Looking Back at Baylor: When Tree-Planting Was a Ritual

This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth was originally published in The Baylor Line in February 1980. Blogging About Texas periodically features selections from Looking Back at Baylor, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.

**In honor of Arbor Day, read about Baylor’s early tradition of planting trees to beautify campus as well as mark the passage of campus traditions from one class to the next. **

At the turn of the century, Texas’ official observance of Arbor Day occurred on February 22, in conjunction with the state’s commemoration of George Washington’s birthday. On Baylor’s campus, however, students selected a different presidential milestone with which to combine the annual event. Beginning in 1903, seventeen successive senior classes marked December 4, President Samuel Palmer Brooks’s birthday, by a ritual known as “tree-planting” on Burleson Quadrangle.

Student gather for Tree Planting Day, circa 1907. The photo is marked “Thompson, Waco” the identifying mark of the photographer.

Brooks had assumed Baylor’s presidency in June 1902. By the time of his fortieth birthday, eighteen months later, he had won the admiration and respect of the university’s students to such an extent that the seniors chose this occasion to honor him with their symbolic contribution to their alma mater.

Burleson Quadrangle, in every sense the focal point of the campus, had been completed by the dedication of Carroll Science Hall and Carroll Chapel and Library earlier in the year. The students had sought a project which would make the university’s grounds even more beautiful.

The agenda of the first tree-planting, as reported in the Lariat, set a pattern for years to come. Seniors, garbed for the first time in their caps and gowns, solemnly paraded in pairs to the selected location. They were followed by members of the junior class, who joined them in forming a circle around the site. Following the invocation, a poem and a song which had been composed for the occasion were read and sung, and the senior class roll was called and answered with humorous responses.

The presidents of the two classes saluted one another in carefully worded speeches of jocular challenge and, the tree was placed into the ground, each of the seniors scooped a spadeful of dirt around its roots. After President Brooks had accepted the seniors’ gift on behalf of the university, the spade was handed over to the junior class president for use in similar ceremonies the following year. Then, with eyes moist but spirits high, all participants adjourned to the annual senior- junior football contest on adjacent Carroll Field.

While the broad outlines of the tree-planting ceremonies remained constant, the passage of years saw the addition of new features. By the nineteen-teens, seniors had begun to place more than shovelfuls of earth around the base of their tree. In a 1976 interview Dr. Cornelia M. Smith (BA ’18), retired chairman of the biology department, recalled the 1914 ceremony which she had witnessed as a student: “The climax of the program was reached at the roll call of the class. Each member responded by burying some words of condemnation at the foot of the tree, the things that he or she most detested about Baylor. Some of the burials brought good results, as for instance the abolition of chapel examinations. Can you imagine? Chapel examinations!”

Other buried grievances itemized by the Lariat included final examinations, the campus’ inaccurate system of clocks, certain areas of much- patched linoleum flooring, “sickening campus spooners,” and the rats in Burleson Hall.

Fred Gildersleeve image shows tree planting ceremony.

Perhaps Baylor’s students during the 1920s grew too sophisticated for the continuation of such a simple and rustic tradition: or perhaps, after seventeen years, Burleson Quadrangle was becoming so thickly wooded that no available sites remained for further implantations. Whatever the reason, the annual tree-plantings were discontinued after 1919.

In any case, with the construction of the new heating plant near Waco Creek in 1920, and of Brooks Hall at the northern extreme of the campus in 1921, Baylor’s horizons were beginning to expand beyond the confines of the Quadrangle. Future generations of students would move within a greatly expanded sphere of activity, while continuing to enjoy the shaded and leafy inheritance bequeathed to them by their predecessors.

**Ring Out and Passing of the Key, established in 1927 and 1946, respectively, accomplish the same intent as tree-planting; recognizing and passing on the knowledge and traditions of the university from one class to the next. Similarly, the Freshman Class Hymn, established in 2008, also fulfills the sentiments of tree-planting. The first ceremony included an original poem and song composed for the event.**

Research Ready: March-April 2021

The Texas Collection posts newly accessible resources each month. If you have any questions or would like to use these materials, please let us know and we would be happy to assist!
Cemetery map

Cemeteries, 2018: McLennan County, Texas

Postal map

Through painstaking research, Sharon Erwin McNary Rita Ballentine Hogan, and John R. Kamenec illustrate the most up-to-date information regarding cemeteries in McLennan County. Cemeteries are marked in red and are also included in an alphabetical list.


Post route map of the state of Texas, with adjacent parts of Louisiana, Arkansas, Indian Territory and of the Republic of Mexico, 1878

The first state of the second postal map of Texas, this map includes an explanation of mail service, showing railroads, mail messengers, beginning and ends of routes, the frequencies of delivery and discontinued offices. However, it does not appear to show the actual routes which would not appear until 1879.



Finding Aids


  • BU Records: Baylor Geological Studies # BU/26
    • The BU Records: Baylor Geological Studies contains primarily theses and print materials related to field trips taken by Baylor geology students. Field guides, newsletters, clippings, and brochures are included.
  • J.J. Greve papers #29
    • The J.J. Greve papers document the personal and political work of James Joseph Greve, a lawyer in Nacogdoches, Texas. Correspondence, speeches, and political campaign materials are present.
  • Davis Robert Gurley Family collection #2896
    • The Davis Robert Gurley Family collection contains one account book, genealogical materials, and a family Bible. The account book seems to track financial transactions from a Central Texas plantation owned and operated by Gurley.
  • Daphne Herring papers #3717
    • The Daphne Herring papers contain photographs and cards, organization materials from Baylor and Waco, and correspondence to Daphne and her husband Jack.
  • William Moses Jones papers #598
    • The William Moses Jones papers contain personal photographs, correspondence, financial materials, collected publications, and educational materials such as class records, exams, and academic reports from Jones’ time at Yale and Baylor University.



  • Paul Baker papers #3869
    • The Paul Baker papers contain biographical materials about the life and professional career of Paul Baker, a famous theater director and chair of the Baylor Theatre Department from 1940 until 1963.
  • Burleson Family papers #2612
    • The Burleson Family papers contain correspondence, news clippings, and genealogical materials about the Edward Burleson family
  • Ann Oldham papers #18
    • The Ann Oldham papers contain correspondence, art programs, questionnaires and reports for the Daughters of the American Revolution American Music Committee, biographical sketches of American composers, photographs, newspaper clippings, and printed materials.
  • Vernon John Puryear papers #300
    • The Vernon John Puryear papers consist of correspondence, certificates, diplomas, newspaper clippings, and six scrapbooks documenting his life and work as a university professor and author.
  • Waco Art League records #784
    • The Waco Art League records document women’s interest in the arts in Waco. The records include minutes, by-laws, yearbooks, programs, newspaper clippings, and a scrapbook.
  • Waco Lewis Shoe Store records #3451
    • The [Waco] Lewis Shoe Store records consist of the store’s advertising materials from the 1950s-1960s, which had been collected into a scrapbook. These advertisement materials include photographs, newspaper ads, magazine ads, radio ads, TV commercials, store window designs, and information on events and promotions.
  • Jake Wilson papers #3970
    • The Jake Wilson papers contain clippings, correspondence, obituaries, and collected materials documenting the life of Waco resident W.L. “Jake” Wilson.





The History and Tragedy of First Street Cemetery

This blog post was written by Student Assistant Morgan Ballard. Morgan is a Senior Anthropology (Archeology) major in her second year at The Texas Collection. Morgan wrote this post as an analysis of research methods she learned while at Baylor compared to those used in a real-life scenario. Photos included were taken by Morgan as part of her research. 

The First Street Cemetery was one of the first public cemeteries in Waco, Texas which opened in 1852. The original plot is located on the corner lot of South University Parks Drive, formerly First Street, and North I-35 Frontage Road with additions reaching to the Brazos River and behind Hebrew Rest Cemetery. First Street Cemetery is recognizable by the sparse markers and many unmarked graves further back surrounding the Texas Ranger Museum. In contrast, Hebrew Rest, a perpetual care cemetery is recognizable by the clearly marked rows and ornate fence surrounding the property.

concrete headstone with large laurel wreath carved in upper portion and description of deceased below.
Over time, many headstones were lost, removed, or destroyed at the First Street Cemetery. The one pictured is that of Mary Rebecca Majors, dated 1858.

Buying plots was not a requirement for burial in this cemetery, which has continuously contributed to confusion related to finding graves. The lack of cemetery layout records led to reuse of several plots (stacked graves) as the cemetery filled quickly with various members of society including Civil War and World War I veterans as well as many members of the founding families of Waco. First Street Cemetery has never been a perpetual care establishment, which began to show in the late 1800s as the cemetery began to deteriorate. Headstones began to sink into the ground or were stolen and made identifying graves difficult at best. Considered full, the cemetery was officially closed to the public in 1897. Plots that were purchased, such as those by the Free Masons and the Odd Fellows of Waco, were used until the last interment in the 1920s, after World War I.

Record keeping for the First Street Cemetery has been poor from the beginning, a trend that has unfortunately continued for many years. In 1963, the publication of the McLennan County Cemetery Records, which can be found at the Texas Collection, was the first time intensive cataloging was conducted. However, because of the lack of initial record keeping, the cemetery records only record graves that were visible at the present time. In 1965, in preparation to build the Texas Ranger Museum on the northwest corner of First Street Cemetery, a map, also found at the Texas Collection, was plotted to identify known graves and move them within the confines of the original portion of the cemetery. At the time, legally, only headstones had to be removed from an area to build. No further documentation could be found that extensive searching for unmarked graves was conducted. As such, when looking at the old layout of the cemetery it is highly likely the areas initially checked for graves, including under the parking lot and main building, still contain burial sites.

In 2006 the Texas Ranger Museum set plans to build an additional meeting hall to the main building and hired archaeologist Michael Bradle to conduct an archaeological excavation in the area and report his findings. According to normal standards of archaeological research, reports should include detailed background research of the area, both historic and prehistoric, detailed methods of excavation and all findings, as well as an interpretation of the site including a full investigation if artifacts for cultural importance. An analysis of Bradle’s investigation shows no mention of the First Street Cemetery history or other historic references, nor does it mention artifacts he found. For example, in his report he briefly mentions a brick wall uncovered in one of the deeper excavations but does not list this as an artifact (the map created in 1965 clearly shows the bricks). In the case of known or supposed historic graves, the minimum depth of excavations should be at least six feet down as this is, and has been for some time, the most common burial depth. The report shows Bradle used scraping techniques over the entire site area, which only removes three inches of topsoil, using a shovel or trowel. He also dug trenches of three feet deep, but according to standards these should continue down to bedrock.

Bradle granted the museum permission to begin construction in 2007, however, it did not last long. As construction crews began digging trenches for utility lines, they uncovered several unmarked graves. A cause for alarm, this resulted in years of work on the part of several state archaeologists, archaeology students, legal teams, museum staff, and state officials to look over the original findings from Bradle. Over the span of three years, 200 people were disinterred.


aged and broken headstones closely aligned
New construction, destruction, and spacing issues contribute to the lack of information on those interred and First Street Cemetery.
plot of dirt covered concrete with grass encroaching over it.
Several areas of concrete covered with dirt and encroaching grass mark unidentified graves subject to disappearance if not properly cared for.









In 2013, the First Street Cemetery Memorial Advisory Committee was formed. The committee was comprised of fifteen people including Baylor employees, Historic Waco Foundation members, funeral home directors, avocational historians from the Waco area, and various community leaders. The committee provided historical research on the cemetery, found an appropriate reburial site (Rosemound Cemetery), compiled biographical information of individuals, sought designation of the First Street Cemetery as a Texas Historical site, and submitted text for a historical marker for the reburial site. The committee was active until 2018, ceasing operation once most people were reburied, the First Street Cemetery was designated as a historic site, and the historic markers were placed.

Today the First Street Cemetery still surrounds the Texas Ranger Museum. The city remains in charge of the cemetery and museum grounds yet continues to neglect the cemetery. Efforts are currently being made by a small student organization at Baylor University to receive permission to take care of the cemetery.



“1st Street Cemetery.” S.l: s.n.] 1968, Print.

Bradle, Michael R., Gilbert T. Bernhardt, and Ronald W. Ralph. Archaeological Survey and Monitoring of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum Expansion Project for the City of Waco, McLennan County, Texas. Lampasas, Tex: American Archaeology Group, 2006. Print.

Digital Sanborn Maps 1867-1970. S.l: Bell & Howell, UMI. Print.

First Street Cemetery Location Lists. S.l: s.n., 1992. Print.

First Street Cemetery Memorial Advisory Committee Records, 2013-2015 (bulk 2014). N.p., Print.

“Map of First Street Cemetery.” S.l: s.n.] Print.

Shaw, Rissa. “Waco: City Aims to Right Past Wrongs by Bringing Peace to Disturbed Graves.” Https://Www.kwtx.com, 19 May 2018,  www.kwtx.com/content/news/Local-city–483106341.html.

Smith, J.b. “Dead Await Reburial at Ranger Museum.” WacoTrib.com, 15 July 2020, wacotrib.com/news/government/dead-await-     reburial-at-ranger-museum/article_3576a4a0-5bfa-5e69-91db-bd656b1df48a.html.

Usry, John M. McLennan County, Texas, Cemetery Records. Waco: N.p., 1965. Print.

A Call to Service

black and white image of Robert Preston Taylor in military chaplains uniform
Chaplain Robert Preston Taylor early in his post-World War II military career

Robert Preston Taylor was born in Henderson, Texas, in 1909 and attended Baptist revivals from an early age. As a teenager he began preaching at the events, gaining a small following and lauded for his work. He attended Jacksonville (Texas) College Academy and Junior College, then Baylor University and Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary, all while following his call to serve. But what happens when that call takes you to battle? To serve God while fighting for your life?

For Taylor, his journey to serve God and country began in 1938 while he was serving as a preacher at the South Fort Worth Baptist Church. He received a letter from the Chaplains Division of the War Department seeking men to minister to American troops. After praying, Taylor answered the call by joining as a Reservist. He was stationed at Fort Hood for two months later that year. In 1940, the call came once again from the War Department. This time to serve one year in the Army Air Corps as a Chaplain. Again, he prayed, and decide he would take a leave of absence from the church. He was assigned to the Army Air Corps, 31st Infantry Regiment, Philippine Division located at Barksdale Field, Louisiana. Because of rising tensions, the division was activated and arrived in the Philippines in May 1941.

While in the Philippines, Taylor was united with twenty-five other chaplains and provided servicemen regular chapel services until the attack on Pearl Harbor. Once the U.S. declared war, Manila was attacked by the Japanese. With casualties rising and a constant need for services, Chaplain Taylor was authorized to use one of the few remaining Jeeps to travel and minister to the troops. He saw a need for the presence of the Word. As circumstances worsened, services became mere scraps of paper passed about with hymns, a verse or two of song, and short bits of scripture.

In the Spring of 1942, U.S. and Filipino troops could no longer sustain action against the Japanese, and officially surrendered. As the Japanese prepared to transport the now prisoners of war, they began confiscating items of personal value. For Chaplain Taylor that meant the loss of his Baylor class ring. On April 8, the troops, already weakened by malaria and dysentery, were forced to endure over twenty-four hours without food or water at the beginning of a sixty-five-mile trek across the peninsula, what would be become known as the Bataan Death March.

The walk took about five days as Japanese troops inflicted many torturous acts upon the prisoners, pushing them to their brink. As they marched, Taylor became both a physical and spiritual pillar, literally holding up his comrades as he professed his faith. Through sheer luck, the chaplain was rescued before the end of his trek. An American ambulance patrol was given permission to collect those in the worst physical health. Although Taylor was not among them, he was recognized as a chaplain and for his need at the Japanese prison camp hospital ward.

Chaplain, Brigadier General Robert Preston Taylor. Taken when he was Assistant Chief of Chaplains of the United States Air Force.

The hospital provided a reprieve, if only temporary. It was bombed and evacuated; survivors were sent to Cabanatuan prison camp. In camp, Taylor learned only half of the chaplains in the unit survived. As new assignments were made within camp, Taylor chose to attend to the frailest, those in the “pearly gates ward,” or death house. After repeated denials by the strict Japanese camp management to perform any worship services, he ultimately joined the funeral detail to ease his thoughts of men being laid to rest without a final blessing.

Prisoners were denied many basic needs in Cabanatuan, including medicine. Aware of this, Chaplain Taylor, at his own risk, organized a smuggling operation to obtain supplies. The operation was only thwarted by his own request for a Greek New Testament Bible. This request sent him to the hot box, a 20 square foot cell he shared with one other. In confinement, Taylor’s faith waivered, but the hope of others and constant conversation with the Lord uplifted him when he was low.

After fourteen weeks of confinement and reduced rations, dysentery took its toll on Taylor; his release to the hospital ward only came at the eminence of his death. Still unable to perform worship services, the prisoners defiantly sat in vigil outside the hospital ward and conducted prayer chains around the clock for two weeks. Taylor’s recovery brought a renewed hope and visible symbol of prayer to camp. After a two-month recovery, and change of camp management, Taylor helped perform the first camp wide religious service. In his time at Cabanatuan, Chaplain Taylor ministered to over 10,000 men, sharing his faith, and observing that of others.

Taylor’s call to ministry led him throughout his imprisonment and beyond. After nearly four years he was released and looked forward to seeing his wife, only to discover she believed him to be dead and had recently remarried. Not letting this affect his faith, the chaplain decided to continue military service over 105 days of convalescent leave. His decision made him one of only two chaplains in his unit who endured the atrocities of World War II to continue his career. Taylor’s experiences allowed him to share his faith through his chaplaincy and public speaking engagements. Eventually, Taylor remarried, had one son, and turned a one-year commitment into more than 25 years of service that culminated as the Chief of Chaplains for the United States Air Force.

Research Ready: January-February 2021

The Texas Collection posts newly accessible resources each month. If you have any questions or would like to use these materials, please let us know and we would be happy to assist!


The Bankhead Highway from Roswell to Fort Worth and Dallas, circa 1926-1936

From the Automobile Club of Southern California, this set of maps shows the Bankhead Highway from Roswell, New Mexico to Fort Worth and Dallas. The maps are broken into segments and  denotes various travel stops such as hotels, gas stations, and garages.


Tauola dell’isole nuoue, le quali son nominate occidentali, & indiane per diuersi rispetto, 1558

A 1558 copy of the 1540 wood cut by Sebastian Münster. This map is the 8th state and depicts Magellan’s ship as well as the Spanish flag over the Caribbean and the Portuguese flag near the coast of Brazil. Additionally, it was one of the earliest maps to identify Japan (“Zipangri”).



Finding AIDS


  • BU Records: Baylor Religious Hour Choir BU/311
    • The BU Records: Baylor Religious Hour Choir contains correspondence, programs, and audio recordings of the Baylor Religious Hour Choir. The choir is a student-led religious choir that is known for their singing at Baylor campus events, local area churches, and international mission trips.
  • BU Records: Continuing Education BU/356
    • BU Records: Continuing Education contains a wide variety of documents related to the operation of Baylor Continuing Education program from the late 1970s up to 2005, including correspondence, memos, annual reports, course materials, grant and scholarship applications, financial documents, and other administrative files.
  • BU Records: First Families of Baylor Award BU/222
    • The BU Records: First Families of Baylor Club includes minutes, correspondence, membership lists, and other materials. The club was a student organization that Baylor students could join if they had a previous relative attend Baylor.
  • BU Records: Native American Student Association BU/410
    • The Native American Student Association records contain correspondence, contracts, membership records, financial documents, publicity, and a grant proposal related to the activities of the student group.
  • BU Records: Retired Professors and Administrators Program BU/312
    • BU Records: Retired Professors and Administrators Program contains correspondence, faculty information and obituaries, newsletters, and other materials from the program’s efforts to connect, engage, and honor the legacy of retired faculty and administrators.
  • Normand Louis LaRoche papers #643
    • The Normand Louis LaRoche papers contain a variety of documents and materials related to LaRoche’s experiences serving in the United States Army during World War II, including his time overseeing prisoners of war in Camp Milam, Texas, and serving in the military police in Europe.
  • J.C. McGary papers #377
    • The J.C. McGary papers include one transcribed letter that McGary wrote as a soldier in the American Civil War.
  • Waco Civic Theatre #2231
    • The Waco Civic Theatre records document business operations and performances of the community volunteer theatre group from 1931-2020. Notable documents include minutes, programs, scrapbooks, photographs, clippings, and correspondence.
  • [Waco] Hamilton House Records #3048
    • The [Waco] Hamilton House records document the history and use of the house as a place for women’s clubs to meet and operate in Waco, Texas. Some clubs include the American Association of University Women, the Baylor Round Table, and Altrusa of Waco. Clippings, meeting minutes, membership lists, notes, cookbooks, newsletters, brochures, yearbooks, and financial documents are included.
  • Washington County Tennant Farm ledgers #3971
    • The Washington County Tenant Farm ledgers contain small bound ledger books kept by Washington County landowners.



  • American Association of University Women, Waco Branch records # 232
    • The American Association of University Women Waco Branch records contain correspondence, membership listings, yearbooks, by-laws, and publications for local, state, and national levels. Branch projects and scrapbooks are also included.
  • [Waco] Austin Avenue Methodist Church records #2912
    • The [Waco] Austin Avenue Methodist Church records document a limited history of the church from 1900 to 1970. Charter membership lists, baptism records, minutes, and yearbooks are present, in addition to other materials.
  • Belton Brick Manufacturing Company records #1520
    • The Belton Brick Manufacturing Company records document the company from incorporation in 1883 until 1889. The collection includes stock certificates, legal documents, company minutes, and financial ledgers and daybooks.
  • [Waco] Brookview Neighborhood Association records #3700
    • The [Waco] Brookview Neighborhood Association records documents the early stages of development for the community program. Minutes, by-laws, membership rosters, various reports and correspondence are included. A neighborhood housing survey is also available as it was the basis for early projects.
  • Fiesta de San Jacinto Invitations #459
    • The Fiesta de San Jacinto invitations include oversize invitations for the annual Fiesta de San Jacinto activities in San Antonio, Texas. The oversize items are dated 1937-1959 and include art prints and Fiesta history.
  • Edward Clark proclamations #285
    • The Edward Clark proclamation contains two photocopies of an 1861 proclamation by Texas Governor Edward Clark, calling for a military force of 2,000 to be raised for service in the Confederate Army.
  • Confederate Veterans collection #1864
    • The Confederate Veterans collection contains a program and delegate’s certificate to United Confederate Veterans reunions and two essays about veterans.
  • J.W. Curtis papers #355
    • The J.W. Curtis papers contain a single transcribed letter from Curtis, describing his work at a California gold field near Sacramento.
  • Gay Family collection #2229
    • The Gay Family collection contains genealogies of the Gay, Mann, and Ellis families, along with news clippings about Texas independence and Baylor University President Reddin Andrews. There is also a poem written in tribute to Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
  • Sinia Reaves Brewer Harris papers #3016
    • The Sinia Reaves Brewer Harris papers contain correspondence, clippings, photographs, manuals, and other materials documenting Harris’ life and work as a a schoolteacher and project director for the National Youth Administration.
  • Pan American Round Table of Waco, Texas Scrapbooks #2964
    • The Pan American Round Table of Waco, Texas scrapbooks include seven books documenting events and membership of the organization. Scrapbooks consist of newspaper clippings, photographs, newsletters, conference programs, correspondence, and other related materials.
  • Reconstruction collection #2288
    • The Reconstruction collection contains general military orders #1 and #11 from the Reconstruction period in Texas history.
  • Henry C. Smith papers # 3784
    • The Henry C. Smith papers consist of letters and a few photographs recounting Smith’s daily experiences in the United States Army in flight cadet training school in Ithaca, New York; Dallas, Texas; and Waco, Texas during World War I.


Dear Mom: I’m not sick; I’m not dead

This blog post was written by Graduate Student Assistant B.J. Thome. B.J. is a Ph.D. candidate in English Literature in his first year at The Texas Collection. He processed and wrote a finding aid for the Henry C. Smith papers, #3784. 

Image from original letter by Henry C. Smith with the text: No mother, I am not sick with Influenza nor am I dead. I am just seeing how hard i can work for 33 dollars per month. Every person in this office is in the hospital with the "Influ" and I am trying to see if I  can handle four men's jobs. Believe me it has kept me going 7:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. for the last three days...
Excerpt form the Henry C. Smith letter dated October 11, 1918.

Concerned that his mother might worry about his health given the epidemic raging throughout the United States, Henry C. Smith sends her a message: “No mother, I am not sick with the Influenza nor am I dead.” Replace “Influenza” with “Coronavirus,” and Henry’s message might resemble messages we’ve sent our own mothers recently. But Henry’s message isn’t recent. It is, in fact, more than one hundred years old, written to his mother on October 11, 1918. Despite the century-long gap between Henry’s experience and our own, his descriptions of quarantine and his attempts to deemphasize the epidemic’s effects on his life might feel eerily familiar to our own pandemic experiences.

Henry C. Smith enlisted in the Army near the end of World War I, seeking a commission as a pilot. Throughout 1918, he studied in various camps and flight schools: first at Cornell, then at Camp Dick near Dallas, and ultimately learning to fly at Rich Field in Waco, Texas. (Rich Field was an army air base founded in Waco in 1917.  The Extraco Events Center and Waco High School now sit on the land formerly occupied by Rich Field.)

Black and white photo of twelve men dressed in World War I U S military uniform standing in front of a bi-plane.
During World War I, army cadets like Henry C. Smith and the cadets in this photo learned how to fly at Rich Field in Waco, Texas. Henry often references accidents or damaged planes in his letters suggesting that cadets also occasionally learned how to crash. (George H. Williams papers, Accession #3297, Box [156], Folder 7)
As a cadet, Henry wrote almost daily to his mother; his letters from October reference the ongoing Influenza epidemic and the quarantine measures put in place to slow its spread. In one letter, he notes, “We are not allowed to go in public gatherings from today on.” In another, he tells his mother, “Did I tell you we are under quarantine. We have to sleep with out [sic] bunks at least five feet apart and they prefer having you sleep under the stars.” Avoiding crowds, staying several feet apart, and being safer outside than inside—sound familiar?

Even as Henry frequently notes the quarantine procedures, he attempts to downplay their importance, preferring to focus on his flight training. The October 11 letter, for example, discusses the flu and quarantine in only a few lines, most of which have already been quoted. The bulk of the letter describes his first solo flight and the wonder of that experience. Other letters referencing the flu are similar: lines mentioning that he feels fine and quarantine safeguards, while the rest of the letter recounts his experiences training.

However, despite his tendency to deemphasize the impact of the epidemic and quarantine, his brief mentions of it reveal a more significant effect on Henry’s life than he probably wanted to admit. In a letter from October 13, he notes, seemingly in passing, that the nearby Camp MacArthur is hauling out the dead: “Thirty-three dead ones were shipped out yesterday.” In a letter from October 19, he notes that he loaned his last dollar to one of his bunkmates so that he could go home to care for his sick wife. Given how often Henry’s letters emphasize his lack of money, he obviously thought being sick with the flu was serious enough to give away his last dollar.

Most telling of Henry’s influenza-related fears, is the brief letter from October 23. In it, Henry writes: “I don’t really have the time to write but no letter came today and I am afraid someone is sick. Please write if it is only a note and let me know if everything is alright.” Henry’s mother and sisters had the habit of writing to Henry at least as often as he wrote to them. When he didn’t receive a letter for some time, he began to worry that someone might be sick—and given the ongoing epidemic and his frequent assertions that he doesn’t have it, the clear implication is that he worries someone in his family might be sick with the flu.

Henry’s letters demonstrate experiences from 1918 which we, having survived 2020, might well share. The precautions we are encouraged to undertake during our own pandemic resemble the precautions Henry took during his quarantine. Our own complex responses to the current pandemic allow us to sympathize with the complicated mix of Henry’s desire to focus on the normalcy of his training rather than the danger of the spreading disease while still fearing that it might harm his loved ones.

Looking Back At Baylor: Sticking to the ‘Baylor Red’

This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth was originally published in The Baylor Line in February 1979. Blogging About Texas periodically features selections from Looking Back at Baylor, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.

As we enter a new semester in the dreary, cold of winter there is always warmth in the red brick surrounding campus. Read on to find out how the brick came to be, where it is found, and the man who watched it happen. 

Neill Coker Morris worked his way through Baylor with the help of a part-time job in the campus heating plant, the building whose tall white smokestack remained a campus landmark for five decades. When he graduated in 1927 he was immediately hired by his alma mater as assistant superintendent of buildings and grounds. Retiring in 1973 as Director of Plant Operations, he assumed the emeritus title of Adviser to Plant Operations, a position which he held at the time of his death in June, 1978. In addition to participating in most major building projects on the campus, Morris accumulated during his half-century at Baylor a vast fund of knowledge about the minutiae of its development. Interviewed in 1975 by Baylor’s Program for Oral History, he recorded for future reference some of these facts which might otherwise have become lost with the passage of time. The following excerpt from his memoir, which has been edited and slightly paraphrased for the purpose of clarity, tells of one almost unnoticed transition in the appearance of the campus: the heyday and the eventual supersession of the type of bricks known as “Baylor Red.”


INTERVIEWER: Was there any attempt to make the campus buildings uniform in architectural design?

MORRIS: The planning committee tried to stick to the same color as a rule, on the buildings, with the red brick which became so popular that the brick company at Brownwood named it the Baylor Red. It’s on Memorial and Allen-Dawson and Alexander [dormitories] and Pat Neff Hall. The planning committee always tried to hold to the red brick, but we had varied from the Baylor Reds on two or three buildings. Collins [dormitory] was made out of a Mineral Wells red brick that matched very closely; but Mans McLean Science Building, Sid Richardson Science Building, the air-conditioning center, and Moody Library are all out of a different brick entirely.

INTERVIEWER: Why? Why didn’t you stick to the original Baylor Red; do you know?

MORRIS: Yes, the architects on Mars McLean convinced the building committee that they could use red, but shouldn’t use the Baylor Red because it had a little orange in it. They wanted a straight red. The building committee went along with them. Then, after they got that one in, there wasn’t anything else to do with Sid Richardson and Moody Library but to use the same brick. You couldn’t get that close together with two different bricks.

INTERVIEWER: Why did the architects insist on the darker red? Was it just a matter of personal preference with them?


INTERVIEWER: Did you agree with that at the time?

MORRIS: As long as it was red it didn’t make me too much difference. I don’t remember now who was on that building committee, but they — or the board of trustees — liked it all right, so we went ahead with it.


The old heating plant, in which Morris had first stoked the furnaces as a student and later had supervised the maintenance of campus building and grounds, was remodeled in the mid-1970s. With its smokestack removed and its interior reshaped, it became an administrative annex to Pat Neff Hall, and also remained the headquarters of plant operations. In January 1979, with the approval of Baylor’s Board of Trustees, the building which had served as Morris’ campus base for more than half a century — constructed in the early 1920s of a brick which antedates the popularity of the Baylor Red — was officially renamed and dedicated in his honor as “Neill Morris Hall.”


Neill Morris Hall, built in 1921, was also the long time home for the Baylor Communication Sciences and Disorders department. An anonymous  $10 million gift allowed Baylor CSD to renovate and move into the Cashion Academic Center after the relocation of the Hankamer School of Business to the Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation. Neill Morris Hall was demolished in 2017. 

A full transcript for the Neill Coker Morris oral history interview can be found in the libraries’ digital collections while an audio file is available by contacting the Baylor University Institute for Oral History.  

Sharing Culture through Christmas Cards

Text of "Las Posadas" a song traditionally sung during Christmas time in Mexico
The song “Las Posadas” as sung during the processional seeking shelter for Mary and Joseph. Jose (Joseph) first asks for shelter, el Mesonero (the inn-keeper) denies shelter, and the Coro (choir, peregrinos) is finally granted shelter.

This post was written by Sylvia Hernandez, Archivist at The Texas Collection. 

Mexican culture and Catholicism are very much intertwined. I identify in both traditions and attend a church where my culture is highly visible. I remember going as a child during the Christmas season and participating in several traditional events. My family went to Las Posadas, traversing church grounds singing songs and seeking shelter for Mary and Joseph. The Nacimiento (Nativity Scene) was set up and the manger remained empty until Midnight Mass, as Christmas Eve turned to Christmas Day. It was always a joy watching the padrinos (godparents) rock the baby Jesus in his basket down the aisle and gently placing him with Mary and Joseph. As a kid though, I fondly remember receiving a bag with an apple, orange, and a few pieces of candy at the end of mass. A small treat to celebrate the birth of Christ.

I preface this blog with my own story because memories came tumbling back as I processed the Pan American Round Table of Waco scrapbooks. The Pan American Round Table was established in 1916 as part of a larger movement to promote international relations in the western hemisphere. The Waco Chapter was established in 1957 as a local women’s group that met regularly and discussed culture and politics of the twenty-two countries in North, Central, and South America as well as the Caribbean. The scrapbooks document activities of the group from 1957-1995 through newsletters, photographs, yearbooks, correspondence, and photographs.


Black card with traditionally clothed Mexican pilgrims singing las posadas in processional. They are carrying candles and a platform holding Mary and Joseph under the stars.
Los peregrinos carry the likeness of Mary and Joseph on processional through Las Posadas. Mary can be seen sitting atop a burro, los peregrinos are carrying candles to light the way, and the uppermost star is exaggerated in appearance to distinguish it from the others.

As I went through the books, the Christmas cards stood out for their visual content. Several of the cards, mostly from Mexico in the 1960s, depict the imagery I grew up with; Mary and Joseph on their journey to Bethlehem, los peregrinos (pilgrims), burros (donkeys), estrellas (stars), velas (candles), and piñatas. I mentioned these images to my coworkers, and they didn’t quite understand why I was so excited. In response, I have prepared the following as my quick interpretation of these images, what they represent, and why they are important from my point of view as a Mexican American Catholic.

Las Posadas/ Los Peregrinos– Las Posadas is a reenactment of the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem taken by Mary and Joseph. For nine nights prior to Christmas, los peregrinos visit houses, predetermined by the church, singing traditional songs seeking shelter for Mary and Joseph. They are denied over and over until finally, los peregrinos are granted shelter and celebrate with a large party. Members of the church dress up to represent Mary and Joseph, or a platform with their likenesses is carried throughout the journey.

A child in traditional Mexican clothing sits atop a burro (donkey) carrying a gold chest and wearing a gold crown in front of two trees. The image is in the lower left corner of a Christmas card with well wished written in Spanish.
A child in traditional Mexican clothing sitting atop a burro carrying a small gold chest and wearing a gold crown is representative of the three wise men. He sits below the bright, guiding star.

Burros- Mary is often seen riding atop a donkey led by Joseph. It is unclear whether it happened or not but would make her journey easier at nine months of pregnancy. Burros are also seen ridden by others, usually children, as they reenact the journey by the wise men to bestow gifts upon the newborn king.

Estrellas/ Velas- La estrella is a depiction of the guiding star followed by Mary and Joseph as well as the wise men as they sought out Jesus after his birth. It is recognizable amongst other stars as it is often depicted larger and looks more illuminated than the rest. Velas are carried by los peregrinos on their journey also to guide them to shelter and Jesus.

Piñatas– In celebration of finding shelter Las Posadas ends with a party to celebrate the coming of our savior. There is a piñata broken by children in attendance, often in the shape of a star. Again, a guiding light to Christ.

The impact of the images in the scrapbooks provided a reminder of the true reason for the season, but also an opportunity to share and spread knowledge through alternate approaches. Our understanding of Christmas traditions is unique to our upbringing. Faith and culture were equally present in mine, therefore traditional images take the form of religious symbols heralded by those who look like me. They bring about memories if family lost and traditions upheld, a common thread no matter how you celebrate.




Research Ready: November 2020

The Texas Collection posts newly accessible resources each month. If you have any questions or would like to use these materials, please let us know and we would be happy to assist!

Finding Aids
  • P. B. McKay papers #375
    • The P.B. McKay papers include three transcribed letters that McKay wrote as a soldier in the American Civil War.
  • John D. Dace papers #385
    • The John D. Dace papers contain a single transcribed letter from Dace, describing how he hopes Vicksburg can outlast the siege taking place at the time.
  • Thomas Travis Moore collection #3450
    • The Thomas Travis Moore collection contains letters and military records from Moore’s service in World War II, as well as research and writings from Moore’s great-nephews concerning his service.
  • Alexander Archer Beville papers #2048
    • The Alexander Archer Beville papers contain a 2nd lieutenant’s commission in the Texas militia, receipts, and check stubs from Waco area businesses.

There are two new additions to the Frances C. Poage map collection: Texas (1835) and Nueva Hispania Tabula Nova (1548). The cartographer for Texas was David H. Burr, who created five editions of this map (1833, 1834, 1835, 1845 and 1846). The 1835 edition show a much larger Texas extending west to the 106th meridian and north to the Arkansas River.

The second map, Nueva Hispania Tabula Nova, is now the oldest in the map collection and is a first edition. California is depicted as a peninsula, and the Yucatán Peninsula is depicted as an island. The Yucatán would be correctly drawn as a peninsula in the 1561 edition. However, cartographers continued to struggle with California, even in later years, as some would depict the territory as an island.

Photograph of map of Texas. Brown background with red line symbolizing border. Border extends panhandle north toward Oregon Country, west toward California, and stops South at the Nueces river. Eastern border edges Louisiana and Arkansas along the Sabine River.
Texas (1835)
Black and white map of Mexico and Southern United States as depicted in 1548. Mexico, Florida, Cuba, and the Baja peninsula are accurately placed while the Yucatan peninsula is drawn as an Island.
Nueva Hispania Tabula Nova (1548)

Stained Glass: Not Just for Churches

This blog post was written by Student Assistant Morgan Ballard. Morgan is a Senior Anthropology major in her second year at The Texas Collection. She assisted processing the L. L. Sams Stained Glass Studio records.

Four panel board depicting the hand of Christ in sunshine blessing the world.
Mock-up of the window found at the former Bergstrom Air Force Base Chapel in Austin, Texas

The words “stained glass” typically elicit the image of large, brightly colored, religious depictions in a church or temple sanctuary. However, these religious buildings are not the only places one can find such pieces of immaculate glass work. Stained glass companies have worked on both religious and secular themed glass for many years. A good example of this versatility is the work done by L.L. Sams Stained Glass Studio. The Studio operated as a division of the L. L. Sams Company in Waco, Texas, from 1952 until its closing in 1992. The studio produced many pieces for numerous churches as well as secular and semi-religious places that stained glass might not be expected.

Blue and white image of a rectangular image wrapped in grape vines around a top hat with cane and bowl and spoon.
A sketch of a proposed window for Oliver’s Restaurant in Odessa, Texas.

In the 1960s secular stained glass became more popular in America. During this time, restaurants began commissioning glass signs and decorative pieces which included restaurant names, still life scenes, and other abstract designs. The L. L. Sams collection holds items from two restaurants, Oliver’s in Odessa, Texas, and Mac’s Driveteria in Abilene, Texas. In addition to businesses, there was also a rise in residential stained glass. These windows were very diverse in style and included designs ranging from abstract patterns to heavily detailed scenery. For example, two residential commissions in the L.L. Sams collection are for a, relatively large, nature scene and an abstract design respectively. Although the trend of residential stained glass has declined in recent years you can still find many houses where it was installed in use today. Surprisingly, institutions such as public schools have commissioned pieces. La Vega High School in Bellmead, Texas, is a good example as they have a large window of the school’s pirate mascot that was commissioned in 1984.

Transom designs for a residential installation. Design one is two rectangles with clear glass with yellow roses in the corners. Design two is a tree on top of red rocks with a grey background.
These two images depict transom deigns created for a residential installation.

Some places, although secular in nature, occasionally have religious themes and areas associated with them. Hospitals, specifically in this collection, had the second most commissions behind churches. Most of the pieces were commissioned for the chapel, or another religious area, of the hospital in which they reside. While most of the pieces for these hospitals have religious themes, there are also many abstract pieces made in conjunction with them. A few of the hospitals in the L.L. Sams collection include Coryell Memorial Hospital in Gatesville, Texas, and Graham General Hospital in Graham, Texas. Mausoleums also account for a good portion of commissions to L.L. Sams. For example, Restland Mausoleum in Dallas, Texas, placed many commissions for both religious and abstract pieces. Military bases including Bergstrom Air Force Base, Lackland Air Force Base, and Fort Hood also commissioned pieces. The most impressive of these are from Fort Hood and reside in the main chapel on base. These windows have religious symbols and figures, such as crosses and Jesus, alongside images of soldiers and other military emblems. All these pieces are large and finely detailed, taking up most of each wall they reside on.


3 by 3 panel of images depicting military insignia such as propeller wings, a castle, crossed swords, and guns.
The Second Armored Division Commissioned images for the chapel at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.

Universities and Colleges have also commissioned stained glass. Baylor University, although a Christian school, has primarily commissioned secular stained glass. The largest collection on campus, and possibly in the world, is in the Armstrong Browning Library with a total of 62 windows. Most of the windows depict poems by Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Only one window, the “Cleon”, was made by L.L. Sams. This piece is housed in one of the third-floor offices and, unfortunately, is not open to the public. It can, however, be seen via the Armstrong Browning Library website (https://www.baylor.edu/browninglibrary/index.php?id=942971). This window centers around the poem “Cleon” by Robert Browning and depicts the columns of Baylor’s first campus at Independence, Texas, along with state specific imagery such as mockingbirds, yellow roses, and red honeysuckle. L. L. Sams also created pieces for Burleson Hall, Old Main, and Bennett Auditorium. These pieces, which commemorate past Baylor presidents, can be found above the doorways of each building’s exterior doors. These simply patterned windows contain the name of the president it is honoring and the dates which they served at Baylor.

Although L.L. Sams Stained Glass Studio is no more, and in its place stands an apartment complex of the same name, their work still stands in many places. The commissions mentioned above are only a small fraction of the work they completed. Many more concept pieces and documents are housed in The Texas Collection archives.



Half moon shaped stained glass transom window depicting the years served of Baylor President Rufus C. Burleson that can be found in Bennett Auditorium.
Transom Window above the door in Bennet Auditorium at Baylor University. Other windows of early university presidents can be found in Burleson Hall and Old Main.


“History of Stained Glass.” The Stained Glass Association of America. Accessed October 08, 2020. https://stainedglass.org/resources/history-of-stained-glass/.