Jewel on the Baylor Campus

Boundless Life: A Biography of Andrew Joseph Armstrong, by Dr. Scott Lewis

Baylor University boasts a claim to fame that has nothing to do with its football team. The world’s largest collection of works pertaining to the Victorian poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning reside in the elegant Armstrong Browning Library. The unlikely repository of

A.J. Armstrong
Wikipedia

the English poets’ books, letters, and manuscripts on a campus in Central Texas happened because of the sheer determination of the Chair of the English Department–– Andrew Joseph Armstrong (1873-1954) ––a moving force at Baylor.

McLean Foyer of Meditation. The light coming through the windows offer a feeling of sunrise and sunset.

Dr. A. J. Armstrong began his collection of Browning books about 1905. Four years later, he spent several days in Italy visiting with the poets’ son. Unfortunately, Robert Wiedeman Barrett Browning, whom the family called Pen, died in 1912 without a will. The estate was sold at auction, which sent Armstrong on a lifelong mission to raise money in every way he could to acquire items associated with the Brownings. He challenged donors and former students for gifts. He and his wife developed one of the first college “travel courses” hosting over thirty European tours. His deep Baptist faith and the wisdom he found in Browning’s poems led to his philosophy of life that he imparted to his students with challenges like “Don’t be colorless; be somebody!” and “No man should attain his ideal-–it should be his starting point for tomorrow.”

He gave his personal Browning works to Baylor in 1918, and the growing collection needed a building of its own. In 1943, Baylor President Pat N. Neff donated $100,000 for a new structure and challenged Armstrong to raise the balance.

Armstrong, at age seventy, had always worked an eighteen-hour day, teaching classes on Robert Browning, Dante, Shakespeare, the Bible as Literature, and a modern poetry class. On Sundays, he taught the largest men’s college class at the First Baptist Church, and he lectured weekly for a large women’s literature class.  He sponsored an honorary English society and pushed the carefully selected members to strive toward their own creativity. Still, he drove the fundraising forward and amid grand fanfare the 1.75 million-dollar Armstrong Brown Library opened on December 1, 1951. When questioned about the cost of the structure, Dr. Browning said, “If we can create a place where young people can meditate on great thoughts and by that means give the world another Dante, another Shakespeare, another Browning, we shall count the cost a bargain.”

Hankamer-Treasure-Room

Pied Piper of Hamelin, stain glass illustrates Robert Browning poem.

On all three floors, visitors find sixty-two stained glass windows, believed to be the largest collection of secular stained glass, forty-seven of which follow the themes of Robert Browning’s poetry. Eight windows illumine Elizabeth Barrett Brownings Sonnets from the Portuguese. Of the more than 500 books, about 300 are from the personal libraries of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning or their immediate family. Some of the pages bear notations made by the poets.

Although Andrew Joseph Armstrong died on March 31, 1954, his grand legacy continues to thrive.

Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University.

Advertisements

Tough Victorian Lady

 

Lucy Ann Thornton was a bundle of contradictions—a lady ahead of her time who believed women should be educated also touted the need for women to hold home and family above all else. Born into an old southern family in Kentucky in 1839, the barely five-foot-tall Lucy

Lucy Kidd-Key

Lucy Kidd-Key

enjoyed a genteel education in the classics and fine arts.

The financial burdens brought by the Civil War were compounded by the long illness and death her husband Dr. Henry Byrd Kidd. Left with three children and mounting debts, Lucy immediately set about recouping the family’s financial stability. She sold land she had inherited from her husband and brought suit for $1,500 against another widow with three children who had defaulted on a note due for some land. Lucy won the suit. Her husband had held part ownership in a pharmacy and to collect unpaid balances on customer accounts Lucy stationed a Negro servant at the front door of the pharmacy to halt anyone who owed money. In this fashion, Lucy soon shored up the family finances.

Then, Lucy took a job as the presiding teacher of Whitworth College in Brookhaven, Mississippi. Boasting an outstanding music department, the school grew to be the largest college for women in the South. During ten years at Whitworth, Lucy developed many standards for educating young women.

Her success led Methodist Bishop Charles B. Galloway in 1888 to recommend Lucy Kidd to bring life back to the North Texas Female College, which had been closed for a year. When she reached Sherman for her interview, she demanded that the board of trustees come to her hotel. The men were impressed by her educational credentials and by the recommendations from Mississippi’s governor and lieutenant governor. The trustees probably thought that Mrs. Lucy Kidd, dressed in black widow’s weeds, would bring some of her personal wealth to the college since it was customary at that time for presidents of private schools to invest their personal funds in the institutions by paying for construction of campus buildings. In fact, Lucy Kidd had less than $10,000, and she carried it sewn into her underwear to keep anyone from knowing her financial status.

Lucy received a ten-year contract in April 1888 with the understanding that she would get the buildings back in shape and hire teachers to begin classes the following September. She immediately contacted her old friend Maggie Hill with whom she had taught for years at Whitworth and offered her the position of presiding teacher at a salary of seventy-five dollars a month––payable when the school started making money. Lucy’s eighteen-year-old son Edwin withdrew from the University of Mississippi to become the secretary and financial agent for the college. Her daughter Sarah, who had studied music in New Orleans, New York, and Paris, returned to teach voice at the school. Lucy also hired four of the best teachers from Whitworth to join the faculty.

She moved her family, servants, and furnishings for the school in July and immediately began traveling to church sessions and camp meeting all over Texas and Indian Territory (present Oklahoma) to attract girls and money for the fall semester. In later years Lucy shared stories of the hot, dirty, and exhausting horseback and stagecoach trips she took that summer and of the scary nights sleeping in remote cabins and listening to howling wolves. She also told of one fund-raiser where she was preceded by a preacher who told the congregation that music and musical instruments were tools of the Devil. Then, it was Lucy’s turn to encourage attendance and financial help for her college that emphasized training in the arts, especially music.

By the time the North Texas Female College opened on schedule that September, Lucy Kidd had rounded up 100 students, including the daughter of the governor of Mississippi. More challenges lay ahead. The college consisted of only two buildings, and when it rained, a creek running through the middle of the four-acre campus sent mud flowing into the front door of the main building. By the end of the first year, she used $850 of her own money to purchase four lots and had a three-story frame dormitory constructed, which was named the Annie Nugent Hall for the daughter of the gentleman who gave the first major gift of $10,000. Over the next three decades, the campus grew by another dozen buildings named for generous donors. By 1892 the school boasted telephones, electricity, incandescent lights, zinc bathtubs, running water, and it was the first school in Texas to provide a nurse for its students. The library grew and the school became the only southern women’s college with science laboratories and a $700 refracting telescope.

In 1892 Lucy’s marriage to Joseph Staunton Key, a beloved Methodist bishop, posed a name problem for Lucy who had enjoyed an amazing career as Lucy Kidd. She solved the dilemma in a daring way for the times; she hyphenated her last name to Kidd-Key. She was also ahead of her time in her educational philosophy. Even as she insisted that “her girls” always be womanly, she believed women had brains and should think for themselves. While she did not oppose women’s suffrage, she did not approve of the behavior of some of the women who were organizing for the vote. She wrote that women should be able to take financial care of themselves and their children. Yet, she insisted on surrounding herself with her notion of “womanly” things—flowers and lace in her home and long, flowing dresses that extended into trains.

Townspeople called the students’ excursions into town, “the string” because the girls, wearing their navy blue wool uniforms marched two by two with a chaperone at the head and another at the end of the line. Austin College boys gathered at various sites along the route to watch the girls.il_fullxfull.430594455_k2vi

The students enjoyed tennis and basketball teams and calisthenics. Lucy built a skating rink in the gym and in keeping with her ever-present eye for fund-raising, she opened the rink to Sherman residents. When the kitchen staff went on strike in 1908, Lucy hired the older girls to run the kitchen and donate their wages to the new building fund. When the strike ended, she treated the girls to an elegant dinner at a downtown hotel.

Lucy’s interest in music led to her search for financial backing that enabled her to hire the finest faculty from all over the world. The Conservatory of Music auditorium attracted the top orchestras and singers of the day, including Victor Herbert, the United States Marine Band, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She insisted that students have instruments in their rooms, which led in 1910 to 120 pianos on campus.

Enrollment reached its peak in 1912 with more than 500 students; however, times were changing. The were fewer girls who could afford or wanted to attend what President Roosevelt described as “the only finishing school west of the Mississippi.” Less-expensive state supported schools began operating and in 1915 Southern Methodist University in Dallas opened with financial support from the church that had previously gone to North Texas. Lucy’s health began to decline and financial shortfalls forced her to pay faculty salaries herself. The class of 1916 was the last to graduate as Lucy made plans for her retirement and to convert North Texas to an accredited two-year junior college. On September 13, 1916, one week after the new school opened, Lucy Kidd-Key died.

Lucy’s memory was honored in 1919 when the school was named Kidd-Key College and Conservatory. Her son and daughter continued running the school for several years before the Depression brought new financial worries and at the end of the 1934-1935 term, Kidd-Key closed.

Today a Texas Historical marker is all that remains at the old school site, but the legacy of Lucy Kidd-Key continued well into the twentieth century as her graduates made names for themselves as educators, writers, musicians, singers, and sculptors.

Lucy Kidd-Key, Tough Victorian Lady

Born into an old southern family in Kentucky in 1839 and given a genteel education in the classics and fine arts, the barely five-foot-tall Lucy Ann Thornton was a bundle of contradictions—a lady ahead of her time who believed women should be educated, also touted the need for women to hold home and family above all else.  After the financial burdens brought by the Civil War and her husband Dr. Henry Byrd Kidd’s long illness and death, Lucy was left with three children and mounting debts.  She immediately set about recouping the family’s financial stability by selling land she inherited from her husband and by bringing suit for $1,500 against a widow with three children who defaulted on a note due for some land.  Lucy won the suit.  Her husband had held part ownership in a pharmacy and to collect unpaid balances on customer accounts Lucy stationed a Negro servant at the front door of the pharmacy to halt anyone who owed money.  In this fashion, Lucy soon shored up the family finances.  She then took a job as presiding teacher of Whitworth College in Brookhaven, Mississippi, which with its outstanding music department, grew to be the largest college for women in the south.  During the ten years at Whitworth, she developed many of the principals for educating young women that she incorporated in later years.

Her experience led Methodist Bishop Charles B. Galloway in 1888 to recommend Lucy Kidd to bring life back to the North Texas Female College, which had been closed for a year. Despite her demand that the board of trustees come to her Sherman hotel for the interview, they were quite impressed with the educational credentials and recommendations from Mississippi’s governor and lieutenant governor.  They probably also thought that Mrs. Lucy Kidd, dressed in black widow’s weeds, would bring some of her personal wealth to the college since it was customary at that time for presidents of private schools to invest their personal funds in the institutions and to pay for construction of campus buildings.  In fact, Lucy Kidd had less than $10,000 and she carried it sewn into her underwear to keep anyone from knowing her financial status.

Lucy Kidd-Key

Lucy Kidd-Key

Lucy received a ten-year contract in April 1888 with the understanding that she would get the buildings back in shape and hire teachers to begin classes the following September.  She immediately contacted her old friend Maggie Hill with whom she had taught for years at Whitworth and offered her the position of presiding teacher at a salary of seventy-five dollars a month, payable only when the school started making money.  Lucy’s eighteen-year-old son Edwin withdrew from the University of Mississippi to become the secretary and financial agent for the college.  Her daughter Sarah, who had studied music in New Orleans, New York, and Paris, returned to teach voice at the school.  Lucy also hired four of the best teachers from Whitworth to join the faculty.

She moved her family, servants, and furnishings for the school in July and immediately began traveling to church sessions and camp meeting all over Texas and Indian Territory (present Oklahoma) to attract girls and money for the fall semester.  In later years Lucy shared stories of the hot, dirty, and exhausting horseback and stagecoach trips she took that summer and of the scary nights sleeping in remote cabins and listening to howling wolves.  She also told of one fund-raiser where she was preceded by a preacher who told the congregation that music and musical instruments were tools of the Devil.  Then, it was her turn to encourage attendance and financial help for her college that emphasized training in the arts, especially music.

By the time the North Texas Female College opened that September, Lucy Kidd had rounded up 100 students, including the daughter of the governor of Mississippi.  More challenges lay ahead.  The college consisted of only two buildings and when it rained, a creek running through the middle of the four-acre campus sent mud flowing into the front door of the main building.  By the end of the first year she used $850 of her own money to purchase four lots and had a three-story frame dormitory constructed, which was named the Annie Nugent Hall for the daughter of the gentleman who gave the first major gift of $10,000.  Over the next three decades the campus grew by another dozen buildings named for generous donors.  By 1892 the school boasted telephones, electricity, incandescent lights, zinc bathtubs, running water, and it was the first school in Texas to provide a nurse for its students. The library grew and the school became the only Southern women’s college with science laboratories and a $700 refracting telescope.

In 1892 Lucy’s marriage to Joseph Staunton Key, a beloved Methodist bishop, posed a name problem for Lucy who enjoyed an amazing career as Lucy Kidd.  She solved the dilemma in a daring way for the times; she hyphenated her last name to Kidd-Key. She was also ahead of her time in her educational philosophy.  Even as she insisted that “her girls” always be womanly, she believed women had brains and should think for themselves.  While she did not oppose women’s suffrage, she did not approve of the behavior of some of the women who were organizing for the vote.  She wrote that women should be able to take financial care of themselves and their children.  Yet, she insisted on surrounding herself with her notion of “womanly” things—flowers and lace in her home and wearing long, flowing dresses that extended into trains.

il_fullxfull.430594455_k2viTownspeople called the students’ excursions into town, “the string” because the girls, wearing their navy blue wool uniforms marched two by two with a chaperone at the head and another at the end of the line.  Austin College boys gathered at various sites along the route to watch the girls.

The students enjoyed tennis and basketball teams and calisthenics.  Lucy built a skating rink in the gym and in keeping with her ever-present eye for fund-raising, she opened the rink to Sherman residents.  When the kitchen staff went on strike in 1908 Lucy hired the older girls to run the kitchen and donate their wages to the new building fund. When the strike ended she treated the girls to an elegant dinner at a downtown hotel.

Lucy’s interest in music led to her search for financial backing that enabled her to hire the finest faculty from all over the world.  The Conservatory of Music auditorium attracted the top orchestras and singers of the day, including Victor Herbert, Campanini, the United States Marine Band, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  She insisted that students have instruments in their rooms, which led in 1910 to 120 pianos on campus.

Enrollment reached its peak in 1912 with more than five hundred students; however times were changing.  The were fewer girls who could afford or wanted to attend what President Roosevelt described as “the only finishing school west of the Mississippi.” Less-expensive state supported schools began operating and in 1915 Southern Methodist University in Dallas opened with financial support from the church that had previously gone to North Texas.  Lucy’s health began to decline as financial shortfalls forced her to pay faculty salaries herself.  The class of 1916 was the last to graduate as Lucy made plans for her retirement and to convert North Texas to an accredited two-year junior college.  On September 13, 1916, one week after the new school opened, Lucy Kidd-Key died.

Lucy’s memory was honored in 1919 when the school was named Kidd-Key College and Conservatory.  Her son and daughter continued running the school for several years before the depression brought new financial worries and at the end of the 1934-1935 term, Kidd-Key closed.

Today a Texas Historical marker is all that remains at the old school site but the legacy of Lucy Kidd-Key continued well into the twentieth century as her graduates made names for themselves as educators, writers, musicians, singers, and sculptors.

North Texas Female College

North Texas Female College

Early-Day Home for Unwed Mothers

In a plan to redeem prostitutes and “combat the social evil of fallen women” in 1894, the Rev. J. T. Upchurch and his wife Maggie Mae organized the Berachah Rescue Society in Waco.  One newspaper account claims he was “driven away [from Waco] by angry fellow Methodist church members who opposed his missionary work with prostitutes.”  Regardless of the reason, the Upchurches moved in 1903 to the Dallas slums to continue their “mission.”

Sometime in 1903 Mrs. Upchurch’s father donated twenty-seven acres in Arlington between Dallas and Fort Worth and the Upchurches opened the Berachah Industrial Home for homeless, often pregnant, girls from all over Texas and the surrounding states.

Although Upchurch held conservative theological views, his ideas for social reform were liberal for the time.  His home, unlike others for unwed mothers, required that children remain with their natural parent and that the mothers learn to care for themselves and their children.  He believed that there were no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents.

Upchurch published The Purity Journal for financial contributors who were primarily Dallas-Fort Worth businessmen.  In the journal articles Upchurch wrote of the evils of brothels, saloons, and social corruption.  His stories about the slums and shelters included accounts of redemption and salvation.  He also described the work being done at the home and detailed individual case histories.  The residents worked in the home’s handkerchief factory, operated the press for the Purity Journal, and maintained the large gardens and orchards.  Upchurch required all residents and staff to attend worship services on the premises and to refrain from using the phone on Sundays, eating pork, or consuming coffee, tea, or tobacco.

At the height of the operation in 1928, the home added an additional forty acres and expanded to at least ten buildings including a hospital/clinic, nursery, dormitory and dining room, handkerchief factory, school, auditorium, and barn.  The home closed briefly in 1935 and Upchurch’s daughter and son-in-law Allie Mae and Reverend Frank Wiese reopened the facility as an orphanage that served until 1942.

Today the property is on the campus of the University of Texas at Arlington and the only physical reminder of the history of the site is the cemetery opened in 1904 that contains over eighty graves of unwed mothers, stillborn babies, children who died in measles epidemics, and employees and their children.

Ex-Slave Becomes Community Leader

Born into slavery in Arkansas in 1845, Nelson Taylor Denson moved, at age eleven, to Falls County in East Texas with his master.  Denson, who had been educated by his master, developed high regard for Sam Houston after hearing Houston speak when he visited Marlin in his campaign for governor.  Denson admired Houston’s devotion to his personal beliefs that prompted him to resign from the governorship rather than support secession.  During the Civil War, Denson accompanied his master in the Confederate Army, serving as a saddle boy looking after the horses.UHP-IND146

An account titled Slaves Narratives—Rural NW Louisiana African American Genealogy includes Denson’s account of the Civil War in which he praises Sam Houston for standing by his principles and refusing to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy.  Denson says he was fourteen when Texas seceded and at sixteen he went to war with his master as his “bodyguard.”  Denson’s account of the night before the Battle at Mansfield on the Sabine River is gripping in his description of the sound of whippoorwills calling as the men listen for an attack from the Yankees camped just across the river.

Interestingly, Denson sees the slaves who ran away and joined the Union forces as not properly taking care of the women and children left behind on the plantations.  He goes on to share his concern after the war for the change in the “old order,” and the decline in virtue and chivalry.

Denson kept records of dates and events and describes in careful detail his original trip from Arkansas to Texas over and around the Great Raft that clogged portions of the Red River above Shreveport, Louisiana.

After the Civil War, Denson returned to Falls County as a free man and began working to fulfill his two dreams–to preach and to teach.  With a deep understanding of human needs and rights, Denson became a circuit preacher in the Baptist denomination.

On November 8, 1868, the Reverend Denson, his wife, and eleven other blacks organized the Marlin Missionary Baptist Church, the first black congregation in Falls County.  Denson believed that black citizens must have the basic rudiments of education, and he taught fundamental skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic.  He helped start a school sponsored by the Marlin Missionary Baptist Church, and others soon followed.  By the mid-1880s Denson won election as county commissioner, becoming the first black official in the county.  His good judgment and spirit of cooperation won the respect of both the black and white communities, and he continued to be respected and called on for advice and counsel until his death in 1938 at the age of ninety-three.

The Rev. Nelson T. Denson and the Marlin Missionary Baptist Church historical marker is located at 507 Bennett at George Street in Marlin, Falls County.

LOVE AFFAIR BECOMES A LEGEND

If you are in deep East Texas on TX 63 southwest of Burkeville, be sure to read the historical marker designating the site of Shankleville, a black community named for an ex-slave.

Jim Shankle was born in 1811 on a Mississippi plantation.  When he married Winnie, she already had three children.  Soon after the marriage, their master sold Winnie and her children.  Jim heard enough of the business deal to know that they were taken to a plantation in East Texas.  He grieved for several days.  Then, determined to find his family, he ran away.  With a price on his head as a runaway slave, he headed west, always moving at night, foraging in fields for his food, and hiding in the fields when he heard others on the road.  Not daring to use a ferry, he swam both the Mississippi and Sabine rivers.

After a 400-mile journey, he reached East Texas and moved at night from plantation to plantation asking about Winnie.  Finally, Jim found her as she collected water at a spring.  For several days, Winnie hid Jim and brought food to him at night.  Some accounts say Winnie’s master found Jim, other stories say she told her master about her husband.  Whatever the truth, the plantation owner agreed to buy Jim.

In addition to Winnie’s three children, they raised six of their own.  When emancipation came following the Civil War they became farmers and began buying land with their partner Steve McBride.  Eventually they held 4,000 acres in the black community called Shankleville, which boasted schools, churches, a cotton gin, sawmills, and gristmills.

Steve McBride, who could not read, married one of the Shankle daughters.  He established McBride College (1883-1909), fulfilling his dream of helping others receive the education he had been denied.

Winnie Shankle died in 1883 and Jim died five years later, ending a love story that became a legend.