This post is part of a series that highlights Independence, Texas, the home of Baylor University from 1845 to 1886.
One of the many historic preservation groups that has assisted with preserving history in and around Independence through the years was the Baylor Historical Society. Formed to “stimulate interest in the history of Baylor University,” the society was founded in February 1941. Membership was open to anyone interested, and it cost only $1 to join the society. Members attended regular meetings on the Baylor campus, and usually heard a historical paper presentation at each meeting. Featured speakers included such state luminaries as Price Daniel (governor of Texas 1956-1962) and Pat Neff (governor of Texas 1921-1925, president of Baylor University 1932-1947). Longtime Baylor staff and faculty members P.D. Browne, Robert L. Reid, and Lily Russell served as society officers, and many descendants of early Baylor-associated families were members of the organization.
The society was very interested in preserving Texas, Baylor, and community history at Independence. Members raised money to stabilize the iconic Baylor columns, discussed a plan to reconstruct a dorm and operate it as an inn, and lobbied the Texas Legislature to turn part of Independence into a state park. Members also helped the Texas State Garden Club landscape around Independence.
It is not known exactly when the society disbanded. By 1964, the society only had 21 members at their annual meeting, and many of the people who had taken the lead in forming and running the organization had passed away. Longtime member P.D. Browne donated the society’s records to the Texas Collection in 1975.
Works Cited: BU Records: Baylor Historical Society, Accession #BU/28, The Texas Collection, Baylor University, and BU Records: Historical Research Office, Accession #BU/103, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.
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!
February finding aids By Paul Fisher, Processing Archivist
McGregor Plan records, 1936-1942 (#171): Consists of materials documenting the Baylor University Texas Collection’s participation in the McGregor Plan. The McGregor Plan assisted smaller libraries who lacked resources and access to book dealers in purchasing rare Americana to add to their holdings.
BU records: Donald I. Moore, 1939-2003 (#BU/383): Correspondence from World War II, letters relating to Moore’s compositions and work as director of the Golden Wave Band at Baylor University, marching band diagrams, photographic materials, programs, and film of the band’s performances.
February print materials By Amie Oliver, Librarian and Curator of Print Materials
Neal, Dorothy Jensen. The Cloud-Climbing Railroad: A Story of Timber, Trestles, and Trains. Alamogordo, NM: Alamogordo Print. Co., 1966. Print.
Dorothy Jensen Neal provides a close look at the construction history of the Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railway, which connects Alamogordo and Russia, New Mexico. Filled with photographs and maps, The Cloud-Climbing Railroad explores the challenges of building a railway that climbs nearly 5,000 feet in 32 miles. Click here to view in BearCat.
Lomax, John A. Cowboy Songs and other Frontier Ballads. New York: The Macmillan Company . Print.
Noted folklorists and musicologists John A. Lomax and his son Alan compiled this expansive volume containing sheet music, lyrics, and annotations of cowboy and frontier songs. This volume is revised from the original 1910 edition, which can also be found in The Texas Collection. Click here to view in BearCat.
Corpus Christi: The Ideal Summer and Winter Resort of Texas. Corpus Christi, TX: Noakes Brothers, . Print.
Like similar promotional books printed in the early 20th century, this volume is filled with beautiful full-color images that highlight the many resources found in Corpus Christi, including the abundance of game, fish, and fruit. Click here to view in BearCat.
By Brian Simmons, Archival Assistant and Digital Input Specialist
As last week’s Christmas on Fifth Street and the Christmas tree lighting celebration fade into memory, here at The Texas Collection it has revived nostalgia for Baylor’s Christmas celebrations of yesteryear. The first communal Christmas tree at Baylor originated with Irene Marschall, then current Dean of Women, in 1926. Aided by her assistant, Lily Russell, Marschall’s idea became an event on Fifth Street with the lighting of the tree, a performance by the Glee Club and an appearance by Santa Claus. That same year, Russell wrote a Christmas program that would continue to be performed in the women’s dormitories at Baylor for over a decade.
Known as “Old Christmas,” it was inspired by Washington Irving’s work of the same title. Performers included dormitory residents, members of student organizations and volunteers. Guests were immediately immersed in the setting after being greeted by cast members in costumes and viewing the decorations that adorned the entry and banquet hall.
Guests were seated and carols were sung until the program, which incorporated a dinner within a dramatic production, began. The dinner included traditional English touches such as wassailing and the Boar’s Head feast. In 1935, Dr. A. J. Armstrong arranged for an antique wassail bowl to add to the authenticity of the event. The event was traditionally held in Burleson Hall, but as the program grew in popularity, a second night was added at Memorial Hall.
Lily Russell went on to become Dean of Women in 1931, and she organized not only the “Old Christmas” program but also other Baylor Christmas festivities. Christmas entertainment for students and faculty included dramatic productions, concerts, banquets and dances.
After becoming Dean of the Union Building in 1948, Lily Russell found a way to share her passion for entertaining with student groups. She arranged for a competition in which student organizations would decorate the various rooms of the Union for the Christmas Open House event. Once completed, Russell arranged for people from the community to come in and pick their favorite rooms. After tallying the votes, the group with the winning room was presented a gold loving cup by the president of the university at the Open House.
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 September:
Catherine Alexander papers, 1871-1962, undated: Alexander was a widowed Southern Baptist missionary who became a benefactor to Baylor University. Her papers provide insight into the network of conservative Protestant missionaries sent out from the United States during the first half of the 20th century.
Carl Lovelace papers, 1865-1969, undated: Correspondence, literary productions, photographic materials, and other documents relating to Dr. Lovelace’s life as a Rough Rider, doctor, and Baylor alumnus.
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.