This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth originally was published in The Baylor Line in November 1989, 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 periodically features selections from Looking Back at Baylor, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.
Exactly 110 years ago, a Waco University alumnae came to the Baylor University campus in Waco, TX to see what had become of her alma mater. In the years since her graduation in 1873, the campus had changed quite a bit. If only she could see it now! Read on to hear her description of the expanded campus in 1908.Continue Reading
This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth originally was published in The Baylor Line in June 1981, 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 periodically features selections from Looking Back at Baylor, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.
One of the most magnificent and well-known buildings on campus is the Armstrong Browning Library, known for its large collection of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning works and beautiful stained glass windows. But before the iconic building was constructed, the Baylor Browning collection was housed within Carroll Library. Read on to learn more about the collection and performance based on one of the stained glass windows.
For the first four years after its inception in 1918, Baylor’s Browning collection shared quarters with the university’s general library in the Carroll Chapel and Library Building. Starting with Dr. A. J. Armstrong’s gift of his personal library of Browning manuscripts and publications, the burgeoning young collection rapidly acquired a large oil portrait of Robert Browning painted by his son, its famous bronze casting of the Brownings’ clasped hands, and additional writings and memorabilia.Continue Reading
This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth originally was published in The Baylor Line in September 1976, 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 periodically features selections from Looking Back at Baylor, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.
This January marks the 91st year since the accident that took the lives of the Immortal Ten. We take a moment to remember those were lost, and learn more about one individual in particular. Please note, that this publication stated the Immortal Ten accident occurred on January 21, 1927 but further research shows that the accident occurred the following day, January 22, 1927.
One of the greatest tragedies that Baylor has ever experienced occurred on January 21, 1927. On the morning of that day the university bus carrying the Bear basketball team to a game with the University of Texas, travelling in a misting rain on a slick road, collided with an Illinois and Great Northern railway train at a level-grade crossing in Round Rock. Ten students were killed in the accident, and most of the other passengers were injured. The university, Waco and the state were stunned by the catastrophe. Hundreds of messages of condolence poured in from individuals, groups and other universities; and a crowd of three thousand attended the memorial service held on campus for the victims. Among those killed was Clyde “Abe” Kelley, Baylor’s all-round athlete and star halfback of the 1926 season. Described as being equally proficient in football, baseball and basketball, Kelley had been selected only a month before his death to be captain of the 1927 Bear football team. In tribute to his ability, and perhaps also as a memorial to the “Immortal Ten” who died in the wreck, Kelley’s captaincy of the team was not rescinded. A newspaper article datelined Waco, August 6, 1927, (sent to the Baylor Line by James A. Fox Jr. ’28 of Lufkin) announced: “The spirit of Abe Kelley again will direct the Baylor Bears when the Green and Gold jerseyed football team takes the field next month to make a try for honors in the Southwest conference. It was decided not to elect another captain, but to let “Abe” continue to run the team in spirit, if not in actuality. A member of the team will be appointed before each game to act as captain.” The “spirit of Abe Kelley” continued to manifest itself on Baylor’s campus for some time. Nearly five years after the accident Dave Cheavens, who had traveled with the team that day as sportswriter for the Lariat, described the incident to the student body. “I saw Abe Kelley pick up his best friend and throw him out the [bus] window when he could see the train bearing down to a certain crash. That was the true Baylor spirit.” The impact of the tragedy was not confined to Baylor. Among the many Texas newspapers which editorialized against the level-grade crossings used by railways throughout the state, the Daily Texan, student publication of the University of Texas wrote: “The slaughter of ten men of Baylor University . . . brings home to Texas the tragedy attendant on the grade crossings which at resent exist by the thousands in Texas. The only thing that will entirely remove grade crossing deaths is their complete elimination. This accident was preventable.” Other publications and groups continued to prosecute the campaign against level-grade crossings, and with the recent Baylor incident to support their arguments, they succeeded in bringing their message to the ears of state highway planners and railroad officials. The November, 1937, issue of Texas Parade—at that time the organ of the Texas Good Road Association—published a photograph of a recently completed railroad underpass at Round Rock. The picture’s caption read: “Had this underpass been in existence eight years ago several Baylor students would not have been killed.” Because the 1927 Round Rock tragedy epitomized the need for improved standards of safety in highway construction, its long-term effects have been beneficial. Texas motorists for the past fifty years have traveled under the protection of the spirits of Abe Kelley and the others of the Immortal Ten.
This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth originally was published in The Baylor Line in June 1980, 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 periodically features selections from Looking Back at Baylor, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.
Students and alumni proudly say, “I’m a bear!” when speaking of their time at Baylor. But, had history played out differently, they could have been saying, “I’m a buffalo!” or even “I’m a bookworm!” Neither has the same charm. Today, in honor of National “Hug A Bear Day,” learn more about how the Baylor Bear came to be (Note: we do not recommend trying to hug Joy or Lady!).
During the first seventy years of Baylor’s existence, the university chose no mascot with which to identify itself. Even when The University of Texas had become known as the “Longhorns,” Rice Institute had adopted the “Owls,” and Texas A&M employed the alternate designations of “Aggies and “Farmers,” Baylor’s intramural teams were known simply by the university’s name. After the selection of the school’s official colors in 1897, the athletes sometimes referred to themselves as the “Green-and-Golders.”Continue Reading
This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth originally was published in The Baylor Line in September 1979, 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 periodically features selections from Looking Back at Baylor, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.
With Homecoming in full swing this weekend, it is the perfect time to take a moment and look back at how it all started. Baylor was one of the first schools to organize a Homecoming event for alumni over a century ago, and today it is one of the most widely celebrated Baylor traditions.
In 1909, when Baylor held its first Homecoming, a pattern was set which holds remarkably true even today. Though seven decades have passed, and generations of alumni have come and gone, the traditional highlights and festivities of Baylor’s annual “family reunion” have retained a remarkable likeness to those of their distant prototype.
The purpose of the original Homecoming in 1909 was “to give an opportunity for the joyful meeting of former student friends, an occasion when old classmates could again feel the warm hand-clasp of their fellows, recall old memories and associations, and catch the Baylor spirit again.” To this end members of student organizations, local alumni and representatives of each graduation class launched a campaign of correspondence and advertisements in major state newspapers, inviting all former Baylor students to spend Thanksgiving at the Homecoming celebration.
This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth originally was published in The Baylor Line in June 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 periodically features selections from Looking Back at Baylor, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.
Across campus, across Texas, and even across the country, Baylor fans have sported green and gold for over a century. But did you know, it all started with a dandelion? Kent Keeth, with the help of Baylor alumnae Sara Rose Kendall Irvine, recount how Baylor’s colors came to be:
Generations of Baylorites have pledged their loyalty to the Green and Gold, and some have gone so far as to incorporate the colors into their private lives as a motif for their automobiles, their sportswear or their living rooms. Many have probably speculated idly, at one time or another, about their significance and the reason for their adoption as the university’s official colors.
In a letter written in 1959 to Professor Guy B. Harrison of The Texas Collection, Mrs. Sara Rose Kendall Irvine (’02) of Waco offered a first-hand account of their selection and of the inspiration for the choice. A portion of Mrs. Irvine’s letter, slightly edited, appears below.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re taking a look back at Eleanor Roosevelt’s visit to Waco. This excerpted article by former Texas Collection archivist and associate professor emerita Ellen Kuniyuki Brown (MA ’75) was originally published in The Baylor Line in Spring 1999. Blogging about Texas periodically features “Looking Back at Baylor” and “Timeline” selections, with hopes of sharing this historical work with a new audience.
The same day Eleanor Roosevelt and her secretary, Malvina Thompson, left Washington, D.C., to begin a lecture tour of the Southwest, Waco and McLennan County Baptists heard a scathing denunciation of the first lady from Dr. C.Y. Dosey, a Dallas-based evangelist, at the First Baptist Church of Waco. After attacking Roosevelt for a comment she had made about social drinking, Dosey said he’d be glad when President Roosevelt leaves office “so that we can get rid of his wife as first lady.”
In the meantime, ticket sales were brisk for Roosevelt’s upcoming appearance at Waco Hall on Monday, March 13. Sponsored by the Domestic Science club, the event attracted a number of clubs and organizations from the city and surrounding communities. One of the largest groups to attend was the eleventh congressional district postmasters under the leadership of Postmaster Jim Pittillo. Arrangements were also made to have local young people present and to be introduced en masse to Roosevelt. In addition, Texas Lieutenant Governor Coke Stevenson invited state senators and their spouses to be his guests at the lecture.
The first lady’s Texas tour began in Beaumont on March 9 and included a quick series of stops at Fort Worth, Abilene, Dallas, and Sherman, where she had her first experience with a severe dust storm.
On her way to Waco, Roosevelt briefly stopped in Hillsboro to inspect the National Youth Administration (NYA) resident project for girls. Then she visited the NYA project at Rich Field in Waco, inspecting the new airport administration building and chatting with some of the working youth. Her next stop was the Girls Club at 613 South Ninth Street, where members of the state NYA advisory board had a “lively discussion” on youth problems with her. Roosevelt briefly described her NYA stops in Hillsboro and Waco in her subsequent “My Day” column.
Roosevelt’s visit to Waco in 1939 was the first full-fledged appearance in the city’s history by the wife of the incumbent president of the United States, and the Waco papers covered her Texas trip more fully than some of the larger metropolitan papers. In honor of her visit, Waco Mayor George Jones declared Monday “Our Day.” Baylor President and former Governor of Texas Pat M. Neff was given the honor of introducing Roosevelt to the nearly 2,500 Wacoans and central Texans gathered in Waco Hall that evening to hear the first lady’s presentation on “Peace.”
Roosevelt told the audience that “by working to make democracy work, we can make our most enduring contribution to the cause of peace.” She added, however, that we need to set “our own house in order” before we “seek a solution to the turbulence that threatens to engulf the world in wars.” After that, she said, we can endeavor to establish “some sort of international machinery where nations can feel free to gather and confer earnestly and trustfully on their problems without feeling the necessity of armed conflict because of those difficulties.”
She warned that “we must not go to sleep in our feeling of security over our democratic privileges,” and that “it is important that we do our duty for democracy every day we live if that freedom is to be preserved.”
During a question-and-answer session with the audience, Roosevelt indicated that she did not believe the League of Nations could be revived because of earlier objections to it and current distrust with the organization. She also addressed the dangers of propaganda, saying “the best defense against any sort of propaganda was the strengthening of our own knowledge and understanding so that we may recognize such attempts to influence our opinions, however cleverly they may be disguised.”
From Waco the first lady and her party boarded the 1:00 am train to Houston, where she toured a hospital project and spoke that evening. She also visited NYA sites in Hempstead and at Prairie View College. From Houston she traveled to Edinburg, Harlingen, and San Antonio, leaving Texas on Saturday, March 22.
A sidelight to Roosevelt’s visit to Waco is that two weeks later, on March 27, Marian Anderson sang in Waco Hall. Prior to her Texas tour, the first lady had resigned her membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution because the organization had refused to allow the contralto to sing in Constitutional Hall in Washington, D.C.
(See a few more photos from Roosevelt’s visit in our Flickr set.)
Children are often on the Baylor campus today, but they are usually accompanied by their parents or teachers. However, back in the first half of the 1900s, residential areas were much closer to campus, and children—particularly those of faculty/staff—made good use of the campus as a playground. Albert Meroney, the son of sociology professor William Penn Meroney, lived at 1417 South Seventh Street (about where Alexander Hall now stands). The following are excerpts from a short memoir he wrote in 1994 (now housed at The Texas Collection) remembering the campus from a child’s perspective.
“Waco Creek ran at the north end of Carroll Field where Baylor played football. There was a high fence around the field, and at the creek end there were trees whose limbs hung over the fence. We would climb the trees to watch a game and then out on the limbs and when no one was looking would drop down inside and run….Every Sunday during the fall they would water the field with a fire house. A bunch of us would slip in and get in the water and have a big time until the day watchman would catch us—it would be Bill Boyd or Neill Morris, and they would scare us but not call our folks….
Right behind the girls’ dorm, Burleson, was an enclosed swimming pool for girls only. It seemed huge to us kids but was only about 20 x 30 feet and had a concrete dome roof….There were no classes on Sunday, and a few of us would open one of the windows, which were at ground level, and take us a swim until we got caught.
The campus and especially Waco Hall had so many good sidewalks that all of us had roller skates….The campus sidewalks were also a great place to ride bicycles. We used to make a sort of polo mallet and get a tin can and play bicycle polo. Hard on the spokes….
The heating plant was by the creek and is now Neill Morris Hall. It had large boilers that generated steam to heat all the campus buildings. The steam lines ran through a tunnel that went all over the campus. We used to get in the tunnel at a manhole and go every which direction and hide out….Also on the side of the building there was a ramp to the top so that trucks could drive up and unload coal into the bins for the furnaces. We used to ride our bikes up and down it, and it was real great when it would ice over in the winter and we would slide down on anything we could find. We always had someone at the bottom to watch out for cars [on Seventh Street] but one time we forget and Marshall Cunningham went down and went completely under a car and out on the other side….
Scattered across the campus and under the trees were benches for students to use for courting. One of my favorite stunts was to slip up behind a couple and scare the daylights out of them. Also, coins could be found under the benches….[Another] of our favorite stunts was to slip in Old Main, open the door that went to the attic and to the towers…and catch squabs to take home to cook and eat….
When Pat Neff got Baylor in the black [after the Depression] there was a building boom. Up until about 1941 I “supervised” it all. In other words I was in everybody’s way and playing all over.”
Meroney went on to use his insider knowledge of the Baylor campus as a student, graduating in 1948 after he served in World War II.
This blog post is an edited version of William Albert Meroney’s memoir, as prepared by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth for The Baylor Line, Summer 1994. Blogging about Texas periodically features “Looking Back at Baylor” selections, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.
If you’ve been to the Baylor campus, chances are good that you have climbed into Judge Baylor’s lap for a photo opportunity. But it took awhile to arrive on that design—the statue was very nearly a standing portrait. (Imagine how different the photos would be!) In honor of R.E.B. Baylor’s birthday this week (likely on May 10), learn how this memorial to Baylor’s namesake came into being.
Preparations for the 1936 Texas Centennial Celebration brought a variety of bright opportunities to the state’s Depression-ridden economy. Towns, counties, and institutions, anticipating a burst of tourism, prepared to attract visitors by capitalizing upon their historical figures and events; and many of the nation’s underemployed artists and craftsmen, aware of the potential commissions which such commemorations could engender, began scouring the state in search of work. To help them find employment, one of the federal government’s New Deal assistance programs appropriated funds in 1935 for disbursement by the Texas Centennial Commission of Control in payment for their work.
Baylor President Pat M. Neff, ever alert to means of channeling outside funding into the university, was quick to recognize the possibilities of this federal largess. No substantial monument had ever been raised on Baylor’s campus to the school’s founder and namesake, Judge Robert E. B. Baylor, and Neff applied for and received a grant of $14,000 for the erection of a memorial to him.
On October 21, 1935, during a chapel service, he named a committee to decide upon the use to which the funds would be put….In addition to reaching agreement about the type of monument which they wanted, they had to select its location, view proposals submitted by sculptors, and recommend to the Commission of Control the artist best able to perform the work…. the committee’s first approval centered upon two proposals made by Gutzon Borglum, sculptor of Mount Rushmore.
The more elaborate of Borglum’s drawings featured a portrait statue of Judge Baylor on a central pedestal, dressed in “a flowing robe of academic suggestion.” Flanking the pedestal at ground level were curved benches, on one of which reclined “the charming figure of a young man, reading,” while on the other sat a young woman “gazing upward as if entranced by the statue.”…The second proposal, favored by committee and sculptor alike, consisted of “a simple statue of Judge Baylor in the dress of the period,” with figures of a young man and woman in high relief on the pedestal’s sides….
The committee liked Borglum’s work, but he broke off contact with the committee to pursue another commission. In January 1936, they nearly approved a proposal by Chicago sculptor Leonard Crunelle (another portrait statue concept), but committee meetings ceased for about nine months, and then Pompeo Coppini of San Antonio came up.
Coppini’s abilities were a known quantity on Baylor’s campus. One of his first commissions in the state had been the statue of former president Rufus Burleson, erected on Burleson Quadrangle in 1905….
At its meeting of September 21, 1936, the Monument Committee voted to request a proposal from Coppini, and the artist visited the campus shortly afterward. By July 1937, having received a firm commission to undertake the work, he returned to consult with the committee and settle final details….
Coppini quickly decided that, for best lighting effect, the statue should face to the south, across the street from Waco Hall. Judge Baylor’s pose required more deliberations—a seated figure could cost more, but also would be more distinctive. The committee also discussed adorning the pedestal itself with bas relief figures symbolic of Judge Baylor’s interests in religion, law, and education, but then agreed with the sculptor on a simpler design.
With all essential details decided, Coppini departed to his studio to design, model, cast, and eventually deliver the product of his own and the committee’s labors. The completed statue of Judge Baylor, unveiled during Founders Day observances on February 1, 1939, was an immediate success within the Baylor community.
This compilation of a two-part article by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth was originally published in The Baylor Line in April and June 1984. Blogging about Texas periodically features “Looking Back at Baylor” selections, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.
This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth originally was published in The Baylor Line in November 1990. Blogging about Texas periodically features “Looking Back at Baylor” selections, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.
This past Sunday, Baylor University and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor rededicated the historic columns on Academy Hill in Independence, Texas, on the grounds of Old Baylor. The event was a celebration of the two universities’ shared past and commitment to preserve their heritage. The columns from the Baylor Female College building are all that remain of Old Baylor now, but what happened immediately after the schools left Independence? Keeth’s essay explores one endeavor on the old campus:
In 1886, after Baylor University had moved to Waco and Baylor College had become Baylor Female College of Belton, the Baptists of Independence were naturally reluctant to be left without the kinds of educational institutions of which they had become so proud. Consequently, the Union Baptist Association attempted to reestablish the former environment by founding Carey Crane Male and Female Colleges on the two deserted campuses. Enrollment remained low, however, and the separate schools for men and women could not be maintained. By 1888 they had been consolidated on the site of the former women’s college, and a few years later the colleges were completely discontinued.
The remaining vacant campus—that of the university—soon developed a somewhat unexpected afterlife of its own. The university’s trustees sold the twice-abandoned land and buildings to T.C. Clay, a local resident who had been a creditor of the university. In turn, Clay conveyed title to the campus to Father Martin Huhn, a Catholic priest, who established an orphanage and school for Negro boys there in January, 1889. The history of that enterprise has been written by Rev. James F. Vanderholt of Port Arthur, editor of The East Texas Catholic, as a part of his study of “The Catholic Experience at Old Washington-on-the-Brazos, Washington County, Texas: The Oldest Black Catholic Community in Texas.”
In 1877 the Diocese of Leavenworth, Kansas had established Holy Epiphany Parish for the black Catholics of that area, and Father Huhn, a native of Prussia, became its pastor. He soon opened an orphanage for Negro boys which he named “Guardian Angels.” It was this institution which he subsequently relocated, together with its orphans, to the former campus of Baylor University in Independence.
The priest was a rough-hewn individual who apparently relied less upon managerial skills than upon the philosophy that most difficulties would eventually resolve themselves. Contemporaries describe his appearance as resembling that of a farmer more than a clergyman: his beard was so long that it hid his clerical collar, and his clothing was “rustic.” He was also prone to impulsive or eccentric acts, such as his purchase of an automobile at a time when he could ill afford it, and despite the fact that he had never driven.
Although Father Huhn was “regular in his spiritual duties,…his financial management of the orphanage was so questionable that the Bishop of Leavenworth appointed a committee of priests to investigate his operation.” Thus, it was probably a relief to all concerned when he announced his intention to remove himself and his orphanage to Texas.
Records of the orphanage are virtually nonexistent and even an extensive dig on the former campus by Baylor archaeologists failed to turn up any hard evidence about its operations or daily life. Rev. Vanderholt speculates that “when the original orphans grew up and moved out, few replaced them.” An 1891 Catholic Directory indicates the presence of thirty-five boys at the orphanage, but their number diminished progressively until, seven years later, none at all were listed. The institution, first known as the “Guardian Angels Industrial School,” gradually became less an orphanage than a parish called the “Church of the Guardian Angel.” Father Huhn himself was the sole staff member of record.
By the time of his death in 1915, the priest owned not only the seventy-five-acre campus itself, but also about a hundred acres of surrounding farm land. Still, “he never seemed to have the cash to take care of the normal affairs and management of the orphanage. The stone buildings of old Baylor began to decay.” His own living quarters were described by a visitor as “quite deplorable” and, perhaps as a result of their shortcomings, Father Huhn became fatally ill with rheumatism.
Shortly before his death, Father Huhn transferred all of his property to his sister. Thus, the land that had been identified with Baptists for forty years, and had subsequently seen a further quarter-century in the service of the Catholic Church, returned once more to private ownership. As its buildings collapsed or were razed for reuse of their materials, the former campus gradually became, as it remains today, virtually indistinguishable from the surrounding fields and farms of Washington County.
Although Keeth calls the former campus “indistinguishable” from the surrounding fields in 1990, Baylor has long been active in its efforts to remain in touch with its town of origin. From Independence homecoming celebrations to past restoration projects to Line Camp, Baylor has worked hard to honor its early history. The images in this post come from our Flickr set on Baylor’s presence at Old Baylor, which you also can see in the slideshow below. Due to lack of records, we do not know whether the Guardian Angels orphanage used the Baylor Female College building or if they used other Baylor structures.