Republic of Texas charters Independence Academy
On this day in 1837, the Congress of the Republic of Texas granted a charter to the citizens of Independence, Washington County, for the establishment of a nonsectarian, nonpolitical "seminary." The charter was a response to a petition presented a month before by John P. Coles, a large landowner and Old Three Hundred settler who had founded Coles' Settlement, later Independence. In order to carry out the charter, the young Henry F. Gillette bought an existing girls' school from Frances Thompson. Hugh Wilson, a Presbyterian minister, taught at the new academy. In 1839 the institution, known as Independence Female Academy, enrolled more than fifty students taught by a Miss McGuffin. In 1841 Edward Fontaine, a Methodist minister who later became an Episcopalian minister of considerable importance in Austin, taught at the school. Independence Academy closed in 1845. Its property was purchased and donated to the newly chartered Baylor University. Not until the Constitution of 1845 were the requirements for a system of public education legally and thoroughly specified.