By Lindsey Kay Hurtt
Holly Oaks, in Washington County, was the home site of Judge Robert Emmet Bledsoe Baylor, namesake of Baylor University. He died there in 1873. A Centennial marker bearing Judge Baylor’s name was erected at Holly Oaks by the State of Texas to memorialize the Baylor legacy. Sadly, like many of the Texas Centennial markers, the Holly Oaks memorial has been neglected and fallen into extreme disrepair.
In 2008, Sarah Reveley, a volunteer photographer for Texas Escapes, an online magazine covering Texas-related topics, was looking through a book on the Texas Centennial. “I was reading through the whole thing, and I was just floored at how much was in there – that the Centennial was such a big deal,” said Reveley. In 1936, the state of Texas held a Centennial celebration, which included the construction of more than one thousand historical, grave, and highway markers. Judge Baylor’s Centennial marker was engraved in granite with a bronze emblem.
Reveley proposed to Texas Escapes that they begin a separate webpage dedicated entirely to the Texas Centennial. “I was going to go around and take all these pictures of the Centennial markers. There were only a thousand all over Texas. I don’t know what possessed me,” Reveley said. While she was in East Texas, Reveley discovered the neglect that so many of the markers had suffered. “It angered me,” she said.
Reveley discovered that the Texas Historical Commission did not have “the manpower or the money” to fix the monuments. “They were put up in 1937, and there was never any provision made for the markers,” she said. That was when Reveley took it upon herself to begin a photography project with the intent of tracking down and documenting all of these historic icons. “This is the first push to recognize all of the markers,” said Reveley.
In an effort to locate each piece, Reveley looked to the Centennial book that had originally inspired her search. The trouble was, many of the road names had changed since 1938, when the book was published. Revely used a 1938 Texas map to try to match up the road names. “It’s been a really interesting race to find them,” she said.
Reveley has not been without help in her mission. Barclay Gibson, a Texas enthusiast and photographer from New Mexico has located and photographed many of the markers. Ruthie Cage, retired from the military and living in San Antonio, has been locating and documenting the markers as a hobby and lent Reveley a book of photographs she collected. Marion, an Australian who has been touring Texas in search of historical markers, allowed Reveley to use the photos she uploaded to Flickr. “It’s amazing, the history that was covered,” Reveley said.
The Centennial markers suffer from cracks, algae growth, graffiti, and other forms of damage. The Holly Oaks stone is one of the most damaged and is broken entirely in half. When Reveley found the Holly Oaks marker, she came up with the idea to alert the Baylor Alumni Association (BAA) so that alumni would have the chance to help restore this piece of their legacy. “You’re the very first group who has said that they going to try and help,” she says of the BAA.
Rodriguez Brothers Memorials, the very same company who crafted the Holly Oaks marker in 1936, quoted the restoration and installation of the marker at $3,228. If you would like to help restore this piece of Baylor history to its original glory, please contact Sarah Reveley by e-mail. Any donations will go directly to the Texas Historical Society to aid in the restoration of the Holly Oaks marker. You can view more pictures of the Centennial markers on Reveley’s website, or on the Texas Escapes website.