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The Murphy Family Collection - Independence, Texas

George and Laura Murphy

Silent | 1950s

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  •  Bluebonnets in historic Independence, Texas 
  •  Historic marker that describes the gift of the original bell to the Baptist Church from Nancy Lea - Sam Houston’s mother-in-law 
  •  Historic marker about Old Baptist Church, where Sam Houston was converted and baptized 
  •  Ruins of Baylor Female College, which eventually moved to Belton and became the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor 
  •  Ruins of the men’s school, Baylor University, which eventually moved to Waco 
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This home movie captures scenes of the Murphy family in the historic town of Independence, Texas where they visit the original bell donated to the Baptist Church by Mrs. Nancy Lea, Sam Houston’s mother-in-law. The family also views the ruins of Baylor Female College and the men’s school, Baylor University. Baylor Female College moved to Belton and became the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and the men’s school moved to Waco to become the Baylor University we know today. Independence is in Washington County and was a significant religious and educational center for the Republic of Texas. Sam Houston, his wife, and her mother lived in Independence, and many members of the Houston family (though not Sam Houston himself) are buried at there at the Houston-Lea Family Cemetery.
Independence, Texas is a town located northeast of Brenham that was founded in 1835 by J.G.W. Pierson, Robert Stevenson, Colbert Baker, and Amasa F. Burchard on land granted by the Mexican government. The town prospered economically as the first site of Baylor University, which opened in 1846. Initially, the university accepted both men and women but split into separate colleges in 1851. Sam Houston lived there while serving as a Senator and was a member of the Independence Baptist Church, where he was baptized. 
The town went into decline during the construction of the Santa Fe Railroad. Both city and Baylor administrators refused to grant the railroad right-of-way, and, as a result, trade focused in on neighboring towns. The lack of transportation in the town also made it difficult for Baylor students, so in 1885, Baylor Female College moved to Belton and became the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor, while Baylor University moved to Waco. The population decreased steadily over the next century. In 1966, only 200 people lived in Independence, and in 1990, the population was only 140. 
Only this small population lives in Independence today, though the town remains a historical center due to Old Baylor Park, the Baptist church, and two historic cemeteries. The Old Independence Cemetery serves as the resting place of Sam Houston, Jr., Moses Austin Bryan, and T.T. Clay. Margaret M.L. Houston, and her mother are buried in the Houston-Lea Family Cemetery. A number of historic homes have also survived, including the Margaret Houston House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.