Saturday, April 19, 2008

Independence, Texas

Texas within its boundaries is home to quite a lot of history and ghost towns. A roadtrip through Texas requires not much planning - just an open mind and a friendly nature. It has long been our dream to visit small towns in Texas, soak in their hospitality and history and click pictures!

Fields of Blue

Our first destination exploring small town Texas was at the town of Independence, Texas. Situated 85 miles NW of Houston, getting to Independence is a breeze. We had visited family down in College Station and drove down to Independence from College Station - a mere 40 miles away. As we hit the freeway and moved away from the college town of College Station it was a different country. Farm lands, oil rigs in the middle of farms, narrow roads, trucks whizzing past one lane farm roads. Our first encounter with the friendly nature of Texas was quite an experience. As we whizzed past the farms, V spotted a small lake and two great blue herons (R's favorite bird to photograph) so turning on the indicator lights, we pulled on to the dirt road and the truck driver behind us also pulled over and after knowing everything was fine moved on. It is rare to find such hospitality in the big, bad city of Houston we come from. It touched us and put a smile on our face!Unfortunately for R the herons took flight and we carried on into the town of Independence.

Founded in 1838 as Cole's Settlement, Independence was once a thriving cultural and a major economic cross-road in Texas. But today it is more of a ghost town with tourists stopping for a quick course of history. In fact it was the richest town in the 1840's. The Baylor University was started in 1840's at Cole's Settlement (Independence) as a co-ed school. A few years later, the school was divided by gender and the male's Baylor moved to its current location in Waco, Texas and the female's University of Mary Haldin-Baylor moved to Belton. This moved was one of the steps in transforming Independence into the ghost town it is today. The Independence Baptist Church dating to 1839 is the oldest Baptist congregation and still continues to hold services. Today, the small town is one of the often forgotten tourist destinations in Texas.

We have lived so close to the town and never made a trip there. There are quite a few must-see places and adding it along with a wildflower hunting trip was a good decision we made. The whole trip took us around 7 hours (including travel from College Station and back to Navasota) - perfect for a spring Saturday trip.

Driving towards Independence, the first stop was the Liberty Baptist Church. A small church established in the 1860's as a "colored church". Though the current building is not the one built in the 1800's it still is a part of the history of Independence.

Liberty Baptist Church

Our next stop was Independence Baptist Church. Located amongst old trees the 1873 built stone built church (built after a fire destroyed the older building) fills one with peace. This was the church Sam Houston (ofcourse a Texas household name) was baptized.
Wish gas prices remained the same.....

Our next destination was the Antique Rose Emporium. In today's world of hybrids and cross-breeds Antique Rose Emproium showcases the best old garden roses. The emporium gardens are free and it was amazing roaming around them and smelling the roses. Roses I buy at the store don't have the smell anymore. These roses smelt like roses.. the strong aroma! We just wished we had packed a picnic lunch to enjoy there. Wildflowers were also abundant in the gardens making it perfect for a lazy spring afternoon. On the other side, the garden sales area was crowded and quite noisy. The antique rose plants sell for around $20 each.

Pot art at the Rose Emporium

Pure and sweet smelling the way they should be!
Bottle Art

In a town with 140 people residing there are no Walmarts or Whole Foods not even a MacDonald's. Lueckemeyer General Store is their all-in-all store. From deli meat to spa products the store carries them all. It is smaller than many of the gas station stores in Houston and is served by a happy couple and their big shaggy dog. A happy Texan family dishing out everything from fresh pizzas to gas. We stopped for some icecream (yeah April is hot in Texas). I cannot imagine a life in such a small town. How different is it from Houston life!

Our next destination was the Baylor University ruins and on the way we passed through the Town Square, the old Sam Houston House (looks right at home in this ghost town...). The old Baylor park holds the 4 columns from the main building and some remains of the kitchen from those days. The university was established in 1845 and then separated in 1855 by President Graves. The male and female divisions operated in Independence for 20 more years before the male division moved to Waco and merged with the Waco University. The old Baylor park is now a picnic site and a park teaming with wildflowers during Spring. We missed the bluebonnet season but there was an abundance of Indian paint brushes and the yellow flowers making the sight worth remembering. Along the old Baylor park are few ruins from the good ole days of Independence...

The Baylor cloumns
Wildflowers waving under the blue sky

The magnificent old oak trees, the ruins of an historic university, churches that have been around for centuries, roses that smell the way they ought to, a general store that spreads out cheer, friendliness that Southerners take pride in, oil rigs and ranches, great blue herons and blue bonnets, Independence offers them all.

Independence is indeed what the term "deep in the heart of Texas" means!

Ford is the best in Texas

Winding roads, Spring days

R has more pictures here

1 comment:

backpakker said...

this is the second post on texas that i read today..very interesting