his honor. Prior to 1882, the community of Palo Alto was the closest thing to a city in western Bell County and the location of the only post office in the area. This church was located in Palo Alto and was a place where different congregations held services in the same building. After the railroad created, Killeen Palo Alto lost many of citizens, some of whom placed their frame homes on wagons and moved in order to be closer to the railroad and the center of commerce. Palo Alto's post office soon closed and some residents moved this church to its present location within a few years of the railroad's arrival.
The Killeen Area Heritage Association has maintained the structure since the 1970s and conducts tours of the interior by appointment only. The exterior of the property is accessible and visitors can also see a historic log cabin that was also moved onto the church property. The organization that preserves the church maintain a variety of local history exhibits within the church along with original furnishings such as pews and other items that belonged to the church.
A careful exploration of the church property show indentations in the back where a privy may have existed. There is an actual privy replica adjacent the log cabin and the church. The Bell County Museum in Belton, Texas has Christmas ornaments of various historic buildings from the county for sale, including an ornament of the Bethel Primitive Baptist Church.
“Bell County Museum.” n.d. Accessed May 1, 2018. http://www.bellcountymuseum.org/Museum/shop/shop_main_collectibles.html.
“Details - Bethel Primitive Baptist Church - Atlas Number 5027000391 - Atlas: Texas Historical Commission.” n.d. Accessed May 1, 2018. https://atlas.thc.state.tx.us/Details/5027000391/print.
“Killeen Area Heritage Association - KAHA.” n.d. Accessed April 29, 2018. https://www.facebook.com/Killeen-Area-Heritage-Association-KAHA-1261022850710298/.
Lucksinger, Annette S., Gerald D. Skidmore Sr, and Gerald D. Skidmore. 2013. Killeen. Arcadia Publishing.
McGuinness, Chris. 2014. “Killeen’s Past on Display.” Local News. Http://Kdhnews.Com/. December 23, 2014. http://kdhnews.com/news/killeen-s-past-on-display/article_82ffae4e-8a60-11e4-be94-077e2db7ed3e.html.
Skidmore, Gerald D. 2010. Historic Killeen: An Illustrated History. HPN Books.