Is Baylor the oldest university in Texas?
In the fall of 1844, when Texas was still its own country, the Texas Baptist Education Society petitioned the Republic of Texas to charter a Baptist university. And on Feb. 1, 1845, Baylor University was established in Independence, Texas. Today, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas.
That’s not to say Baylor is without challengers for that title. Some point to Southwestern University in Georgetown as our state’s oldest institution of higher education, as it dates its lineage back to 1840. But there was no such school as “Southwestern” until 1875; that 1840 date comes from a previous school, Rutersville College. Southwestern claims Rutersville and three other schools as its “root colleges,” but all four closed before Southwestern was formed in 1870 as Texas University (it changed its name to Southwestern five years later).
Others point to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, located in Belton, as being at least as old as Baylor. After all, UMHB began as Baylor University’s female department, with Baylor being one of the first co-ed universities west of the Mississippi. But the female department wasn’t separated from the male side of the university until 1851, and it didn’t stand on its own until 1866, when Baylor Female College received a separate charter and board of trustees. It would eventually move to Belton in 1886, changing its name to Baylor College for Women in 1925, Mary Hardin-Baylor College in 1934 and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in 1978.
Baylor University wasn’t the first institution of higher education in Texas; Rutersville has that claim, joining Baylor as one of 15 colleges and universities chartered by the Republic of Texas. But of those 15, only Baylor has remained in operation as an independent entity from its original charter until now — making Baylor the oldest continually operating university in Texas.
Sic ’em, Bears!