by Carl F. Flynn, Director of Marketing & Communications for
Information Technology & University Libraries
Today at 10:00 a.m. our former director, Kent Keeth, will be laid to rest at a graveside service at Oakwood Cemetery, just a few blocks away from The Texas Collection. Keeth’s 30 years of leadership charted a course for our library that made The Texas Collection a vital resource for scholars and others interested in the history of Baylor University, Texas history, and the cultural development of Texas.
Keeth was born on August 25, 1938, in Marshall, Texas, to Lonnie and Hazel Keeth. He attended Baylor University and graduated in 1960. He majored in history, but had a wide range of interests and skills, minoring in English, Spanish, philosophy and economics. He went on from Baylor to earn an M.A. in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1961 and a Master of Library Science degree from the University of California at Berkeley the following year. From 1962-1964, Keeth organized and began operation of a new library at the Malaysian Teachers College in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Then, from 1965-1968, he worked as a reference librarian for the Legislative Reference Service of the Library of Congress. As part of his duties, he performed reference and research services for Members of Congress, Congressional Committees and their staffs. Keeth then returned home to Texas, serving as an archivist for the Eugene C. Barker Texas History Center at the University of Texas at Austin. On June 1, 1973, at the request of Baylor President Abner McCall, Keeth returned to his alma mater as director of The Texas Collection.
Keeth believed that The Texas Collection should serve as a repository for early Texas history while also having an eye toward researchers years from now who will want to understand Texas culture. Under his direction, The Texas Collection acquired maps, documents and other artifacts that told the story of a time before Texas was a Republic, along with contemporary books, magazines, papers, postcards, photographs – anything that captured Texas as it developed. In addition, The Texas Collection gathered materials that recorded the history of Baylor University, and Keeth quickly became the unofficial historian of the university. In fact, the thing most people associate with Keeth are his “Looking Back at Baylor” articles that regularly appeared in the Baylor Line magazine. Keeth enjoyed researching and writing these articles and his work lives on through The Texas Collection’s online resources as we continue to share his work.Continue Reading
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.
This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth originally was published in The Baylor Line in November 1990. Blogging about Texas periodically features “Looking Back at Baylor” selections, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.
This past Sunday, Baylor University and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor rededicated the historic columns on Academy Hill in Independence, Texas, on the grounds of Old Baylor. The event was a celebration of the two universities’ shared past and commitment to preserve their heritage. The columns from the Baylor Female College building are all that remain of Old Baylor now, but what happened immediately after the schools left Independence? Keeth’s essay explores one endeavor on the old campus:
In 1886, after Baylor University had moved to Waco and Baylor College had become Baylor Female College of Belton, the Baptists of Independence were naturally reluctant to be left without the kinds of educational institutions of which they had become so proud. Consequently, the Union Baptist Association attempted to reestablish the former environment by founding Carey Crane Male and Female Colleges on the two deserted campuses. Enrollment remained low, however, and the separate schools for men and women could not be maintained. By 1888 they had been consolidated on the site of the former women’s college, and a few years later the colleges were completely discontinued.
The remaining vacant campus—that of the university—soon developed a somewhat unexpected afterlife of its own. The university’s trustees sold the twice-abandoned land and buildings to T.C. Clay, a local resident who had been a creditor of the university. In turn, Clay conveyed title to the campus to Father Martin Huhn, a Catholic priest, who established an orphanage and school for Negro boys there in January, 1889. The history of that enterprise has been written by Rev. James F. Vanderholt of Port Arthur, editor of The East Texas Catholic, as a part of his study of “The Catholic Experience at Old Washington-on-the-Brazos, Washington County, Texas: The Oldest Black Catholic Community in Texas.”
In 1877 the Diocese of Leavenworth, Kansas had established Holy Epiphany Parish for the black Catholics of that area, and Father Huhn, a native of Prussia, became its pastor. He soon opened an orphanage for Negro boys which he named “Guardian Angels.” It was this institution which he subsequently relocated, together with its orphans, to the former campus of Baylor University in Independence.
The priest was a rough-hewn individual who apparently relied less upon managerial skills than upon the philosophy that most difficulties would eventually resolve themselves. Contemporaries describe his appearance as resembling that of a farmer more than a clergyman: his beard was so long that it hid his clerical collar, and his clothing was “rustic.” He was also prone to impulsive or eccentric acts, such as his purchase of an automobile at a time when he could ill afford it, and despite the fact that he had never driven.
Although Father Huhn was “regular in his spiritual duties,…his financial management of the orphanage was so questionable that the Bishop of Leavenworth appointed a committee of priests to investigate his operation.” Thus, it was probably a relief to all concerned when he announced his intention to remove himself and his orphanage to Texas.
Records of the orphanage are virtually nonexistent and even an extensive dig on the former campus by Baylor archaeologists failed to turn up any hard evidence about its operations or daily life. Rev. Vanderholt speculates that “when the original orphans grew up and moved out, few replaced them.” An 1891 Catholic Directory indicates the presence of thirty-five boys at the orphanage, but their number diminished progressively until, seven years later, none at all were listed. The institution, first known as the “Guardian Angels Industrial School,” gradually became less an orphanage than a parish called the “Church of the Guardian Angel.” Father Huhn himself was the sole staff member of record.
By the time of his death in 1915, the priest owned not only the seventy-five-acre campus itself, but also about a hundred acres of surrounding farm land. Still, “he never seemed to have the cash to take care of the normal affairs and management of the orphanage. The stone buildings of old Baylor began to decay.” His own living quarters were described by a visitor as “quite deplorable” and, perhaps as a result of their shortcomings, Father Huhn became fatally ill with rheumatism.
Shortly before his death, Father Huhn transferred all of his property to his sister. Thus, the land that had been identified with Baptists for forty years, and had subsequently seen a further quarter-century in the service of the Catholic Church, returned once more to private ownership. As its buildings collapsed or were razed for reuse of their materials, the former campus gradually became, as it remains today, virtually indistinguishable from the surrounding fields and farms of Washington County.
Although Keeth calls the former campus “indistinguishable” from the surrounding fields in 1990, Baylor has long been active in its efforts to remain in touch with its town of origin. From Independence homecoming celebrations to past restoration projects to Line Camp, Baylor has worked hard to honor its early history. The images in this post come from our Flickr set on Baylor’s presence at Old Baylor, which you also can see in the slideshow below. Due to lack of records, we do not know whether the Guardian Angels orphanage used the Baylor Female College building or if they used other Baylor structures.
This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth originally was published in The Baylor Line in November 1978, 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 will periodically feature selections from Looking Back at Baylor, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.
This piece, “Simple Pleasures in Independence,” was selected for our first Looking Back entry because starting this week (and through most of July), Baylor Line Camps will be visiting the site of Baylor’s original campus in Independence. While the social life of the class of 2016 will be quite different from what Margaret Hall Hicks describes below, the community spirit of the Baylor family remains constant.
In 1871, sixteen-year-old Margaret Hall, who five years earlier had attended Baylor’s preparatory department, returned to the Independence campus as a student at Baylor Female College. She entered enthusiastically into the life of the college, and while she appreciated the school’s scholastic offerings, she also found time to participate in the various social occasions which its calendar afforded.
Many years later, when her own children were grown, Margaret Hall Hicks prepared a personal memoir of some of the events and impressions of her early life. Titled “Memories of Ancestors,” Mrs. Hicks’ memoir vividly recalls her days at Baylor. An excerpt concerning her attendance in 1866 appeared in the Baylor Line of May-June 1967. The following passage, drawn from the period of her later enrollment, relates some of the “simple pleasures” by which Baylor students of the 1870s diverted themselves from their studies.
“Along with our studies we had a most delightful social life. Baylor University, a school for boys, was about a half-mile or less from Baylor College, and you know that twenty or thirty boys and that many girls could not fail to find some means of communication. We were allowed to receive the boys in the large parlors of the dormitory once a month on Friday night. We were sometimes allowed to visit our girl friends in the town, and of course this meant there would be a boy invited for each girl, to come in for a good time together in the evening. We all attended the same church and many were the notes and shy glances passed between the boys and girls, although they were required to sit on opposite sides of the church with a high partition between them.
An annual picnic on San Jacinto Day was a social event anticipated and prepared for months before the time. Each girl had made a date weeks before with some boy, generally her sweetheart, for the whole day together. If the boy was financially able, he hired a horse and buggy to take his lady love, and these were the envy of the other girls, who had to join in with others in hiring a hack or wagon and go in crowds.Another occasion that still lingers in my memory was the Christmas holidays. The last week before Christmas was a time of merry-making. Mr. Clark always prepared for a very elaborate Christmas concert. The large auditorium was gaily festooned with cedar and holly of which there was an abundance in the nearby woods.
The boys and girls, under the supervision of one of the teachers, were delegated to borrow wagons from some of their country friends and go out in the woods to get these, and such jolly rides as they were, and what a thrill we did get out of them! No auto joy rides of the present ever gave young folks more pleasure. Then the festoons were to be made and the boys were permitted to come over and help in trimming these, and what a good chance for the innocent love making which all boys and girls so much enjoy and which, conducted in the right way and under the right environment, is natural and beneficial for all young people. These concerts were given Thursday before the Christmas holidays. Succeeding them on the following night the boys of Baylor University gave an annual Christmas party at the University building, and this was the climax of all the Christmas frolic. At these parties ‘soft eyes looked love to eyes which spake again, and all went merry as marriage bells.’
We did not have, nor did we care for, elaborate refreshments. At these parties given at the schools we only had fruits, nuts and candies which the boys paid for themselves. There was no drinking at these parties of the olden times. The natural exuberance of healthy youth was the only stimulant we needed.”
Updated July 13, 2012: Baylor Photography was kind enough to provide a current photo of the Baylor Female Building and Line Camp.