Baylor Journalism Student
October 11, 2010
A valuable piece of Texas history is located on the Baylor campus. Inside the W. R. Poage Legislative Library, guests can find an almost limitless amount of historical political items and documents.
One amazing document in particular is a land grant for one of the original 300 Texas settlers, James Hensley. It is a correspondence between the Baron de Bastrop, Hensley, Stephen F. Austin and the Mexican Nation dated Aug. 3, 1824 from Mexico City.
The beginning of the document is seeking permission for Hensley to acquire property in Texas in the new colony established by Austin. Austin validates Hensley's ability to be given land in the colony.
The latter part of the letter is a detailed description of Hensley's reaction to receiving the land.
In a translation of the Spanish document, Hensley was said to have "shouted, pulled grass, set stakes and performed the other necessary ceremonies," after being told he was given the land without opposition.
The letter is signed by El Baron de Bastrop, Estevan F. Austin, and two witnesses.
The name of James Hensley can be found on the roll of the Original (or "Old") 300.
This significant document was donated to Baylor by Judge Jack Hightower, a distinguished alumnus.
"I acquired the grant from a friend of mine that worked at the State Library," Hightower said.
The grant was one of about five or six grants that he purchased from his friend, but the one on display at the Poage Legislative Library is what he considered the most important due to its historical significance.
"I was thrilled to be able to make the contribution to Baylor," Hightower said, "It's where I went to school, and it has done a lot for me."
Judge Hightower received his Bachelor of Arts in 1949, and his Law Degree in 1951, both from Baylor. For about two years after getting his law degree, he was in a private law practice, after which he served the public.
He served in the Texas House of Representatives, as a District Attorney, in the Texas Senate, in the U.S. House of Representatives, as Assistant Attorney General of Texas, and in the Texas Supreme Court.
Throughout his extensive career in public service, Hightower collected many things, ranging from signed Presidential books from John Quincy Adams to George W. Bush, to a tin-type photo album of Abraham Lincoln and family. He donated these items to Baylor, along with all his public and personal papers.
When asked why he had such a collection, his answer was simple.
"I collected to preserve. I have a desire to preserve our history."
The land grant is housed in a climate controlled part of the library and is encased in glass, so visitors can get close to it while it is still being protected.
Poage Library encourages those interested to explore the library, and to take a tour of the piece of history that Judge Hightower has given the University.