Baylor To Dedicate Historical Markers In Independence

April 4, 2007

by Katie Brooks, student newswriter, (254) 710-1961

Baylor University and its Texas Collection library will hold a dedication ceremony for two historical markers in Independence, Texas, from 1-2 p.m. Saturday, April 14, at Baylor Park and the original gravesite of Judge Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor.

Located 50 yards apart at Baylor Park on Windmill Hill, the historical markers will signify the location of the original Baylor campus, according to Dr. Tom Charlton, director of the Texas Collection.

"The small dedication ceremony will include a brief welcome, prayer of dedication and display of the markers," Charlton said. The Independence Historical Society and Washington County Historical Commission will attend, along with members of the Baylor community.

The Independence Historical Society will host a reception following the dedication with light refreshments at one of the historical homes.

Charlton said visitors also can enjoy guided walking tours of the village of Independence throughout the day and open historic houses with local docents.

An open house at the historic Independence Baptist Church will also be available. The church is the oldest functioning Baptist church in Texas and was the church Sam Houston attended, Charlton said.

Visitors also can explore the Gardens of the Antique Rose Emporium. A hybrid rose called, "Old Baylor," was developed at the Emporium, according to Charlton.

Baylor's original campus was founded at Baylor Park on Windmill Hill. Very progressive for the time, the university was coeducational during its first few years, Charlton said. After 1851, a female campus was established. This campus is the location of the columns seen in many historical Baylor pictures.

"Baylor Park is now archeological ruins where the foundation of the university is located in Independence," Charlton said.

Judge R.E.B Baylor taught law at Baylor. He was also well known as a preacher and for his work in organizing small churches. He was one of the first trustees of Baylor, and while he was not keen on being the university's namesake, he was persuaded by the other founders.

Chartered in 1845, during the last year of the Republic of Texas, Washington County was referred to as the "Athens of Texas" at the time. After Baylor moved to Waco in 1886, the nickname transferred to Waco as well.

"Baylor existed at Independence for 25 percent of its history - 41 years. This is a little-known part of our history. I would hope the Baylor family has interest in learning about Baylor's early history where some of our values and traditions were formed," Charlton said.

Independence is a rural, unincorporated village. When the village secured the university in 1845, Independence was the wealthiest community in Texas.

According to Charlton, "It is a gorgeous place with spectacular wild flowers. There are fields and fields of bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes."

"Independence is a great place to go to think about Baylor in its early years," Charlton said.

For more information, contact Charlton at (254) 710-1268.

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