is one of the best preserved pre-Civil War plantations in Texas.
John Hoblett Seward
Laura Jane Roberts Seward
Now and Then: Seward Plantation, the documentary photograph dating April 23, 1936.
In late 1833, Samuel Seward (1794-1870) moved his family from Illinois to Texas and settled on 1700 acres of land (to which he added another 300), located near the future site of Independence. In the mid-1850s, Samuel gave land to his son John Hoblett to build this house for his bride-to-be Laura Jane Roberts.
Although the original house is thought to have been a one-story building, enlargements and alterations occurred at an early date. It was the center of a sizeable plantation before and after the Civil War. When the September 1900 storm swept through the area, the local newspaper reported, “The Seward home, the largest residence in Washington county, was badly damaged, and five barns on the premises were blown down.”
Still owned and cared for by Seward descendants, the collection of outbuildings on the property is as important as the main house. There are four log structures—a corncrib, horse barn, double-pen haymow (for storing hay), and slave quarters—plus a well house and "Aunt Caroline's Cabin," a board and batten cabin with an attached blacksmith's shop.
Aunt Caroline Seward,
Aunt Caroline's Cabin
Seward Plantation, 10005 FM 390, Independence
Open only by appointment to groups of 10 or more, admission fee.
"Mud, mud, mud, all the way"
Now and Then: Looking west toward Old Baylor Park from what is now the intersection of Highways 390 and 50. Early photograph dates 1912.
John Seward, like all Independence residents, was concerned about the condition of area roads. Travel in and out of Independence was always a serious problem in ALL directions. In fact, transportation was one reason why Baylor University moved its campuses to other locations. The Brenham newspaper regularly reported—somewhat gleefully it seems—dreadful road conditions. On March 9, 1880, the paper decried, “There are places in the road between here [Independence] and Brenham that have no bottom,” and once again, on December 2, “Our Independence reporter says he has nothing to report except mud, mud, mud, all the way between that town and Brenham.”
Citizen Seward did his part to help. On May 1, 1885, the paper reported that “The bridge between [Independence] and Mr. Seward’s is in a fair way to completion. It will cost the county about $800.” However, the May 20 issue amended that report saying, “A temporary bridge has been erected at the sole expense of John H. Seward, who is known throughout the county for his purity of character and public spirit.”
It was well into the 20th century before roads were noticeably improved.
1936 photo: Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey, Harry L. Starnes, photographer. Current house and outbuilding photos: Seward Plantation. Documentary family photos: Seward Plantation Collection. 1912 photo: Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Current highway photo: Ellen Beasley. Research and content by Ellen Beasley.