Research Ready: September-October 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!

 Finding Aids
  • BU records: Program for Regional Studies, Accession #BU/265
    • BU Records: Program for Regional Studies contains correspondence, records, grant proposals, and other materials related to the operation of Baylor University’s Program for Regional Studies and its interdisciplinary research concerning Texas and surroundings regions.






Crossing the Atlantic: The Ben Merrick papers

This blog post was written by Graduate Student Assistant B.J. Thome. He is a Ph.D. candidate in English Literature in his second year at The Texas Collection. This post is the third in a series about the 56th Evacuation Hospital, an Army medical unit with close ties to the Baylor University College of Medicine, which was active during World War II.

Before the war, the S.S. Mariposa, the ship that transported most of the Baylor Unit across the Atlantic, was a cruise ship with a route between San Francisco, Hawaii, and Australia. The Mariposa carried 775 passengers with a crew of around 400. [Ben Merrick papers. Accession #3896, Box [200], Folder 3, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.]
Ben Merrick, like Lawrence Dudgeon Collins and Jabez Galt, was a medical officer in the 56th Evacuation Hospital, commonly known as the Baylor Unit. Like the other members of the Baylor Unit, he received a commission in the Army Medical Corps Reserves and was called into active service in 1942. Like Collins and Galt, he served with the 56th Evac in North Africa and Italy, writing of his experiences in a diary and his letters home, including the taxing experiences of the Anzio beachhead.

Ben Merrick with his wife Hattie. They were married shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor and only had a handful of months together before Merrick was called to active duty with the rest of the Baylor Unit. [Ben Merrick papers. Accession #3896, Box [200], Folder 2, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.]
Anzio, however, wasn’t the only time when the 56th faced the possibility of danger. In fact, as revealed by Merrick’s diary entries, the initial crossing of the Atlantic was a frightening experience. Whereas Collins, Galt, and a handful of other medical officers from the 56th crossed the Atlantic in a smaller ship with a brief stop in Bermuda, Merrick traveled with the majority of the 56th in a repurposed cruise ship, the S.S. Mariposa.

The first difficulty they faced were the crowded conditions aboard ship. Before the war, the Mariposa typically carried around 1,200 people, including both passengers and crew. Once the war started, however, the Mariposa was repurposed to transport military personnel across the Atlantic, carrying well over 5,000 people. The soldiers being transported were packed into any room where space could be found or made. The stateroom, where Merrick slept during his journey across the Atlantic, was originally designed for two passengers. During the war, nine officers were crowded into the room. Merrick’s first diary entry at sea, dated April 16, 1943, describes his room: “Stateroom 112 is anything but spacious. A room about 12 x 12 feet into which are crowded 9 bunks, in 3 tiers of 3, each tier having its bunks supported from 2 upright pipes by means of chains.”

Not only was the ship crowded, but the entire crossing was overshadowed by the threat of German attack. Merrick’s first diary entry aboard ship notes, “Of course, everyone has thought and talked about the possibility of torpedo attacks. There are a goodly number of ack-ack guns on top on top. Hope we don’t have to use them!” While crossing the Atlantic, the Mariposa might be ambushed by German submarines firing torpedoes. They also might be attacked by German bombers, requiring the Mariposa to use the antiaircraft (or ack-ack) guns Merrick references.

This Merrick cartoon shows the fears of German attack that members of the Baylor Unit faced during their Atlantic crossing. It  is one of several created for The Story of the 56th Evac, a book compiled by the members of the Baylor Unit to memorialize their service during World War II. [Ben Merrick papers. Accession #3896, Box [200], Folder 3, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.]
As their journey continued, Merrick noted how they took several precautions to minimize the risk of German attack. First, from the outset, the Mariposa did not maintain a direct course. Instead, as Merrick notes on April 16, “the ship is zigzagging, as you can see by its wake.” His entry the next day similarly observes that, although they seem to be generally headed southeast, the ship “changes directions so often that she has at various times also headed northeast, due east, & southwest.” The constantly changing course would make it difficult for German ships to pursue the Mariposa and its zigzagging would help prevent German submarines from successfully targeting the ship with torpedoes.

Another precaution they took was maintaining a strict blackout after 6:40 pm. The risk, of course, would be that any light source after dark would make the ship an easy and obvious target in the middle of the ocean. Those who flouted the restrictions even in a small way faced consequences. Merrick’s entry from April 18, 1943, describes two such breaches of the blackout: “Today I found out that a sergeant had tried to light a cigarette out on deck, against the advice of his fellow soldiers, for we have been cautioned against that time & again. He had no sooner struck the match than he was tackled by a dozen soldiers. His stripes were removed & he is now awaiting to be called on the carpet by the captain of the ship, so I’m told. It is also rumored that an officer lit a cigarette on boat deck last night & that he may be confined to his room for the remainder of the trip. If it’s true, such punishment would not be severe enough in my estimation.”

Despite the crowded conditions, the constant threat of German attack, and the careless actions of a couple of the soldiers, the Mariposa crossed the Atlantic safely. On April 24, 1943, the ship put into harbor at Casablanca, much to the relief of the passengers. As Merrick’s diary entry, written while waiting to disembark, announces, “It was really a thrill to see land—Africa! Safe at last! No submarine would get us now.”



During the war, the S.S. Mariposa was refitted to transport military forces. The ship was repainted with grey paint to be a less obvious target on the open sea and remodeled to carry up 5,000 passengers and sailed with a crew of only 200. [Ben Merrick papers. Accession #3896, Box [200], Folder 3, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.]

Paperwork and Propaganda: The Jabez Galt Papers

This blog post was written by Graduate Student Assistant B.J. Thome. He is a Ph.D. candidate in English Literature in his second year at The Texas Collection. This post is the second in a series about the 56th Evacuation Hospital, an Army medical unit with close ties to the Baylor University College of Medicine, which was active during World War II.

Jabez Galt, like Lawrence Dudgeon Collins, was a medical officer in the 56th Evacuation Hospital, known as the Baylor Unit, during World War II. His brother, Sidney, also served in the Baylor Unit. Galt wrote frequently to his parents and sisters, his letters home occasionally included brief notes from his brother as well. In addition to serving in the hospital, Jabez Galt was also an active photographer. Hundreds of photographs and negatives in the collection record the Baylor Unit’s service in North Africa and Italy. Among his letters, photographs, and other materials, a couple themes appear: Galt’s battles with the caprices of military paperwork and the use of propaganda to influence soldiers’ morale.

Galt was repeatedly engaged in battle with the complications of military paperwork. One such battle even delayed his entry into the army. In April of 1942, Galt’s orders didn’t appear when everyone else in the Baylor Unit was to report to Fort Sam Houston for training. Near the end of April, he received word from the Surgeon General that his application was pending receipt of a physical. Galt, however, had taken a physical in March. He contacted the administering camp discovered the problem: his physical had been filed as an application to the army nursing corps to be commissioned as a registered nurse! In early May, after his pending application had apparently vanished, Galt had to fill out all of his application forms again. Finally, on May 15, 1942, Galt received a telegram with orders to report to Fort Sam Houston for service in the 56th Evacuation Hospital.

Not all of Galt’s paperwork battles left him as the victim. In 1945, after the war had officially ended in Europe, Galt arranged a trip to Cairo for himself. While serving overseas, military officers would occasionally receive leave to visit rest camps in secure locations away from the front lines. These leaves became somewhat more common in the wake of Germany’s surrender, perhaps as a way to help manage morale, or to pass time as the complexity of redeploying US forces home to the States or to the war in the Pacific were worked out. During one such leave in Athens, Galt stumbled upon orders with a list of officers who would travel to Cairo. He found a typewriter, added his name to the list, and had a tailor remove his service patch from his uniform and replace it with a patch from the unit assigned leave to Cairo. If caught, Galt would be fined for being out of his assigned theater of operations. Manipulated military paperwork and a potential fine of $500 was worth seeing (and photographing) the Sphinx and the Pyramids during a brief visit to Egypt.

A second theme appearing in Galt’s papers is the use of propaganda. Scrapbooks and negatives contain multiple examples of Allied and Axis propaganda leaflets fired behind enemy lines to decrease soldiers’ morale. Axis leaflets followed a couple lines of thought: that continued battle in Europe or specific locations like the Anzio Beachhead would inevitably result in the soldier’s death, that the leaders back home were expending soldiers’ lives for their own economic gain, and that the women—wives, fiancées, or girlfriends—left behind would be unfaithful to the soldiers.

Galt’s letters also reference the radio broadcasting of Axis Sally. While US forces battled in Italy, a fascist broadcaster nicknamed Axis Sally frequently attempted to decrease the soldiers’ morale by urging them to surrender, announcing the movements of Allied forces, or justifying Axis actions. One reference to Axis Sally came on March 22, 1944, the day after an attack on the evacuation hospitals gathered on the Anzio Beachhead. Galt notes that Sally justified the attack by claiming that the US was using the hospitals as rest camps—after all, Sally claimed, they had photos of men playing volleyball at the hospital. This claim frustrated Galt, who comments, “Naturally we play ball here & would fly kites or do anything else for diversion now that spring is here.” Given the intensity of the hospital’s work caring for so many battle wounds amidst the constant artillery fire and air raids on the beachhead—which last month’s account from Lawrence Dudgeon Collins described in detail—Galt’s desire for any activity that might serve as a momentary diversion was justified. At the same time, however, his frustration with Axis Sally’s claims also indicates that the propaganda served its function: it successfully upset Galt’s morale.

56th Evacuation Hospital: Lawrence Dudgeon Collins

This blog post was written by Graduate Student Assistant B.J. Thome. He is a Ph.D. candidate in English Literature in his second year at The Texas Collection. This post is the first in a series about the 56th Evacuation Hospital, an Army medical unit with close ties to the Baylor University College of Medicine, which was active during World War II.

By December 1944, Collins and the 56th had been overseas for more than a year and a half. It would be another ten months before Collins finally returned home after the end of the war. [Lawrence Dudgeon Collins papers, Accession #1931, Box #6, Folder #8.]
During World War II, the United States Army formed several medical units drawing on personnel from medical schools and hospitals. One such unit was the 56th Evacuation Hospital, comprised primarily of doctors and nurses from Baylor University College of Medicine based in Dallas, Texas. Evacuation Hospitals were the predecessors of the more well-known MASH units, setting up near battle lines to stabilize wounded soldiers for transportation to General Hospitals for long-term treatment and recovery. The 56th Evac served from 1942 to 1945, treating more than 73,000 wounded soldiers, prisoners of war, and civilians in North Africa and Italy. The Texas Collection wishes to honor the service of the doctors and nurses of the Baylor Unit by sharing some of their experiences as seen in the letters, photographs, scrapbooks, and other materials housed in our archives.

On this page from a letter describing his experiences at Anzio, Collins writes unusually large letters to simulate the terrifying sound of an approaching aerial bombardment. That moment of terror, he says, prompts one to pray and to “cuss yourself for a sap for not having prayed enough previously.” [Lawrence Dudgeon Collins papers, Accession #1931, Box #2, Folder #1.]
Lawrence Dudgeon Collins, a doctor on the faculty of Baylor University College of Medicine, enlisted in the Army as a member of the 56th Evacuation Hospital. While serving in Africa and Italy, he wrote his wife almost daily. His letters describe his experiences as a junior medical officer, complaining of his frustration with the politics and red tape of Army procedures, discussing the various books he read and films he saw (often with the suggestion of whether his wife should read or see them), describing the landscapes he saw and cities he visited, describing his medical work, and walking the fine line of sharing his war experiences without worrying his family back home.

Perhaps the most intense experience was the time the 56th Hospital spent on the beachhead of Anzio, Italy, as part of the Army’s push towards Rome in the early months of 1944. During these months, Collins’s letters home became more infrequent as the hospital received a stream of patients, keeping the doctors and nurses working constantly. The personnel were stretched so thin that for several weeks Collins was placed in charge of an entire ward focused on treating gas gangrene patients, who were quarantined in an attempt to prevent the disease from spreading.

This photograph shows Collins and two nurses treating a British patient on the Anzio beachhead. Collins’s experience treating gas gangrene led to him giving lectures on the topic and even publishing a paper about it in the October 1944 issue of The Medical Bulletin of the North African Theater of Operations. Jabez Galt’s notes about this picture mention that he later saw the patient in full recovery. [Jabez Galt papers, Accession #2347, Box #2, Folder #8.]
Adding to the stress of the constant influx of wounded soldiers, the hospital’s location on the beach of Anzio placed them between the firing lines of German and Allied artillery. Thus, while treating patients from dawn to dusk, they constantly heard the massive artillery guns firing at each other over their heads. Another frequent source of terror was the air raids conducted on military targets near the hospital—air raids that periodically dropped bombs on the hospital as well. In a letter initially dated April 13, Collins describes the terrifying experience of hearing those dropping at night: “When he is flying toward you in the distance you hear a burrrUMP!, burrUMP, burrrUMP closer and louder each time, the ground quaking, and you feel a terrible monster is taking slow, relentless steps toward you.”

The 56th hospital during a night air raid. The bright streaks are tracer rounds from antiaircraft guns. [Jabez Galt papers, Accession #2347, Box #2, Folder #6.]
The combination of terror from air raids and fatigue from treating patients during every waking moment, however, led to one darkly humorous incident. When air raids happened during the night, some medical officers would scramble for foxholes; others, too tired from their work, would simply roll over onto the floor and try to go back to sleep. One night, Collins was so exhausted that he slept through several air raids, despite his tentmate’s attempts to rouse him. Finally, during the eighth or ninth air raid of the night, the tentmate successfully woke Collins up. The tentmate then ran to his foxhole while Collins remained in his sleeping bag on his cot until the sound of a falling plane scared him enough “to hit the ground, sleeping bag and all.” Because of his exhaustion, he quickly fell back asleep, not noticing that his sleeping bag ended up resting against the warming stove and caught fire. Collins, however, was so exhausted he didn’t notice the fire until his tentmate returned. As Collins writes, “When he got back and waked me up again it was too late to do anything about the bag except get it out of the tent and let it go.” After that experience, Collins dug out the ground under his cot so that he could sleep below ground level and didn’t use a sleeping bag again until December.

Despite his own fear, Collins was more concerned with his wife and family’s fears. His letters from Anzio repeatedly assure his wife that the papers were overexaggerating the dangers and bombings. He also delayed writing about his Anzio experiences in detail until after the 56th moved to a more secure location. And even after writing the letter in April, he didn’t send it until May, not wanting to add to his wife and family’s worry about his safety.


Research Ready: July-August 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!

Finding Aids
  • Jack Hamm Illustration collection #155
    • The Jack Hamm Illustration collection includes original drawings, art prints, and newspaper clippings of Hamm’s work in cartoons and religious illustrations.
  • [Waco] Clifton Manufacturing Company records #1830
    • The [Waco] Clifton Manufacturing Company records document the company located in Waco, Texas. Legal documents, clippings, correspondence, newsletters, organizational charts and reports, credit memos, photographs, and printing plates are present.

      Example of a weekly illustration created by Jack Hamm and distributed by Religious Drawings, Inc. to numerous Christian organizations. The Illustration is dated October 1955.
black and white image of Robert Preston Taylor in military chaplains uniform
Chaplain Robert Preston Taylor
  • Robert Preston Taylor papers #3597
    • The Robert Preston Taylor papers primarily document the military career of the chaplain after his service in World War II. The collection includes military records, sermons, photographs, books, correspondence, and audio recordings. Items from his career at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and post retirement are also included.
  • Speight-McKenney Family collection #10
    • The Speight-McKenney Family papers contains correspondence, calling cards, photographs, poems, songs, and an herbarium. The collection was primarily created by Florence Speight, daughter of prominent early Waco citizen Joseph Speight.
  • Horace Clark papers #530
    • The Horace Clark papers contain materials documenting the life of Horace Clark, principal of the Baylor Female Department and Baylor Female College in Independence, Texas.
  • BU Records: 56th Evacuation Hospital # BU/94
    • BU Records: 56th Evacuation Hospital consists of a certificate of appreciation, a letter, and copied newspaper clippings related to the achievements of the 56th Evacuation Hospital.
  • BU Records: Baylor-Waco Foundation #BU/43
    • BU Records: Baylor-Waco Foundation contains a variety of materials related to the fundraising efforts of the Foundation in order to benefit Baylor University and the City of Waco.
  • BU Records: Discussion Board #BU/404
    • BU Records: contains message board posts discussing a wide variety of topics related to Baylor and its administration, with a focus on President Robert Sloan’s administration and the Baylor 2012 initiative.

Research Ready: May-June 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!

  • Linguistic Families of American Indians North of Mexico

    Linguistic Families of American Indians North of Mexico, circa 1910

    • This map illustrates 58 areas, grouped by native languages as well as a small inset of northeastern Siberia and the Aleutian Islands. Originally published in 1891 in John Wesley Powell’s Indian Linguistic Families of North America, this specific map was republished in Bulletin 30 of the Bureau of American Ethnology’s Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. John Wesley Powell (1834-1902) was the first director of the Smithsonian Bureau of Ethnology.


Scheeps-Togt door Ferdinand Magellaan uit Kastilien gedaan na R. de la Plata en van daar door zyn Ontdekte Straat tot aan de Moluccas
    • Although it was created roughly 185 years later, this map illustrates the voyage of Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521), who commanded the expedition which completed the first recorded circumnavigation of the world. Magellan died in the Philippines and the map clearly displays the end of his route. Ultimately, the expedition was completed by Juan Sebastián Elcano (c.1486-1526), but this is not included on the map. The map was included as an illustration for the Dutch translation of Diego Lopez de Sequeira’s (1485-1530) travel accounts.





Palacios City, Matagorda County, Texas
    • Map of the Colonization Grants to Zavala, Vehlein & Burnet in Texas, belonging to the Galveston Bay & Texas Land County

      The map shows the original town plan and subdivision of Palacios City as divided by the Palacios Townsite Company. The town was ultimately incorporated in 1909 and currently claims to be the “Shrimp Capital of Texas.”




Finding Aids


  • Laura Wise Maverick papers #663
    • The Laura Wise Maverick papers contain one scrapbook, a diary, and a travel journal documenting the singer’s personal and professional life. Contained in the materials are programs from performances, playbills, announcements, news clippings, photographs, and personal documents belonging to Laura Wise Maverick.



  • David Crockett Burleson papers #2875
    • The David Crockett Burleson papers contain two certificates, one a commission as a 2nd lieutenant in the Confederate army, and the other certifying an increase in his pension fund.
  • Albert Triplett Burnley papers #556
    • The Albert Triplett Burnley papers contain journals pertaining to land and business ventures in the early years of the Republic of Texas.
  • [Waco] Sanger Heights Neighborhood Term Paper and Research collection #2925
    • The [Waco] Sanger Heights Neighborhood Term Paper and Research collection tells the history of the Waco neighborhood through written and oral materials collected by Dr. Allan Robb during his English 1304 course taught at Baylor University. Items include term papers, oral interviews, tax records, floor plans, photographs, maps, and copies of other historical documents.
  • Southwestern Council of Latin American Studies records #742
    • The Southwestern Council of Latin American Studies records document creation and early operations of the organization. Records include minutes, by-laws, financial reports, conference programs and planning documents, correspondence, and selected conference papers.

Breaking Down the “Women’s Sphere”: The Origins of the American Association of University Women at Baylor University

This blog post was written by second-year Student Assistant Brigid Splaine. Brigid recently completed her Junior year as a Political Science Major, with a Minor in History. 

Written appeal by the Fort Worth Chapter of AAUW to Baylor University President, Samuel Palmer Brooks. AAUW Fort Worth wrote to encourage the president to participate in the accreditation of the university by the organization. [American Association of University Women, Waco Branch Records, Accession #232. Box 9, Folder 5]
Since it was first chartered in 1845, Baylor University has included women in its mission of providing higher education, marking it as one of the “first coeducational colleges or universities west of the Mississippi” (5). It would not be for another ten years until coeducational learning would be introduced into any other public university which by then Baylor already had their first female graduate, Mary Gentry Kavanaugh (5). Yet despite providing female students with ample access to attend the university and obtain a degree, inequality between the female and male students was as present as ever. While women were able to seek enrollment at the university, “their experiences were rarely equal to men’s once on campus” (6). Women at this time were seen by society as being “physically unequal to men” perpetuating “the unequal treatment of women on campus” (6). These societal pressures limited female students at Baylor to the “women’s sphere,” only allowing women access to certain majors and student organizations (6).

Despite these ongoing inequality issues, Baylor was able to effectively address them with the help of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Established in Boston, Massachusetts in 1882 as the American Association of Collegiate Alumnae (AACA), this group focused on inequality issues by developing higher educational opportunities for women while also setting high standards for institutions serving women. In 1921, the AACA merged with another group, the Southern Association of College Women, to form the AAUW we can still see working today. The AAUW began its involvement at Baylor in 1923, when it recognized the university as being one of the few in the state of Texas to be placed on this accredited list (1). The AAUW would accredit higher education institutions after they displayed that a fixed set of standards had been met by the university, such as providing the “same pay for the same work as men” and calling for a dean of women to be created that would have “an equal rank with that of the dean of men” (1).

Ms. Edna E. McDaniel arrived in Waco in the fall of 1924 to serve in the newly created role as Dean of Women at Baylor University (2). Previously serving at the University of Texas in the same role, Ms. McDaniel was influential in helping Baylor obtain admission into the American Association of University Women as well as improving the lives of female students at the university. After her arrival in the fall of 1924, the new Dean of Women helped Baylor achieve the standard for accreditation and earned “admission into the AAUW” (2). McDaniel “advocated strongly for the vocational opportunities” for female students on campus, wanting Baylor women to be “well rounded and seek out vocations they were passionate about” (4).  Dean McDaniel helped break down the barriers of the “women’s sphere” on campus by encouraging women to pursue careers outside of the socially acceptable teaching degree. She states that it was “a pity that there are so many women with various talents who are all trying to be schoolteachers when they finish their college career” and while she saw the teaching professions as a noble line of work, she believed “there are a large number of other fields in which some women would be far more successful than they would be in teaching” (3). When Dean McDaniel resigned from her position at Baylor in the Spring of 1926 to “accept a position with the University of Oklahoma as dean of women” her impact was profoundly felt across the Baylor campus for years to come (2). From 1921 to 1930, the percentage of women enrolled at Baylor increased 5%, no doubt because of the improved conditions for female students cultivated by the work of Dean McDaniel and the American Association of University Women (6).

The AAUW chartered its Waco branch in 1926. The Waco Branch continued to carry out the AAUW’s mission of promoting education and equity for women through a variety of different programs including everything from study groups to science fairs to scholarship programs. The Waco Branch worked to support college-educated women at Baylor, as well as middle-school aged girls in the community in any way they could. After 75 years of serving Baylor and the surrounding community, the Waco Chapter of the AAUW disbanded in 2001 due to declining membership numbers and insufficient funds, but the legacy of their work would continue to be felt for many years to come.

Works Cited

  1. “For Equal Rights in Coed Colleges: Texas Branch of American Association of University Women will Demand Justice” Waco News-Tribune, 27 April 1926,
  2. “Dean of Women at Baylor Drafter by Oklahoma to Take New Place in Fall” Waco News-Tribune , 22 April 1926,
  3. “Decades of Growth: 1919 – 1940s” Impact, School of Education, Baylor University
  4. DeLong, Misha. “Road to Educational Equality: Women’s Access at Baylor from 1921 – 1930.” HESA Baylor History Project,
  5. “Meet Seven Baylor Women who Blazed New Trails in the Sciences.” BaylorProud, 7 March 2019,,parts%20in%20the%20university’s%20success.
  6. “Access at Baylor: 1921 – 1930.” HESA Baylor History Project,

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://, 19 May 2018,–483106341.html.

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

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