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The columns
in Old Baylor Park in Independence mark the location where Baylor University, the oldest institution of higher learning in the State of Texas and the largest Baptist university in the world, opened its
doors in 1846.


Picnicing in Old Baylor Park


First burial location of Baylor's namesake, Judge R.E.B. Baylor (1793-1873), is believed to be this site on Windmill Hill.  Baylor's remains were reinterred at Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton.

Old Baylor Park

Now and Then: The columns in Old Baylor Park and the Baylor Female College Campus as depicted in the 1881-82 Baylor University Catalogue.


On February 1, 1845, the Republic of Texas chartered Baylor University. Independence—one of the wealthiest communities in the Republic and a Baptist center—was selected as the university’s site. One year later, on May 18, 1846, twenty-four young boys and girls began taking co-educational preparatory classes in what had been the classroom facilities of Independence Academy. The arrangement was considered only temporary for the new university: The plan was to build the permanent, primary campus on Windmill Hill, just east and across the meadow from Academy Hill.

During the first five years of Baylor’s operation, President Henry Lee Graves expanded the curriculum to provide college-level courses and oversaw construction of Graves Hall on Windmill Hill, the first step in establishing Baylor’s campus at that location.

When Rufus Burleson succeeded Graves in 1851, he separated the sexes and moved only the boys to Windmill Hill to what was designated the Male Campus and primary university facilities. The Female Department stayed on Academy Hill where an imposing three-story stone structure with columns—the columns you see today—was built.

In 1866, the Baptist State Convention of Texas replaced the Female Department with Baylor Female College. Twenty years later, the Male Campus moved to Waco and merged with Waco University, now Baylor University; Baylor Female College moved to Belton and became the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.

Today, only the columns of the main building and the ruins of the stone kitchen remain of the Baylor Female College Campus. Owned by Baylor University and Mary Hardon Baylor.


The Baylor Female College Building took three years to build and was finished in 1857. The structure housed a chapel as well as classrooms.

Many students attending Baylor Female College boarded in the large frame dormitory structure that architecturally, had a Gulf Coast flavor. These two documentary photographs were taken on the same day in 1884.




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. Other photos: Ellen Beasley. Research and content by Ellen Beasley.

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