Copperas Cove, once spelled Coperas Cove, is at the intersection of U.S. Highway 190 and Farm Road 116, twenty-four miles southwest of Gatesville in southern Coryell County. In the 1870s the community centered around a small store about two miles southwest of the present townsite. Late that decade residents of the community applied for a post office under the name Cove, but postal authorities rejected the name because a Texas post office by that name already existed. The name Coperas Cove was then submitted, inspired by the mineral taste of the water in a nearby spring. The Coperas Cove post office was established in March 1879 with Marsden Ogletree as postmaster.
A feeder route of the Chisholm Trail passed through Coperas Cove, making the cattle industry of primary importance to the local economy. When the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railway built its track across the southern corner of Coryell County in 1882, residents of Coperas Cove moved their community two miles to the northeast in order to take better advantage of the rail service. By 1884 the town had a steam gristmill-cotton gin, five general stores, a hotel, and 150 residents. By the mid-1890s the population had risen to 300, and residents had voted to form their own school district. Although cattle production continued to be important to the local economy, area farmers began to devote more of their resources to the production of cotton, small grains, and feed crops, and by 1900 farming was the dominant occupation.
The spelling of the community's name was officially changed in 1901; at that time Copperas Cove had an opera house, three hotels, and a variety of businesses. A local private bank opened in 1906. By the time residents elected their first mayor in 1913, the population had grown to 600. The number of residents continued to increase through the 1920s, to a high of 650 in 1929. Copperas Cove began to decline with the onset of the Great Depression in the early 1930s. The local bank failed, several businesses closed, and many people left to look for work in other areas. By the 1940s only 356 residents remained.
Copperas Cove received a much-needed boost in the early 1940s, when the United States government chose southeastern Coryell and northwestern Bell counties as the site for Camp Hood, a new military training center. By the 1950 census the community had grown to 1,052 residents. When the military established Fort Hood as a permanent base in 1950, Copperas Cove began to grow at an even faster rate, and the city limit eventually extended southwest into Lampasas County. The population was estimated at 4,567 in 1960, at 10,818 in 1970, and at 19,469 in 1980. Most of the new residents were either attracted by the job opportunities associated with Fort Hood or chose to remain in the area after retirement from the military. By 1990 Copperas Cove had several manufacturing establishments, a wide variety of businesses, a hospital, and a population of 24,079. In 2000 the population was 29,592.