Heritage, 2009, Volume 3 Page: 17
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cal politicians lobbied for a base in Cen-
tral Texas. The lives of several hundred
families were forever altered in January
1942, when the Army announced plans
to develop a tank destroyer tactical and
firing training center in Coryell and Bell
counties. Given only a few weeks' notice,
farm families living within the proposed
boundaries of Camp Hood were forced
to leave the land from which they
drew their livelihoods. Informant Jerome
Blackwell said they were ordered to leave
their farmstead in ten days. Houses and
other improvements were burned and
bulldozed as families watched.
Under wartime budget constraints,
the government paid low value for acre-
age and improvements. Hired land ap-
praisers were from as far as away as
Chicago and didn't know the difference
between valuable river and creek bottom
lands and sorry, cedar-covered caliche
hills. All families suffered economically
and psychologically from the haste of the
land seizure, but reactions to the take-
over varied. Tommie Shulz Haferkamp
didn't care. "I didn't like it down there.
I knew there was a better life somewhere
else." Simultaneously, she understood
her father's sorrow. He had grown up on
the farm they were forced to leave. Rent
farmers celebrated the new installation
and the jobs it generated. John Easley's
family rented land and "the prospect of
employment, steady employment for
Daddy, made the move for us a whole
lot different." His father became a con-
struction worker at Camp Hood.
Some landowners were financially and
emotionally devastated. John Edwards'
family had farmed their land since 1860,
but three months passed before they re-
ceived nominal government payment
for their property. John Wolf's parents
"didn't have anything to amount to any-
thing, just a darned old pickup that ran
half the time." The government refused
payment after Wolf's father protested
the appraised value of their farm, and the
family moved "without a dime." When
old man Jim Gannaway wouldn't take
the government's price, they put him off
so long, he died and never received any
compensation. Edwards noted, "It killed
our parents young. It robbed us of our
heritage and our inheritance." Several
suicides occurred-one in the presence
of soldiers who had come with trucks to
move a man from his farm. He sharp-
ened a knife while waiting for them on
his front porch. As the soldiers arrived,
he told them he would never move and
slit his throat. Still, most local families
believed it their patriotic duty to move.
As William Powell put it, "People want-
ed to do their part, and as a general rule
they didn't raise too much sand about it,
'cause they wanted to be patriotic and do
what was right."
Why didn't these farm families jump
at the opportunity to leave their De-
pression-era farmsteads? The informants
spoke wistfully of the Depression years
and explained that despite harsh condi-
tions, these were their homes and the
only lives their families had ever known.
Cash flow for landowners and tenants
alike had always been minimal for small,
family farms, but was almost nonexistent
in the 1930s. Norman Hall's parents re-
minded him, "We're not poor; we've got
almost 800 acres of land, but we don't
have any money." These families uni-
formly derived satisfaction from hard
work to make the best of those difficult
As they always had, these rural in-
habitants relied on kitchen gardens and
food preservation to provide foodstuffs.
Families raised nearly everything they
ate. Juanita Griffin Duncan's family was
HERITA GE Volume 3 2009
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, 2009, Volume 3, periodical, 2009; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth254214/m1/17/: accessed August 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.