This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth originally was published in The Baylor Line in November 1978, then was reprinted in Looking Back at Baylor (1985), a collection of Keeth and Harry Marsh’s historical columns for the Line. Blogging about Texas will periodically feature selections from Looking Back at Baylor, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.
This piece, “Simple Pleasures in Independence,” was selected for our first Looking Back entry because starting this week (and through most of July), Baylor Line Camps will be visiting the site of Baylor’s original campus in Independence. While the social life of the class of 2016 will be quite different from what Margaret Hall Hicks describes below, the community spirit of the Baylor family remains constant.
In 1871, sixteen-year-old Margaret Hall, who five years earlier had attended Baylor’s preparatory department, returned to the Independence campus as a student at Baylor Female College. She entered enthusiastically into the life of the college, and while she appreciated the school’s scholastic offerings, she also found time to participate in the various social occasions which its calendar afforded.
Many years later, when her own children were grown, Margaret Hall Hicks prepared a personal memoir of some of the events and impressions of her early life. Titled “Memories of Ancestors,” Mrs. Hicks’ memoir vividly recalls her days at Baylor. An excerpt concerning her attendance in 1866 appeared in the Baylor Line of May-June 1967. The following passage, drawn from the period of her later enrollment, relates some of the “simple pleasures” by which Baylor students of the 1870s diverted themselves from their studies.
“Along with our studies we had a most delightful social life. Baylor University, a school for boys, was about a half-mile or less from Baylor College, and you know that twenty or thirty boys and that many girls could not fail to find some means of communication. We were allowed to receive the boys in the large parlors of the dormitory once a month on Friday night. We were sometimes allowed to visit our girl friends in the town, and of course this meant there would be a boy invited for each girl, to come in for a good time together in the evening. We all attended the same church and many were the notes and shy glances passed between the boys and girls, although they were required to sit on opposite sides of the church with a high partition between them.
An annual picnic on San Jacinto Day was a social event anticipated and prepared for months before the time. Each girl had made a date weeks before with some boy, generally her sweetheart, for the whole day together. If the boy was financially able, he hired a horse and buggy to take his lady love, and these were the envy of the other girls, who had to join in with others in hiring a hack or wagon and go in crowds.Another occasion that still lingers in my memory was the Christmas holidays. The last week before Christmas was a time of merry-making. Mr. Clark always prepared for a very elaborate Christmas concert. The large auditorium was gaily festooned with cedar and holly of which there was an abundance in the nearby woods.
The boys and girls, under the supervision of one of the teachers, were delegated to borrow wagons from some of their country friends and go out in the woods to get these, and such jolly rides as they were, and what a thrill we did get out of them! No auto joy rides of the present ever gave young folks more pleasure. Then the festoons were to be made and the boys were permitted to come over and help in trimming these, and what a good chance for the innocent love making which all boys and girls so much enjoy and which, conducted in the right way and under the right environment, is natural and beneficial for all young people. These concerts were given Thursday before the Christmas holidays. Succeeding them on the following night the boys of Baylor University gave an annual Christmas party at the University building, and this was the climax of all the Christmas frolic. At these parties ‘soft eyes looked love to eyes which spake again, and all went merry as marriage bells.’
We did not have, nor did we care for, elaborate refreshments. At these parties given at the schools we only had fruits, nuts and candies which the boys paid for themselves. There was no drinking at these parties of the olden times. The natural exuberance of healthy youth was the only stimulant we needed.”
Updated July 13, 2012: Baylor Photography was kind enough to provide a current photo of the Baylor Female Building and Line Camp.