Texas History: Salute - Independence, Texas
In March 2014, then-Gov. Rick Perry was baptized in Little Rocky Creek, near Independence, Texas. The governor said that he wanted to reaffirm his commitment to his faith.
Gov. Perry chose to be baptized at the exact location where former president of the Republic of Texas Sam Houston was baptized in 1854. On that day, Pastor Rufus C. Burleson lowered Houston into the frigid waters and said that his sins had been washed away. It is reported that Houston said, “God help the fish downstream.”
The historic town of Independence was settled in 1824 by John P. Coles, one of Stephen F. Austin's "Old 300" settlers receiving grants in Austin's first colony. It was originally known as Coles Settlement, but some say that the name was changed in 1837 when Dr. Asa Hoxey founded Independence Academy.
Seemingly from its beginning, the town of Independence was known for its’ desire to be a religious and educational center. The Independence Baptist Church was founded in 1839 and is considered by many to be the oldest continuously active Baptist church in Texas.
Rev. Burleson founded Baylor University in Independence in 1846. With the growing church and the developing university, Independence began to attract hundreds of people who were hungry for knowledge of the Bible and to fellowship with others of like precious faith.
Baylor University built two student dormitories, one for the men and one for the women. The two buildings were separated by a small stream that the male students dubbed the Jordan River. To them, the “promised land” was just across the stream!
Around 1880, the town leaders refused to grant a right-of-way to the Santa Fe railroad, after which the town began to decline. Another blow came in 1885 when Baylor University moved to its present location in Waco. Today, Independence has a population of about 140 people.
But history records that Independence was a place that honored God from its inception. Some of the finest leaders of religion and education in early Texas history lived in the area. It is remembered as a town that honored God.
In the Bible, some towns were associated with wickedness. Sodom and Gomorrah, Tyre and Sidon, and Babylon and Nineveh are remembered for their sin and debauchery.
Other Biblical towns were similar to Independence and dutifully revered God. Shiloh was a major Hebrew worship center, and it was at Bethel that Jacob dreamed about a ladder with angels ascending and descending. Of course, Jerusalem hosted the Temple which was the epicenter of all worship activities.
The citizens of each city determine the success or failure of it. As it says in Jeremiah 29:7 (NIV), “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”