Independence, you can tour the Independence Baptist Church, the oldest continuously active Baptist church in the State of Texas.
Sam Houston is the most famous member of the Independence Baptist Church. Throngs of onlookers witnessed his baptism on November 19, 1854 on Rocky Creek, two miles south of town. When told his sins were washed away, Houston reportedly replied, “[I] pity the fish downstream.”
Independence Baptist Church is one of six area churches that are architecturally lit at night.
Now and Then; Independence Baptist Church, the historic photograph dating April 23, 1936.
Organized in 1839, the Independence Baptist Church was the leading Baptist church and supporter of missionary work during the Republic of Texas, and is the congregation in which Sam Houston was baptized.
Initially, the church held services in a school building on Academy Hill, a short distance to the west. After Baylor University was established in Independence in 1845, the church and university were closely intertwined: The same person often served as pastor and president of the two institutions, and services were held in university buildings until 1853 when the congregation moved to the present site and to a new meetinghouse built on land donated by Baylor president and church pastor Rufus Burleson.
Prior to the Civil War, the church held separate services for the slaves of congregation members. William Carey Crane, Baylor president and church pastor, noted in his diary on February 14, 1864, that after preaching “to a respectably large Congregation” in the morning, he “Preached to Colored people in the afternoon.” In 1866, the African American members established their own Liberty Baptist ChurcH located a short distance to the north.
In 1872, fire heavily damaged the 1853 meeting house although the pulpit furniture and pews associated with member Sam Houston were salvaged. The congregation quickly built the stone structure in which the members worship today.
Now a growing congregation with an expanding church facility, membership in the church languished during much of the 20th century. One of those who kept it going was Gertie Mae McCrocklin shown playing the 1874 organ in this 1967 photograph.
“Grandma, Gertie Mae—we called her Little Bitty Nanny—played the organ in the church for 50 years…When she died, her daughter Medora took over…It was almost 80 years that they played the organ in that church!” Fred Coles Kettrick, 2004
(Mrs. McCrocklin's grandson)
In addition to the historic church, you can also see the burial ground of Margaret Lea Houston, Sam Houston’s widow, and the Texas Baptist Museum where such artifacts as the original 1856 church bell are exhibited.
Independence Baptist Church and Texas Baptist Museum
Intersection Highway 50 and FM 390, Independence
Tuesday-Saturday: 9 am–4 pm, free admission
Church Services & Activities:
9:30 am–Sunday School for all ages
7 pm–The Lord's Supper, first Sunday of every month
1936 photo: Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey, Harry L. Starnes, photographer. Sam Houston photo: Sam Houston Memorial Museum. Gertie Mae McCrocklin photo: Texas Baptist Historical Collection. Night church photo: Scott Hill, Brenham Portrait Gallery. Masthead photo: Alvin Gee. Other photos: Ellen Beasley. Research and content by Ellen Beasley.