University to Dedicate Baylor Park at Independence March 25

March 10, 2006

by Julie Carlson, (254) 710-6681

Baylor University will remember its founding and early days with the dedication of Baylor Park on Windmill Hill at 2 p.m. March 25 at Independence. The town is located at the junction of FM 390 and FM 50 in Washington County, 12 miles northeast of Brenham.

Baylor Park stands at the site of the original Baylor University campus, which later became the male campus before its move to Waco.

"Our idea is to dedicate this site as a symbolic gesture to the people around Independence saying that Baylor is interested in reaffirming its connection with the community," said Dr. Tom Charlton, director of the Texas Collection and coordinator of the dedication. "We're not only reaffirming the sense of Independence being a good place for Baylor to be, but for Baylor to have an ongoing presence there."

Before the dedication, the congregation of Liberty Baptist Church will hold a barbecue lunch beginning at 11 a.m. at the church. The price for the plate lunch will be $6.50 per person plus $1 for a drink. The deadline for reservations will be Tuesday, March 21.

Beginning an hour prior to the dedication, a brass ensemble from Baylor's School of Music will play at Baylor Park. The ensemble also will play at a reception following the dedication.

The ceremony will include prayers, remarks by Baylor President John M. Lilley and music by the university's renowned Chamber Singers. Three of Baylor's presidents will attend the event, with newly appointed Lilley joining William Underwood and Herbert Reynolds for the park dedication.

Following the dedication, visitors can attend a reception at the Antique Rose Emporium, which is responsible for the Park's landscaping. Additionally, the Chamber Music soloists will perform at Independence Baptist Church and beloved retired history professor Robert Reid will tell stories of Baylor's early days. Blue Bell Creameries will offer free ice cream during the afternoon.

Additionally, the new Independence Village walking trail, which includes the Baylor campus, will officially open.

Baylor was chartered by the Republic of Texas in 1845, and trustees voted to locate the university on Windmill Hill in Independence. The first classes were held in May 1846 in a frame building once used by Independence Academy, and those classes were very unusual nationally for that time because they were coeducational, with men and women in the same room.

The decision was soon made to have two campuses, one for men on Windmill Hill, the other for women across Independence Creek, which the boys used to call "The River Jordan." In 1857 the first building was completed on the women's campus. That's the three-story stone building whose columns still exist today. The university struggled financially especially in the years after the Civil War, and in 1886 the trustees voted to relocate the men's campus to Waco and merge it with Waco University, keeping the name Baylor University. At the same time, the women's campus moved to Belton, where it eventually became the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.

"I'd like to see the event be a feel-good kind of experience for the Baylor family, a chance for people who love Baylor to discover Independence and appreciate where the university was born, and to see that the surrounding community did not die," Charlton said. "I also see this as yet another way to reconnect the university with its founding values. I hope the event makes sense for a lot of Baylor people."

There is no charge to attend the dedication. For more information or to make reservations for the barbecue lunch, contact Charlton at (254) 710-1268.

Looking for more news from Baylor University?