Fort Hood, Texas
...The Great Place
Artifacts give clues to Fort Hoods past
By Pvt. 2 Stephanie Carpenter, III Corp PAO
Day breaks. A loud roar breaks the morning silence. The 68.7-ton M1A2 Abrams tank crests the hill. The mission, training in nature, is to conduct a live fire exercise of the tanks 50 caliber machine gun. The exercise begins. The tank maneuvers, the bullets fly, smoke fills the air and the shells fall on the land.
The land, the 216,915 acres of Fort Hood used for training soldiers, has been exposed to much more than the noise and fall out of a tank-training exercise. It has a history that out dates any tank, any Army post even the Army itself.
The first evidence of humans inhabiting the land that is now Fort Hood dates back to between 8,800 and 11,500 years ago from a period known as the Paleoindian period, said Kristen E. Wenzel, a field archeologist for the Fort Hood Cultural Resource Management Program.
The people who lived during the Paloeindian period are best described as nomadic big-game hunters who traveled in small groups following the game they hunted, said Wenzel. They probably passed through the area during that pursuit, she said.
They didn't establish any permanent settlements in the area.
The Paloeindian period was followed by the Archaic period, which is dated from 6,000 years ago to 8,800 years ago, said Wenzel.
The people of the Archaic period were still nomadic, but began to use more plant resources, which decreased mobility and increased group size, she said.
The FHCRMP has more artifacts from this period than the Paloeindian period and are better able to understand the people's lifestyles, said Wenzel.
These artifacts show an increase in technology and an establishment of more permanent settlements with larger population groups closer to the end of the period, according to the Fort Hood Archaeology department home page at: http://levftn.vftn.org/projects/morton/.
It was at this time that the land began to have value to the people who inhabited it, said Wenzel. The area around Fort Hood has an abundance of chert, commonly know as flint, she said. The chert is excellent material for stone tools, which the people could use for themselves or trade for wanted materials from groups living in other areas, she said.
During a period known as the contact period the Archaic people were exposed to explorers and expansionist who came in and out of the area but never settled, said Stephanie L. Nutt, the programs historical archaeologist and the public outreach coordinator.
The next group of residents came primarily due to the free land grants that were given for the purpose of colonizing the area, said Nutt.
In the 1850's permanent settlements began to appear and by 1880 these settlements had become towns, said Nutt.
There were 25 small communities on the land that is now Fort Hood.
Communities often contained a school, a small store, and a community building used for things like church services, she said.
The people of this time were farmers, she said.
They grew crops for profit and personal use, but their livelihood relied mostly on goat, sheep and cattle ranching.
The life was a difficult one for most of the settlers, she said. They did what was necessary to survive off of the land
In 1942 the government saw the central Texas location as an adequate spot to support a military training instillation.
The instillation was named Camp Hood and the residents were relocated from the 104,000 acre area to make room for the facilities, equipment and soldiers who be placed at Camp hood.
In 1950 Camp Hood became a permanent base and was renamed Fort Hood.
In 1953 Fort Hood acquired the remainder of its land.
Fort Hood now maintains 134,148 acres of this land for maneuvering and 62,008 acres of ranges being used today.
The smoke settled from the live fire. The tank departs.
A small group of soldiers remained to pick the brass shells of the ground.
The day neared its end and left behind nothing but the land.