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There are two
Baylor University sites
for you to see—the Male Campus, here on Windmill Hill, and the Female College on Academy Hill, just west of town.

 


In 1845,
Baptist leaders chose Independence to be the location of the newly chartered Baylor University

“because of its centrality, accessibility, health and beautiful scenery.”

1856 Baylor University Catalogue
The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

 

 

Today, visitors to Baylor Park on Windmill Hill can walk about the archeological excavations and other university landmarks, including the site believed to be the first burial location of
Baylor's namesake,
Judge R.E.B. Baylor.

 

 


“Gloria in excelsis (please spell these words right)– the old gin house which has stood on the banks of the Jordan for many years, is gradually disappearing. Tradition says it has been degraded to many profane uses. It is now to be put to use on a distant farm.”

“Independence Locals” column in The Brenham Daily Banner,
April 8, 1884

 


Park Pavilion.

 

Initially, Baylor opened its co-educational studies in Independence with 24 students at a temporary site on Academy Hill, with plans to build the University’s permanent home here on Windmill Hill. Rufus Burleson altered those plans when he assumed the Baylor presidency in 1851. Separating the sexes, Burleson moved the boys to Windmill Hill to what became the Male Campus and primary university facility while the girls remained at the Academy Hill location (now the site of Old Baylor Park).

Over the years, Baylor built a university complex of impressive structures on Windmill Hill.

Tryon Hall was the major building on Windmill Hill. Begun in 1860-61 and completed in 1879-84, it was named for university founder William M. Tryon. Photo circa 1920.
Baylor University sponsored archeological excavations of Tryon Hall and Houston Hall, the latter built in 1860 and named for university benefactor Sam Houston.

In 1886, Baylor University moved both campuses to other locations where they are thriving institutions: The Male Campus moved to Waco, to merge with Waco University, now Baylor University, and the Female College moved to Belton where it became Mary Hardin-Baylor.

The Klatte family acquired the Windmill Hill property in 1927 and farmed it for 50 years. Land for Baylor Park on Windmill Hill was donated by Karen Kaye Klatte and Herbert Klatte, Jr., in memory of their aunts, Lillian and Esther. Baylor University and David and Mary Wolff also contributed to establishing the park which was dedicated on March 25, 2006.

Baylor University President Dr. John M. Lilley delivers address at the dedication of Baylor Park on Windmill Hill, March 25, 2006.

 

"The River Jordan"

Current view looking west across the meadow and “the River Jordan” toward Academy Hill.

The location of the Male Campus on Windmill Hill offered a commanding view of the surrounding countryside including a clear view of the columns of Baylor Female College on Academy Hill, across the meadow to the west.

To go from one campus to another, students crossed Independence Creek, nicknamed “the River Jordan.” It was said that male students, when crossing the creek to reach the Female College, were crossing “the River Jordan” to reach “the Promised Land.” No doubt, “the River Jordan” was often crossed for both official and unofficial activities.

 

Find where this site is located on our Independence Map.

Return to TOURING INDEPENDENCE to see other historic sites.

 
Documentary images: The Texas Collection, Baylor University. President Lilley photo: Baylor Photography. Other photos: Ellen Beasley. Research and content by Ellen Beasley.

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