Indian wars, Spanish soldiers, Texas Rangers, buffalo soldiers, calvary, infantry, tanks and artillery have all been a part of the military history of Brown County. The first known military in the area were the Spanish soldiers as they attempted to tame the Lipan Apaches. The Lipan were "fierce fighters, cruel enemies. and utterly averse to work, practiced murder and theft on other Indians and the Spanish." Next were the Comanche Indians, known as the most warlike of all the Indian tribes living in Texas.
On September 24, 1723, Captain Nicholas Flores and some thirty Spanish soldiers came upon a rancheria of Lipan Apaches, somewhere north of the Colorado River. The battle lasted for six hours. The Spanish killed thirty-four Indians, including the chief, took twenty women and children captive, and recovered some one hundred twenty horses and mules.
Captain Henry Stephenson Brown, for whom the county was named, organized a posse of twenty-eight men, in 1828, and followed Indians into Brown County that has stolen his herd of about five hundred houses and mules near Gonzales. They wiped out a small Indian encampment, in all probability on Clear Creek in the southern section of Brown county. They traveled on to Coleman county and encountered a large Indian encampment some two miles up Home Creek from where they had camped for the night. The ensuing battle forced the men to retreat but not before some of the men had rounded up the horses and mules and had started them eastward. Only a few Indians followed them, being as they were unable to catch their mounts. After three days, the men finally outdistanced the enemy and later arrived back in Gonzales with only a few less livestock than they had lost to the Indians.
The Indians were still dangerous in the early 1870's. Children had to carry guns to school. Preachers still carried six-shooters and rifles with their Bibles as they made their rounds. But, the Indians were finally defeated. By 1874, they were rounded up by the Texas Rangers and moved to reservations.
The first known military camp in Brown County was Camp Collier. Camp Collier was located at Vaughn's Springs on Clear Creek in southwestern Brown County. It was one of sixteen military installations established by the Confederacy in Texas after the Union Army evacuated the desolate stretches of the Texas frontier. On March 23, 1862, Camp Collier was activated, and Capt. Thomas N. Collier took command. The Camp was occupied by the Texas Frontier Regiment of Texas Rangers. Patrols and scouting parties kept Indian actions in check and rounded up draft evaders. Always needed were food, clothing, horses, ammunition. These men shared few of the glories of the war. Yet at the cost of the lives of not a few of them, these Confederate soldiers managed to bring a measure of protection to a vast frontier area. Camp Collier and other posts on this line were backed by patrols of State Rangers, organized militia, and citizens' posses scouting from nearby "family forts." Because there were no permanent structures at Camp Collier the camp was quickly dismantled. No trace remains.
In September, 1940, Brownwood was selected by the War Department as a National Guard Training Center. By the end of World War II in 1945, the original campsite of 2,000 acres had been enlarged to 5,000 acres and the original 60,000 acres for maneuvers was expanded to nearly 122,000 acres. The installation was given the official name of Camp Bowie on October 16,1941.
The 36th Division received orders on September 19, 1940, to mobilize at Camp Bowie on November 10, 1940. Due to heavy rains in the area that autumn, the arrival of troops was twice delayed and much damage wa done to roads in the area. By January, 1941, the Texas National Guard units were all in the camp. Shortly thereupon, the 113th Calvary Division, Iowa National Guard, moved in for training, bringing the total number of men in Camp Bowie to nearly 30,000. The 31st Division, Dixie Division, moved to Camp Bowie and was the last infantry division to use Camp Bowie. The 18th Field Artillery Brigade also occupied Camp Bowie, During this time, the army was changing from infantry training to tank training in the area. The 4th Armored along with various artillery, anti-tank teams, and combat teams moved in. 67,000 men occupied Camp Bowie at that time. Others who received training at Camp Bowie were the 13th Armored and the 3rd Armored. An airfield was also included in Camp Bowie.
Approximately a quarter of a million men were processed here. Quarters were built as quickly as possible, but these could not keep up with the rising population of the area. The urgent need to train troops caused a vast sea pyramidal tents. This lasted for about a year and a half until more permanent buildings were built. At one time, there were 6,072 pyramidal and 910 wall tents at Bowie. Each tent housed five enlisted men.
While living quarters were being built, larger buildings were going up all over the camp. On March 1, 1941, it was reported that 213 mess halls and 224 bathhouses had been built. The men enjoyed sports and entertainment at the 22 recreation centers. Built were a large post exchange with 27 branches, three libraries, three dental clinics, two Red Cross buildings and a golf course.
Atop the highest and most Olympian hill in Camp Bowie was the post Headquarters. Krueger Hill was the hub of the Camp's activities. General Walter Krueger, formerly the commander of the VIII Corps, was stationed on the hill. The hill was named for the man who led the Sixth Army in the Pacific.
German Prisoners of War at Camp Bowie
The first German Prisoners of War arrived at Camp Bowie in August, 1943. Most of these men were members of Field Marshall Erwin Rommell's once proud Africa Corps. When they got settled at Camp Bowie, the 2700 men were well behaved. They worked at jobs on the Camp and became day laborers for the farmers and ranchers in Central Texas. They raised their own vegetables and had their own burial grounds near the Jordan Springs Cemetery. Following the end of the war, the buried soldiers were moved back to their home country. With the surrender of Japan in 1945, immediate plans were made for the dispersal of troops that were stationed at Camp Bowie. Within one year, less than a dozen soldiers remained at Camp Bowie.
Camp Bowie Closes
On January 27, 1947, news came that Camp Bowie would be closed and the surplus equipment, buildings and lands would be sold. The airfield became property of Brownwood in 1947.
Today, there are few things at the campsite to remind us of the Camp Bowie Days. The campsite has become an Industrial Park, a regional medical center, complete with a hospital and other medical buildings. The area has become a place where people can gather to enjoy football and baseball in a sports complex, entertainments at the parks, and the municipal pool. There are now homes and many business in the former military area.
Information on the Indians and on Camp Collier was taken from Thomas Robert Havins, Something about Brown: A History of Brown County, Texas, 1958, and from the Handbook of Texas Online. Information on Camp Bowie was taken from Heritage Scrapbook Volume II sponsored by Southwest State Bank, and from information provided by the Brown County Museum of History.