This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth originally was published in The Baylor Line in September 1976, then was reprinted in Looking Back at Baylor (1985), a collection of Keeth and Harry Marsh’s historical columns for the Line. Blogging about Texas periodically features selections from Looking Back at Baylor, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.
This January marks the 91st year since the accident that took the lives of the Immortal Ten. We take a moment to remember those were lost, and learn more about one individual in particular. Please note, that this publication stated the Immortal Ten accident occurred on January 21, 1927 but further research shows that the accident occurred the following day, January 22, 1927.
One of the greatest tragedies that Baylor has ever experienced occurred on January 21, 1927. On the morning of that day the university bus carrying the Bear basketball team to a game with the University of Texas, travelling in a misting rain on a slick road, collided with an Illinois and Great Northern railway train at a level-grade crossing in Round Rock. Ten students were killed in the accident, and most of the other passengers were injured. The university, Waco and the state were stunned by the catastrophe. Hundreds of messages of condolence poured in from individuals, groups and other universities; and a crowd of three thousand attended the memorial service held on campus for the victims. Among those killed was Clyde “Abe” Kelley, Baylor’s all-round athlete and star halfback of the 1926 season. Described as being equally proficient in football, baseball and basketball, Kelley had been selected only a month before his death to be captain of the 1927 Bear football team. In tribute to his ability, and perhaps also as a memorial to the “Immortal Ten” who died in the wreck, Kelley’s captaincy of the team was not rescinded. A newspaper article datelined Waco, August 6, 1927, (sent to the Baylor Line by James A. Fox Jr. ’28 of Lufkin) announced: “The spirit of Abe Kelley again will direct the Baylor Bears when the Green and Gold jerseyed football team takes the field next month to make a try for honors in the Southwest conference. It was decided not to elect another captain, but to let “Abe” continue to run the team in spirit, if not in actuality. A member of the team will be appointed before each game to act as captain.” The “spirit of Abe Kelley” continued to manifest itself on Baylor’s campus for some time. Nearly five years after the accident Dave Cheavens, who had traveled with the team that day as sportswriter for the Lariat, described the incident to the student body. “I saw Abe Kelley pick up his best friend and throw him out the [bus] window when he could see the train bearing down to a certain crash. That was the true Baylor spirit.” The impact of the tragedy was not confined to Baylor. Among the many Texas newspapers which editorialized against the level-grade crossings used by railways throughout the state, the Daily Texan, student publication of the University of Texas wrote: “The slaughter of ten men of Baylor University . . . brings home to Texas the tragedy attendant on the grade crossings which at resent exist by the thousands in Texas. The only thing that will entirely remove grade crossing deaths is their complete elimination. This accident was preventable.” Other publications and groups continued to prosecute the campaign against level-grade crossings, and with the recent Baylor incident to support their arguments, they succeeded in bringing their message to the ears of state highway planners and railroad officials. The November, 1937, issue of Texas Parade—at that time the organ of the Texas Good Road Association—published a photograph of a recently completed railroad underpass at Round Rock. The picture’s caption read: “Had this underpass been in existence eight years ago several Baylor students would not have been killed.” Because the 1927 Round Rock tragedy epitomized the need for improved standards of safety in highway construction, its long-term effects have been beneficial. Texas motorists for the past fifty years have traveled under the protection of the spirits of Abe Kelley and the others of the Immortal Ten.
Each month, we post an update to notify our readers about the latest archival collections to be processed and some highlights of our print material acquisitions. These resources are primed for research and are just a sampling of the many resources to be found at The Texas Collection!
May’s finding aids By Paul Fisher, Processing Archivist
Thomas Dudley Brooks papers, 1926-1932, undated, (#104): Correspondence from his many roles at Baylor University and the community: Chairman of the School of Education, Professor of School Administration, Chairman of the Committee of Placement of Teachers, Dean of Summer School, contributing editor of the Texas Outlook, and mayor of Waco 1928-1929.
House of Poetry collection, 1903-1997, undated (#2064): Collection of published and unpublished poems written by various members of the House of Poetry, an organization that promoted writing and reciting poetry. The Poetry Society of Texas helped support the group by donating financially and giving poems to be preserved.
Janie Pender Castellaw papers, circa 1968, undated (#818): Photographs, literary productions, collected materials, and correspondence collected by Janie Pender Castellaw. Topics include Castellaw’s monetary donation to Baylor University, religious faith, and various prose and poetry topics.
Robert Grundy papers, 1804-1946 (#30): This collection includes many of Grundy’s unpublished manuscripts on early Texas and Western people and other topics. Other materials include personal and family financial documents, land deeds, and other resources.
May’s print materials By Amie Oliver, Librarian and Curator of Print Materials
Camp Bowie and Lake Worth, Fort Worth, Texas. [Fort Worth, TX]: [Reimers], [19–?].
Typically, military souvenir books focus on a particular camp or regiment, but this volume is unique because it also describes Fort Worth’s Lake Worth. In addition to wonderful photographs of military life at the camp, the pamphlet also features photos of activities visitors can enjoy at the lake. This little pictorial volume is as much a promotional for Fort Worth as it is a glimpse into Camp Bowie. Check out a few more pages from this piece on our Flickr page.
Souvenir of Fourteenth Cavalry in Camp at Del Rio, Texas. [Del Rio, TX]: circa 1916.
Filled with ads from Del Rio businesses and group photos of the troops and camp, this volume also provides a lengthy history of the Fourteenth Cavalry. Events covered include their founding in 1901 and various expeditions and tours up until 1916. Check out a few more pages from this piece on our Flickr page.
For the next few weeks, we’re putting up teasers about the fascinating Baylor history, 1921-1930, that Higher Education and Student Affairs students analyzed and shared on the Foundations and History of Higher Education class blog. We’ve already looked at Curriculum and Finance. This week we’re looking atStudents/Student Groups at Baylor, with papers examining the beginnings of new student orientation, the cultivation of the campus environment, and the Baylor community’s response to tragedy. Did you know that…
President Samuel Palmer Brooks taught a year-long freshman orientation course, with topics ranging from Baylor history to selection of vocation to social law and order. (One class was subtitled, “Suppose the freshman class shipwrecked on an island. What would they do?”) Discover more…
Student organizations begun in the 1920s include Yell Leaders, the Baptist Student Union, the Nose Brotherhood, and the Freshman Student Organization…all of which still exist in some form today! Learn more…
The term “Immortal Ten” was coined within one day of the bus-train accident that took the lives of 10 Baylor students in 1927. Read more…
We hope you’ll explore these blog posts and enjoy the benefits of the HESA students’ research and scholarship. If you’re inspired to dig deeper, most of their sources can be found in the University Archives within The Texas Collection and in our digitized materials available online in the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections.
Background on this project: Students in the Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) masters program have taken on the challenge of creating original scholarship that adds to what is known about Baylor’s history. As part of Dr. Nathan Alleman’s Foundations and History of Higher Education course, students were grouped under the five class themes: curriculum, finance, students/student groups, access, and religion. In collaboration with Texas Collection archivists and librarians, students mined bulletins, newspapers, correspondence, and other primary resources as they researched their topics. Final papers have been posted onblogs.baylor.edu/hesabaylorhistoryproject and grouped by their particular sub-topic so that patrons, researchers, and other interested persons could benefit from these students’ work. This is the second installment of an annual accumulating project–see last year’s teasers here. Please visit again for future installments!
Each month, we post a processing update to notify our readers about the latest collections that have finding aids online and are primed for research. Here’s the scoop for June:
Gladys Allen papers, 1882-1893, 1913-1952, undated: Gladys Allen was a teacher, served on the Baylor University Board of Trustees, and was a member of Seventh and James Baptist Church. Includes correspondence, personal notes, genealogical research, newspaper clippings, and photographs.
Lyrics to “America” manuscript, 1895: This manuscript contains a handwritten copy of the song “America” or, alternatively, “My Country Tis of Thee,” by the composer Samuel Francis Smith.
Newel Berryman Crain papers, 1858-1948, undated: The Crain papers chronicle the experiences of a young man from Texas during the beginning of the twentieth century, from his time at Baylor through his various jobs and military service. It also includes correspondence from Crain’s grandfather, Newton M. Berryman, about his studies at Baylor University at Independence in 1858.
[Edcouch] First Baptist Church records, 1941-1974, undated: [Edcouch] First Baptist Church, originally named Los Indios Baptist Church, was organized during the summer of 1924 in Los Indios, Texas. It has undergone a few name and location changes since then. Records consist of manuscripts pertaining to administrative operations of the church.
Hannah-Wiley Family papers, 1909-1930, undated: The Hannah-Wiley Family papers contain correspondence, legal documents, financial documents, and literary production relating to the family of Baylor student Robert “Bob” Lee Hannah Jr., who was one of the “Immortal Ten” who died in a tragic bus/train collision.
Independence Baptist Church records, 1873-1918: Independence Baptist Church was one of the first Baptist churches in Texas. Contains one bound minute book that describes church activities, finances, and disciplinary issues from 1873-1918 and also includes a condensed history of the church from 1839-1873.
Thurmond-Tramwell Slave papers, 1857: These papers include a document originating from Gonzales, Texas, which gives an account of a legal dispute between Thurmond and Tramwell over an enslaved woman.
Frank L. Wilcox Papers, 1923-1966, undated: Contains the personal and professional materials of Frank Wilcox, a former mayor of Waco and the son-in-law of former Texas governor and Baylor University President Pat Neff.