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Sugar Loaf

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If you try to visit the old community of Sugar Loaf in Coryell County you might get blown away — Literally. Where Sugar Loaf was located from 1852 to 1942 is now part of the “impact zone” at Fort Hood, the largest military installation in the world. But it was a dangerous place in the 1850s, too.

Sugar Loaf started out as a dot on a non-existent map, a settlement more than a community. The community was named for a bald, volcano-shaped mini-mountain because pioneers thought it resembled a well-known candy of the day called Sugar Loaf.

We don't know what the native tribes called it, but they had been there a long time - archaeological excavations on Fort Hood in the 1970s found at least 900 permanent Indian settlements in the Sugar Loaf Mountain area - and they didn't care what these new settlers from far away called anything.

John and Jane Riggs and their four children were among the first white settlers when that part of Central Texas was mostly wilderness and still home to certain native tribes. The little settlement was the site of one of the last Indian massacres in the area, though Indians might not have been wholly to blame.

It happened in March of 1859 when a band of marauders seeped into the area and introduced themselves to a man named Young Pierce, who was cutting wood in a cedar break, by killing him. Then they went after John Riggs and a boy named Thomas Elms. They stripped the boy of his clothes and whipped him with quirts, but left when they saw Riggs getting away. The boy escaped.

Riggs made it back to the house and tried to run away from the unfolding horror with his family, but the Indians caught up with them. One of the two daughters, Margaret, who was about 8 years old at the time, later wrote about the incident and described what happened next.

“After murdering my poor father and mother and leaving little brother crawling about in the blood, the Indians placed sister and myself behind them on the horses and carried us back to the house, which they plundered.”

The Indians then headed toward Comanche Gap, in what is now Harker Heights, stopping to kill a lone traveler along the way, stealing more than 50 horses and tossing Margaret back and forth from one horse to another. After they spied what Margaret called “cow hunters” and took off in hot pursuit, they dropped her. Margaret hurt her hip in the fall, but survived. Rhoda managed to grab hold of a tree and pull herself off the horse she was riding. The Indians let both girls go.

Margaret claimed to have recognized one of the “Comanches” as a red-haired white man named Page. According to George Tyler's history of Bell County, the locals hung him and two other nameless accomplices. All four Riggs children lived well into adulthood.

So did Sugar Loaf. In time, the people of the community built churches and schools, the prime indicators of civilization on the frontier. There was a post office, a blacksmith shop and a store. But in 1882 the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe line bypassed the community and a lot of the residents moved from there to the new town of Killeen, which had the good geographic fortune of being on the rail line.

Local historians refer to Sugar Loaf as the cradle of Killeen because many of those people who made the move in 1882 turned out to be among the new city's first citizens, including Killeen's first doctor, W.W. McCorcle, and Richard Moses "Old Uncle Dick" Cole, who had the first undertaking business in Killeen and who served as school board president in 1895.

Sugar Loaf barely held on until 1942, when the U.S. government took the land for Fort Hood. The old church building in Sugar Loaf replaced the Methodist Church at Slater in 1941. Later, the building was moved to Pidcoke, where it served as a fellowship hall.

The Sugar Loaf cemetery was moved to Killeen, which includes the final resting place of John and Jane Riggs. It's also the final resting place for Sarah Scroggins, who was 103 years old when she died in 1882, about the time people started leaving Sugar Loaf.

Her tombstone lists her birth and death dates and notes: “Gone To Meet Her Eighteen Children and Three Husbands.” Mrs. Scroggins survived longer than the community where she was buried.

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