Stories from Independence: San Jacinto Day

By Paul Fisher, Processing Archivist

This is the first in a number of upcoming posts about the town of Independence, where Baylor University’s original campus was, and the connections between Independence and Baylor people and events.

Independence has always been connected with the history of the Republic of Texas. From the renaming of Coles Settlement to Independence, to Sam Houston living in Independence, there is no shortage of connections to historic early Texas people and events. One of these special events celebrated each year is San Jacinto Day.

This holiday, commemorating Sam Houston’s victory at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21 against Santa Anna’s government, was a major holiday at Baylor at Independence. Multiple historical accounts preserved at The Texas Collection at Baylor University in Waco mention the annual festivities of San Jacinto Day at Independence.

Drawing of the male campus of Baylor University, 1870s
Drawing of the Baylor University Male Campus (Windmill Hill) at Independence. Note the buggies moving fast down the road.

One letter, written by Florence L. Davis Bledsoe, vividly describes an event that took place at Baylor University in Independence on San Jacinto Day in 1859:

One of the jubilees here is on the 21st of April, in commemoration of the battle of San Jacinto. We had “big doings” here on the 21st. General Houston was here and spoke to us. I like very much to hear him speak. He said there were but two things he now aspired to, one was to be an overseer of the roads, to see that they were in good order for he knew the ladies did not love to travel over rough roads. The other was to be Squire and see that the young ladies did not marry worthless vagabond fellows and that the young gentlemen did not marry slovenly careless girls.

Margaret Hall Hicks, also a Baylor student at Independence in the mid-1800s, describes the holiday in her unpublished book “Memories of Ancestors.”

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.

Things have changed since the days students used buggys for transportation, but the excitement and fun of holidays and events on campus lives on in such events as Dia del Oso and Homecoming.

Works Cited: Keeth, Kent. “Looking Back at Baylor: a Collection of Historical Vignettes.” Waco: Baylor University, 1985; BU records: Baylor at Independence, Accession #BU/220, The Texas Collection, Baylor University; and Hicks-Hall-Harman family papers, Accession #1726, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

Research Ready: April 2017

Each month, we post an update to notify our readers about the latest archival collections to be processed and some highlights of our print material acquisitions. These resources are primed for research and are just a sampling of the many resources to be found at The Texas Collection!

April’s finding aids
By Paul Fisher, Processing Archivist

Waco Suspension Bridge Pass
From the opening of the Waco Suspension Bridge 1870 until 1889, the Waco Bridge Company exacted tolls on individuals wishing to cross the bridge. Pictured here is a blank pass found in the collection. You’ll find these items in the Waco Bridge Company records, 1868-1991, undated (#2010), box 1, folder 6, at The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

April’s print materials
By Amie Oliver, Librarian and Curator of Print Materials

Tomlin, Henry. Courtship and Marriage of Henry Tomlin. [Dallas?]: [publisher not identified], [1908?]. Print.Tomlin, Henry. Courtship and Marriage of Henry Tomlin. [Dallas?]: [publisher not identified], [1908?]. Print.

Henry Tomlin explains the difficulties he had in marrying his 13-year-old bride due to her parent’s objections. Oddly, nowhere in the volume does Tomlin mention his fiancé’s name or that he is 53-years-old. He also doesn’t mention his nearly two-decade stint in a Texas prison in the late 19th century, which he recounts in another volume, Henry Tomlin: the Man who Fought the Brutality and Oppression of the Ring in the State of Texas for Eighteen Years, and Won. Click here to view in BearCat.

H.J. Justin & Sons. Justin Boots & Shoes. [Fort Worth?]: [publisher not identified], [1947?]. Print.

 

H.J. Justin & Sons. Justin Boots & Shoes. [Fort Worth?]: [publisher not identified], [1947?]. Print.

Touted as the “Bootmakers of the West Since 1879,” Justin Boots & Shoes has been making footwear for nearly 140 years. This circa 1940s catalogue shows the wide range of boots, cowboy shoes, and waddies available at the time as well as photographs of the boot manufacturing process.  Click here to view in BearCat.

Street Car and Bus Service in Dallas: Information for Centennial Visitors and Home Folks. [Dallas?]: [publisher not identified], [1936]. Print.

 

 

 

 

Street Car and Bus Service in Dallas: Information for Centennial Visitors and Home Folks. [Dallas?]: [publisher not identified], [1936]. Print.

This informational brochure highlights the courteous, prompt, and safe modes of transportation that await those visiting Dallas for the 1936 Texas Centennial. A map showing the street car and bus lines is included and as well as info on how to get to popular attractions.  Click here to view in BearCat.

 

 

A Love Story: Two Marines during WWII

By Amanda Gesiorski, Texas Collection graduate assistant and museum studies graduate student

Onnie Clem love letter to “Julie” Cecile Lorraine Julian, undated
Letter from Onnie E. Clem, Jr. to his fiancée, Julie, during his time at home in Dallas, Texas, circa 1944-1945. Onnie E. Clem, Jr. papers, #3939, Box 1, Folder 2.

As impressive as the recent movie Unbroken may be, a better story about a WWII prisoner of war can be found within the Onnie E. Clem, Jr. papers. Not only do we learn about Onnie’s harrowing experience overseas, but we also get a firsthand account of his passionate love affair with his future wife, Julie.

Onnie E. Clem, Jr. was born in Dallas, Texas, and joined the United States Marine Corps in 1938 to see the world. He became a radio operator and was stationed in Peking, China, at the US Embassy. When the United States entered World War II, Onnie took part in the battles of the Bataan and was part of the Bataan Death March. Onnie survived the march only to become a POW at Camp O’ Donnell and Cabanatuan for two and a half years.

On August 19, 1944, Onnie was put into the hull of a Japanese “hell ship” with 750 other American prisoners. Nineteen days later, the ship was hit by an American torpedo. As the ship was sinking, the Japanese tossed a grenade into the hull and shot Americans as they tried to escape. Although injured from the torpedo and shot by the Japanese, Onnie managed to escape and swim three miles to shore, where he was rescued by Filipino guerilla fighters. Onnie was one of only 83 known survivors of this incident. By September 1944, Onnie was on his way back home. A transcribed interview with Onnie from 1972 reveals this harrowing experience.

Onnie’s story does not end there, though. Things heat up when Onnie arrives in San Diego, California, where he meets Staff Sergeant “Julie” Cecile Lorraine Julian, who was a member of the United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve (USMCWR). She served as secretary to the general in charge of public relations along the west coast in San Diego and later at the office in San Francisco.

Staff Sergeant “Julie” Cecile Lorraine Julian
This photograph shows Staff Sergeant “Julie” Cecile Lorraine Julian wearing her official United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve uniform, circa 1944-1945. It was enclosed in a letter she sent to her fiancée, Onnie, while he was in Texas. Onnie E. Clem, Jr. papers, #3939, Box 1, Folder 3.

Julie’s office coordinated Onnie’s war bond tour in California. When Onnie walked into her office one day, there was an instant attraction. The couple had a whirlwind romance, and when Onnie returned home to Texas in November 1944, there was a passionate exchange of letters. In these letters, we learn about Julie and Onnie’s relationship as well as their social and work lives. We get a glimpse of Julie’s romantic history with other soldiers, and Onnie’s attempt to re-assimilate into civilian life. We also learn that upon returning home, Onnie is plagued by a constant stream of inquiries from people wanting to know if he has news about their loved ones. Also woven within these letters is the life of Onnie’s fellow escapee, Verks D. Cutter, and Cutter’s wife Janet Elliot, including their secret marriage. While Julie, Janet, Onnie, and Verks are friends at the beginning, as the letters continue we learn about a falling out between them. Onnie and Julie marry on July 13, 1945, and move to Texas, where they work and raise two children.

Onnie joined the Marines to see the world, and in that he succeeded—his papers tell that story. The Onnie E. Clem, Jr. papers read like a novel full of passion and drama, but they also provide a unique historical insight into the daily personal, professional, and social lives of two Marines during WWII.

Research Ready: August 2013

Each month, we post a processing update to notify our readers about the latest collections that have finding aids online and are primed for research. Here’s the scoop for August:

Maggie Welch Rose Akin, circa 1945
Born on 1868 June 12, Maggie Welch Rose Akin primarily grew up in Texas. This photo is a part of the Akin-Rose papers, which consists primarily of over three hundred letters written between Maggie and Joseph W. Akin during their courtship from 1887 March to 1889 December. Photo circa 1945, box 14, folder 16.
  • Akin-Rose papers, 1819-1981, undated: Correspondence, diaries, financial and literary manuscripts, and photographs of members of the Akin and Rose families from Virginia and Texas in the early nineteenth century to the late twentieth century.
  • Joseph Martin Dawson papers, 1826-1989: Personal papers and published works of Dr. Joseph Martin Dawson, a Baptist preacher who was influential in the public debates concerning religious liberty and the separation of church and state in the early twentieth century.
  • BU Records: Erisophian Literary Society, 1853-1961, undated: Administrative records, literary productions, and correspondence related to this student organization at Baylor that existed between 1853 and 1932 at both the Independence and Waco campuses.
  • Graves-Earle family papers, 1848-1963, undated: These papers chronicle the history of this influential McLennan County family, including the life and work of Major Isham Harrison Earle and his daughter Dr. Hallie Earle, the first female doctor in Waco and the first female graduate of the Baylor College of Medicine.
  • William E. Moore papers, 1901-1979, undated: The bulk of this collection is the Postcards series, consisting of more than 400 postcards. The collection also contains more than 100 letters written to William E. Moore between 1902 and 1918.
Erisophian Literary Society membership certificate, 1859
The Erisophian Literary Society was the second literary society formed at Baylor University in Independence, Texas. This membership certificate (box 3, folder 1) is one of the oldest pieces in the organization’s records.