Bell County Charter Oak

Historical Period: Early Statehood (1845-1861)
Historical Topic: County Courthouses, Frontier Settlements
Species: Texas Live Oak (Quercus fusiformis)
County: Bell
Public Access: Yes

The spot chosen for the first election in Bell County was beneath a magnificent live oak. It was located about 50 yards east of the log cabin home of William F. Hill and about 200 yards south of where the Old Military Road crossed the Leon River. Although Hill's was the only house near the crossing, the site was centrally located and most convenient to the few voters in the county.

On that historic day in April or May 1850, three men were appointed judges and each of the 30 or 40 men present orally voted for five special commissioners. These commissioners were given the specific task of organizing the new county, a task which included surveying it, locating a county seat, laying off the townsite, selling the lots at auction and erecting public buildings.

Organization of the county was completed August 1, 1850, and the county seat was located on Nolan Creek, west of the Charter Oak, and was named Nolanville. However, on December 16 of the following year, the seat was moved to Belton. The county was named in honor of Texas' third governor, Peter Hansbrough Bell.

Many years have passed since Hill's cabin was claimed by the river. But the Charter Oak still serves as a living reminder of the first election ever held in Bell County.

This historic oak stands along the east bank of the Leon River, near the city of Belton. Please respect private property by viewing the tree from the road.