Latitude / Longitude:
30° 19′ 10″ N, 96° 20′ 48″ W
Central (CST) (UTC-6)
Independence is an unincorporated community in Washington County, Texas, United States. Located twelve miles northeast of Brenham, it was founded in 1835 in Austin’s colony of Anglo-Americans. It became a Baptist religious and educational center of the Republic of Texas. In 1845 it became the first site of Baylor University and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.
Independence was once a significant center for religion and education in the Republic of Texas. The year of the town’s founding (1835), Frances J. S. Trask of Gloucester, Massachusetts, started a boarding school for girls. In 1839 the Independence Baptist Church was organized, the fourth Missionary Baptist Church in Texas. It continues as an active congregation, the second-oldest one affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
When the Santa Fe Railroad wanted to establish a line through town, the city leaders refused to grant it a right-of-way. By the 1880s, most railroads bypassed the town, taking trade with them. As students found it difficult to get transportation to Independence, Baylor University officials decided in 1885 to move the institution to a more accessible location, Waco. The women’s college was moved to Belton, where it became known as the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. These changes added to the long decline of Independence. By 1966 it had 200 residents, and by 1990 it had 140, qualifying as a rural settlement. The population was unchanged in 2000.
The community has retained several significant historic structures and sites from its nineteenth-century peak. Its attractions include the Texas Baptist Historical Center; the home of Judge J.P. Coles, one of the Old Three Hundred of the Austin Colony; Baylor College Park; Old Independence Cemetery, a state historic site; and Houston-Lea Family Cemetery. The Margaret Houston House is on the National Register of Historic Places, as are the Seward Plantation and the Asa Hoxey House.