Independence Baptist Church, in Independence, Washington County, was organized by Rev. Thomas Spraggins and a small group of fellow Baptists on August 31, 1839. Shortly thereafter a number of others joined by letter or baptism, bringing the total membership to fifteen for that year. The highest total membership for this church was 289 in 1870, the same year in which a gradual decline began upon the removal of Baylor University and Baylor Female college, which had been founded in Independence, to Waco.
The church had strong ties to Baylor University, Baylor Female Department, and Baylor College during the years these institutions were located in Independence (1846–86). The presidents of Baylor often served as pastors, and the church itself met in various Baylor buildings until the late 1850s. Some of the ministerial students, as well as Horace Clark, principal of Baylor Female Department, were ordained by Independence Church. Margaret Moffette Lea Houston was a member of Independence Church. Her husband, Sam Houston, joined Independence Church on November 19, 1854, and was baptized the same day by Rufus C. Burleson. In 1858 the church voted to construct a new building at its present location. This building, thirty-two by sixty-six feet with one-foot-thick walls, was destroyed by fire on February 11, 1872. Some of the old walls remained, and the church was rebuilt in the same year.
Membership in Independence Church had dropped to a low of twenty by 1951. Due largely to this decline in membership, the church voted on November 11, 1951, to transfer its property to the Baptist General Convention of Texas, while retaining rights to its use. As of 1988, Independence Church remained a regularly constituted Baptist church in cooperation with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. An L-shaped building erected across the back of the church was dedicated on March 25, 1967. Though the current building dates back only to 1872, the pew in which Sam Houston sat has been preserved and is marked so that visitors can see it.
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Samuel B. Hesler, A History of Independence Baptist Church, 1839–1969, and Related Organizations (Dallas: Executive Board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, 1970).
Churches and Synagogues
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Samuel B. Hesler,
“Independence Baptist Church,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 27, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
February 1, 1995