The seat of Coryell County, Gatesville is located just southwest of Waco along US 84 and Hwy 36, on the banks of the Leon River.
The Gatesville economy benefited from the construction of nearby Fort Hood in the early 1940s, and the town grew steadily. Gatesville maintained its status as county seat, but after the early 1960s it was no longer the county's largest town. In 1972 the St. Louis and Southwestern of Texas abandoned its track between Lime City and Gatesville, leaving Gatesville without rail service.
Local industries in the 1980s included the manufacture of boats, trailers, clothing, and plastic medical products, in addition to farm-related businesses. The population was estimated at 6,931 in 1988, and 11,492 in 1990.