Stories from Independence: Baylor Historical Society

By Paul Fisher, Processing Archivist

This post is part of a series that highlights Independence, Texas, the home of Baylor University from 1845 to 1886.

One of the many historic preservation groups that has assisted with preserving history in and around Independence through the years was the Baylor Historical Society. Formed to “stimulate interest in the history of Baylor University,” the society was founded in February 1941. Membership was open to anyone interested, and it cost only $1 to join the society. Members attended regular meetings on the Baylor campus, and usually heard a historical paper presentation at each meeting. Featured speakers included such state luminaries as Price Daniel (governor of Texas 1956-1962) and Pat Neff (governor of Texas 1921-1925, president of Baylor University 1932-1947). Longtime Baylor staff and faculty members P.D. Browne, Robert L. Reid, and Lily Russell served as society officers, and many descendants of early Baylor-associated families were members of the organization.

Independence-Columns008w
Celebrating the first restoration of the iconic columns at Independence. Pictured are (left to right): Dr. Gordon Singleton, President of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Judge Royston Crane, son of former Baylor president William Carey Crane,, Dr. W. R. White, President of Baylor University, Judge E. E. Townes, Vice President of the Baylor Board of Trustees (Board of Regents).

The society was very interested in preserving Texas, Baylor, and community history at Independence. Members raised money to stabilize the iconic Baylor columns, discussed a plan to reconstruct a dorm and operate it as an inn, and lobbied the Texas Legislature to turn part of Independence into a state park. Members also helped the Texas State Garden Club landscape around Independence.

It is not known exactly when the society disbanded. By 1964, the society only had 21 members at their annual meeting, and many of the people who had taken the lead in forming and running the organization had passed away. Longtime member P.D. Browne donated the society’s records to the Texas Collection in 1975.

 

 

Works Cited: BU Records:  Baylor Historical Society, Accession #BU/28, The Texas Collection, Baylor University, and BU Records:  Historical Research Office, Accession #BU/103, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

 

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: October 2014

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 are October’s finding aids:

Female Building at Baylor University, Independence, Texas, circa 1925
One of the earliest known photographs of the Baylor campus at Independence after the school moved to Belton and Waco. This structure, with four iconic columns, was built in 1857. Frank O. Martin Independence papers #3927, box 2 OVZ, folder 1.

 

Map of San Felipe, Texas, 1876
This map shows John Borden’s property in San Felipe, Texas. He and his brothers purchased several hundred acres in the Austin County region during this time. Borden Family Collection #724, box 1, folder 1.

Texas over Time: Baylor Female Building at Independence

Texas has changed quite a bit over the years, as is readily seen in our vast photograph collection. To help bring some of those changes to life, we’ve created a “Texas over Time” series of GIFs that will illustrate the construction and renovations of buildings, changing aerial views, and more. Our collections are especially strong on Waco and Baylor images, but look for some views beyond the Heart of Texas, too.

Columns-w

      • The Baylor Female Building was built for Baylor University in 1857 by contractor John P. Collins and was three stories tall, with features including classrooms, an auditorium, a library, and recreation rooms.
Baylor Female Building
Baylor Female College, 1884
      • The building underwent structural repair in 1877 and continued to host Baylor students until 1886, when Baylor Female College (as the female department had been known since receiving its own charter in 1866), moved to Belton, Texas, and ultimately became the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. (1886 also was when Baylor University joined with Waco University.)
      • After Baylor Female College left, the building continued to be used as an academic building by the now defunct William Carey Crane Male and Female Colleges until the schools were renamed Binford University, and eventually closed altogether in 1897.
      • In the early half of the twentieth century, the neglected building became victim to a fire which gutted the building and hastened its demise. Soon, all that remained were the columns we see today (which have been restored a few times).
Independence columns, 1952
“Admiring bronze plaque installed on the restored columns of the old administration building of female department of Baylor at Independence, left to right: Dr. Gordon Singleton, President Mary Hardin-Baylor College, Belton; Judge Royston Crane of Sweetwater, Dr. W. R. White, President Baylor University, Waco; Judge E. E. Townes, Houston, V.P. Baylor Board of Trustees”
    • Starting in 2001, the columns were made a part of Baylor’s Line Camp experience, where incoming students are taken to the site and walk under the arch of the columns, thus symbolically joining the Baylor Line.
    • Baylor at Independence is now jointly overseen by Baylor University and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.

See our Flickr set on Baylor at Independence for these and other images of the old building on Academy Hill.

Sources:

Murray, Lois Smith. Baylor at Independence. Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 1972. Print.

Dunn, Betty L. 1889: Baylor Campus at Independence Becomes a ‘Colored’ Catholic Orphanage & School. 2014. Print.

White, Michael A. History of Baylor University, 1845-1861. Waco, Tex.: Texian Press, 1968. Print.

“A Visit to Independence.” Baylor Magazine, Summer 2011: Vol. 9 Issue 4. Web.

Images: General photo files–Baylor–Buildings–Independence Campus

GIF and factoids by Braxton Ray, archives student assistant

Looking Back at Baylor: An Afterlife at Independence

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 Baylorselectionswith hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.

Baylor Female College, Independence, Texas-circa 1970 (3)
Wildflowers grow aplenty around the old columns of the former Baylor Female College at Independence, Texas. Photograph circa 1970

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.”

Baylor Female College, Independence, circa 1930s
This 1930s image from the Frederick Eby collection shows more of the building that once was the Baylor Female College. The stones from this building and that of Baylor’s other structures were harvested over the years for other building projects in Independence until all the columns were all that remained.

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.

The Baylor Columns Dedication: June, 8, 1952 (2)
The Baylor Female College building columns were restored and dedicated in 1952. Left to right are Dr. Gordon Singleton, president, Mary Hardin Baylor College, Belton; Judge Royston Crane of Sweetwater; Dr. W.R. White, president of Baylor University, Waco; and Judge E.E. Townes, Houston, V.P. Baylor Board of Trustees.

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.

Research Ready: June 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 June:

Sul Ross as a young man, undated daguerreotype
The Barnard-Lane Papers contain materials from many of Waco’s oldest and most influential families, including this daguerreotype of Lawrence Sullivan Ross, a former governor of Texas and brother-in-law of Barnard Lane (found in box 28, folder 7).
  • Gladys Allen papers, 1882-1893, 1913-1952, undated: Gladys Allen was a teacher, served on the Baylor University Board of Trustees, and was a member of Seventh and James Baptist Church. Includes correspondence, personal notes, genealogical research, newspaper clippings, and photographs.
  • Lyrics to “America” manuscript, 1895: This manuscript contains a handwritten copy of the song “America” or, alternatively, “My Country Tis of Thee,” by the composer Samuel Francis Smith.
  • Barnard-Lane papers, 1800-1983, undated: George Barnard was one of the early Waco pioneers. The collection contains personal materials as well as those related to his trading post.
  • Ava Storey and Dixie Anderson Butcher collection, 1903-1998, undated: Contains documents and photographs from the Storey and Butcher family, as well as photographs of the affluent Waco drug store chain, Pipkin Drug Store.
  • Newel Berryman Crain papers, 1858-1948, undated: The Crain papers chronicle the experiences of a young man from Texas during the beginning of the twentieth century, from his time at Baylor through his various jobs and military service. It also includes correspondence from Crain’s grandfather, Newton M. Berryman, about his studies at Baylor University at Independence in 1858.
  • BU Records: Dean of the Union Building (Lily Russell), 1936-1966: Administrative
    records related to Baylor’s Union Building, as well as some of Russell’s personal
    records and materials from when she was Director of Public Relations at Baylor.
  • [Edcouch] First Baptist Church records, 1941-1974, undated: [Edcouch] First Baptist Church, originally named Los Indios Baptist Church, was organized during the summer of 1924 in Los Indios, Texas. It has undergone a few name and location changes since then. Records consist of manuscripts pertaining to administrative operations of the church.
Telegram from Mary Jane Hannah to her husband, Robert Lee Hannah, following the loss of their son, Bob, 1927
Telegram from Mary Jane Hannah to her husband, Robert Lee Hannah, following the loss of their son, Bob. Bob Hannah was one of what Baylor calls the Immortal Ten who died in a train/bus collision en route to a basketball game in Austin. Hannah-Wiley papers, box 1, folder 5.
  • Hannah-Wiley Family papers, 1909-1930, undated: The Hannah-Wiley Family papers contain correspondence, legal documents, financial documents, and literary production relating to the family of Baylor student Robert “Bob” Lee Hannah Jr., who was one of the “Immortal Ten” who died in a tragic bus/train collision.
  • Independence Baptist Church records, 1873-1918: Independence Baptist Church was one of the first Baptist churches in Texas. Contains one bound minute book that describes church activities, finances, and disciplinary issues from 1873-1918 and also includes a condensed history of the church from 1839-1873.
  • Colonel Chris H.W. Rueter collection, 1927-2004, undated: Consists of correspondence, certificates, postcards, artworks, photographs, and biographical information collected by Baylor alum and WWII veteran Colonel Chris H.W. Rueter and his family.
  • BU Records: Rufus C. Burleson Society, 1900-1919: Documents the operations and activities of one of Baylor’s women’s literary societies that was most active in the early 1900s.
  • James Anderson Slover papers, circa 1907-1913, undated: Copies of a manuscript written by Slover, Minister to the Cherokees: A Civil War Autobiography, describing early family history on the frontier in the United States and Texas.
  • Thurmond-Tramwell Slave papers, 1857: These papers include a document originating from Gonzales, Texas, which gives an account of a legal dispute between Thurmond and Tramwell over an enslaved woman.
  • Frank L. Wilcox Papers, 1923-1966, undated: Contains the personal and professional materials of Frank Wilcox, a former mayor of Waco and the son-in-law of former Texas governor and Baylor University President Pat Neff.